New under the sun

Taking their cues from King Solomon, some scholars seem to have conveniently adopted the position that “there is nothing new under the sun”.

Judgment of Solomon
Nineteenth century engraving by Gustave DorŽ

The great merit in deferring to King Solomon’s wisdom in this case is that this enables to refer to one and the same thing as “new”, “novel”, “innovative” but “not new under the sun”. The benefits flowing from this position are particularly effective in academia. One can trumpet a method/model/theory, from every professional journal, as “new”, “novel”, “innovative”; while at the same time, when confronted with proof to the contrary, invoke the verse proclaiming that “nothing is new under the sun”.

In other words, a method, a model, a theory that are neither “new” nor “innovative”, can with the backing of “there is nothing new under the sun”, be hailed as “new”, “novel”, “innovative” and so on.

Is it possible that this position may have developed in response to the tremendous pressures exerted on individuals, as well as on organizations, to come up with “new” ideas? Surely, many academics can confirm how difficult it can be to publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal if it does not claim to propose a new …

So, with all due respect to King Solomon’s wisdom, in this blog, the term “new” is understood to connote the meanings traditionally given it in ordinary usage or in specialized usages, as listed for instance in the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language:

1. Having been made or come into being only a short time ago; recent
2. a. Still fresh b. Never used or worn before now
3. Just found, discovered, or learned
4. Not previously experienced or encountered; novel or unfamiliar
5. Different from the former or the old
6. Recently obtained or acquired
7. Additional; further
8. Recently arrived or established in a place, position, or relationship
9. Changed for the better; rejuvenated
10. Being the later or latest in a sequence
11. Currently fashionable
12. In the most recent form, period, or development
13. Inexperienced or unaccustomed
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