The Lissack Emails
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
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
Executive Director and ISCE Professor of Meaning in
On Tue, Oct 2, 2012 at 1:13 PM, Michael Lissack <email@example.com> wrote:
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."
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.
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
is it that Deacon has refused all invitations for honest
debate about this work and demands
only sycophantic engagements?
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?
is a scandal at Berkeley and it is not going away.
Copy of the official investigation letter attached.
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
This is in DIRECT CONTRAVENTION of UC BERKELEY's OWN ETHICS
"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
We will conduct our research with integrity and
Why is the State of California engaged in a coverup?
Who is paying for it?
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
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
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
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.
You shared the letter with me not Alicia. And we stand by our
accusations. Prof Deacon has indeed been accused and you are
Truth is truth.
Terry Deacon, Alicia Juarrero, Evan Thompson and others need your
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
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
firstname.lastname@example.org and urge him to do the right thing.
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
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)
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
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
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
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
May 19 (to Berkeley)
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
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
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
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
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
1) I am in agreement that Terry did this without conscious
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
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
This methodology provides an "innocent" explanation for what has
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
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
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
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.
just what are you claiming I wrote which is libelous?
you through around a very strong word with no links to what you
I have every reasonable basis for the opinions I have
I have even provided the documentation
You are a public person
the standard for libel is reckless disregard for the truth
person here exhibiting reckless disregard again in my opinion is
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
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
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
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
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
Please write me back to confirm that you have done so.
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.
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