Improving the Moral Climate One Footnote At A Time

Over at Ancient Hebrew Poetry, John Hobbins has begun what I think will be a series of reviews of a trilogy that I am not likely to read. The topic is not within the scope of my normal abnormal interests and, depending on nuanced patterns of presentation, it may reflect a topic without a subject. I hope John will address my second concern. In the course of his preliminary comments, John manages to understate an important truth and to understate it significantly. He tells us that scholarly books with footnotes are “user-friendly” and implies that those with endnotes are not. No John, it’s not only a matter of user-friendliness; it’s a matter of improving the worldwide moral climate (or at least the moral climate in my study).
One of the greatest evils committed by publishers is the crime of endnotes. The evil of endnotes demands wide and wild condemnation from all civilized quarters and not just a simple milk toast utilitarian dismissal.
Yesterday I mentioned the rather massive volume by Jo Ann Scurlock and Burton Andersen on Babylonian and Assyrian medicine. In a world with even the smallest degree of moral intuition, the publisher would have used footnotes. But no, this volume commits endnotes. Some of these evil endnotes substantively augment the discussion, others simply provide references. Without checking, there is no way to know what one will find in any given endnote. Of course, these endnotes caused extreme outbursts of involuntary swearing. Our household has not heard such vile language since the last time we trimmed our bougainvillea. Those evil endnotes alone are culpable for such a wretched display of verbal immorality. They must be stamped out once and for all.

4 thoughts on “Improving the Moral Climate One Footnote At A Time”

  1. “Some of these evil endnotes substantively augment the discussion, others simply provide references. Without checking, there is no way to know what one will find in any given endnote.”
    Hilarious but true. I’ve personally been irritated by a quite a few endnotes and it’s nice to see it being explicitly expressed. I find them suspect because it’s so easy to abuse them and hide the important points out of main view. Even footnotes can be used to stuff important info away in a corner. Out of sight out of mind. I’d even go so far as to say that the bibliographical system itself can be misused like a telephone game. I’ve had times where when I went to the bother of following the paper trail, the footnote was, despite being impressive to look at, effectively void of a valid point altogether! I think we’d be naive to not suspect that many times this is intended by an insecure author in the rush to publish without substance.

  2. If it makes you feel any better:
    I had not really put any thought into endnotes vs. footnotes, but I have now decided that, from now on, my books will have footnotes.

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