Rob Hughes, a young moral, political and legal philosopher teaching in the Wharton School at the University of Pennslyvania, writes:
Having read Richard Swinburne's recent argument about the ethics of homosexuality, both the version he published in 2007/2008 and the version he presented in his talk at the SCP meeting, I can confirm your belief that his argument is awful. There is no need to discuss Swinburne's dubious moral premises. The argument clearly fails because it relies on a false and unjustified empirical assertion. Here it is, in Swinburne's own words (from the text of his recent talk posted on First Things, pp. 12-13):
"The evidence seems to me to indicate clearly that genes and environment (nature and nurture) both play a role in determining sexual orientation; and also that this orientation is sometimes to a considerable extent reversible. So if there was a general recognition in society of an obligation to abstain from homosexual acts, that would prevent homosexual behaviour being presented as an option for young people of equal value to the heterosexual one which makes possible procreative marriage. That would deter the young from wondering whether they are really homosexual when previously it would not have occurred to them, in consequence experimenting with homosexual sexual acts, getting accustomed to such behaviour and so developing a homosexual orientation."
Swinburne asserts here that sexual experimentation in adolescence or adulthood influences people's sexual orientation. This assertion is not an off-hand remark; it is crucial to his argument that God has a reason to prohibit homosexual conduct. (Swinburne does not think that natural law prohibits homosexual conduct; indeed, he nicely dispatches this view in one sentence on p. 8.) Swinburne's assertion is at odds with the evidence that a person's future sexual orientation is determined before school age and possibly much earlier. He provides no evidence for his assertion that sexual experimentation influences orientation, either in his 2007 book Revelation, or in his 2008 reply to critics, or in the text of his recent talk.
Swinburne claims to have provided evidence that adults can change their sexual orientation, but to call his evidence shoddy would be too generous. His 2007 book cited a study purporting to show that some people had changed their sexual orientation through "reparative therapy." The study's author, Robert Spitzer, retracted the study in 2012 and said that its methodology had a "fatal flaw." Swinburne's recent SCP talk acknowledges this retraction. The talk instead cites Michelle Wolkomir's 2006 book Be Not Deceived as evidence that "the sexual orientation of some, but perhaps not most, homosexuals can be changed to a significant degree." (19) The book is an ethnographic study of two small groups of gay and "ex-gay" Christians and their self-understanding. Treating this study as evidence that people can change their sexual orientation is a mistake for the same reason Spitzer's study was flawed: we have no way to establish that subjects who reported changed sexual desires were sincere and not deceiving themselves. The large number of ex-ex-gays gives us reason to suspect that people are either insincere or deceiving themselves if they claim to have altered their sexual orientations (including their desires as well as their behavior).
Several months ago, I learned, via the Chair of the Philosophy Department at British Columbia, that my old pal Carrie Jenkins had received an "offensive" package, and that the return address consisted in a mangled version of my Law School's address and a pseudonym attributed to me by a law blogger who had championed the idea that "law school is a scam" and whom I had mercilessly criticized for years (a short and sweet explanation of the whole background is here). That was weird, but I didn't think much of it, and no information about the "offensive" content was shared.
Then, in late August, David Velleman wrote to me as follows:
> A few people have received packages of excrement from someone using your law-school address and a name widely [sic] believed to be your pseudonym. I assume it can't be you -- which means that someone is trying to embarrass you. I don't know if there's anything you can do about it, but I thought you would want to know. Some of the recipients have reported the packages to the police.
He has touched—embraced!—every third rail in American politics. He has offended (and I apologize if I’ve left some group out): African-Americans, Native Americans, Mexicans, Jews, Muslims, war heroes—war heroes!—families of war heroes, the disabled, women, and babies. Babies! Through word or action, Trump has promoted gun violence, bigotry, ignorance, intolerance, lying, and just about everything else that can be wrong with a society. And yet he marches on, playing to a constituency that just doesn’t seem to care. The thing is, this ramshackle campaign, following a ramshackle business career, has exposed his flaws and failures to the world and, more importantly, to the people he will brush up against for the rest of his life. To them he is now officially a joke. I suspect he knows this. And if his thin skin on minor matters is any indication, he will be lashing out with even more vitriol. He is a mad jumble of a man, with a slapdash of a campaign and talking points dredged from the dark corners at the bottom of the Internet. I don’t think he will get to the White House, but just the fact that his carny act has gotten so far along the road will leave the path with a permanent orange stain. Trump, more than even the most craven politicians or entertainers, is a bottomless reservoir of need and desire for attention. He lives off crowd approval. And at a certain point that will dim, as it always does to people like him, and the cameras will turn to some other American novelty. When that attention wanes, he will be left with his press clippings, his dyed hair, his fake tan, and those tiny, tiny fingers.
