Hey Did You Know Logical Pluralism Is “Connected to Homosexuality”? (updated with a statement from the editors of Synthese)


Or that it is like a “sexy young woman that 1 day will be a not so attractive old lady?” Neither did I. But that is what Jean-Yves Beziau (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) claims in The relativity and universality of logic,” a paper published in Synthese that is currently making the rounds on social media (and discussed here). The passage is so incredible in its weirdness that I doubt anyone would believe a mere transcription, so here is a screen shot of the relevant bit:

Beziau logical pluralism copy

This of course would have been just as weird had the asserted connection between homosexuality (or political correctness, or sexy young women) and logical pluralism taken to be a point in favor of logical pluralism. Synthese editors, what happened here?

UPDATE: I have contacted Otávio Bueno, an editor of Synthese, who has told me he will be consulting with the other editors before issuing a response. I have also sent an email to Beziau asking him for a response. I haven’t heard back yet, but given the different time zones that is not unreasonable. I’ll update the post when I hear more.

There has been some speculation that the article is a hoax, along the lines of Alan Sokal’s infamous pranking of Social Text. I doubt that is the case, but either way, though I presented this story with levity, the fact that this article was published is highly objectionable. That a journal with Synthese’s reputation is publishing work like this raises a number of questions:

  • What is the level of editorial oversight in general at Synthese and other journals?
  • This article appeared in a special issue. What is the actual level of editorial oversight regarding special issues of journals? Are articles in special issues at Synthese (and elsewhere) peer reviewed? (see Update 2, below)
  • Was this article actually refereed? What is the actual relationship between peer review and editorial decisions at Synthese and elsewhere?
  • This bizarre article has been available online for 22 months. What does it say that that only now it is being discussed?
  • Is the opportunity cost of special issues worth it? Think of all of the articles that Synthese rejected in order to make room in its publication schedule for this issue and ones like it.

(A previous discussion of journal practices is here.)

UPDATE 2: A reader forwards Synthese’s instructions for special issues:

– Guest Editor submits the Special Issue Proposal Form to one of the journal’s editors in chief (via e-mail). This form can be downloaded via the link on the right side of this page

– A minimum of 2 Editors in Chief have to accept the proposal as fitting the scope of Synthese to be accepted

– Guest Editors arrange external peer review via Editorial Manager (set up via Springer) and are responsible for the content of the papers they accept. Accepted papers for the Special Issue typically have received at least two final positive recommendations by reviewers

– Completed Special Issues, including a brief editorial introduction by the guest editors, are subjected to a second peer review of the Editors in Chief of Synthese, focusing on the quality of the review procedure (the usual review standards apply to Special Issues)

* Submissions to special issues are restricted to those who have made previous arrangements with the relevant guest editor(s).

Please note that articles including impolite tone, personal attacks, libel, defamation, grossly unfair criticism, or deliberate misrepresentation are excluded from all issues of Synthese. If there is a possibility of an appearance of any of these in any of the articles included in the proposed Special Issue, such an article must be flagged by the Guest Editor, and if it passes the external peer review (of content) it must be given to the Editors in Chief for an additional review and a vote.

The guest editor for the special issue in which Beziau’s article appeared is Gergely Székely (Alfréd Rényi Institute of Mathematics).

UPDATE 3 (1/21/16): The editors of Synthese have asked me to post the following:

We are truly sorry about any offense caused by the special issue article published in Synthese. We are strongly committed to feminist and LTGB values. We take full responsibility for every article of published in Synthese, and are committed to learning lessons from every problem that arises. We are now looking into the problem, and although we would like to react as soon as possible, we also want to do a thorough investigation and discuss this with all concerned.

Thank you very much for your concern and patience.

Otávio (Bueno), Gila (Sher) and Wiebe (van der Hoek)
Editors-in-Chief, Synthese

UPDATE 4 (1/21-24/16): Others thoughts on the matter:
No More Free Labour by Me for Synthese” by Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
In Defense of Journal Editors Who Make Mistakes” by Catarina Dutilh Novaes
When Journal Editors Reject; or further reflections prompted by the latest Synthese debacle” by Eric Schliesser

UPDATE 5 (1/24/16): Jean-Yves Béziau has written to me to say that he is aware of the controversy and is preparing a public reply, which I plan to post here when it is ready.

UPDATE 6 (1/29/16): Jean-Yves Béziau has issued a reply.

UPDATE 7: You’ve got to be kidding.

