Reply from Jean-Yves Beziau re: Synthese Controversy


Jean-Yves Beziau has written asking me to share a link to his reply to criticisms of his article, “The Relativity and Universality of Logic,” and the controversy regarding Synthese’s publishing of it. The editors-in-chief of Synthese explained earlier this week that Beziau’s article was published without having gone through the proper editorial process.

Beziau’s response is long and wide-ranging, punctuated with asides, photos, music videos, complaints about political correctness, ruminations on feminity, menstruation, and the differences between men and women, thoughts on sexiness, disparagements of argument (in comparison to “proof”), testimony from others, self-congratulation for being above taking legal action against Daily Nous (for what?) and other sites, and more.

You can read the whole thing here.

Beziau Reply

(a zoomed-out screenshot of part of Beziau’s reply to the controversy about his recent article in Synthese)

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Daniel
Daniel
5 years ago

Time is a cube with four sides.Report

Ken
Ken
Reply to  Daniel
5 years ago

I’m glad I’m not the only one who immediately thought this! Perfect!Report

Fritz Warfield
Fritz Warfield
5 years ago

Well that certainly clears everything up doesn’t it?Report

PK
PK
5 years ago

answering to the sexism accusation by posting a video of Therion – Initials BB as a reply. Well done my friendReport

Ian
Ian
5 years ago

“Women and Men are not biologically similar, as you can see if you have a telescope.” What?Report

Becca H.
Becca H.
Reply to  Ian
5 years ago

The better to see Mars and Venus with, I suppose.Report

galileyo
galileyo
Reply to  Ian
5 years ago

worst date everReport

Matthew
Matthew
5 years ago

Trolling the discipline. The best response might be just to laugh at him and then to forget/ignore him.Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
5 years ago

“Nobody like to see a woman naked right at the start.”

pretty politically correct way to watch porn imo

this guyReport

George
George
5 years ago

“Sexy is sexist, in a syntactic way, as a grammatical tautology, and also semantically, in the newtork of meanings.” — BeziauReport

Aeon Skoble
Aeon Skoble
5 years ago

“My mother tongue is the Swiss language” – ?? Last I checked, languages spoken in Switzerland included French, German, Italian – no “Swiss.” He’s just doubling down on the nonsense.Report

Alex
Alex
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
5 years ago

He probably means Romansh.Report

SCM
SCM
Reply to  Alex
5 years ago

An interesting factoid for curious readers is that Romansh is not, in fact, a moonlit evening with Sean Connery.Report

JHanley
JHanley
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
5 years ago

He cannot mean Romansch, given the list of other Swiss Speakers:

“the Swiss language – spoken by people like Piaget, Jung, Euler, Rousseau, Frutiger, Dunant, Gruyère, Botta, Patek, Tinguely, Lindt, Chevrolet, Hofmann, Nestlé, Godard, Bernays, Ubs, Federer, Klee, and of course Saussure. ”

The French Rousseau and the German Klee certainly did not speak a common tongue. It’s a strange claim to make–too easily falsified. It is seemingly either a joke or signal a mental problem.Report

BL
BL
Reply to  JHanley
5 years ago

You might be taking this a bit too seriously, given that Gruyère is a kind of cheese (and a town in Switzerland), but in any case not anything that speaks any of the official languages of Switzerland.Report

Perplexed Marketeer
Perplexed Marketeer
5 years ago

Meanwhile, scores of philosophers who write clearly, make interesting and insightful arguments, and do not include offensive comments in their published papers are forced to leave the profession altogether, because there aren’t enough jobs to go around.Report

Sad Eyed Philosopher of the Lowlands
Sad Eyed Philosopher of the Lowlands
Reply to  Perplexed Marketeer
5 years ago

