The Lissack Emails

October 2

Terry Deacon offers a strange defense for his actions:

I have been told that Terry Deacon has publicly alleged that Colin McGinn's review was "bought."

That comment is an untruth and defamatory.  I have been further told that Deacon alleges that I did the "buying."  Given that I am fiscally insolvent such a purchase would have been impossible.  The impossibility is further compounded by two simple facts:  I have never met Colin McGinn nor have I ever had a direct conversation with Colin McGinn.

I have never given Colin McGinn anything of value. I have never asked anyone else to give Colin McGinn anything of value.  I have never caused anything of value to be given to Colin McGinn.

Prof. McGinn  reached his conclusions independent of me or of ISCE.  Deacon wants to believe otherwise so as to not have to deal with the devasting truth:  Terry Deacon is a serial plagiarist.

I welcome your comments

Michael Lissack
Executive Director and ISCE Professor of Meaning in Organizations

On Tue, Oct 2, 2012 at 1:13 PM, Michael Lissack <> wrote:

Terry Deacon's letter to the NY Review of Books is further proof that he fails to understand what plagiarism is (and thus why it is offensive).  He states "I must admit to feeling a kind of vertigo at being criticized for holding ideas expressed by others that I explicitly challenge and endeavor to correct in my book."  

It is not that we at ISCE believe that Deacon "holds" ideas expressed by others BUT THAT HE USES THEM WITHOUT ATTRIBUTION.  Plagiarism is a kind of theft.

Where in his work are the appropriate attributions to  those we have not mentioned thus far:  Stan Salthe (whose very words and labels Deacon treats as if were they were invented by Deacon)  and Roy Bhaskar (whose philosphy underlies Deacon's book but is not even mentioned)?

Why is it that Deacon has refused all invitations for honest debate about this work and demands  only sycophantic engagements?

What kind of an anthropologist would write about a field not his own and then ignore all of the literature of those resident in that field?

There is a scandal at Berkeley and it is not going away.   Copy of the official investigation letter attached.

Sept 26

One final unanswerable question:  This kind of behavior is NOT TOLERATED if conducted by students -- so why is it not only being tolerated but being covered up when engaged in by a high ranking Professor?

What kind of lesson is that teaching students?

Despite numerous conversations and despite the submission of significant evidence NOTHING has happened regarding plagiarism committed by the Chairman of the UC Berkeley Anthropology Department.


"We will always conduct ourselves ethically, honestly, and with integrity.
We will accept responsibility appropriate to our positions and delegated authorities.
We will treat everyone we contact with respect and dignity.
We will conduct our research with integrity and intellectual honesty."

Please see


Why is the State of California engaged in a coverup?  Who is paying for it?

Sept 3

Prof Price

To be even more explicit:

You sent me the letter with absolutely NO request for confidentiality of any sort (yes you asked it of Alicia Juarrero but NOT of me)

We at ISCE are firmly of the belief that Deacon is indeed guilty of plagiarism.  We DO NOT accept the notion that UC Berkeley's investigation will do anything more than determine UC Berkeley's official position on the matter.  Truth, guilt, innocence are neither yours nor your investigator's to determine on behalf of others.   You are conducting the investigation precisely because we at ISCE have a PUBLICLY expressed belief that Deacon is BOTH guilty and shamelessly unrepentant.

To accuse Alicia Juarrero of breaking an agreement which she never entered into (you making the request is NOT the same as her having agreed to it -- and there is NO record of her having done so) and which YOU were the one who COMMITTED THE OFFENSE is almost as repugnant as Deacon's plagiarism.

Is it common at Berkeley for those with either Professorial titles or administrative titles (since you and Deacon are both professors and administrators) to deny responsibility for one's own actions and to lay blame on others in  an effect to deflect that responsibility?

Further at no point in ANY correspondence have I or ISCE ever suggested that Berkeley had already reached a conclusion regarding this matter, Deacon's behavior, or academic integrity.  We have merely stated the truth that in response to our findings Berkeley has opened an investigation into the matter. 

