Abstract - The Information Society 11(4)

Cyberplatonism: An inadequate constitution for the republic of science

Steve Fuller

An extended critique of Stevan Harnad's "Post Gutenberg" utopia of paperless publishing on the Internet is provided. After dubbing Harnad's utopia Cyberplatonism, its problems are divided into two issues: 1. Does the Internet approximate the frictionless medium of thought traditionally sought by Platonists? 2. Does the peer review system offer an adequate model of how such a medium would enable inquirers to get at the Truth? Harnad's characterization of Internet publication as cost free and paperless is questioned, noting his failure to take into account the hidden institutional costs of maintaining electronic communications networks. Harnad's attempt to scapegoat the publishing industry for its supposed failure to realize the esoteric character of mo st academic publishing is criticized. It is further argued that, by operating with standards that are orthogonal to academic ones, publishers have traditionally checked the more conservative tendencies of the peer review system. It is not clear exactly w hich features of the peer review system would be worth transferring to the Internet. The Internet threatens to upset the status quo, which would ironically enable a purer form of Cyberplatonism to flourish.

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