Philosopher Justin Tiehen (Puget Sound) writes to share this curious story:
You might be aware that the Ultimate Warrior, an extremely famous professional wrestler, died yesterday. (It's been in the news, and the guy was famous enough that people who don't follow wrestling at all are still sometimes vaguely aware of him.) Anyway, after retiring from wrestling he became a motivational speaker and life coach. For reasons that are somewhat opaque, this involved him creating a website where he posted a glossary of "the world's philosophies," with entries on behaviorism, consequentialism, deontology, existentailism, general semantics, and on and on. Just to give you a sense, here is the entry on Kantianism.
"This is the exact opposite of Objectivism. It's epistemology is faith-eaten and mystic- appeasing. It's metaphysics is subjective, it's ethics are altruistic and it's politics are collectivistic. Kant created the exact opposite of what constitutes a philosophy based on reason. His "argument" consists of equivocations, elaborate straw-men (the entire Critique of Pure Reason for example), etc. He was quite an evil person."
As you can gather, the Ultimate Warrior was apparently a Randian. Many of his other entries also come from a Randian perspective.
...a tenured philosopher (whom I may have met once in my life, not sure) bravely issued a call a few weeks ago for other philosophers on Facebook to "ostracize" me, and since then one tenured philosopher, whom I've never met, "unfriended" me on Facebook! (I used to 'friend' folks on FB I had never met.)
Fortunately, no one has yet called for other philosophers to give me a wedgie.
Philosophy cyberspace is like high school all over again, except with tenure!
This is quite bizarre. As Tad Brennan (Cornell) wrote to me, "Does anyone have any idea what he is talking about? What bit of Schopenhauer could he possibly have in mind? And did Schopenhauer actually advocate it, as well as describing it?" My guess is that since his piece is full of Rand-speak, Ayn Rand probably makes this charge against Schopenhauer, but that's just a guess. Readers, any ideas? (Schopenhauer certainly was good at polemics, though many of them were directed at Hegel, a "collectivist" on Planet Koch.)
Vince Vitale teaches at the Center for Christian Apologetics at Oxford and is featured in this slightly ridiculous video. Is this what Christian Apologetics has become? Yikes!
(Thanks to Michael Lopresto for the pointer.)
UPDATE: A philosopher really at Oxford writes:
Your most recent blog post is a reminder quite how subtle “Oxford” is as a term. Vince Vitale, although described as “a philosopher teaching at Oxford University”, is not a member of the Oxford Philosophy Faculty and so far as I can ascertain is not employed by the University of Oxford. He is an employee of Wycliffe Hall, one of the “Permanent Private Halls” (PPHs) in Oxford, a collection of small, religious institutions in Oxford with a somewhat complicated relationship with the main University. The PPHs are licensed by the University to admit undergraduates and graduate students who can enter for Oxford degrees, but their staff are (by and large, and in the particular case of Dr. Vitale) not employed by the University and the University has no say in their appointment. (Dr. Vitale is affiliated to the Faculty of Theology, which is standard for academics in a given field appointed by a PPH or college, but (I believe) the Theology Faculty will have played no part in his appointment.) There is more information available about the PPHs in a recent Oxford University internal review at http://www.ox.ac.uk/gazette/2007-8/supps/1_vol138.pdf; see in particular pp.43-44 for discussion of Wycliffe Hall.
Similarly, the “Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics” is not part of Oxford University in any way, though it does have an affiliation with Wycliffe Hall (and though its website is a little coy on the matter).
None of this is intended to imply anything one way or another about Dr. Vitale – who I do not know - or his research (though I share your reservations about the video) but just to provide a bit of context.
This makes it vivid. Part of the problem, unnoted in the linked article, is the ease with which so many U.S. states, including California, grant "exemptions" to supposedly mandatory vaccination schemes based on "religious" or "philosophical" objections. (Having a "philosophical" objection requires checking a box, not giving an argument, in the California system.)
...you were wrong. As far as I know, this is the only document in existence that concludes that Linda Alcoff's objections to the PGR (which are, indeed, utterly specious and self-serving!) shouldn't be taken seroiusly because I hate Republicans.
Over the last four years, the percentage of Democrats who said they believe in evolution has risen by three points, from 64 percent to 67 percent. But the percentage of Republicans who believe in the theory has dropped 11 points, from 54 percent to 43 percent.
So while there was a 10-point gap in 2009, there is now a 24-point gap.
In fairness, millions of Democrats are apparently ignorant of basic science too. What a country!
