Shocking! (Context.) A shame he didn't understand the paper, though (alternatively, if he did understand it, a shame he couldn't make any relevant counter-arguments). Do read the first few comments on the post, they're very funny.
(Kudos, by the way, to Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke, who instead of demanding a juvenile pity-fest for their vulnerability, communicated to their critic that given that the paper was in the public domain, it was fair game for mocking criticism.)
(Thanks to several readers who brought this to my attention.)
A philosopher elsewhere writes with an amusing reaction to this week's melodrama:
This shit makes me want to retire.
I already don't "go out" in the philosophy blog-o-sewer, and maybe I'll stop going to conferences too.
Many of these people are not able enough to both do good philosophy and engage constantly in sanctimonious, and often quite nasty, moral police work. Many of them seem to be getting paid a lot to do mediocre scholarly work and spend 80% of their working hours on Facebook.
We need to update the seven deadly sins. Take out gluttony — what’s wrong with the odd bit of gorging? — and replace it with ethical eating. Noble foodies, who refuse to pollute their bodies with what they view as ‘evil’ grub, are far greater irritants than compulsive cake-eaters.
Ethical eaters are everywhere. There’s the veggie army, those bunny-pitying meat-dodgers, which seems to grow every year. Vegans are on the march, too. In 2006, 150,000 Brits were engaged in the daily self–flagellation that is a plant-based diet; today, 542,000 are.
Trend analysts believe that social media — filtered photos on Instagram of a bowl of lentils looking deceptively delicious or Gwyneth Paltrow positively glowing after downing a test-tube of pureed spinach — plays a major role in coaxing naturally carnivorous humans to switch to leaves and nuts. I love how ethical eaters fancy themselves as brave resisters of the consumer culture that tells us all to scoff dead animals and yet they can be tempted into a lifetime of salad-only self-denial by the flutter of a celeb’s eyelashes.
Then there’s locavores, who only eat foodstuffs harvested in a 100-mile radius of where they live. Didn’t we used to call this protectionism? If ethical eaters think it’s good to prop up local industries by shunning the juicy, sun-dappled fare of dirt-poor African or Latin American farmers, then they and I have different takes on the word ‘ethical’....
There are now restaurants that promise ‘guilt-free dining’. Like The Grain Store in London, which offers diners an organic, carbon-neutral eating experience. So the grub doesn’t only nourish your body — it massages your ego; it flatters your moral pretensions. This is what I find so grating about ethical eating: it’s so self-regarding. It isn’t about changing the world. Hordes of caring teens opting for -beanburgers at Leon rather than Big Macs at McDonald’s are not going to overthrow The System, or even make much of a dent in the number of cows killed for meat. No, it’s about keeping oneself morally clean, unpolluted by the junk that other people eat.
It’s part of what the French philosopher Pierre Bourdieu called ‘distinction’, where one bigs up one’s moral status by contrasting it with the antics of the less switched-on. In this sense, vegans and freegans and locavores need McDonald’s to keep frying meat, and nasty corporations to continue flying fruit from Kenya to Tesco, because without all that wicked behavior they’d have nothing to distinguish themselves from.
'a handful of very vocal figures (many otherwise quite marginal to academic philosophy), whose mixture of foolishness, sanctimoniousness and/or vindictiveness we've commented on many times before--for example, here, here, here, here, here,here. "Pathologically self-righteous people" (to quote an earlier correspondent) can't be reasoned with, but perhaps they can be stopped. But this will require more courage and forthrightness from the majority in the profession, both faculty and students, who find this climate of fear, with its harm to honest intellectual discussion, unacceptable.'
