A brief account here. Just to be clear (given the the number of legal actions growing out of this affair), this lawsuit was an action solely against the university alleging failure to comply with Title IX in its handling of the student's initial complaint about Professor Ludlow. The student has also sued Ludlow personally, and Ludlow has sued the student and the University--those matters are still pending to the best of my knowledge.
I agree with Jennifer Lackey that universities which really want complainants about sexual harassment and misconduct to come forward should, as a matter of course, indemnify them for subsequent legal risks, but I did think this proposal was rather startling and dangerous, as did others (complete with the overused word "bullying"!).
This is a lightly revised version of a paper I gave last week at a very enjoyable conference on "Philosophy in the Public Sphere" at the Jindal Global University in Sonipat, India, near Delhi; the abstract:
The idea of “public philosophy”—that is, philosophy as contributing to questions of moral and political urgency in the community in which it is located—is paradoxical for two reasons. The first is that normative philosophy has no well-established substantive conclusions about the right and the good. Thus, philosophers enter into moral and political debate purporting to offer some kind of expertise, but the expertise they offer can not consist in any credible claim to know what is good, right, valuable, or any other substantive normative proposition that might be decisive in practical affairs. But philosophers—at least those in the broadly Socratic traditions--do bring to debate a method or way of thinking about contested normative questions: they are good at parsing arguments, clarifying the concepts at play in a debate, teasing out the dialectical entailments of suppositions and claims, and so on: Socratic philosophers are, in short, purveyors of what I call “discursive hygiene.” This brings us to the second paradox: although philosophers can contribute no substantive knowledge about the good and the right, they can contribute discursive hygiene. But discursive hygiene plays almost no role in public life, and an only erratic, and highly contingent, role in how people form beliefs about matters of moral and political urgency. I call attention to the role of two factors in moral judgment: non-rational emotional responses and “Tribalism,” the tendency to favor members of one “tribe” at the expense of others. The prevalence of emotional responses, especially tribalist ones, undermines the efficacy of discursive hygiene in public life.
I conclude that the role for public philosophy is quite circumscribed, though public philosophers should learn from their cousins, the lawyers, who appreciate the role that rhetoric, beyond discursive hygiene, plays in changing moral attitudes and affecting action. Along the way, I discuss Stevenson’s emotivism, what we can learn from Peter Singer’s schizophrenic role as a public philosopher (lauded for his defense of animal rights, pilloried for his defense of killing defective humans), evolutionary explanations of tribalism, the lessons of American Legal Realism for the possible relevance of discursive hygiene, and Marx and Nietzsche as "public" philosophers.
Here; indviidual winners are Helen Nissenbaum (Media, NYU) for the Barwise Prize; Christopher (Kit) Wellman (Wash U/St. Louis), the Berger Memorial Prize; and Carol Hay (U Mass, Lowell), the Kavka/UC Irvine Prize in Political Philosophy.
A longtime member of the faculty at the University of Glasgow, Professor Knowles was well-known for his work in political philosophy and on Hegel. I will add links to memorial notices when they appear.
A longtime member of the Department of Philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, where he was Professor Emeritus and where there is an annual lecture in his honor, Professor Magnus was a leading Anglophone scholar of Nietzsche and of Heidegger. I will add links to memorial notices as they appear.
ADDENDUM: John Martin Fischer reports there will be a memorial service at Temple Beth-El in Riverside on November 10 at noon.
Philosopher Andrew Levine (emeritus, Wisconsin) comments:
Nowaday...all we hear about, in liberal circles especially, is civility. It is a virtue not much practiced, but extravagantly praised.
The idea that civility should be maintained at all times – in politics especially — is a conceit of recent vintage. Perhaps, in a different possible world, some good could come of it. In the actual world, it is more likely to be disabling than constructive.
A wiser principle would be to accord civility only where civility is due — to persons and opinions that, right or wrong, really do merit respect.
This standard would rule out capitalist predators.
But class hatred is hard to maintain towards a few very conspicuous late model capitalists: the kind behind iPhones and Google searches and social media. They seem too hip to hate...
Yes, they are the modern day counterparts of the tycoons workers used to hate, but who can hate tycoons who provide consumers with harmless, well-designed and eminently useful deli.ghts; and who offer user-friendly services that nearly everyone these days finds indispensable.
Could it be that they are the vanguard of a friendlier, hipper – nicer – capitalism? It appears so.