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Tom
Tom
5 years ago

Oh my dear god. Seriously Synthese. I have a hard time imagining this not being flagged in peer review. I can only guess that it was, and that editors overrode this. And I can only imagine that happened in light of the author’s stature.

Please someone come up with some type of reasonable explanation of this. I dare you.Report

John Protevi
John Protevi
5 years ago

Though it is hardly the strangest thing here, it bears pointing out the factual error whereby the author thinks that “politically correct” is a term of approbation used by the left, when it is in fact a term of disapprobation used by the right.Report

JanJansen
JanJansen
Reply to  John Protevi
5 years ago

Indeed, not the most absurd thing in there, but it makes me curious nonetheless.
From what is it evident that the author thinks the term is of “approbation used by the left”?

The term seems warranted when used correctly by either left or right. Discourse is rife nowadays with virtue signalling (showing off one’s “correct” opinion to one’s tribe by means of outrage or sanctimonious support without leveling so much as an argument to narrative of the perceived transgressor).Report

Mark
Mark
5 years ago

I wonder if any editor actually read this, or even proof-read it (the numeral “1” in the last paragraph, etc.).Report

Just Some Guy
Just Some Guy
5 years ago

Is the mention of Sokal there at the end a wink, an indication that this too is a hoax?Report

Just Some Guy
Just Some Guy
Reply to  Just Some Guy
5 years ago

Also Bricmont, who was the co-author with Sokal.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
5 years ago

Twenty years ago, Greg Restall described his new computer to me as “sexy”. I never forgot that weird description. It is nice to know that this brilliant logician is still strange.Report

consequently
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
5 years ago

There’s no doubt that I am still strange and that I might sometimes say inappropriate or odd things—but you might take Jean-Yves’ report of that meeting with a grain of salt, and remember, too, that it was over 15 years ago.

Jean-Yves is doing damage to his reputation, the subject area, and the journal Synthese when he produces work like this. It’s a great shame.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  consequently
5 years ago

Hope I didn’t offend you. If I did, I’m sorry. I think your work is quite brilliant.Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
5 years ago

How sheltered must you be that you think ‘sexy’ is a weird description? Did you grow up in a prison cell guarded by the Care Bears?

Not a single person I know would think that is weird, and I know a shit ton of people from a huge variety of backgrounds.Report

JT
JT
5 years ago

Is anyone else having trouble making sense of the bit about promoting democracy through dictatorships? To be honest, my outrage at the thing is fairly tempered, if only because I can’t make enough sense of it to be sure of exactly how it’s problematic (though it surely is in some way).Report

Jon
Jon
Reply to  JT
5 years ago

My sense is that he thinks that homosexual relationships are somehow inherently less pluralistic than heterosexual relationships because they involve sex between people of like gender, whereas heterosexual relationships involve different genders and so are more pluralistic. He seems to think it’s weird to use inclusion of homosexuality as a paradigm of pluralism because of this fact, in the same way that it would be weird to use democracy’s (supposed) openness to dictatorships as evidence of democracy’s pluralism about political actors. In both cases, the idea is supposed to be that we’re defending pluralism using the least pluralistic example available. At least that’s the best guess I can make, given how riddled with typos and non-sequiturs the whole thing is.

Of course, this is a terrible argument in (very) many respects, not the least of which is that it seems to fundamentally misunderstand what “pluralism” even means in each context. This whole thing is more alarming than offensive; it reads like a stream-of-consciousness blog post from an extremely unstable person, not an article from a top-tier academic journal. I’m not sure which outcome would be a more serious problem for Synthese: the revelation that this was a Sokal-style hoax that they let slip by in virtue of a lax review process for noted authors in special issues, or the revelation that it was a sincere submissions that was actually reviewed and found to meet the standards of the journal. Either way, it’s a pretty scathing indictment of their editorial policy.Report

Daniel
Daniel
5 years ago

Perhaps it says something about journal articles that the pdf says this article was published online on 20 March 2014 and no one noticed until now.

In fact if you read the article it gets weirder and weirder, concluding with a hexagonal account of cognitive science and a description of the field as (bad) “mayonnaise”.

There’s also a lot of references to Sokal and Bricmont, it really makes me wonder. Could this have been a plant, or perhaps an attempt to discredit Synthese’s new supposedly higher standards of review for special issues?Report

Anthony
Anthony
5 years ago

The editor probably just thought it was *sexy*Report

Tim
Tim
5 years ago

To my ears this paper reads like a weird talk by a weird guy enjoying weirdness just because he can get away with it. I can’t imagine it was ever meant to be published: Personal anecdotes, sick jokes, quotation from an obscure German political science paper (untranslated, of course) and so on. Somehow Synthese just doesn’t know how to handle special issues properly. I hope they rethink their policy with respect to special issues.Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
Reply to  Tim
5 years ago

“a weird guy enjoying weirdness just because he can get away with it.”