There is a group at my university who call themselves [an acronym for a group of female students of philosophy at the university]. They actively recruit members and take it upon themselves to organise things like reading groups, "how to apply" workshops, etc. They don't stand out for their philosophical ability but they give themselves an active role and visible presence in the department. When I began at the university, I joined, but have been disappointed to discover the core group are a clique who approach politics with exactly the sort of self-righteous and authoritarian attitudes and behaviours you mention here. None of them are faculty: they are people who have at least finished undergraduate studies and are looking to complete either a Masters or a PhD at some point. As I said, they don't stand out for having particular philosophical ability. Faculty don't seem to be either opposed to or particularly supportive of them. However I have found their presence intimidating and frustrating, because I don't agree with all of their political opinions, or at least have the audacity to believe they are open to question. It's not just that they promulgate their own set of dogmas, but that you feel like you have to watch your back and be careful what you say, otherwise they might mobilise people against you. I find them anti-philosophical: they don't seem to value academic freedom or free inquiry, preferring instead to police language and thought for "problematic" expression and views.
Anyway, I hope they fall by the wayside over time, and don't represent the future of philosophy. I hope all we are seeing is some kind of political fad that will die out sooner rather than later. Thanks again for taking a public stand against this worrying phenomenon!
That piece clearly touched a nerve with many readers. Another junior faculty member at another university wrote about his social media exposure to his colleagues at a temporary job he had elsewhere:
[T]he sorts of things I was seeing were just appalling. As one of your correspondents put it, the kind of pathological self-righteousness, the grotesque moral peacocking competition to see who could most aggressively signal their sensitivity to the marginalized and oppressed...it was just unbelievable to me that so many professional philosophers and graduate students could be so manifestly self-deluded as to what they were doing and why. I needn't provide examples to you, I'm sure.
In that time, you were one of the few people who helped me keep my sanity. I am normally a very outspoken person, and if not for being on the market, and having tenure to think about after that, I am very much the sort who would have relished the opportunity to weigh in on all this shameful nonsense. But at the time, I could barely keep my head above water, and am now proud I managed to resist writing some publicly available screed that might have kept me from getting a job. One of the most frustrating things about that time (and now) is that I feel less free to express my opinions than I ever did as a graduate student, where I felt very free. The climate is so censorious and grandstandingly punitive that I, like so many others, feel effectively silenced. And I still largely feel that way despite having a TT job now.
More folks, including the many senior folks I hear from, need to be more vocal in the lives of their departments and on social media about the unacceptability of this behavior.
I want to argue that this situation demonstrates an absolute fissure in contemporary progressive politics, that there is a direct and unambiguous conflict between our efforts to address mass incarceration and the insistence that people accused of crimes such as sexual assault should be presumed to be guilty and that those who are guilty are permanently and existentially unclean. I want to argue that there’s nothing particularly hidden about this conflict, that acknowledging it is as simple as noting the direct contradiction of two progressive attitudes: the belief that certain crimes, particularly sex crimes and domestic violence, should be treated not only with harsh criminal punishments but with permanent moral judgment for those guilty of them; and the idea that we need to dismantle our vast criminal justice industrial complex, to oppose the carceral state, and to replace them with a new system of restoration and forgiveness. I further want to argue that progressives are not doing any of the moral and legal reasoning necessary to resolve these tensions, and that if we don’t, eventually they’ll explode....
[I]f an acquittal is insufficient to prove Parker’s innocence, what would such proof look like? Is exoneration even possible? And what do we do with people who are accused of crimes like sexual assault and domestic violence when their cases never go to trial? The current progressive impulse seems to be to simply treat them as guilty regardless, and permanently. Yet this strikes me as unambiguously contrary to the spirit and philosophy that contribute to our drive for criminal justice reform. How can we make such reform possible if we condemn huge groups of people to the status of guilty despite never being found guilty of any crime? And if such crimes carry existential and disqualifying moral judgment for life even for those only accused, how can we bring those imprisoned and released back into normal adult life?
People swing wildly from talking about criminal justice reform to insisting that everyone accused of entire classes of crimes, let alone convicted, are necessarily condemned to a lifetime of guilt. These impulses are not compatible. I strongly believe that we can balance the need to give sexual assault victims far more support and understanding than we traditionally have, and to begin to fix our society’s ugly failure to protect women from sexual assault, while still fighting mass imprisonment and the carceral state. But it will take hard work to get there, and the issue does not seem to even been on the radar for most people.
On Facebook, I've got, broadly speaking, three "kinds" of friends: academic lawyers, academic philosophers, and regular people (the latter category including some lawyers, relatives, neighbors etc.). The FB habits of these three groups are strikingly different.
