Marc Hauser is in hot water (again)

A few weeks back, the philosopher Gilbert Harman had posted to his personal Web site a short paper arguing that Marc Hauser had borrowed excessively, and without proper attribution, from the ideas of the scholar John Mikhail in Hauser’s book Moral Minds. When it started to get some public attention Harman quickly took the document down, saying that he didn’t mean for it to be widely read, and had put it up just to solicit some comments from friends and colleagues. But the other day, Harman re-posted his argument (in a revised form), together with a substantial response from Hauser. (The Boston Globe has a story on the incident, here, and here is something on the subject from the Wall Street Journal.) I’ve not read Hauser’s book, but if his response to Harman contains the best that can be said in his defense, then the situation looks dire. This is the sort of thing that students can be expelled from school (at least, from my school) for, and whether or not it is in violation of institutional guidelines or disciplinary best practices, what Hauser has done is clearly dishonest and unethical — and none of that changes if Hauser did all this “by accident”, whether because he didn’t recognize the extent of Mikhail’s influence on him or because he didn’t see the need to give him more credit. (That would just make him culpably ignorant.) To argue, as Hauser essentially does in his reply, that he really wasn’t influenced by Mikhail as much as he oh-so-obviously was, does not do much to help his cause.

But that’s just what I think. How about you?