I must remind you that we are not your employees nor your contractors.  We are not bound by your rules, your obligations to your faculty members, nor your union agreement.  In our eyes the evidence is overwhelming that Terry Deacon is a serial plagiarist.  Your investigation may reach a different conclusion.  We will consider the evidence that investigation presents but are under no obligations to accept nor agree with its conclusions.

Terry Deacon can neither explain the enormous amount of ideas in his work which seem to have been "lifted" from others without attribution.  He has been unwilling to apologize for having done the lifting and he has gone out of his way to attempt to trivialize the very same ideas when they were written by those whose work appeared YEARS before his own.

You may have the obligation as a senior administrator of Berkeley to withhold judgement -- but you have NO right to demand that others do likewise.

I commend you for attempting to stick up for one of your own.  But the truth is simple.  Terry Deacon is a plagiarist.  And the only fair thing to do yo potential audiences of his is to ensure that they are aware that there is a controversy.  We can promise you that the matter will not be dropped for the sake of "convenience" or "politeness" or "because he is a senior name."  Indeed the fact that Deacon is a senior name is what makes this story important.  Senior academics must NOT be allowed to steal from the less well known.

End of story. 

Sept 3

Prof Price

You shared the letter with me not Alicia.  And we stand by our accusations.  Prof Deacon has indeed been accused and you are indeed investigating.

Truth is truth.

June 4

Terry Deacon, Alicia Juarrero, Evan Thompson and others need your help.

The Deacon Affair has to date focused on the chronology of how various ideas were first presented and then re-presented (whether by Terry Deacon, Alicia Juarrero, Evan Thompson, etc) -- this focus on chronology has shifted attention from the underlying ideas themselves

Last week Deacon posted at James Coffman's blog

"I have recently submitted a paper (already accepted for publication) in which I explore some of the similarities and differences between our theories as well as discussing how both approaches compare with a few others whose work was not discussed in my book (e.g. Thompson)."

If Deacon is to be taken at his word, then the release of this paper to Juarrero and Thompson so that they might write their own commentary/reply would advance the intellectual debate and shift the focus back to the ideas themselves.

Thus the purpose of this note to you:  to ask you to write to Terry Deacon and ask that -- for the sake of putting the focus back on the ideas -- that he send both Alicia Juarrero and Evan Thompson a copy of the paper and invite their reply.

If this intellectual exchange can be encouraged then we can all move past the debate about chronology.

Deacon himself has stated:  "It is now clear that she recognized some of these connections well before me.  So I agree that her work deserves better attention than it has received...I will treat Juarrero's work with the intellectual respect it deserves. "

The time to do this is now.  Please write to Deacon at  and urge him to do the right thing.


May 28


The full email trail would suggest that you seem to have some issues with the truth.

In NOVEMBER you told Alicia you would read her book.

In JANUARY you announced you were just ordering it.

In FEBRUARY you called our efforts "libelous" and her work superficial

TEN DAYS AGO you announced that there was "some unacknowledged agenda" going on

LAST WEEK you referred to them as "intellectual slander" and again called her work superficial

TWO DAYS AGO you announce that you had written an academic journal article on the differences between your work and Alicia's and THAT IT WAS ALREADY ACCEPTED

since journals accept things for publication only after review and AFTER they have been written, you must have read Alicia's work and written about it while still decrying her efforts to be acknowledged and while calling her work superficial

yet the mere fact of having written the paper would have given you the platform to end this mess

so to put it in your terms since the "absence" of the acknowledgement of Alicia's work is what is "causing" the problem how can your last posting be true given the prior posts?

if it is true then send along a copy let Alicia respond and have a true academic debate -- that would indeed end the issue


May 27 (to Berkeley)