Regular people use FB the way I thought it was supposed to be used (and the reason I joined): to post photos of kids and pets, recent vacations, occasionally a bit of personal or professional news. Academic philosophers do a little of that, and so do academic lawyers, but for most of them, that's only a small portion of their posting.
Academic philosophers increasingly treat FB like a blog, a forum for pontification about everything from real politics to academic politics. Until I realized I could "unfollow" people without "unfriending" them, I dumped a fair number of academic philosophers because their pontifications were so tiresome. My advice: get a blog! Anyone who wants to read me pontificating, can come here, but I don't impose it on my FB friends.
Academic lawyers do a fair bit of pontificating too, though not nearly as much as the academic philosophers, and theirs is almost always confined to real politics. The really revolting aspect of some academic philosopher behavior on FB is its "high school with tenure" quality: back-stabbing, preening and posturing, endless displays of righteousness and "pearl clutching", faux solidarity with all the oppressed and "wretched of the academy" (less often the actual wretched of the earth), and so on. An awful lot of academic philosophers on FB come across as teenagers desperately seeking approval and affirmation. I've managed to "unfriend" most of the offenders, but it was really a kind of depressing and sickening spectacle while it lasted.
The latest sexual harassment scandal in academic philosophy has, predictably, brought the usual know-nothing pontificators out in force, busy signaling their rectitude while actually harming the interests of the complainant against Pogge. Let me explain.
is rightly considered a pillar of civilised society. But people have a tendency to over-apply it in irrelevant cases. The presumption of your innocence means that the state can't punish you for a crime unless it proves that you committed it. That's it. It has nothing to do with how one individual should treat or think about another, or whether an organisation should develop or continue a relationship with an accused individual. The presumption of innocence doesn't protect you from being unfriended on facebook, or shunned at conferences, or widely thought by other people to be a criminal. It just protects from being criminally convicted.
Why is the "presumption of innocence" considered "a pillar of civilized society"? Presumably because there is moral value in avoiding sanctioning the innocent, and we can avoid sanctioning the innocent if we shift the burden of proof to the accuser. That moral value exists outside the legal context, though it is particularly important in the legal context because the sanctions are very serious. But even when the sanctions are less serious, the moral value of the presumption remains. Think of it this way: the First Amendment protection of free speech prevents the state from sanctioning you for the content of your speech (except under very special circumstances), but that doesn't mean "freedom of speech" has no value, and deserves no moral weight, in contexts other than the exercise of state power. I do not suggest that there should be a legal remedy for "unfriending" on Facebook or for swarmy pontificators and shunners like Ichikawa et al., but I do think it obvious that a "presumption of innocence" plays a useful role in regulating our informal dealings with others, even if it is a defeasible assumption (and is defeated in this case, about which more in a moment).
Digging through my draft but unused posts, I found this funny one:
Last August, after I posted a link to the Illinois boycott statement organized by John Protevi, he sent me the following interesting e-mail:
From: John Protevi [email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 9:30 AM
To: Leiter, Brian
Subject: Thanks for the link
Brian, many thanks for the link to the boycott pledge. Despite our differences and my own often admittedly sophomoric reactions to them, I have never hesitated in thanking you for your solidarity on many important issues, and so I’ll do so here and on Facebook and Twitter.
John does seem to have a lot of time on his hands for stuff, both important and trivial, but it's nice to know that even he is aware of his "own admittedly sophomoric" propensities.
John hasn't gotten less sophomoric in the interim, but he's at least a trooper on behalf of academic freedom!
Predictably, I suppose, some pontificators on social media are mystified that the irresponsible APA statement could be at all controversial. Indeed, philosopher Jenny Saul (Sheffield) has reiterated her view that controversy about the statement reflects badly on the state of the profession. My view is, unsurprisingly, different: the absence of controversy in certain parts of academic philosophy is what suggests the "profession" is populated with people who are not really grown up. The deficiencies of the APA statement are so obvious that it should hardly be surprising that, for example, no group of academic lawyers has promulgated a statement so ridiculous.