Are you insinuating that abnormality (weirdness) is somehow immoral or bad or otherwise worthy of condemnation here?Report

tyrnsz
tyrnsz
5 years ago

A quick trip to his website reveals that his other recent papers are equally bizarre, which makes me think that this paper isn’t intended to be a joke.

I also feel obligated to caution that “Being aware of rational animals” has an image that is fairly pornographic.Report

Vincenzo Politi
Vincenzo Politi
Reply to  tyrnsz
5 years ago

… but, to be fair, that image was drawn and sent to him as an entry to the contest “Picturing contradiction”. So, he merely reproduced that image in the paper, he did not draw the image by himself. (Although he could have described it, rather than reproducing it, of course.)Report

Neil
Neil
Reply to  Vincenzo Politi
5 years ago

Or, you know, neither reproducing nor describing the image, but putting it in the bin.Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
Reply to  tyrnsz
5 years ago

“I also feel obligated to caution that “Being aware of rational animals” has an image that is fairly pornographic.”

God forbid someone sees pornography on the internet.

Is this group a gathering place for professionalized rationalizations of otherwise irrational gut objections to pornography?Report

Matt Stevenson
Matt Stevenson
5 years ago

Overthought leads to overanalysis, which leads away from logical thinking.

Case in point……Report

Joe Campbell
Joe Campbell
5 years ago

It is so weird, poorly written, and full of bad reasoning that I have a hard time thinking the author could have taken any of it seriously. Still, why on earth did it get published?Report

Joe Campbell
Joe Campbell
5 years ago

Here is a quote from Jean-Yves Béziau’s Wikipedia page: “He has now achieved some infamy for managing to publish bizarre musings and pass them off as philosophy. A good example is his allegedly homophobic rant in the journal Synthese …” Why phrase it as “allegedly homophobic” unless it was a parody?Report

Nicole Wyatt
Nicole Wyatt
Reply to  Joe Campbell
5 years ago

That paragraph was just added to the Wikipedia page today (not by me), and I am guessing the “allegedly” was included to reduce the chances of immediate removal. No doubt it won’t last anyway since it is original research/opinion rather than sourced.Report

Joe Campbell
Joe Campbell
Reply to  Nicole Wyatt
5 years ago

I thought it was added by the author, who intended to publish a sarcastic piece of literature. Why your reasoning but not mine?Report

Nicole Wyatt
Nicole Wyatt
Reply to  Joe Campbell
5 years ago

Because while it wasn’t me I do know who added it.Report

Joe Campbell
Joe Campbell
Reply to  Nicole Wyatt
5 years ago

Thanks.Report

Keith Buhler
Reply to  Joe Campbell
5 years ago

Fixed the Wiki article. Please see Talk page to help improve it further.Report

Jack Tors
Jack Tors
5 years ago

The paper appears in a special issue of Synthese edited by Gergely Székely on the topic of “Logic and Relativity Theory.” The special issue “collects together some of the papers presented at” the First International Conference on Logic and Relativity (2012).

See the editor’s introduction to the special issue here:

http://download.springer.com/static/pdf/932/art%253A10.1007%252Fs11229-014-0622-z.pdf?originUrl=http%3A%2F%2Flink.springer.com%2Farticle%2F10.1007%2Fs11229-014-0622-z&token2=exp=1453333885~acl=%2Fstatic%2Fpdf%2F932%2Fart%25253A10.1007%25252Fs11229-014-0622-z.pdf%3ForiginUrl%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Flink.springer.com%252Farticle%252F10.1007%252Fs11229-014-0622-z*~hmac=34e030eae4da2507b1918ff3f1610f8bad50df81c0138ee03e07e04da0f2fddf

Perhaps the special issue editor, who is charged with ensuring the strict reviewing requirements of the journal be followed, could enlighten us of the reviewing practices used for submissions (especially this one!). Other conferees, who were familiar with the author’s work and likely old chums from grad school, were likely invited to referee submissions where no significant measures were taken by the editor of the special issue to guarantee a complete and thorough review of each submission. Unfortunately, this is another instance of how tight and predominantly male cliques are the gatekeepers in the profession.Report