Professor Broughton
We are indeed alleging the intentional misappropriation of the writings of others.  While my email to Prof. Deacon of Jan 27 suggested that the word plagiarism was too strong (where I take plagiarism in its literal sense to be the use of exact langauge) the idea chains and overlaps with Juarrero Thompson etc are too strong to have been mere coincidence.
My January 27th email was written in attempt to arrive at an acceptable compromise.  Professor Deacon has rejected that compromise.  My investigations subsequent to January 27th lead me to the inescapable conclusion that Deacons' actions were either intentional or grossly negligent.  To claim originality and uniqueness in the face of overwhelming evidence that neither is the case is simply DISHONEST.  If it is your (and thus the University's) policy to consider violations of intellectual honesty to not include continual repetition of claims of originality which are incorrect and fail to make proper attribution then it is a sad day for academic integrity.  Integrity includes apologizing for negligence.
We at ISCE are firmly of the belief that Terrence Deacon has violated any reasonable standard of academic integrity and has INTENTIONALLY misappropriated the works of others which he has then claimed as his own without attribution.  Your Code of Conduct includes the following standards which we believe Professor Deacon has violated "Professors make every reasonable effort to foster honest academic conduct. They accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending, and transmitting knowledge. They practice intellectual honesty."
We are of the opinion Terrence Deacon has NOT been intellectually honest.  The University may desire to avoid dealing with this issue for political and budgetary reasons.  That quite frankly is its own violation of intellectual honesty
Once again I implore you to actually read the works in question.  The overlap and appropriation will be obvious (as they were to Thompson, McGinn, Fodor, Juarrero and James Coffman).
please acknowledge receipt of the above and please confirm that you understand that indeed we are formally accusing Terrence Deacon of intentional misappropriation. 
as one of my research fellows stated "In my estimation, Terrence Deacon, whom I have never met, is a liar and a thief who stole from the work of others, including me, thinking that    he could get away with it.  Now that he has been caught, he is playing the victim, frantically backpedaling in a desperate effort to save his reputation."
please note further that your tentative decision below may be of legal standing as far as UC Berkeley goes but that we will continue to do what we can to get this matter of academic integrity addressed, the University can play whatever role it likes in that effort, but the effort will continue until the matter has been corrected with or without the University's cooperation
I feel a need to copy this note rather broadly.

May 27 (to Berkeley)

now  since Deacon claims to have "recently submitted a paper (already accepted for publication) in which I explore some of the similarities and differences between our theories as well as discussing how both approaches compare with a few others whose work was not discussed in my book (e.g. Thompson).  "  I suggested to the Berkeley powers that be that perhaps his sharing that with Alicia Juarrero might begin to relieve some of the tension especially if as he claims " It is now clear that she recognized some of these connections well before me. " and  "I agree that her work deserves better attention than it has received."  "I will treat Juarrero’s work with the intellectual respect it deserves."

The proof as they say is in the pudding.

May 22 (to Berkeley)

Regrettably Prof Deacon has chosen to react as if the matter were a personal one and not an a question of academic integrity.  Thus I feel obligated to forward you another set of documents (one by Deacon and the other by Juarrero) which also display a similar set of overlapping argumentation with no acknowledgement nor citation by Deacon.  The comparison in this set is equivalent to the issue with the Deacon book.  In both instances what is claimed by Deacon is "originality" when it is clear (to me, to the New York Review of Books, the Chronicle, the London Review of Books, Colin McGinn, Jerry Fodor, Evan Thompson, and Alicia Juarrero and many others) that this claim can only be made by either Deacon having negligently not bothered to research what others may have written or having decided to deliberately ignore the same.  (Once again I note the peculiar lack of post 2005 references in a 2011 book)
If Prof Deacon were to begin an academic discussion along the lines of Juarrero says x I say Y Thompson says z I say A etc, I am of the belief that many in the community would welcome the same.  Instead as demonstrated by the email below he resorts to the fascinating idea that I have a vendetta and have powers unknown to myself.  This too seems to violate the Berkeley Code of Conduct.  Thus once again I am forced to request that Berkeley investigate Prof Deacon's writings for potential academic integrity violations.  Please note that with regard to the second set of "missing citations" attached that the Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence was the publisher of the Juarrero piece and is making this complaint as the copyright holder.
My interest and the interest of ISCE in this matter is quite simple.  Prof Deacon is claiming originality for work which more properly is described as amplifications and commentary on the original work of others -- work he neglected to cite and which he dismisses as superficial.  This is anything but fair to Juarrero, Thompson and Graves and the more he insists on his "right" to have ignored their work (or to have deliberately neglected to cite it) the greater the questions of academic integrity he brings to the forefront.
I thank you for your attention to this most regrettable matter

May 22 (to Deacon)