Let us recall what the statement said--not regarding the criminal threats and racist abuse suffered by Prof. Yancy--but regarding the lawful anonymous speech on metablogs:
Abusive speech directed at philosophers is not limited to responses by the public to published op-eds. A look at some of the anonymous philosophy blogs also reveals a host of examples of abusive speech by philosophers directed against other philosophers. Disagreement is fine and is not the issue. But bullying and ad hominem harassment of philosophers by other philosophers undermines civil disagreement and discourse and has no place in our community.
I'm not entirely sure why the statement targets anonymous speech, since it seems to me there are many possible examples of speech that runs afoul of the APA statement that was not anonymous. But they all raise the question: what exactly is the "abusive speech" that is now according to a handful of philosophers at the APA forbidden? Consider:
1. Philosopher Rachel McKinnon (Charleston) launched a Twitter tirade against Justin Weinberg (South Carolina), because he had linked to a part of a discussion by Leslie Green (Oxford) of whether Germaine Greer was correct about transgender women. Prof. McKinnon wrote, inter alia, that those she attacked should "suck it up, buttercup," and proudly proclaimed "we're not polite" after denouncing Weinberg for having "fuck[ed] up just now." Indeed, she regularly calls her opponents "philosophy asshat," "fuckwhistles" and tells them to "shut the fuck up" and "fuck off." Surely this speech violate the APA's new policy! If so, what is the APA going to do about it?
2. I have, on multiple occasions, made harsh criticisms of anti-gay bigotry in the philosophy profession, for example, here, here, and here. Does this speech violate the APA's new policy? (Admittedly, if it does, the APA can't do anything about it, since I am not a member.)
3. After I criticized a badly reasoned opinion piece co-authored by Jason Stanley (Yale), he denounced me on his very public Facebook page before hundreds if not thousands of my colleagues, dismissing me as "old, dated, shrill, and frightened." This certainly sounds like ad hominem abuse (though admittedly it did lead dozens of philosophers to friend me on Facebook!). Does this volate the APA's new policy on speech? If not, why not?
My own view is that (a) all of this speech ought to be legal; and (b) none of it should be the object of sanction or opporobium by a purportedly professional organization. Yet all of it appears to fall within the scope of the APA's careless statement. And the reason why professionals in other fields, especially law, don't promulgate statements like this is precisely because such standards are vague and overbroad and thus inconsistent with the values of freedom of expression central to all intellectual and political life. That the APA has been captured by some academics who don't see this should be a cause for concern.
Here is the statement, which now puts the APA on record as participating in the inflation of "bullying" phenomenon and, much more seriously, conflating the criminal threats and racist abuse to which Prof. Yancy was subjected with "uncivil" but lawful speech (the APA even uses, bizarrely, the language of "cease and desist"!). Apparently some people at the APA learned nothing from the University of Illinois's crusade on behalf of "civility." There were reasons to be skeptical that an APA statement would have much impact on racist sociopaths of the kind who were harassing Prof. Yancy, but now the APA has gone and done something much more outrageous and unprofessional. The APA has no business regulating lawful "uncivil" speech, or legislating what counts as "civility," let alone calling on people to "cease and desist" from it. (I may have more to say about this later or tomorrow, but I wanted to get something up now, as I will be occupied for the next six hours or so with teaching, a job talk, and a prospectus defense.)
ADDENDUM: The statement is on the APA blog, where comments are open. Do save copies of your comments, in the event they do not appear for violating the new APA "civility" code. If I hear from readers that too many responses are being suppressed there, I'll open comments here tomorrow.
ANOTHER: Philosopher Lewis Powell (Buffalo), the lead editor of the APA blog, writes to share the following pertinent information for those planning on commenting there:
Our policy is not to approve anonymous or pseudonymous comments on the blog. Typically, when someone submits a pseudonymous comment using a real email address I will email them to explain the policy and invite them to recontribute their comment under their public identity, but not everyone who posts pseudonymously provides a functioning email address (and I suspect that many don’t take the time to read our comment policy). So if you could note to your readers that aspect of our commenting policy in the post where you direct them to comment on the statement, it would likely help prevent some frustrations for prospective commenters.
