All scholarship, like all science, is an ongoing, open-ended discussion in which all conclusions are tentative forever, the principal value and charm of the game being the discovery of the totally unexpected.
Work is, after all, not a busy running back and forth in established grooves, though that is the essence of our modern business and academic life, but the supreme energy and disciplined curiosity required to cut new grooves.
A professor is not one who knows, but one who professes to know, and [thus] is constantly in the position of inviting challenge. . . . He professes publicly where everyone is invited to come and challenge, [and] at any time he must be willing and able to defend it openly against all comers. The degree is originally a chivalric device-a gauntlet of defiance to all rivals-and not a safe rampart or dug-out for a scholar to hide behind in safe immunity from any challenge.
A true philosopher can no more pass by the open door of a free discussion than an alcoholic can pass by the open door of a saloon. Since my hosts have been kind enough to invite me to say what I think, the highest compliment I can pay to their tolerance and liberality will be to do just that. This is not going to be a debate. I would be the most unteachable of mortals if at this stage of life I still believed that one could get anywhere arguing with a dialectician. One might as well attempt to pacify or intimidate a walrus by tossing sardines at him as to bait a philosopher with arguments. I have accepted your kind invitation because I think the subject is worth discussing.
And the issue is never the merits of the evidence but always the jealous rivalry of the contestants to see which would be the official light unto the world. Right down to the present day we have been the spectators of a foolish contest between equally vain and bigoted rivals.