My thoughts exactly.Report

Phil
Phil
5 years ago

Tenure is a helluva drug.Report

Matt Drabek
Matt Drabek
5 years ago
Enzo Rossi
5 years ago

Frankly, and irrespective of the original controversy, I’m glad that academia still has some room for an oddball like professor Beziau (emphasis on ‘still’ and ‘some’). In an unholy alliance with administrators and HR bureaucrats, the PC censors are deforming minorities’ radical claims for recognition to fit the mould of a form of identity politics that’s utterly unthreatening to the ruling class, and even reinforces their position by allowing them to don the mantle of social justice without sacrificing their interests. If they get their way academia will become yet another corporate workplace where there’s lots of superficial ‘diversity’ but everyone is an obedient drone–sorry, ‘professional’–with 2.5 kids and a white picket fence. That world is not conducive to intellectual innovation. And I find it aesthetically horrid. I exaggerate, but someone will get the gist.Report

Boubouca
Boubouca
Reply to  Enzo Rossi
5 years ago

Amen to that! Doctor Tarr, Professor Fether, and Professor Beziau are our only hope!Report

Grad Sockpuppet
Grad Sockpuppet
5 years ago

Well, this solves one mystery, at least: the original paper was not copy edited at all.

It was possible it had been, but that there were so many problems that a few still slipped through the net. This post shows, quite clearly, that Beziau’s written (and unedited) English is perfectly serviceable. The small errors he commits shouldn’t have posed any difficulties for a competent copy editor.Report

Will Behun
Will Behun
5 years ago

I occasionally get emails like this. They’re usually telling me to prepare for the end times or informing me that I’ve won the Spanish lottery.Report

Ludwig
Ludwig
5 years ago

“My mother tongue is the Swiss language”, “My uncle, the glorious General Bourbaki”, “post-modern analytic philosophy”. This is amazing trolling. Take the “Tricky Jet”!Report

undergrad
undergrad
Reply to  Ludwig
5 years ago

First include a picture of Charles-Denis Bourbaki, and then link to the Wikipedia article on Nicolas Bourbaki — a collective pseudonym… et voilà, Bob’s your uncle.Report

Rebecca Kukla
Rebecca Kukla
5 years ago

Serious question: Is anyone who is not a white dude allowed to keep a tenure-track job while being this rampantly bat shit and incompetent? I mean really – take a moment – can you imagine a woman, or person of color, getting away with this crap for a second?Report

UG
UG
Reply to  Rebecca Kukla
5 years ago

Yes, I can imagine that. I find it hard to believe that you can’t.Report

johnny_thunder
johnny_thunder
Reply to  Rebecca Kukla
5 years ago

I’m not sure they’re quite as wacky as this, but many academic Afrocentrists and proponents of melanin theories come close enough to make the imaginative leap pretty easy (did you know that Africans built the Central American pyramids or that only black people are fully human?). And then there’s the nonsense, spouted by all races and genders, that Sokal parodied.Report

Fool
Fool
Reply to  Rebecca Kukla
5 years ago

A few brief responses to Kukla’s question:

1) Straightforward answer: yes – I can both imagine and testify to such things. Not in philosophy, at my place, but in adjacent departments (literally, we share the same building). Same pattern in both cases – people who made reputations and got tenure with influential early works (one of which I’ve read and found really illuminating and clearly argued even from outside the relevant department), then took ten or more years without publishing anything much, and now “publish” this sort of thing in unreviewed places. That’s not the problem, the problem is that in both cases they push this kind of thing on students and actively penalize those who won’t mimic them. In one of the departments, the response to this was to cancel their senior seminars and give them more intro teaching, with predictable results. Both are problems for their departments, and colleagues are counting down the days until they retire. In one case, the hobbyhorse is totally related to the professor’s identity (afrocentrism’s a close parallel); in another it’s completely irrelevant (think 9/11 truther). But in what I’ve seen, the fact that tenure protects this sort of thing isn’t entirely reliant on identity.

2) I find the suggestion that this ought to be a tenuring question pretty sinister. The scandal is that a respectable journal accepted such an obviously incoherently argued paper, not that someone chose to write it in the first place, or to put his yet more eccentric defense of it on his blog. Is the suggestion really that Beziau’s tenured position ought to be under threat because he writes odd things? Tenure exists to let people write odd things, at the risk of journals rejecting them for being the inept kind of odd. If there’s really a suggestion that Beziau’s job should be at risk because of all this, thank god for tenure. He has nothing to apologize for: the editors of Synthese do.

3) Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think, that the only way Beziau’s particular defense of universal logic in the two documents at stake could ever be logically defensible is through the discovery or invention of a brand new logic?Report

Kris Rhodes
Kris Rhodes
Reply to  Fool
5 years ago

As I read Kukla’s question, she’s not suggesting that Beziou should lose his tenure over this but rather that non-white non-male people should _not_ in similar circumstances. (And you’re replying to the latter with your first point, but I’m just noting that her question doesn’t clearly suggest that anyone should lose their tenure.)Report

Fool
Fool
Reply to  Kris Rhodes
5 years ago

Fair point. I wasn’t sure otherwise how to make sense of the combination of “keep a tenure track job” and “get away with” applied to Beziau, especially given that we’re not exactly drowning in examples of non-white-man professors losing their jobs for submitting incoherence to journals and posting silliness on blogs. But I can see how your reading of the post makes sense.

A couple of things I could have been clearer on, meanwhile:
First, I’m actually open to the idea that the examples I mentioned, where the real problem is inflicting a “my way or the highway” approach on students, is the kind of thing that should prompt a tenure review. You’re not ruining anyone’s education by submitting this stuff to journals or publishing it on a blog. In the classroom it’s a much more serious matter.
Second, on a much weaker reading of “get away with” I think Kukla’s absolutely right: many people do make plenty of excuses for certain identities of professor when this stuff first starts to become evident, but disapprovingly attribute it to the identity, rather than the idiosyncrasy, of others. For the little it’s worth, in my experience this difference tends to make itself clearest in attitudes to “eccentric” fulfillment of institutional service. The same action brands professor A as a strong-willed maverick, professor B as a liability. But I’ve never seen that difference pose a threat to B’s tenure, which was my original point about the stronger, and to me the intuitive, reading of Kukla on “keep a tenure track job.”Report

WilliamLewis
WilliamLewis
5 years ago

The esoteric reading is the only plausible one. The author tries to throw off the unintelligent by (only apparently) mocking Derrida but then reveals the clue to reading his text by noting Saussure as a paragon of the Swiss tongue of which he too is an exemplar. The mistranslation of the mistitled Gainsbourg/Birkin collaboration concludes the esoteric argument. The enlightened few can fill in the rest of its steps.Report

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
5 years ago

Someone asked me on the previous thread why I thought it matters that Synthese’s editors haven’t said that Beziau’s paper should not have been published and apologized for doing so. This is why. Unless and until they do, one of the central disciplinary gatekeepers have signalled that rhetoric like this is what our discipline recognizes as excellent.Report

Ben
Ben
Reply to  Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
5 years ago

Let’s be clear that no one other than Beziau can be held responsible for the “reply” he produced. Which is to say: Synthese editors have not signaled at all that the crap Beziau writes in his response is what the discipline recognizes as excellent. Unfortunately, editors have, however, by publishing his paper, signaled that the original paper is what the discipline recognizes as excellent. On the other hand, it has become abundantly clear by now that no one in their right mind believes that the paper is what the discipline recognizes as excellent.

In that sense, I personally believe that the question of retraction is not so important anymore: after everything that happened, the original signal is not much of a signal anymore.

Whether the paper should be retracted is still an interesting subject for discussion.

Here is what I think: Retracting a paper in this case might create a dangerous precedent for other cases. I think authors have a right that once they get a note of acceptance, their paper really *is* accepted and will remain so (unless they have committed fraud or the like)! Imagine I submit to Mind with a low quality paper and for some reason it gets through. That should be final then, shouldn’t it? How is this different from the present case? Well, one might say that low quality is not the main issue here, but offensive remarks. But then we are in the midst of a tricky discussion. Surely, anything Beziau writes is covered by free speech? Ultimately, I think it’s an unfortunate case of “What’s done is done”.Report