Given that some pseudonymous commenters may be unsure whether the APA's new "civility" policy rules them out of bounds, I'll open comments here for discussion of this statement, and whether it is or isn't appropriate, sensible, etc. Comments may take awhile to appear due to my other obligations today.
FEBRUARY 15 UPDATE: IHE has an article about the statement, which includes the usual obfuscatory blather from apologists for speech suppression, and which includes a quite remarkable quote from Amy Ferrer, the Executive Director of the APA, who has clearly gotten way out of her depth on this one (I should add she's been a quite effective Executive Director in many respects). Philippe Lemoine has a good response to all this, which I'll simply repost here:
So the APA is asking people who engage in a very ill-defined kind of speech to “cease and desist”, but we’re supposed to conclude that it isn’t “trying to restrict speech”. When you read that, it’s hard not to be reminded of the slogan of the English Socialist Party of Oceania in 1984, “war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength”. Of course, I understand that you think the APA is trying to encourage some people to speak, but let’s be clear that it’s trying to do that by restricting the speech of others, on the ground that it has a silencing effect. This attack of freedom of expression in the name of freedom of expression has unfortunately become very common, but that doesn’t make it right, as anyone who has read Mill can tell. I also find the notion that people who support the APA’s statement are generally in favor of encouraging the expression of unpopular views preposterous. My impression was that, for instance, many of them didn’t think there was anything wrong with suing Kipnis for the unpopular views she expressed in CHE. But the most outrageous quote in that article is probably Amy Ferrer’s, who apparently can’t tell the difference between the racist insults and death threats that Prof. Yancy received and what people say on blogs, which confirms if there was any doubt left that people at the APA are badly confused.
I have no crystal ball, so I can’t tell you whether there will be...a return to the core values of robust expression and debate which are essential for academic life, as even Herbert Marcuse realized in his famous polemic against “Repressive Tolerance.” There is some portion of the younger generation of professional philosophers (grad students and assistant professors) who consistently have the wrong views on these questions. They may well take over the discipline, that I cannot predict. It’s ironic, because other humanities fields, like English, went through this totalitarian catastrophe in the 1980s while philosophy remained a paragon of wissenschaftlich seriousness. The real threats to philosophy as a profession do not come, of course, primarily from benighted youngsters who are victims of group polarization; they come from institutional and economic forces that are basically indifferent to intellectual merit. That’s the real battle that needs to be fought, though I fear we academics are not well-equipped to fight it.
Over at the latest incarnation of a metablog, there is a quite interesting commentary on this issue from someone with experience in both academic English and academic philosophy:
I am an English PhD with an MA in Philosophy from a top-twenty program, and I am struck and puzzled by what seems to be Philosophy’s repetition of the politicized “theory wars” of the 80s-90s. What is going on here? On the basis of pure anecdote and observation, I suspect in part the following:
1. External economic pressures that first hit English in a big way then also started to hit Philosophy in a big way.
2. Specialization exhaustion set in first in English, and now has also become steadily more pervasive in Philosophy.
3. Points 1 and 2 are not unrelated.
4. The new approaches of “feminist philosophy” and the like respond to points 1 and 2 by inventing a new and uncharted territory in response to specialization exhaustion; this new approach must first be justified politically and morally in order then to make itself intellectually fashionable, hence awarded, hence self-perpetuating.
5. The academic context in which this is now occurring is even more administratively heavy than it was three decades ago. Hence the moral and political necessity of the new approaches will also require more direct appeals to top-down administrative intervention than was necessary in English.
6. In both cases, the proponents of the new approaches are basically of two sorts: those already powerful and those not already powerful. The motivations of each group vary, but there is an observable tendency of the first to appeal to morality and justice (they can afford to do so) and of the second to appeal to intellectual novelty and smartness. The second group want to be admitted into the world of the first; the first group wants to pretend that they are not only more intelligent, but also more humane than their elite opponents, with whom they have their fiercest battles.