Joe Campbell
Joe Campbell
Reply to  Jack Tors
5 years ago

Good point. In invited volumes there are different guidelines. But that still doesn’t explain why the author — who seems to have a fine record of publication — would have wanted to submit this piece in this way, nor why it escaped editors and (supposed) copy editors. Really, there were no copy editors on board to let this go through.Report

recent grad
recent grad
Reply to  Jack Tors
5 years ago

If it’s any consolation, Gergely Székely doesn’t appear to be a philosopher in any official sense. He’s housed in a math department and has a math Ph.D. Not that that excuses anything–if it was even his choice or his oversight–but at the very least there’s a chance that it wasn’t a philosopher who gave the direct go-ahead.Report

Jack Tors
Jack Tors
Reply to  recent grad
5 years ago

Dear recent grad, sexist and homophobic language is acceptable for neither philosophy nor maths PhDs.

Agreed, Joe, very disturbing that the author would have wanted to submit this piece with such offensive language in it.Report

recent grad
recent grad
Reply to  Jack Tors
5 years ago

Jack,

We are in agreement. After all, I said “Not that that excuses anything”. My point was that if someone is going to do something bad, it’s preferable that it’s not one of your own (especially when philosophy’s reputation is on the line).Report

Grad Sockpuppet
Grad Sockpuppet
5 years ago

Synthese’s copy editors appear to have failed in their duties, too.Report

Josh Parsons
5 years ago

Springer, what was that you were saying about how your profit margins of 34% were justified by the “necessary gate-keeping role” of academic journal publishers?Report

Laura Grams
Laura Grams
Reply to  Josh Parsons
5 years ago

Thank you Josh, that is precisely what I was wondering. Is this why Open Access is a bad idea?Report

William
William
5 years ago

Are we sure this isn’t an April Fool’s joke? First online late March.Report

TrUnofAp
TrUnofAp
Reply to  William
5 years ago

Given the academic publishing process, this seems highly unlikely.Report

Samuel Douglas
5 years ago

Wow.
The ideas expressed are, in my opinion at least, worth discussing. But the quality of the text is probably more disturbing. If this were an undergraduate essay I’d have something to say to the student about the quality of their expression.Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
Reply to  Samuel Douglas
5 years ago

If this would legitimately disturb you in the context of an undergraduate essay, you need to experience actual hardship if you’re going to have your sense of error at all calibrated to reality.Report

Seyed
Seyed
5 years ago

ْThe essay cited by important philosophers and logicians such as Wilfrid Hodges and Dale Jacquette. Hodges even praised it in one of his writings called “The Move from One to Two Quantifiers”.Report

js
js
Reply to  Seyed
5 years ago

“By adopting the motif of ‘Universal Logic’, Jean-Yves Béziau [“The relativity and universality of logic”] has performed a valuable service. He has encouraged us all to look at the larger features of logic, those that are not limited to a single subdiscipline of logic or to a single tradition” – WHReport

Michael Kremer
Michael Kremer
Reply to  Seyed
5 years ago

The papers by Hodges and Jacquette were in a festschrift for Beziau’s 50th birthday. Not many of us get such an honor. Perhaps there are important ideas in the paper, mixed up with a little homophobia and misogyny; some readers have chosen to ignore the latter and focus on the former. (I am not defending this choice. I have not read Beziau’s work.)Report

Michael Kremer
Michael Kremer
Reply to  Michael Kremer
5 years ago

I would not simply defend the choice even if I had read his work and found it worth discussing, but there are interesting questions about how to react in such cases.Report

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
5 years ago

Editors need to resign over this.Report

azar niaz
azar niaz
Reply to  Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
5 years ago

Luckily for them their workload will remain the same…Report

Apparently
Apparently
5 years ago

Weird

“Meeting of the Southern California Working Group in the History and Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics (HPLM) with Jean-Yves Beziau (Federal University, Rio de Janeiro) discussing work related to his recent Synthese paper: ‘The Relativity and Universality of Logic’ (2014) http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11229-014-0419-0 Philosophy Department Lounge (H&SS 7th floor)”Report

ejrd
ejrd
Reply to  Apparently
5 years ago

Genuinely interested in how this meeting goes.Report

Michael Kremer
Michael Kremer
Reply to  ejrd
5 years ago

It happened last year.Report

ejrd
ejrd
Reply to  Michael Kremer
5 years ago

Genuinely interested in how that meeting *went* 😀Report

Andrew Sepielli
Andrew Sepielli
5 years ago

I notice that no 1 in this discussion has bothered to cite my “Beziau on Logical Pluralism and Homosexuality”.Report

Ex philosopher
Ex philosopher
5 years ago

Has it not yet occurred to anyone that he might not be well? This is exactly the sort of incoherence one might expect were that the case.Report

ejrd
ejrd
Reply to  Ex philosopher
5 years ago

That *might* explain the existence of the paper but does little to explain how it was accepted by the guest editor or the editorial board.Report

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
5 years ago

“We are truly sorry about any offense caused by the special issue article published in Synthese.”

