Another apt set of observations from philosopher Benj Hellie (Toronto):
The moment seems right for me to make a little speech on behalf of 'peace, love, and understanding' -- so here goes.
Since Sunday morning, I have received (independently, and without solicitation) PMs from philosophers at a wide range of career stages, attesting the feelings of at least half a dozen members of the field; Jess[ica Wilson] has received still more. These are all people whom I hold at a very high level of esteem: excellent, crisp philosophers from whom I have learned a great deal. None of them are 'political' types: instead, they busy themselves in regard to philosophical matters doing fantastic work, to all of our collective benefit. Each communication offered warm appreciation for my and Jess's social media activities in recent days, for which we are humbly grateful.
But a darker current pervaded the various communications. In each case, the writer wished they could offer public support for our activities, but did not do so, out of *fear*.
Let that sink in, please: an atmosphere of *fear* pervades the internal political conversation in the field of philosophy.
The intensity of this fear is high enough that level-headed, responsible, first-rate performers at a wide range of career stages felt unable to perform such an anodyne gesture as 'Liking' some remark Jess or I makes on a comment thread. In consequence of this fear, each of my communicants expressed *guilt* at their sense of inability to publicly express support; and felt moved, for this reason, to apologize for not doing so.
Look: I don't want anyone to feel they should apologize to me for any of this. By this I mean two things.
To you folks who wrote in: collectively, your philosophy has for a long time been a big part of what keeps me going. You have my highest appreciation for this. Please don't feel guilty about these second-order matters.
And to everyone else: looking at things objectively, isn't it unfortunate for the field to be in a position where folks A are channeled into a situation where they feel guilt in regard to folks B, even though folks A have not acted in any way maliciously toward folks B?
But the root of this -- to circle back -- is the arrival on the scene of *fear* as a significant emotion driving our interactions in the field. I don't think I am going out on a limb here if I announce that this is a pretty bad development. I bet that this is not how *anyone* wanted things to turn out.
I am not going to get into specifics, or point fingers, or any of that -- everyone who has read this far has a good enough idea what I am talking about, and anyway that would be counterproductive in regard to my message of peace -- but I do want everyone to recognize that over the last decade, we have collectively created a climate of fear; and I want everyone to reflect on how very sad and unwelcome that is.
Please don't take me to be suggesting that various well-known events, movements, reconceptualizations, or redistributions of power should not be regarded as progress; or that the way of ten years ago was some golden age which needs to be restored; or that so-and-so (myself included) is a saint, or a 'miscreant'; or that this team or individual does or doesn't need to apologize to that team or individual. I am not saying any of that.
What I am saying is that many seem to have come to experience the collective emotion of philosophy as exhibiting strongly negative aspects; that we should all be alarmed at this; and that each of us (again, myself included) should reflect on how they and/or their friends may have contributed, and then take steps to dial it back.
There is a lot to be said about these astute observations, but I'll make just one point now: it is disgraceful what cowards most tenured academics are. I've learned this the hard way--my e-mail folders are full of hundreds of e-mails of the form, "I quite agree with you, but" don't quote me, don't mention my name, etc. Growe a spine, people! Say what you think! If you have tenure, you really have no excuse. The "herd opinion" on any issue is never quite what you think it is, as Benj and Jess's recent experience shows.