7. If one or two major Departments are won over to the new approach, the discipline can change very quickly indeed.
8. Thirty years later you’ll realize that the intrinsic conservatism of your discipline, the false certainty of its historical and conceptual divisions, “areas”, and so on, really did need an overhaul. Unfortunately, by then you might have forgotten some of best and most important insights and practices of your discipline prior to the Revolution. In the way that I am an outlier in my generation of English professors for having a pretty thorough knowledge of the Bible, and a bit of Latin and Greek, perhaps some decades hence some young maverick grad student in Philosophy will stand out for her interest in Frege and Quine, her unaccountable fascination with modal and second-order logic, her bizarre affinity for Chisholm.
(A brief aside about the metablog: like all anonymous fora, the metablogs have been a mixed bag: a mix of the stupid, the defamatory, and the obsessed, along with the insightful, the amusing, and the illuminatingly contrarian. The metablogs thrive because of the culture of fear and hostility cultivated by a small handful of philosophy academics active on social media. But if one can wade through the morass, as I periodically do, there are often genuinely interesting contributions. UPDATE: I've removed the link, since elsewhere on the thread, unrelated to what I had linked to, there is a lot of crap, even by metablog standards of "crap." I do wish the owner of the metablog would do a little moderation, stuff is appearing there that will lead to legal action.)
I find some of this plausible, some implausible, most of it intriguing. I wonder what readers make of this. I'd certainly welcome hearing from academics in English as well as Philosophy, and those in other fields that have gone through similar periods of transformation and controversy. Anonymous comments are fine, but please include a valid e-mail address (which will not appear) and choose a stable pseudonym so other commenters can target their responses accordingly.
It starts here, and continues here, and receives scathing commentary here. For the life of me, I can't even figure out what the purportedly offending passage even means: its English is barely intelligible. Synthese should be embarrassed to have published this on the latter ground alone. What do readers think of all this?
...but in keeping with the juvenile dishonesty and dissembling with which we've all grown familiar in the philosophy blogosphere, Jenny Saul (Sheffield) and Justin Weinberg (South Carolina)both frames it that way (Saul, of course, without posting a link to the actual discussionsabout PhD programs that should probably close, since that degree of courtesy and honesty would be too difficult). Their purported source is Carolyn Dicey Jennings (UC Merced), who both links to my discussion and makes clear that her "provocative" question was not my question:
"How many of the programs" show up? Ironically, of the 40 programs she lists based on percentage of non-white graduates, just three were on the lists of PhD programs whose rationale for existing I queried, while of the 41 programs she listed based on percentage of female graduates, only seven were on my list. The fact that some mediocre PhD programs enroll significant numbers of women and minorities ought, in a rational world, be all the more reason to be concerned, since to "better serve" underrepresented populations it is not enough to enroll them, one must give them good educations and launch them on the path to securing the gainful academic employment that the vast majority of them no doubt seek. So the answer to Prof. Jennings's "provocative" question is easy: PhD programs that actually "better serve" their students, including women and minorities, should not be closed, but there's no evidence any of the programs on her list are such programs.
What does all this tell us? It tells us, of course, that discussing the fact that there are too many PhD programs in philosophy in the U.S. touches a nerve, so much so that certain people will seize the opportunity to distort the discussion in any way possible.
UPDATE: David Wallace (Oxford) called out Saul's slimy dishonesty in the first comment, and she has now made a slight edit to the original misleading framing.
As I continue to watch in amazement otherwise intelligent people say very foolish things on social media, especially Facebook, it occurs to me that now would be a good time for everyone to re-familiarize themselves with a real psychological phenomenon, group polarization, about which Brit Brogaard (Miami) wrote helpfully here. Remembering this phenomenon is real may help some people think twice before clicking "like" or (worse) weighing in with blather, but it will certainly help the silent observers understand what's going on.