You would think this came from a Sinclair Lewis novel, but it's for real:
Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama sent a letter this week to Carol M. Watson, the acting chairwoman of the NEH, in which he demanded the agency explain its peer-review process for funding grants that explore “very indefinite” questions.
Sessions pointed to seven grants the NEH funded that seek to explore the following questions: “What is the meaning of life?”, “Why are we interested in the past?”, “What is the good life and how do I live it?”, “Why are bad people bad?”, “What is belief?”, “What is a monster?”, and “Why do humans write?”
...watch this (and see the commentary that follows by Andrew Sullivan), all of which supports, I'm afraid, Robert Paul Wolff's diagnosis. These sick, sick people need to be caged first, treated second.
I am not going apologize if I am occasionally rude to an ill-informed overpaid Harvard professor making absurd pronouncements on economics that have the effect of obstructing policy aimed at ending unnecessary suffering.
Pomposity can be amusing, but pomposity sitting like an oversized hat on top of fear is hilarious. Wieseltier is afraid that the humanities are being overrun by thinkers from outside, who dare to tackle their precious problems--or "problematics" to use the, um, technical term favored by many in the humanities. He is right to be afraid. It is true that there is a crowd of often overconfident scientists impatiently addressing the big questions with scant appreciation of the subtleties unearthed by philosophers and others in the humanities, but the way to deal constructively with this awkward influx is to join forces and educate them, not declare them out of bounds.
The paper co-authored by law professor Michael Simkovic has had every blowhard and know-nothing in cyberspace frothing at the mouth for the last week; he has a sharp series of replies here. The Dunning-Kruger Effect lives!
IHE has the story. If "conservative students" feel "besieged" because they believe, inter alia, that human activities don't contribute to global warming, God created the world 10,000 years ago, Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is "only a theory," or that Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan was a serious attempt to balance the budget--all things that that benighted cohort of American "conservatives" often profess to believe these days--then they should feel besieged because they live in darkness, and it is the job of universities to bring enlightenment. Truth and knowledge is not evenly distributed across the political spectrum, and the modern Republican Party in the U.S. has claim to precious little of either these days. If students are "besieged" because they do not have a fair opportunity to defend their views with arguments and evidence, then they have a legitimate complaint. End of story.
An item several months ago from the blog of Graham Harman (who teaches philosophy at the American University in Cairo) is illustrative--it is an alleged "reader e-mail" which Mr. Harman saw fit to post:
[W]hat’s become a more interesting story is the way that [Leiter has] also become a medium for a very specific model of anglophone philosophy that is dismissive of all forms of history of philosophy, metaphysics, pragmatism, continental philosophy, philosophy of art, etc. i imagine there must be major grumblings in other subfields”
The "more interesting story" it seems to me is how Party-Line Continentals like Mr. Harman and his "reader" are simply unconstrained by any facts about what I actually write, teach or believe in ascribing views to me about "philosophy" which I obviously don't hold. Even the PGR gives extensive coverage to "history of philosophy, metaphysics, pragmatism, continental philosophy, philosophy of art" and even "etc," if by that one means the rest of philosophy from logic to medieval philosophy to applied ethics. Harman et al. are a bit like the Tea Party when it comes to Obama: they simply project on to the object of their ire all their paranoid obsessions, the facts be damned.
UPDATE: Harman is apparently associated with a make-believe philosophical "movement" that calls itself "speculative realism," and which is described by Ray Brassiers (who teaches philosophy at the American University in Beirut) quite amusingly as follows:
The ‘speculative realist movement’ exists only in the imaginations of a group of bloggers promoting an agenda for which I have no sympathy whatsoever: actor-network theory spiced with pan-psychist metaphysics and morsels of process philosophy. I don’t believe the internet is an appropriate medium for serious philosophical debate; nor do I believe it is acceptable to try to concoct a philosophical movement online by using blogs to exploit the misguided enthusiasm of impressionable graduate students. I agree with Deleuze’s remark that ultimately the most basic task of philosophy is to impede stupidity, so I see little philosophical merit in a ‘movement’ whose most signal achievement thus far is to have generated an online orgy of stupidity.
We, in fact, had a brief encounter with one part of this "online orgy of stupidity" awhile back (you have to read into the comments to get the full flavor of the sophomoric confusions at work here).