I respect the desire to investigate before saying too much, but it only takes the 45 seconds needed to look at the passage quoted to see the need to apologize for *publishing that text*, not merely for “any offense caused”.Report

Nicole Wyatt
Nicole Wyatt
Reply to  Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
5 years ago

I agree, this is a terrible non-apology.Report

Ben
Ben
Reply to  Nicole Wyatt
5 years ago

What’s the rush, people? Surely you can wait a bit longer than 45 seconds? Think about it: the editors might want to talk to the author first before publishing a statement to the extent that publishing his article was a mistake. That’s what I would do, in any case. Other considerations might apply, too. Why not wait and see? Just for a bit?Report

Nicole Wyatt
Nicole Wyatt
Reply to  Ben
5 years ago

I’m actually happy to give them time to consider the matter. But no apology at all is better than “sorry about any offence caused”. The implication of this sort of passive voice non-apology is that the offended party is unreasonable and/or the offence was unpredictable, and/or that the people issuing the apology aren’t actually responsible for the offence.

The editors should have either actually apologised or stuck to the (well formulated) statement after the non-apology and waited until they were ready to issue a real apology.

The sci-fi author (and incidentally philosophy grad) John Scalzi has a very nice primer on how and when to actually apologize here http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/04/15/apologies-what-when-and-how/ .Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
Reply to  Nicole Wyatt
5 years ago

Your comment is unintentionally yet another reason why no one should ever apologize to the kind of people who demand it in contexts like these.Report

Joe Campbell
Joe Campbell
Reply to  Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
5 years ago

Well, I can understand why they might want to be cautious before embarrassing anyone further. What went wrong? I’d want to find out first before I said anything further. Maybe there was a copy editor who had a nervous breakdown and lied, saying she had edited a paper that she hadn’t edited. (I can tell you stranger stories that are true.) As it stands now the axe hangs over the heads of the editors of the special issue, right? It is ultimately their responsibility. I would want to do some fact-finding before letting that axe fall.Report

UG
UG
5 years ago

While we’re on the issue of editors apologizing for publishing questionable content, why hasn’t the Journal of Philosophy apologized for publishing Paul Churchland’s “Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes”? That paper beyond stupid and is surely more misguided than this paper. Join me in demanding an apology from the Journal of Philosophy that should have been issued decades ago!Report

Matthew J. Brown
Reply to  UG
5 years ago

Is this supposed to be funny? It strikes me as both unnecessarily mean towards Paul (one of the kindest people in our profession, I say with much bias), and unhelpfully dismissive of this very real problem. The analogy you’re drawing here, presumably to mock the outrage at Beziau’s paper, falls flat in every way.Report

UG
UG
Reply to  Matthew J. Brown
5 years ago

Yes, it was supposed to be funny–the grammar mistakes probably took away from that. I’m only familiar with Paul through literature and video lectures, and through those he does not come off as “one of the kindest people in our profession” (he is on record saying that Kripkean semantics are the “dumbest thing I’ve ever heard” (see lectures with Dennett and Chalmers–it must be fun for him to say about the work of others what they say about his work)). Anyway, I’m not going to apologize if you didn’t like my comment–it’s a mere comment. And yes, I was mocking the outrage at Beziau’s paper–it’s a paper! Plenty of dumb stuff gets published (see Churchland example). Just because we disagree with a thesis (e.g. the silly Churchland thesis), it doesn’t follow that it shouldn’t be published or that those who had the audacity to publish it should apologize. Rather, focus on the content and criticize that. That is sufficient–no apology is needed. If you can show the content to be nonsense, that is good enough and we should not be outraged that it is published. Chill out. (Let’s hope that this comment doesn’t “fall flat” as well!)Report

Peggy DesAutels
5 years ago

I expect that the editors of Synthese will get to the bottom of what happened and ensure that something like this is not published in Synthese (including in special issues) in the future. I know, in particular, how dedicated Otávio Bueno is to improving the climate for women in philosophy and to the careful and high-quality editing of Synthese when he serves as the actual editor. Otavio’s commitment to being trained as an APA CSW Site Visit Team Member in spite of how difficult it was for him to fit into his busy schedule and his public support of the APA CSW Site Visit Program are exemplary!Report