According to the Philosophy Metablog, philosopher Aidan McGlynn (Edinburgh) could not let the embarrassing reaction to a link to Les Green's piece on Greer earlier this week rest. Please note that what Dr. McGlynn referred to as a "problematic" and "offensive" article is this perfectly sensible and informed analysis of the sense in which gender is a social construct and its bearing on the question whether or not transgender women are women. The thought crime at issue was Justin Weinberg's linking to one small part of this essay by the Professor of the Philosophy of Law at Oxford University (who, as informed readers will know, has written quite a lot of important work about sexuality and gender). Here's McGlynn (in part):
I’m still disappointed with [Justin Weinberg]. The twitter post that created the fuss is still up, days after people pointed out how problematic it is, and Justin’s preferred tactic seems to be to ignore many of the people raising concerns (particularly Rachel)....First, some people don’t see anything wrong with linking to a problematic or offensive article so long as it’s made clear which bits one is cherry-picking. I don’t agree, and I don’t agree that it was clear in this instance....This discussion has nothing to do with ‘thought-policing’ (though in fairness, to my knowledge only one person has suggested otherwise). We’re not talking about Justin’s thoughts – we’re talking about what’s on the twitter feed associated with one of the places members of the profession need to go to for information and discussion concerning issues about the profession. Moreover, this is clearly how Justin took my remarks – he explicitly responded in terms of what he thought appropriate to take a stand on with the twitter feed associated with the Daily Nous [blog]. No one should expect Leiter to care about that distinction, of course....
It's fair to say I don't "care about" an irrelevant distinction, but put that aside. This finger-wagging produced a number of rude and sometimes quite apt rebukes at the Metablog, of which this one made me laugh:
The vocabulary is one of the main things I just can't stand: 'I'm still disappointed... deeply problematic...' Don't these people realize they sound like passive-aggressive schoolteachers, as reimagined by your worst nightmare? I actually prefer McKinnon's style to this, and that's really saying something.
And then there's the suggestion that it doesn't count as 'thought-policing' unless it involves the metaphysically impossible feat of actually policing people's thoughts. Does McGlynn seriously doubt that, if the relevant people could do that (whatever that would amount to), they would?
The vocab is hard to keep up with. Should we start a running glossary?
"Problematic": adj. (of arguments) false; (of pratices) must be banned; (of utterances) must be retracted and apologised for; (of tweets) must be deleted;
"Free speech": n. a problematic concept [see above]
"Censorship": n. the alleged suppression of problematic ideas, a largely mythical practice. [compare "silence"]
"Silence": v. (1) to ignore, not talk about. (2) to disagree with (3) to discuss a marginalized individual [see below] in terms they would prefer not to be discussed
"erase": v. synonym for silence
"identity": n. an (esp. marginalised) individual's conception of themself. NB all other definitions, such as those which have been explored by philosophers over the past two millennia, are problematic [see above]
"offense" - n. something nobody ever complained about [compare "harm"]
"harm" - the inevitable consequence of erasing [see above] an individuals identity [see above]
"listen" - (to a marginalised individual), agree with, show deference to,
"bully" - v. synonym for erase
"expert" - n. a marginalised person
"educate" - v. to inform a non-marginalised person of the correct opinion
"safe space" - one in which no identity is erased. Unsafe spaces are problematic [see above].
When I asked Dr. McGlynn via e-mail whether he had written the piece in question, he acknowledged doing so, but added, "I have been reflecting on this, and I have subsequently decided that I should not have written it. Therefore having initially edited it, I have taken down the entire post from my facebook page. Please accept my apologies." I am happy to accept his apology, though I don't feel he owes me one. I worry, alas, that the views expressed are consistent with the views he has expressed elsewhere, and are indicative of how some (hopefully small) portion of the profession thinks about these issues. Since this way of thinking is anathema to academic life, it's time for those who believe in freedom of thought and discourse to object, and object strenuously.
Meanwhile, Rachel McKinnon (Charleston) continues her twitter tirade against Justin Weinberg* (South Carolina), whom she apparently believed to be an "ally." (Her idea of an "ally" seems to be what everyone else would probably call "a spineless toady.") In any case, I will let Prof. McKinnon speak for herself:
"...when posturing, preening wankers are regarded as if they are somehow its leaders"--Russell Blackford. So many candidates to choose among from philosophy cyberspace and social media! Maybe it's time for a new category: "posturing, preening wankers"?
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)