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

My comment wasn’t about retraction. (Elsewhere I have called for a retraction, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.) My complaint is the one you recognize: Synthese has signalled that the original paper is excellent. I’m a bit dismayed that the people and entity responsible for this error have refused to acknowledge that it wasn’t.Report

referee
referee
Reply to  Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
5 years ago

I agree completely that the Synthese editors have to publicly make it clear that this paper does not meet the standards of the journal. In fact, I hereby pledge that as long as they have not done so, I will use Beziau’s paper to calibrate my standards every time they ask me to review a manuscript. Over the last six months, I have been asked to review for Synthese three times. The task will be so much easier in the future, as it will not even require a superficial check for sanity.Report

Vroomfondel
Vroomfondel
Reply to  referee
5 years ago

Your commitment to the cause would be more impressive if you were prepared to sign your name to this pledge, comrade.Report

referee
referee
Reply to  Vroomfondel
5 years ago

I disagree. I think it’s much more interesting this way.Report

European Professor
European Professor
5 years ago

In response to Enzo Rossi and Rebecca Kukla’s comments: I worked in a European country (not the UK) for many years, where there is still a big tolerance for oddballs, but the oddballs are all white men. If you’re a woman you’d be very careful of how you dress, what you publish, and even your tone of voice – in your absence, people will speculate, for instance, about women who wear pant suits that they must be lesbians or about women who dress with short skirts that they must have gotten their professor position by going to bed with men in positions of power. But as a white man, it’s OK to be non-conventional, e.g., making jokes about one’s sexual exploits in front of students. So I take issue with the idea that we now live in a world “of superficial ‘diversity’ but everyone is an obedient drone–sorry, ‘professional’–with 2.5 kids and a white picket fence. That world is not conducive to intellectual innovation.” – the world where Enzo Rossi nostalgically looks back to is a world where only a specific type of person could afford to be “intellectually diverse”.Report

Enzo Rossi
Reply to  European Professor
5 years ago

“the world where Enzo Rossi nostalgically looks back to is a world where only a specific type of person could afford to be “intellectually diverse””

I just want that world for everyone.Report

Kristina Meshelski
Kristina Meshelski
5 years ago

Here’s something no one has addressed yet – the people at this conference apparently all sat through this paper and said nothing. Imagine being a woman or someone not heterosexual, sitting in this audience. When I first heard about this paper I laughed, but then I realized it was for a special issue which was originally a conference and I pictured his audience hearing this paper and nodding or perhaps laughing with him. Then I thought: I’m so glad I didn’t specialize in logic. Not that I haven’t heard things at other conferences that made me supremely uncomfortable, but in many cases people at least object, or tut tut about it behind the speaker’s back, they don’t accept *that* paper for the special issue!

That being said I agree partly with Enzo, but not the way some people are taking it. There is really nothing wrong with being weird (though of course white men would do well to remember that it is a luxury their colleagues are not often afforded). But I actually like that the paper is “sloppy” and full of non-sequitur, etc. I even think the objectionable part of the Synthese paper was perfectly easy to understand, though I didn’t read the whole thing. The problem is that he is wrong, and the paper is sexist. Hopefully we can be weird without being sexist! And hopefully we can remember to pile on the paper for the sexism and not the style.Report

Phil
Phil
Reply to  Kristina Meshelski
5 years ago

I understand you didn’t specialize in logic, but you surely know enough not to make broad generalizations about a field based on one person working in that field, or on the proceedings of one conference about which we can only speculate.
That said, it would be good to know what exactly happened at that conference. It’s possible that the offensive passages were not read, or that people did “tut tut” Beziou’s sexist language. But, again, we can only speculate at this point.
I feel like there has to be someone who reads Daily Nous who attended. Speak!Report

Kristina Meshelski
Kristina Meshelski
Reply to  Phil
5 years ago

Thx for schooling me in logic PhilReport

Phil
Phil
Reply to  Kristina Meshelski
5 years ago

Yea sorry for my rude tone, it’s been a rough week. This Synthese thing concerns me for reasons I won’t explain, and the idea that people would think that Beziou is representative of logic irked me.Report