Carlio
Carlio
5 years ago

University of Brazil? Seriously?! The one university in a country of 200 million, is it? I agree with the substance of this post, but the fact that you managed to write this without ever thinking there something was off is mind-boggling.Report

Keith Buhler
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
5 years ago

He is listed as a professor at U. Brazil (whether correct or not I don’ t know) here: https://scholar.google.com/citations?hl=fr&user=wy4tiQ8AAAAJ

Looks like now he’s at San Diego: http://www.jyb-logic.org/start1.htmlReport

Alex
Alex
Reply to  Keith Buhler
5 years ago

He’s not. He visited UCSD for a few months last year at the invitation of Gila Sher, one of the editor-in-chief for Synthèse…Report

Simon May
Simon May
Reply to  Carlio
5 years ago

Why would the “University of Brazil” imply that there is only one university in Brazil? There’s a University of Indonesia but lots of other universities in Indonesia (a country of 250+ million people) and a University of South Africa, but lots of other universities in South Africa (a country of 50+ million people). So a mistake, perhaps, but hardly mind-boggling.Report

CW
CW
Reply to  Simon May
5 years ago

Don’t forget American University.
http://www.american.edu/Report

Carlio
Carlio
Reply to  Simon May
5 years ago

True, the implication was excessive. But, anyway, Brazil has leading research institutions that are known all over the world. I would think someone with the minimum of knowledge of the global academic community would know there is no such university. Perhaps I underestimate the close-mindedness of American academia… if it’s apparently even worse than Europe’s…Report

Daniele
Daniele
5 years ago

Either the editors refereed the paper and passed it, allowing this kind of material to be published, or (what seems to me more likely – given the number of typos etc.) they did not, not even proofread; in either case they fell short of their duties and a through and unreserved apology is needed; and in either case this is a big blow to the reputation of Synthese.Report

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
5 years ago

I will be interested to hear a fuller explanation and response from the editors. But I feel like enough is publicly known to raise very serious worries about Synthese. This paper, which was clearly unfit for publication even aside from the homophobia and misogyny, and triply unfit including it, was published. Either someone of high editorial authority read it and thought it was a good thing to publish, or no such person read it at all. Both are completely unacceptable in a journal of high prestige.Report

Wayne Fenske
Wayne Fenske
Reply to  Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
5 years ago

I suspect that the journal’s policy might be to just publish the conference talks verbatim in the special Issue.
That would explain, but not justify, how those passages were able to escape editorial scrutiny.
If so, what needs to be changed is the policy of publishing conference proceedings verbatim.Report

Calm down
Calm down
5 years ago

Jonathan, you need to calm down. It’s not clear that the article is homophobic, as far as I can tell. The author is comparing logical pluralism to homosexuality by pointing out both are politically correct. He is against political correctness. However, he never states that homosexuality is wrong. You might think this is conversationally implied, but it is not logically implied. It certainly isn’t stated. And I suspect it’s a stretch to say it is implied in any way. It’s just a strange analogy. That’s all.

What about misogyny? The author draws an analogy to a women who loses her beauty when she gets older, which is a classic analogy to make when speaking of the transitory nature of something. Human beings become less beautiful as they age (both men and women). That’s a fact. I don’t see how stating a fact is misogyny. It’s certainly not prejudice against women to state a fact… It’s a slightly off-color analogy to make in todays climate, and that’s all

In fact, everyone needs to calm down. Yes, I agree the article was not up to Synthese’s standards. But mistakes happen. It is also possible that the author snuck in the offending material in the proofing stage. I don’t think springer does a good job with their copyediting. So, this may not even be the journal’s fault. Even if it is, Synthese publishes a large amount of material, most of which is of a very high standard as far as I can tell. I’ve read quite a few of their articles. One mistake in a special issue a few years ago isn’t the end of the world. I’m sure the editors will deal with the problem and issue some further kind of official response.Report

Simon May
Simon May
Reply to  Calm down
5 years ago

“Supporting homosexuality is politically correct” and “political correctness … is full of absurdity and hypocrisy” but it’s a stretch to infer any sort of implication that the author has a problem with homosexuality?

Despite the analogy being utterly mysterious without that implication?

And so we should all calm down?

Because you’re sure the editors will deal with the problem and issue some further kind of official response?

