Pedants like to negate.


The sciences and humanities are just as indebted to innovation as a driving force of the disciplines as they are to the care and nurture of knowledge, the transmission and protection of what is known. According to Thomas Kuhn, most academics are not even interested in making a name for themselves through spectacular theoretical innovations and do not work on the systematic expansion of knowledge. Most researchers instead engage with the repetition, teaching, and paraphrasing of what is known—using specific practices of exactitude. Within this large group, one figure holds a special function: the pedant sets the boundaries of canonical knowledge. His tools are utmost exactitude and an obsession with details against the—in his view—threat of invaders into the discipline (e.g. innovations). His arguments against and objections to new theories demarcate secured knowledge. The pedant draws the border beyond which lies the scientific unknown. Like a cartographer he creates a topography of the known, ever distrustful and careful to put bordercrossing immigrants or occupying forces in their place; defending his own territory against any innovation or disturbing thoughts.

This research part understands itself as an interdisciplinary approach to the history of exactitude and aims to question the ideal type of the pedant. To this end, we shall analyze case studies of pedantry in the natural sciences as well as in the humanities and social sciences. In this way, we hope to observe the close interplay between the disciplines as well as the differences between practices of exactitude and demonstrations in actu. The pedant’s forms of action are easily mocked, derided, or exaggerated. The task at hand shall thus be to examine not only the key character of the pedant, but also his productive role in the history of the genesis of knowledge. Accordingly we are less interested in particularly germane or quirky representatives of this figure, and more in implicit pedantry within general practices of research. Through this examination, we aim to carve out more clearly the exactitude of the media utilized. Our guiding hypothesis is that pedantry, in its insistence upon unconditional exactitude, is an epistemic virtue and represents an important stage on the path to knowledge, as well as a way in which disciplines reaffirm their position. Practices of exactitude such as correction or criticism approach the status of independent methods. Thus our research shall not focus on the imputed taunts that underlie the moral components of pedantry, but instead shall analyze the practical operations of a structural grammar of learned dispute. For pedantry, through its function as a catalyst, is more than anything a means to the end of future insight in the process of acquiring knowledge. In this way, it acts as a medium of the genesis of knowledge.