A propos my observation last week that academic law has more conservatives and libertarians than academic philosophy, along comes this study, which doesn't cover philosophy (but one can infer the likely result):
We investigate the voter registration of faculty at 40 leading U.S. universities in the fields of Economics, History, Journalism/Communications, Law, and Psychology. We looked up 7,243 professors and found 3,623 to be registered Democratic and 314 Republican, for an overall D:R ratio of 11.5:1. The D:R ratios for the five fields were: Economics 4.5:1, History 33.5:1, Journalism/Communications 20.0:1, Law 8.6:1, and Psychology 17.4:1. The results indicate that D:R ratios have increased since 2004, and the age profile suggests that in the future they will be even higher. We provide a breakdown by department at each university. The data support the established finding that D:R ratios are highest at the apex of disciplinary pyramids, that is, at the most prestigious departments.
These results are not surprising, given that the Republican Party is now nothing more than a FOX-created freak show. But the variation by field is telling: economists have many more Republicans because they are in the grips of a theoretically coherent but false world view about markets and regulation that make support of Republicans instrumentally rational against that background worldview (academic law is parasitic on this). "Journalism/communication" is not a Wissenschaft, so put that to one side. Most parts of current academic psychology mimic and sometimes live up to wissenschaftlich standards, but nothing about the field's self-conception as a scientific discipline would lead anyone to think Republicans are anything other than a fringe party. My guess would be that academic philosophy is closer to Psychology than Law, but if anyone looks at the facts about party registration let me know. Unnoted in studies like this is that the Republican Party in the U.S. is now a radical outlier, a "freak show" as I've put it. The old Republican Party now occupies the Democratic Party, which still also has its liberal, FDR wing. The current official Republican Party is, as Donald Trump has made finally clear, a deranged amalgamation of the pathologies of capitalism in America in the early 21st-century.
Obviously, it is embarrassing that educated people would vote for Trump, but it isn't that hard to explain. Dan Bonevac and Rob Koons--my former colleagues at Texas (with whom I had a very enjoyable reading group back in the 1990s)--are both conservative Christians, though of different denominations. Trump's invisible running mate, Mike Pence, the former Indiana Governor, is a very conservative Christian, and many people suspect that given that Trump is a narcissist with a short attention span, that his VP would really govern. I am hardly surprised my former colleagues are supporting Trump under those circumstances.
USC's Scott Soames, whom I do not know except through his work, is a more puzzling case, though I had long heard that he was on the political right (now that is confirmed!). My guess is that his "reasons" are not unlike the reasons proferred by the handful of right-wing law professors supporting Trump, like Stephen Presser (emeritus, Northwestern) and Ronald Rotunda (Chapman). This is perhaps worth emphasizing: there are a lot of conservative and libertarian law professors (whereas there are few philosophy professors, proportionally, in those camps). Most are not supporting Trump: some are voting for Gary Johnson, the libertarian candidate; most seem to be sitting out the election; and another large group are voting for Clinton, for a simple reason, that reflects their legal knowledge: domestically, the President operates under various constraints, but in terms of foreign policy, there are almost no meaningful limits to what the President can do. Entrusting that power to a psychologically unbalanced narcissist isn't a good bet, obviously.
“We regret to announce that all 50 states are now reporting several cases of DKD” said CDC epidemiologist Mark Webber. “DKD is characterized as expressing or believing that one has vast and expert knowledge in a subject which they actually do not....”
There is currently no known cure for DKD, but scientists are hopeful with more education and isolation, it can be contained.
“We haven’t seen this level of DKD since Jenny McCarthy started spreading her vaccine causes autism bullshit” said Webber. “I fear the DKD level will continue to rise as more and more people with DKD have access to the internet, as well as there being several celebrities with the disease.”
Some say the worst part of DKD is that the carriers have no idea they are infected, nor how easily they can spread it to others.
In the last year, the notorious law gossip website Above the Law eliminated its comment section entirely, since it had become an even more idiotic cesspool than previously. During that same time, the Chronicle of Higher Education, after being quite hands-off with comment moderation, realized that was a disaster, and has started to moderate aggressively to produce substantive discussions. Meanwhile, the Inside Higher Ed website, which always had some moderation, has gone the opposite route, becoming even more hands-off, with the predictable result: its comment sections are increasingly sewers of ad hominem abuse, tangential ranting, and assorted nonsense consistent with the First Five Laws of Cyber-Dynamics. I fear this is probably related to IHE's takeover by a private equity firm that invests heavily in for-profit colleges. Comment sections, even appallingly stupid ones, generate traffic and interest. Until they reform their practices, I am going to generally refrain from linking to them. I would urge others with blogs to do the same.
