The Issues Behind the Gossip


The other day, a graduate student in philosophy posted her account of an affair she has had with an older, prominent philosopher who works in her area (but was not a professor at her institution). She also claimed that the philosopher, who has a long-term partner, has had more than one such relation, particularly with younger women philosophers who admire him. She also claimed that the philosopher in question was dishonest about the nature of the relationships he was involved in. I decided not to link to this story for a couple of reasons, the main one being that while affairs and hypocrisy make for good gossip, they do not necessarily make for news about the profession of philosophy. (There was also the matter that while the student wrote anonymously—a reasonable choice—she left little doubt about the identity of the prominent philosopher in question.)

While I initially thought of the story as private gossip about an individual’s bad behavior (with the common lesson, watch out for lying jerks), other philosophers shared with me their thoughts that the story indeed raises issues about the profession worth pointing out. So perhaps we should discuss those issues. The issues. Not the people. If you care to discuss this, let’s do so as if it were a hypothetical involving two main characters, AGS (anonymous grad student) and POMP (prominent older male philosopher), with the facts largely described as above. What, if any, lessons does the story of AGS and POMP have for us as members of the profession?

(Please note: comments are moderated, and since I teach this morning, they may be slow to appear. Please be patient.)

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