There is no personal vendetta.  I am not the cause of your book's bad reviews.  To use your own language perhaps the absence of clear writing and the absence of appropriate citations to the related works of others has "caused" your problems with reviewers.  It is your absence of making any kind of meaningful effort to give appropriate acknowledgement to Juarerro and Thompson and Graves which is the direct cause of my raising the issue of academic integrity.  It is your absence of an intellectual/academic response which furthers the issue.  If you honestly believe that Juarerro and Thompson and Graves do not merit appropriate acknowledgement you need to argue that position from "J said x, while I said y".  Instead you announce (as if yours was the only opinion which matters) that the "resemblances are superficial."  Alicia has produced her version of I said Deacon said.  Thompson has complained. McGinn came on far stronger than I.  And Fodor quite bluntly found your book to be a waste of time. You claim it is because you are not a philosopher (as if that somehow matters), when the more likely explanation is that there are real problems with your work.  (The explanation versus causation issue raised by McGinn is a prime example.)  Academic integrity extends even to you.  Especially where you are the senior academic who has given the lesser known academics (and several uninvolved outside reviewers) ample reason to suggest that at best they were neglected and at worst they were "borrowed from" without appropriate attribution.  Then you compound the offense to these academics by proclaiming that your work is original and that their work is superficial, or irrelevant, or in some strange time reversal final cause sort of way derivative.  Your behavior in this regard I find to be personally offensive and way reminiscent of the old adage "if the facts are against you argue the law, if the law is against you argue the facts, if both are against you just argue."  It is time for you to stop this nonsense and issue an apology to Alicia Evan and Mark.  In the name of integrity.  Your personal integrity.  Until you can bring yourself to do that I feel no choice but to continue to press your institution to press you about academic integrity.
I really have nothing more to say re this matter nor to you other than to express my extreme disappointment that you have proven unable/unwilling to react with the generosity of spirit which I had been led (I guess mistakenly) to believe was your norm.

May 19 (to Berkeley)

Please see

the article on this "mess" in the Chronicle of Higher Education

and the review in the New York Review of Books

and then please reach out to Terry Deacon and ask him to "do the right thing" and fix this lapse in academic integrity

May 16 (to Deacon)
Four months have gone by since you and I last corresponded re Incomplete Nature and its extraordinarily liberal use of ideas which might be better cited to Juarrero and Thompson.
As we left off you apologized for NOT having done the background reading which would have revealed the overlap between your book and the prior works
You claimed to have not kept in front of mind the joint discussions you Evan and I had at Esalen or the overlap between you and Alicia at a conference where you both were keynotes and where you attended Alicia's talk
We both agreed that if Incomplete Nature is NOT to be viewed as a serious academic text then the prevailing standards of citations do not necessarily apply.  Nonetheless it is your moral responsibility to supply credit where credit is due, to not falsely take credit for being the first to originate ideas which can clearly be attributed to others before you, and to NOT pervert the academic standards of the fine institution where you hold a senior chair.
I suggested that the best remedy would be to hold a symposium involving you Alicia and Evan where your parallel streams of thought can be explored and from which a joint academic work with full citations can be created.
You informed me that you had no desire to ever work with me in the future and I accepted that but reminded you of your moral obligations to Alicia and Evan.
To date you have done NOTHING to fulfill your moral obligations in this regard.  No symposium. No apology to Alicia.  No note to the academic community.
I am attaching a copy of the review of Incomplete Nature from the New York Review of Books.  The author of that review goes much further than I in suggesting either deliberate lack of citations or laziness in sourcing.
This is no way for a senior academic to behave.
I am very tempted to write an article which highlights your behavior as an example of what happens when we allow popularization vehicles like the TED Conferences to pervert the very standards by which senior academics become senior academics and not merely well known popularizers.
I am writing as the Director of the Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence, the research institute at which Alicia Juarrero is a senior fellow.  As a matter of academic record we MUST insist that you and UC Berkeley do something to correct the lack of citation problem.
Four months of silence is not an acceptable approach.
I would appreciate a response in a timely manner

January 27 (to Deacon)


This note is personally for you but please note I have included my full previous distribution list.