Kristina Meshelski
Kristina Meshelski
Reply to  Phil
5 years ago

Oh that’s nice, apology accepted. I guess commenting on the internet isn’t all bad 🙂

Don’t worry, I don’t take Beziou as representative of logic, and I didn’t mean to suggest logicians are especially sexist compared to other philosophers. Just honestly was glad I didn’t somehow end up in the audience at that conference. And like you I want to hear from someone who was there.Report

Phil
Phil
Reply to  Kristina Meshelski
5 years ago

Though I hardly ever comment on the Internet, I am well-practiced in putting my foot in my mouth, so apologies come naturally.
Anyway let’s hope someone on the blogosphere is willing to let us know what happened. It would be upsetting to find out that people laughed at Beziou’s remarks.Report

Tyler Curtain
5 years ago

When writing a defense of one’s homophobia as a necessary move in an argument about contemporary controversies in logic, disquisitions on sexuality and ratiocination, and in defense of anal-
ytic philosophy, I think that it is best not to illustrate your argument with photos, paintings, and pen-and-ink drawings of oneself while gesturing to, say, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

All of this is unfortunate, yes, but nearly unbearable when set against a backdrop of–let’s not call it “pink” but–fuchsia.Report

Nikolay Sokolov
5 years ago

Beziau may be a bit odd. But is not everyone a bit odd?Report

JT
JT
Reply to  Nikolay Sokolov
5 years ago

“Bezlau may be a bit [sexist and homophobic]. But is not everyone a bit [sexist and homophobic]?”

There, I fixed it for you. You’re welcome.Report

Nikolay Sokolov
Reply to  JT
5 years ago

But the answer to your question is yes. See for instance here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXnM1uHhsOIReport

Samuel Douglas
5 years ago

This is why we can’t have nice things.Report

Nikolay Sokolov
Reply to  Samuel Douglas
5 years ago

Frankly and if I may call you Samual, after reviewing for content the Beziau reply website (and some of the additions, like this: http://www.jyb-logic.org/cowboy) I am convinced that this is actually how we got a nice thing! The webpages Beziau has produced because of this are extremely resultant in happiness!

NSReport

Todd Blankenship
Todd Blankenship
5 years ago

Has anyone else noticed the misdirection here? The ‘story’ was originally this: ‘Prestigious journal publishes sexist drivel’ and the most relevant question was: “how could such a thing occur? what are the appropriate measures for the journal and the philosophy community to take in response’? Now, the conversation has turned to: “OMFG hahaha Jean-Yves Beziau’s response is batshit crazy!” And the questions are: “Is he a troll? Is he serious?” … Synthese is going to get away easy here because when anyone talks about the scandal, they’ll be like “Yeah, they shouldn’t have published that paper but HAAH Jean-Yves Beziau is bonkers! Did he use GeoCities to type that reply?”Report

Ben
Ben
Reply to  Todd Blankenship
5 years ago

I agree with the observation that the people at Synthese are no longer the focus of most of the comments one comes across. But that presumably has to do with the fact that they (1) put a moratorium on special issues and (2) promised to reevaluate their processes to make sure that something like this does not happen again. In other words, they responded in a way that I, at least, thought was satisfactory. Others might feel the same way. Hence the lack of outrage.Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
5 years ago

Once again the discipline of philosophy behaves like a herd of sheep — or rather, like an incensed Athenian demos. One need not agree with Beziau (or even think much of his cogency) in order to recognize faux outrage. This is not the protection of classes of people like women or gay people, who we all know are in no danger from Beziau or Synthese. This is the attempt to homogenize thought, in ways that make us feel powerful and at ease.Report

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
5 years ago

I have reported this comment as inappropriate because its sole purpose is to make unfounded assertions about people’s motivations.Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
5 years ago

I did not say that people were *intentionally* feigning outrage. They are not. They genuinely feel outrage. But the psychological function of their outrage is the feeling of having power and feeling like philosophy is “their own”. My own view is that philosophy belongs to none of us, and we should be ready for other philosophers to constantly challenge our cherished beliefs. These philosophers will often be incorrect, and can be addressed with argumentation. Intimidation is not the way to address them.