A video of the event is here; Professor Siegel offers the following remarks about their discussion:
We were asked to discuss the roles of the sciences and the humanities in the study of the mind. Pinker went first. His own approach to studying to social phenomena (such as violence and gender roles) is evolutionary psychology. His intellectual hero is the sociobiologist E.O. Wilson. That comes through in his comments. But his main focus is on the respective roles of the sciences in general and the humanities. You could have guessed it in advance: Pinker chides 'the Humanities' for their 'anti-scientism' and for being insulated from the sciences (he makes an exception for philosophy, which he thinks - wrongly - is thoroughly and heavily informed by psychology), but he seems deaf to huge swathes of research in politics, literature, and social history which isn't and couldn't productively be informed by any 'science of the mind' of the sort he envisions.
My goal in my comments was to exhibit some of these areas of the Humanities. Our main disagreement is about what's continuous and what's discontinuous between the sciences and the humanities.
I find continuity in the modes of inquiry between the sciences and the humanities, because science is more than just confirming hypotheses. It includes the analysis of problems and to some extent (e.g. in certain types of case studies) detailed descriptions of experiences. The discontinuity is in the subject-matter. I identified three examples in my talk. One of them is about evidentialism and beliefs about social inequality. In another example I mention Chris Lebron's work on the long strand of American literature aimed at exposing the 'vast experiential gulf' between Americans. (I'm thankful to Chris for getting me to read Mat Johnson's novel *Pym*.)
Pinker thinks the sciences have superior methods, and that those methods can be applied widely in the humanities. So he thinks there ought to be continuity in the subject matter, and that to the extent that actual modes of inquiry are discontinuous, that's too bad for the humanities. (Philosophy is supposed to be a big hero here. He hasn't met the many non-naturalists that populate the field!)
I chose not to emphasize explicitly my biggest disagreement with Pinker's own political and psychological orientation. In a forum like this, that perspective is best met by exhibiting what it has to leave out. (It'd be different if we were charged with discussing sociobiology per se, in which case the perspective Pinker likes could be the main subject of discussion).
I also chose not to emphasize our biggest agreement, which is that philosophy - especially philosophy of mind, but also epistemology - is indeed often better when not conducted in complete intellectual isolation from the sciences. What would be the point of our spending all our time agreeing about that? It would have made the topic too narrow, and obscured the most important differences.
Final point: When you put together Pinker's own orientation as the intellectual heir to EO Wilson, with his interesting suggestions about reorganizing the university, it's easy to get the impression that he would in an imperialist manner impose sociobiology on the humanities. That is silly. He's serious about exploring other ways for the university to be organized, such as getting rid of disciplines altogether. He's not against fiction or philosophy. (He is after all the husband of the brilliant Rebecca Goldstein, philosopher and novelist). He says he didn't disagree with anything I said, though when push came to shove, he said we don't get any deep general or causal explanation of social phenomena or of the mind from the work in literature or history that I mentioned. He says causal generalizations can't be gotten from 'mere' descriptions. --But here's the part of his suggestion I think is very bad: he suggests selling the Humanities to the highest bidder. He points out in his talk that many donors would fund the Humanities more if there were greater connections to science. That is a poor reason to reorganize the university. You wouldn't select which novels should be taught by consulting the NYTimes best-seller list either.
Local news story here (including the "Notice of Claim" letter from Barnett's lawyer, which is quite damning about the University's conduct if accurate). The response of the University official is quite snide, and fails to note that, in fact, Ward Churchill prevailed with a jury in his lawsuit against Colorado.
...due to increasingly unhinged comments I infer. Too bad, it was sometimes quite amusing as it ridiculed "the Daily Snooze," "NudeChapps," the"Feminist Philosophers" and me (no nickname stuck), but I'm not surprised it got out of control: the first law of cyberspace is: anonymity + no adult oversight=cyber-cesspool.
Three are new awardees: Ingo Brigandt (Alberta), Marc-Antoine Dilhac (Montreal), and C. Kenneth Waters (Calgary). One is a renewal of an existing Chair, to Brad Inwood, currently at the University of Toronto but moving next year to Yale.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM LAST WEEK IN LIGHT OF NEW COMMENTS--MORE WELCOME
A student in the UK writes:
I am applying for PhD programs this cycle but find it almost impossible to find useful resources on how to write a high-quality proposal specifically for political theory/political philosophy programmes. I am applying to UK universities. Could you recommend any resources or give any advice?
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)