The voluminous dialogue over the past few days has been very educational.  I would like to make a few statements very clearly:

1) Many of those involved - including myself - have made use of rhetorical patterns which have been much too strong.  Given that your work was not presented as a text for academics but rather an educational text for a broader audience, my use of "plagiarism" was much too strong a word.  I regret the pain which my use of the word must have caused you.  The way forward here is NOT to evoke that word.

2) I do believe (and have from the beginning) that you have not done anything here with nefarious intent.   This is much more properly a discussion about what kind of standards should be applied to certain kinds of work and what steps one should actively take to ensure that such standards are met or exceeded.

3) Alicia and Evan (and upon further investigation Mark Graves) have been engaged in parallel research efforts which are worthy of acknowledgement and celebration and to do so does not subtract from the synthesis of thought which you have created but rather provides added context.

4) The way forward (the converting the lemons into lemonade) lies in finding opportunities where you Alicia Evan and Mark can collaborate, dialogue, debate, and JOINTLY help to move the exploration of research in the areas of interest to you ahead.

To the extent that I or my Institute can play a helpful role with regard to point number 4 above we are ready and available.  I hope that we all can take heed of Evan's suggestion to step back for a few days, allow the emotional reactions (and forceful rhetoric) to subside, and then begin to forge a common path forward.

Thank you for having evoked a process of learning for many of us and have a great weekend.

Jan 27 (to Deacon via a mutual friend)

After sleeping on all this I have come to a few tentative conclusions:

1)  I am in agreement that Terry did this without conscious intent

2) I believe (given the lack of references post 2005, the ease of finding highly relevant material on Google which was not included, the significant overlap with Mark Graves' work, Terry's overlap with Alicia in Cancun, and more) that somewhere along the way Terry has slipped into the following really bad methodology

 a) take notes on everything and especially on what the pirates call to my attention
 b) if it is confirming to my beliefs subsume the argument into mine
c) if it is disclaiming of my beliefs ignore unless totally compelling and needing refutation
d) keep track of exact quotes which must be cited
e) at some point stop gathering and move on to collation and synthesis

This methodology provides an "innocent" explanation for what has occurred.

3) The problem with the methodology above is that is well below acceptable academic standards  (it sort of is the standard for a bad political speech writer)

4) Terry's work was indeed published by Norton and NOT an academic press and perhaps his editors did not hold him to appropriate academic standards

5) If Terry were to label the book as "infotainment" rather than "academic"  my objections would be mooted

6) If however he continues to hold out the label "academic work" then the work needs to be judged by academic standards and by those standards which are befitting a senior professor

7) Academic standards suggest that the lack of references after 2005 and the lack of inclusion of easily found and relevant works by others means that the work is deficient at best and potentially misleading

8) academic standards also suggest that terry is falsely claiming credit for work more properly attributed to others and is relying on the pathetic standard of "well it was unique to me" for his claim of priority and authorship

9) if Terry wishes to proclaim the book to be an academic one then redress to Alicia, Evan, and Mark Graves is needed; if it is rather 'infotainment" then it should be so labelled and treated by the academic community

I am very sorry that this episode seems to have revealed a methodological "character flaw" in your friend who you hold in high esteem.   I am afraid Terry has some soul searching to do about how this situation is properly addressed.

Jan 25


just what are you claiming I wrote which is libelous?

you through around a very strong word with no links to what you are referencing

I have every reasonable basis for the opinions I have offered 

I have even provided the documentation

You are a public person

the standard for libel is reckless disregard for the truth

the person here exhibiting reckless disregard again in my opinion is you

Jan 25

I am very disappointed and shocked by your response below.

To accept your text at face value is to accept the notion that:

1)  You feel no need to examine parallel research in your domain

2)  Discussions in which you participate (for days) have NO value to you as a source of ideas or thoughts and are supposedly only of value to the other participants who benefit from your presentation(s)

3) Any confirming evidence for your thoughts which you might gather along the way is yours for the taking and relabeling as if ideas  were things to be possessed rather than fluid dynamics to be made use of

You respond with any allowance for the fairly obvious truth that the ideas presented by Juarrero and Thompson in their 2002 books have made any impact upon your thought development.  This you do despite our lengthy discussions of those topics in 2003, despite Juarrero noting that you were in attendance at one of her presentations and despite Thompson's review of your book in Nature (attached).