I see.Report

Calm Down
Calm Down
Reply to  Simon May
5 years ago

Yes, it’s a stretch. I don’t like political correctness, but I have no problem with homosexuality.Report

Simon May
Simon May
Reply to  Calm Down
5 years ago

I’m glad you’ve sorted that out for us.Report

Calm Down
Calm Down
Reply to  Simon May
5 years ago

You’re welcome. Glad to help!Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
Reply to  Simon May
5 years ago

This is a non-reply. If you actually object to someone, say what you mean instead of expecting people to work up the confidence that you don’t have to make your argument for you.Report

Kris Rhodes
Kris Rhodes
Reply to  Calm down
5 years ago

The comparison between homosexuality and political correctness is not in itself sufficient (though it is suggestive*) for homophobia. But the author points out that “supporting homosexuality is politically correct” in order to make a further point — that, like logical pluralism, homosexuality is supported even though it shouldn’t be.

*It only barely makes sense to say X is bad because X is like Y while not intending the audience to be assuming that Y is bad as well.Report

Calm Down
Calm Down
Reply to  Kris Rhodes
5 years ago

The entire passage is quite odd. But there is no place in which it is logically implied that homosexuality is wrong, nor it is stated. At best you’re working with some kind of conversational implicature. His focus is clearly on politically correctness.

His reasoning goes like this.

Pluralism is connected with homosexuality in that both are politically correct, and political correctness is absurd.

You may think this has some implicature that homosexuality is also absurd. But he at most talks about how the rainbow flag is silly.

Further, notice that the following is logically implied by what he says:

Pluralism is connected with not eating dogs in that both are politically correct, and politically correctness is absurd.

Does anyone here think he believes we should eat dogs?Report

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Reply to  Calm down
5 years ago

While it is arguably logically coherent to support homosexuality and oppose ‘political correctness’, that is clearly not what’s going on in this paper. It’s not like those two topics were already on the table—the author deliberately raises the latter as explaining people’s ‘strange’ tolerance of the former.

I have expanded these thoughts further in a blog post here: http://blog.jichikawa.net/2016/01/no-more-free-labour-by-me-for-synthese.htmlReport

Calm Down
Calm Down
Reply to  Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
5 years ago

The passages are quite odd and take some getting used to. He never says anything negative about homosexuality. His comments are about the rainbow flag and how it’s weird to use a sign of pluralism to support homosexuality. It’s an odd point and seems to be based on a misunderstanding, but I at least understand the point. You seem to think it’s implied that he dislikes homosexuality based on some kind of implicature. I wonder how much of this is based on your very strong concern for LGBT issues? Because I honestly am not getting the implicature. At best it’s unclear whether it was intended. To my mind this is just a weird paper and a weird few paragraphs. It’s more incomprehensible than offensive.

Your comments condemning Synthese are really over the top. They made a mistake publishing this. They publish a vast number of articles. It must be a lot of work. One article that shouldn’t have been published got through the censor. These things happen from time to time. It’s happened at other journals, for example the recent metaphilosophy article on the PGR (which at least many think shouldn’t have been published just as is the case with this Synthese article). It’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t mean Synthese is unprofessional, or homophobic, or racist, or whatever. Keep in mind that when you speak so negatively about Synthese it has an effect on everyone with articles in the journal, including young career researchers. So, let’s refrain from diminishing the quality of all these people’s work unnecessarily. If these kinds of things kept happening year after year, then perhaps there would be cause for concern. But all the focus is on one paper a few years ago. Hence my name, ‘calm down.’Report

grad student
grad student
5 years ago

Springer is a for-profit publisher right? And this is not the first time there is something to be critical about concerning them, is it?

I think there should be a discussion about the role of for-profit publishing in this in general, and Springer in particular. For example, which other journals are published by these kinds of publishers? Are all, somehow or other tied to the for-profit system? Or are the ones published by some or other “University Press” not for-profit? I would assume such publishers are not (at least de facto) for-profit. But I might be mistaken – perhaps university presses are as for-profit as Springer etc? And is there any practical difference for how things work with publishers that are fully for-profit and those that are not really. There seems to me to be: on journals published by Springer I always see big dollar signs and shocking figures for reading even a single articles – I don’t remember seeing this as clearly in-your-face on the sites of other journals, but perhaps that should not matter. But then, at least some are open access, while springer is clearly not (unless the author pays quite a lot it, right?)?Report

Mark Alfano
5 years ago

I’m written to the editors-in-chief to suggest that they run a special issue of the journal on the topic of political correctness, with thoughtful philosophical analyses. I hope they consider the proposal seriously.Report

Calm Down
Calm Down
5 years ago

I also further note that the analysis of the picture is interesting and it is in a section entitled ‘sexual animals.’Report

Professor Plum
Professor Plum
5 years ago

I’m most surprised by the surprise and the comments about Synthese being a “well respected” journal.

