I am a baby academic, not published, no doctorate… How do I deal with academic disagreement?
I was contacted through my academia.edu profile with some comments loosely related to my research (though I might add not actually on the key topic of my thesis- which is naturally far more subtle :-S). I responded with why I thought the ideas were interesting and why I thought some aspects were wrong and the correspondence has continued. Although we have not got very far, my correspondent has become increasingly detailled with the facts related to his ideas but (to me at least) no more convincing. I fear that whilst he believes in a definable truth discernible from the literary documents I do not and that we shall never agree. Furthermore I have told him so. I believe we are working on different principles of truth-value and that he has a rather different agenda to me. I have no wish to spend the next 20 years arguing about which bits of Strabo/Diodorus/Pliny are “right” and if he had never contacted me directly I would have added his book to my collection of interesting and analysable commentaries on the topic.
So my question is this:
How do I disengage? I don’t want to offend him, I believe he has done some research and that he has a not-implausible theory – I just don’t think he has proven (or could ever prove) it is better than other related theories.
My actual research is in the formulation of these theories, their patterns and their function. I want to ask him to tell me about what drove him to do the research, to really probe why he favours this interpretation over other possibilities.
Is it possible to do that? How do I disconnect my sense of protectiveness over my research and my decision? Is there any way to continue a correspondence while I remain sceptical without offending him? Can we discuss the issue without expecting to ‘convert’ the other? If I have a sudden “epiphany” and accept his proofs is it possible to reconcile that with trying to understand his motivation? Finally, if worst comes to worst, at what point is it acceptable for me to tell him to go study Greek for 5 years and to study approaches to classical historiography and geography for 3 years and then reconsider his attitude to the ancient material…?
Also if he wants me to review his book.. he should send it to me not debate with me via private message, right?