Irony of ironies, you are addressing me with intimidation.Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
5 years ago

I was talking about those who were expressing outrage, and I made that clear. I realize that many were not expressing outrage, and I was not talking about them. I share other people’s amusement at the situation, and I agree that the journal’s standards (of grammar, if nothing else) seem to have taken a holiday. But some posters seem to have the idea that the article or its publication is harmful, and I find that laughable. The claim that the publication is harmful does precisely what I said it does: it is an expression of power.Report

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
5 years ago

Arthur seems to be reacting primarily to me. He is describing my claims as ‘laughable’, without engaging with my defences of them or explaining why they are false, and he is asserting that my stated motivation for them is false. This is why I don’t think these comments meet the commenting policy. Instead of engaging in respectful conversation, he is merely insulting me and the things I say.

I won’t be posting further in this thread, but I wanted to make sure I’ve fully explained why I don’t think these comments belong here.Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
5 years ago

Jonathan,

I was not reacting primarily to you. I’m not sure why you think I was. Your concern seems to be that Synthese, by publishing the work, implies that it is excellent as is, without modification. That doesn’t strike me as “outrage”, though perhaps you have expressed outrage elsewhere. I don’t even particularly disagree with your point, since I tend to think that the original article needed editorial feedback it did not receive. At the same time, I don’t think retraction makes sense, and I don’t think any of us would want the errors of editors to lead to the retraction of our own work.

I was responding to a whole set of things I have read about the situation, here and elsewhere. Not you. And I was not insulting anyone.

I am deeply appreciative to Justin for allowing my voice to be heard, even though he disagrees with me. That is a very philosophical thing to do.Report

Nikolay Sokolov
5 years ago

Arthur Greeves is making a mere report of laughter – the best of medicinal helpings. Why prosecute him for this, Justin/Jonathan?

Even moreso, many seem to have been taken offense by the claim of Arthur that the bloggings are “expressions of power.” But there are many kinds of power – good and bad. For instance consider black power and girl power. Also electrical power. Steam power. But there is also white power. Some of these powers are good, some bad. So it is not always making an insult to say something is an expression of power. We should not assume so badly of Arthur.

Best,
NSReport

Juliette
Juliette
5 years ago

What Arthur Greeves may be missing: The general attitude of the European philosophy departments that I am familiar with (and I am not referring here to any one in particular) sets itself firmly apart from, if it does not outright mock, the American politically correct attitude to gender issues. It is also one in which professor/student affairs are easily tolerated, along with a sometimes quite untrammeled sexualization of the environment. By sexualization of the environment I am referring to sexual remarks in the classroom, text such as appeared in JYB’s piece being discussed here, sexual innuendo expressed in other ways, etc. (Okay I am lumping alot of things together here…)

What I also see is alot of young women coming to me reporting some pretty bad shit: feeling denigrated by obscene innuendo directed at them, not going to the university because their professor has fallen in love with them, or dropping out of academia altogether, being condescended to by audience members in talks and so forth. I don’t want to violate anybody’s privacy, but this is not the kind of stuff you want to happen to women you care for.

Now all this is anecdotal. But given the small numbers of women in these departments, I wonder why I am hearing so many of these stories.

In other words, I wonder whether there isn’t some kind of cause and effect situation happening here. Whether the sexualization of the environment by some people, doesn’t encourage some other people to disregard boundaries that might be actually helpful to the woman’s intellectual welfare.

Just sayin’.Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  Juliette
5 years ago

I find the environment you describe revolting, and I absolutely want female philosophers to never experience such nonsense. I honestly don’t see the connection to Beziau, though. At best, I think that Beziau shows hints that he could be misogynistic in the way you describe. But I know plenty of people who badmouth certain kinds of feminism without being misogynists.

And anyway, I’m not here to defend the views expressed by Beziau, which (so far as I can make out) are views that I disagree with. I’m just saying that his views harm no one.Report