AND ANOTHER: This won't really be news, I guess, but Jon Cogburn (Louisiana State) really is clueless, not only about the quality of philosophical work and about SPEP, but even about the department where he was an undergraduate, UT Austin (the "rapprochement" between some of the awful SPEP-types there at that time like Louis Mackey and Kelly Oliver and the idiosyncratic Bergmannians like Allaire and Hochberg, exists only in his imagination). Most remarkable, though, is the non-reply by this silly Graham Harman person (to which Cogburn, given his lack of judgment, links), who writes as though the issue is that I'm unaware of the ressentiment of his ilk (and conservative Chrsitians, and Randians and all the rest), as opposed to the fact that he posted a series of fabrications about me. Mr. Harman is apparently well-known for his "passive-aggressive" blogging style, and this, as well as the original item, certainly fits the pattern. Tiresome.
Cogburn writes, "I just don't understand why we can't do our own projects without having to define ourselves so much in terms of what we don't like." I just don't understand why Cogburn thinks this has anything to do with my complaints about Party-Line Continentalism and SPEP. How hard is it to understand that some crap is pernicious crap and deserves to be adjudged as such, for the sake of students and for those not familiar with it? Why can't Cogburn just say he doesn't share my judgment (of course, he wouldn't), instead of attributing to me fake purposes? Just "stop it," Jon. I have no intention of withdrawing my (correct) assessment of the largely pernicious effect SPEP has on the perception of the Continental traditions in post-Kantian philosophy in Europe. Perhaps because you're an outsider to so much of this work, you don't realize the nature of the problem.
OK, I'm just anticipating the blog headline from the usual blowhards--InstaIgnorance, the Volokh naifs like Zywicki, or William "thank God no one knows what the actual Cornell Law faculty thinks of me" Jacobson--who are beside themselves with paranoid pleasure that the IRS was examining the non-profit bona fides of the various Koch Brothers front organizations posing as "social welfare" organizations. As best I can tell--non-tax lawyer, but literate person that I am--there is a tax exemption for social welfare organizations that aren't primarily poliitcal front groups. But for reasons familiar to anyone awake the last couple of years, the political front groups most likely to be posing as "social welfare" organizations were on the lunatic right associated with the "Tea Party" and like organizations. Their tax-exempt status did indeed demand scrutiny, unless one thought front groups for billionaires (and others) merit special deference when they want to avoid taxes. This is the second decade of the 21st-century, in which, at least in the United States, most "spontaneous grass root" organizations on the right are neither spontaneous nor grass root, and so responsible tax authorities ought to scrutinize them.
Of course, there's a deeper, philosophcal issue here: namely, whether venal groups that shill for the plutocracy can, in any sense, be organizations committed to "social welfare." But the IRS needn't get to the philosophical issue to nonetheless be justified in looking closely.
Supporters and opponents of gun control have very different fundamental beliefs about the role of guns in American society. Overall, the poll finds that 29 percent of Americans think that an armed revolution in order to protect liberties might be necessary in the next few years, with another five percent unsure. However, these beliefs are conditional on party. Just 18 percent of Democrats think an armed revolution may be necessary, as opposed to 44 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of independents.
The next time someone refers to the alleged "independents," please remember that one-quarter of them are gearing up for armed revolution.
The people who run Edwin Mellen Press are pretty clearly nuts. (Calling these folks "nuts" isn't actionable in the United States, but, for the record, my lawyer is based in the same jurisdiction as Mellen Press, New York, though maybe my wife's law firm here in Chicago would enjoy assigning the case to a junior associate for practice.) This time they're pursuing the "Scholarly Kitchen" blog, for a blog post that is clearly not actionable, and for a comment on that post that is also probably not actionable. Here's the "offending" post by Mr. Anderson of the blog: nothing in it is libelous, even if Mellen Press and Mr. Richardson were private citizens, rather then public figures. The letter from the Press's lawyer says, obviously falsely, that the blog has a "legal obligation" to deal with possibly defamatory comments; the comment in question is probably not defamatory, but even if it were, the Scholarly Kitchen blog has no obligation to remove it. The law in the United States is as clear as can be on this point. As best I can tell, Ms. Amendola, the Press's lawyer, is a 2010 graduate of the law school at the State University of New York at Buffalo, who worked briefly for a Buffalo law firm, and is now a solo practitioner. If state bar associations were more aggressive, she should be disbarred for sending nonsense threats like the one she sent to the "Scholarly Kitchen" blog.
I predict that the Edwin Mellen Press will be out of business within the next few years. Good riddance, given this disgraceful pattern of harassment. May I suggest that any authors of serious monographs with the Mellen Press contact them now and urge them to reform their "public relations" practices?
...to North Carolina! The "PhD in philosophy" is singled out for derisive remarks by these know-nothings, appraently unaware that UNC has one of the best philosophy programs in the United States. (The irony is William Bennett has a PhD in philosophy, though it didn't do him any good!)
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)