We touched on this briefly last week, but as so often happens, it's taken on a life of its own on various right-wing websites. Briefly, the usual "high-school-with-tenure" crowd on Facebook was reacting to the brouhaha about Richard Swinburne's anti-gay bigotry (discussed here). Jason Stanley (Yale), on his Facebook-page-cum-blog responded with a "fuck off" and then a reaffirmation and, shall we say, "elaboration" of the "fuck off" aimed at Swinburne and his ilk. Rebecca Kukla (Georgetown) (another regular in this crowd, whose FB "tough talk" we've encountered before), chimed in with the suggestion that the anti-gay bigots "suck my giant queer cock." There are two reasonably calm accounts of events here and here, both of which include slightly different (and somewhat odd) explanations from Stanley about what transpired. Meanwhile, a right-wing website called "Georgetown Academy" has been pursuing Kukla, claiming that her "message to Catholics" was "suck my giant queer cock." That isn't quite right: at best, that was her "message" to Catholics who are anti-gay bigots. Meanwhile, Jason has, wisely I suspect, removed his Facebook account, to deprive the enemy of further ammunition (though my recollection of his FB page was that it was mostly an extended exercise in "enough about me, what do you think about me?").
I will note that my own comments on L'Affaire Swinburne--"Swinburne offered the usual awful arguments for anti-gay bigotry that "natural law" theorists and Christian philosophers usually trot out. No one outside the sect takes the arguments seriously, because they aren't serious arguments, but put that to one side. This talk was given inside the "sect": should anyone have been surprised that a keynote address at a Christian philosophy conference included familiar arguments rationalizing anti-gay bigotry? Many self-identified Christian philosophers reject such arguments, but many others plainly do not"--didn't provoke nearly as strong a reaction, no doubt due to the absence of vulgar abuse aimed at Swinburne. It's testimony to the power of vulgar words that they can provoke such a strong reaction by contrast. My suggestion, were either Professors Stanley or Kukla taking my advice, would be to apologize for the unfortunate choice of language (everyone, after all, is allowed to have a visceral reaction, and there's nothing wrong with harsh language), but reaffirm the substance of their opposition to anti-gay bigotry, even when it masquerades as philosophy. (You know things are getting weird in philosophy cyberspace when I'm the one giving cyber-etiquette advice! But seriously, having been through right-wing cyber-shitstorms, I think this is a good way to defuse them.)
Re: “anti-gay bigotry”: That is just silly. There need be no bigotry in thinking that a certain sort of sexual activity is immoral. The leftist failure to distinguish between *actual* bigotry (see here: http://wapo.st/1ZLAP1n) which leads to the *actual* killing of people, and the mere moral disapproval of certain acts (which disapproval extends to all sorts of common sexual acts by *heterosexuals* too) has effectively gained the status of a law of nature.
Re: (scare-quote) ‘natural law’ theorists: It seems that Joseph Raz, John Gardner, Roger Crisp, Jeremy Waldron, and Nigel Simmonds (just to name a few) do take (scare-quote) ‘natural law’ theorists “seriously.” Just look at this group of contributors: http://amzn.to/2dBWhIY I would hardly call these people “no one.”
Re: The “usual awful arguments”: Calling an argument awful does not refute it. And Leiter has nowhere demonstrated an actual understanding of Swinburne’s argument nor an attempt to refute it. The most reasonable conclusion I can draw from the evidence is that he either doesn’t understand the argument or he does not know how to refute it.
This isn't a great display of impartiality of analysis from a blog that would like to be taken seriously by people not laboring under the albatross of dogmatic religious commitments. Briefly, in case there are any rational adults there:
(1) Irrational hostility towards a particular group, such as gay people, seems like a good candidate for "bigotry." "Actual bigotry" is a make-believe category: not all bigots kill people, but all of them display irrational animus.
(2) No one claimed that no one takes "natural law" theorists seriously, least of all me (I myself teach John Finnis and Mark Murphy almost every year I teach jurisprudence!) The correct claim I made was that no one takes seriously the 'natural law' arguments for anti-gay bigotry "outside the sect": and no one does, certainly not Raz, Gardner, et al.
(3) Calling an argument "awful" does not refute it: of course, no one claimed that was a refutation. The only question is what is the best explanation for why someone would say what I said? If you're a religious ideologue, then the best explanation is that the critic "either doesn't understand the argument or he does not know how to refute it." Really? Here's another possibility, that one might entertain: life is short, the world is fully of idiotic arguments that depend on absurd premises, this is particularly true when it comes to arguments inspired by religious dogma, therefore adults with real jobs and limited time devote their time to challenging arguments. Of course, it's possible that I'm wholly wrong in treating Swinburne as an instance of awful arguments for bigotry. It is also possible, as Quine says in Pursuit of Truth, that telepathy works and empiricism is false. Many things are possible, but efficient allocation of effort is a virtue, and not only in matters of intellectual labor.