Given a couple of high-profile cases and some familiarity with its editorial practices, I have come to think of Synthese as a kind of vanity press where friends “edit” and publish each other’s work and occasionally have to defend one another from charges of moral and scholarly inappropriateness.Report

Calm Down
Calm Down
Reply to  Professor Plum
5 years ago

What cases are you talking about?

Synthese does double blind review. Anything I’ve sent them has been reviewed in this way. The reviewers have been of a high quality.Report

Alex
Alex
5 years ago

People who are surprised by the shoddy copy-editing must not be regular readers of Synthese. They publish articles containing typos, ungrammatical sentences, etc. way more often than is reasonable for a professional, for-profit journal.Report

Phil
Phil
Reply to  Alex
5 years ago

I think it’s a little unfair to single out Synthese. In general, I find that Springer journals have poor copy-editing. I say this as someone who reads, respects and has published in several Springer journals. On one occasion Springer copy-editors actually made one of my papers worse.
For what it’s worth: the article concerned the a priori/a posteriori distinction. In my manuscript I consistently italicized “a priori” and “a posteriori.” When I got my proofs, I noticed that “a priori” was no longer italicized but “a posteriori” remained italicized. I explicitly noted the problem, sent back the proofs, and a few days later my manuscript was published online without the corrections. Little things like that annoy me, so I emailed and asked whether it was possible to take down the article and do the corrections. The answer was no. I asked why they de-italicized “a priori.” The answer was that they don’t italicize “a priori,” since it’s a common academic expression. I told them that “a posteriori” is also a common academic expression, so at least they should have de-italicized both, rather than making it seem as if I randomly chose to italicize “a posteriori” but not “a priori.” Their answer was essentially “yeah our bad”. They still wouldn’t correct the paper though.
I hereby conclude my petty rant against Springer copy-editors.Report

ejrd
ejrd
5 years ago

Calm Down, your name, and apparent sole purpose, is literal tone-policing. I’d prefer it if you occupied yourself in some other way.Report

Professor Plum
Professor Plum
Reply to  ejrd
5 years ago

A question: when you utterly dismiss someone by accusing them of “tone policing” without considering the content of their speech, aren’t you, in virtue of your tone-focused criticism, guilty of tone policing?Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
Reply to  ejrd
5 years ago

It’s a good thing that no one has any obligation, logically or epistemically or morally, to comply with your preferences then. Because I won’t, and I hope others won’t either.Report

PeterJ
PeterJ
5 years ago

The article is badly written and edited and for this reason alone its publication is surprising. I can agree with some of the thoughts it expresses, muddled thought they be, but I’d agree with Calm Down above – I also did not read it as being anti-gay or even anti-anything much. I have no idea what ‘logical pluralism is, however, so may have little idea what the article is about. It seems to be the usual muddle that arises when we attempt to develop an ethical theory out of thin air with no basis in evidence or fact. I’d call this intellectual relativism, or just poor philosophy. It’s certainly not an accomplished piece of writing, and it’s so vague that I wonder why anyone would publish it .

I see no need for the journal to apologise for it other than the quality of the writing and terminal woolliness. .Report

Diogenes of Sinope
Diogenes of Sinope
5 years ago

Thank goodness for the “like” function on this blog, or else we’d have to conclude that a majority of philosophers are heavily invested in the project of “finding” instances of homophobia/sexism at all costs. I wonder what they have to gain from this pursuit.Report

Juliette
Juliette
5 years ago

A paper of mine was anthologized in a Springer volume by my co-author. Upon receiving the link to the e-version of the book, I noticed that on the website of the e-version of the book, my name had been omitted as author of the paper (in the table of contents and elsewhere). We both wrote to Springer asking them to make the correction, i.e. asking them to add my name as author of the paper. They refused at first, citing problems with typesetting etc. After some time they were persuaded to take on the task of making the correction; it took a few months more for them to actually do it.

I was expecting them to take the matter of authorship seriously. But their first impulse was to let the book go as it was, saving the expense of having to re-typeset.

Quite the bottom line.Report

Grad student
Grad student
5 years ago

Having spent rather too much time exploring Bezlou’s response (and listening to some great disco as a result!) I came upon this website, and literally LOL’ed: http://www.square-of-opposition.org/

The world is a fantastic and interesting place, mostly worth laughing at.Report