...twenty influential philosophers, plus thirty chosen at random (the apt description of one reader who sent it along, though I see it is making the rounds on facebook as well). Any list that includes, e.g., John McDowell and a self-promoting charlatan like Graham Harman has to be a joke. (Maybe they got confused between Graham and Gilbert?) Daniel Dennett and William Lane Craig? Thomas Nagel and J.P. Moreland?
UPDATE: Turns out this is not just careless and ignorant, but it's got an ideological agenda at work, as reader Glenn Branch explains:
I don't pay a lot of attention to The Best Schools website, but it occasionally promotes "intelligent design" -- e.g. this long interview with Dembski http://www.thebestschools.org/features/william-dembski-interview/-- and often promotes various conservative Christian causes. So the inclusion of people like Craig and Moreland isn't due to ignorance but to ideology.
A very funny remark by John Gardner (Oxford) about the cyber-treatment of Thomas Pogge:
I don’t know who ‘Jane’ might be, but she/he shows exemplary patience and wisdom for someone commenting below the line on a philosophy blog. The reply from ‘Grace’ who thinks that the hounding of a wrongdoer is a ‘natural consequence’ of his wrongdoing is chillingly reminiscent of Victorian attitudes to malefactors found in the pages of Dickens and Hardy. Thanks, Grace, for returning the philosophy blogosphere to its normal role as a home for absolutely dreadful and long-discredited ideas. (13.07.2016)
For those who don't want to wade through the comment thread (I haven't the strength or tolerance myself to read most comment threads on philosophy blogs), here is "Jane":
For weeks now, there’s been one article after another bringing up Pogge. There seems to be no merit in their publication, other than to continually drag his name through the mud.
The guy’s alleged transgressions are already well known. This seems to be an extended exercise in moral signalling, in stomping down on the back of someone’s head as he already lies in the mud, bringing up the topic again and again whenever people are bored of it so that nobody ever forgets how horrible Pogge is. We get it. And yet, it doesn’t stop.
Now we’ve read an article translated from German that discusses the old facts yet again. Is that enough, editors of Daily Nous? Can we move on?
I’m all for open discussions of sexual harassment policies. I just don’t see the merit in running down particular individuals or exulting in their shame.
(1) Over the last year, the gender breakdown of academics criticized on this blog was nearly 75% male, about 25% female. This fact (which is what it is) won't stop, however, some benighted souls from asserting otherwise. Why? Group polarization: when some malevolent dope says on Facebook that I criticize more women than men, other malevolent dopes concur, thus reinforcing the false belief.
(2) Those who make the most outrageous assertions about me, including contradicting the facts in #1, are, it turns out, overwhelmingly from religious Christian backgrounds, especially Catholic and various Southern Protestant denominations. This is true of the most extreme cases, as well as the more run-of-the-mill casual defamers. I hadn't really registered this until a reader pointed it out, and some checking confirmed many cases. I'm not sure what to make of this fact; possibilities are (a) they are already ill-disposed towards me because of my critical comments about religion; (b) they're (explicit or implicit) anti-semites; (c) they are simply timid and fearful people, perhaps drawn to their religion because of that, but in any case easily frightened by pugnacious criticism directed at anyone. Of course, all of this may simply be an accidental correlation: the numbers are small (a dozen or so diehard obsessives) and of course most philosophers with Christian upbringings do not engage in the ugly distortions and casual defamation characteristic of my special small "anti-fan" club.
We realize he's the nominee of a freak show of a party--did you ever read AEI's Norm Ornstein?--but he's also the clearest threat to what remains of democracy in the American plutocracy. He's also a narcissistic sociopath, clown, and life-long fuck-up: ask anyone in the real estate business in New York over the last forty years. If he farts, you can ignore it. If he tweets, you can ignore it.
You should do so before civilization ends. We've just concluded the first election cycle in my lifetime in which an honest person who actually supports regular people has garnered millions of votes. That wasn't Hillary Clinton, and that wasn't Dopey Donald Chump. That humane candidate lost, alas. Hillary Clinton is reprehensible, a war-mongerer worthy of George W. Bush, a Nixon Republican, an empty vessel like her husband Bill. But at least the Clintons are parochially decent and mildly prudent plutocrats, unlike the mentally ill ignoramus whose opinings you report.
There's only one serious question about Dopey Donald Chump, the proto-fascist and narcissistic ignoramus worth contemplating. But it would not be polite to write about it here. So, please, just ignore him.
Let me begin by thanking all the people who signed the Change.org petition to save the WIU philosophy major. Though I have signed quite a lot of petitions, I used to think signing them was silly, and now I know they are broadly ineffective. But what I didn’t anticipate was the feeling of emotional and psychological support the kind words of friends and strangers from across the globe could provide. So, thank you.