If you were a PhD student up for a viva in the UK (where I serve as an external examiner several times each year) and presented your response during the oral examination you would trigger a FAIL (not even the awarding of an MPhil).  It is simply not acceptable for a junior scholar to ignore parallel research and then to respond that the ideas really "belong" to them.  If is unacceptable for a PhD student it is grossly unacceptable for a senior scholar of your reputation.

Stephen Wolfram retreated to his attic for 10 years to write "A New Kind of Science" and then was pilloried for ignoring all developments which occurred during those ten years and for ignoring parallel research.  But Wolfram literally retreated to his attic and was a businessman not a professor.  You have no such excuse.  You are and have been an active academic for the past 9 years.  To willfully ignore parallel research is negligence.  To assert that what parts of it you have heard is "yours' just because it may confirm your theories is theft.

You have had several opportunities to state: "Sorry.  i guess that perhaps my notes from back then failed to cite the sources.  The ideas matched mine and so I failed to pursue the possibility that they originated with others.  Let's fix the attributions and all work together."  (At a minimum: when Juarrero contacted you, when the Nature review was published and now).

Instead you reply with "I am a senior academic how dare you challenge my word."

With that reply I may maintain my respect for your work but I have lost all respect for you as a person.

I would strongly urge that you read the material at

You seem to feel no need to uphold the following standard found there:  "Proper attribution" means that you have fully identified the original source and extent of your use of the words or ideas of others that you reproduce in your work for this course, usually in the form of a footnote or parenthesis. Finally, you should keep in mind that as a member of the campus community, you are expected to demonstrate integrity in all of your academic endeavors and will be evaluated on your own merits. So be proud of your academic accomplishments and help to protect and promote academic integrity at Berkeley.

Terry your work suffers not one tiny iota from your acknowledging that you were inspired by the work of others which you then amplified and further developed.  For you to allow your ego to demand that you and you alone are the original source of all your work is to raise very grave questions about your academic integrity.  These ideas were discussed at length by us in 2003.  It is fine for you to forget.  It is fine for you to have faulty notes.  It is NOT fine for you to claim sole ownership over ideas discussed amongst a group.

Given your response below I am formally requesting that you refer this matter to the senior officer of the campus in charge of Academic Integrity.

Please write me back to confirm that you have done so.

Jan 24

It has been a long time since we met in person (Esalen 2003).  I just finished reading  Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter  and while the work is impressive, I found some patterns in it very disturbing.

To be rather blunt to my eye it appears that you have made extensive use of the works of Alicia Juarrero and Evan Thompson without the appropriate attribution.  Entire passages in your book follow the same argumentation line Juarrero employed in Dynamics in Action and Thompson used in Between Ourselves.  I must remind you that I handed out copies of Dynamics in Action while at the Esalen meeting and discussed it and Between Ourselves rather extensively with both you and Evan while we were at Esalen together.  Perhaps the interval of 7-8 years meant that you retained only the highlights of those discussions but those very highlights seem integral to your argument in Incomplete Nature.

Given my deep respect for your work, I was rather shocked to discover that you would somehow appropriate the works of these two scholars and represent it without acknowledgement or attribution.  I recognize that in many societies imitation is the highest form of flattery but in senior academic circles this kind of use without credit is more tantamount to theft than to flattery.  At a minimum it appears that your research assistants have failed to consult the web to check on your sourcing.  At worst the work gives the appearance of seeking to improperly benefit from the impressive work of others.

Our joint attendance at Esalen is a matter of public record.  My heavy promotion of Juarrero's work at that time is also a matter of easy documentation.  Your access to Evan at the conference is also a matter of public record.

I would strongly urge you to revisit your notes and to run some simple plagiarism checks comparing your book to the other two.  That you have NOT quoted line by line without citation is easily shown but so too are the deep parallels between your work and the works of the other two.

As a senior scholar I would have hoped that you would have found it within yourself to both acknowledge your sources and to celebrate the use you have been able to make of Alicia and Evan's work. 

Attribution and dialogue are sorely needed now.