It will come as no surprise to those paying attention that the Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to authorize the elimination of philosophy and three other programs at Western Illinois University, but readers may be interested in how this happened so quickly over the last two weeks.
Gun control advocates contend that semiautomatic weapons like the AR-15 are a logical choice for mass shootings because of their ability to rapidly fire multiple high-velocity rounds. Defenders of the firearm [i.e., delusional morons] say it is misguided to blame a gun that is used by millions of owners across the country in a responsible manner.
The rifle is legal to buy in most states, including Florida. In 1994, Congress passed an assault weapons ban that prohibited manufacturing AR-15 for civilian sale with large-capacity magazines, bayonets or pistol grips. The ban limited, but did not end, sales of AR-15s. The weapons ban expired in 2004.
In a video taken by a bystander, more than 20 rounds can be heard being fired in rapid succession. This would indicate that the weapon had a magazine with a capacity commonly used in military service.
Like most states, Florida does not restrict the capacity of magazines. State bans have been ineffective: the shooters in San Bernardino used high capacity magazines despite California’s ban on semiautomatic rifles with magazines with more than 10 bullets.
A young philosopher tells me that he's been repeatedly solicited by the infamous David Publishing outfit. Getting tired of the repeated solicitation, he replied that they should "fuck off" since he knows they're a scam. This generated the following reply:
Sorry to disturb you. But in fact, our company has been founded more than 10 years, our authors are from all over the world, our journals are indexed in some world famous databases such as
EBSCO, CSA, CAS, Ulrich, ProQuest, Summon, CEPS and so on, can all the people be cheated by us? We admit our mistake or weakness at the begining of our set-up, but we are perfecting ourselves these years and we think every coins have two sides, which is what we cannot avoid. And we publish the papers,
upload them to our website and post hard copies to authors, which can say we are not a scam. Hope you can understand.
ADDENDUM: As if on cue, Audrey Yap (Victoria) (yes, that Audrey Yap). At least the "battle lines" are clear, and many on the wrong side of these issues have identified themselves.
INDEED as this mindlessness migrates to philosophy, the results should be interesting. The typical "intro" graduate seminar to 20th-century analytic philosophy would involve reading Frege, Russell, Strawson, Carnap, Quine, Kripke, maybe some Davidson or Putnam or D. Lewis too. That course would have to go. The study of German Idealism: that's out too, all a bunch of white guys, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel etc. 19th-century German philosophy: forget it, all white guys again, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, maybe also Feuerbach and Schopenhauer (and all Germans to boot--what a disgraceful lack of diversity). Of course, the study of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy would have to go, once again all white guys (were they white? I'm not even sure, but they were definitely guys!). The future of academic philosophy is going to be interesting!
...with these appropriately condescending attacks. She's got three big advantages: she's smarter, she's more articulate, and she's not a pathological liar. As this perceptive game-theoretic analysis of Dopey Donald Chump's modus operandi makes clear, Senator Warren's relentless, belittling attacks will drive him to distraction and self-destruction.
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).
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner recently appointed John C. Bambenek to the Illinois Board of Higher Education as the sole faculty representative. Many have criticized the move by claiming that Bambenek’s views aren’t representative of most faculty members. I claim this is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Bambenek should not be eligible to serve as the lone faculty representative to the IBHE since he isn’t even eligible to represent the University of Illinois faculty on their Senate.
The Illinois State Senate still has to approve Rauner’s appointment. State Senator Antonio Muñoz is the Chair of the Executive Appointment Committee. Professor Gay is sending letters to both Senator Muñoz and Governor Rauner objecting to Bambenek’s appointment. There is still time for philosophers, faculty, and citizens of Illinois to ask for an actual faculty member who understands the needs and concerns of faculty in Illinois to represent them on the IBHE.
Reader David Gordon sends along this gem of a dustjacket blurb:
Theory of Identities is essential for those who work in Laruelle studies or whose work departs from the fundamental presuppositions of non-philosophy and non-standard philosophy. Indeed, this book constitutes the most illustrative proof that "non-philosophy is a synthesis of quantum theory and Marxism." It is a testimony of the dense complexity of Laruelle's genius combining methodologically uncompromising scientific rigor and transgressiveness of a mystic's glance into what most of us would choose to avert eyes from: the point where the comfort of neurosis ceases to exist, which is also the place where neurosis necessarily always already reestablishes itself.
(Katarina Kolozova, Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities, Skopje)
One possibility is that Laruelle is as big a bullshitter as this blurb suggests; the other possibility is that Kolozova is the worst blurber in the history of blurbs. (Or maybe Kolozova studies with Michael Marder?)
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)