Thomas Pogge, Yale University, and Sexual Harassment (Updated)


When Thomas Pogge travels around the world, he finds eager young fans waiting for him in every lecture hall. The 62-year-old German-born professor, a protégé of the philosopher John Rawls, is bespectacled and slight of stature. But he’s a giant in the field of global ethics, and one of only a small handful of philosophers who have managed to translate prominence within the academy to an influential place in debates about policy… But a recent federal civil rights complaint describes a distinction unlikely to appear on any curriculum vitae: It claims Pogge uses his fame and influence to manipulate much younger women in his field into sexual relationships. One former student said she was punished professionally after resisting his advances.

So begins a lengthy article at BuzzFeed about allegations of sexual harassment against Yale philosophy professor Thomas Pogge, Yale University’s responses to these allegations, and who knew about what, and when.

Some excerpts:

In the 1990s, a student at Columbia University, where Pogge was then teaching, accused him of sexually harassing her. In 2010, a recent Yale graduate named Fernanda Lopez Aguilar accused Pogge of sexually harassing her and then retaliating against her by rescinding a fellowship offer. In 2014, a Ph.D. student at a European university accused Pogge of proffering career opportunities to her and other young women in his field as a pretext to beginning a sexual relationship.

Yale has known about these allegations, and others, for years.

In October 2015, Lopez Aguilar filed a federal civil rights complaint, alleging that Yale violated Title IX, the statute that holds schools responsible for eliminating hostile educational environments caused by sexual harassment. Lopez Aguilar is asking the government to investigate whether Yale has ignored the “exhaustive attempts” she and others have made to prove Pogge is a danger to female students.

Her complaint also accuses Yale of violating Title VI, which prohibits race discrimination, on the grounds that Pogge specifically targets foreign women of color who were unfamiliar with how to navigate power in the United States.

Eventually, Yale offered [Lopez Aguilar] a $2,000 settlement, on the condition that she sign away her right to pursue further claims against Pogge or the university — or to tell anyone about Pogge’s behavior from “the beginning of the world to the day of the date of this Release.”

The federal government has said that it’s illegal to use conditional nondisclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases. But Yale treated Lopez Aguilar’s report as a workplace dispute, ignoring her claims of sexual harassment, her recent complaint states.

A subsequent hearing panel found “insufficient evidence” to determine whether Pogge had made direct sexual comments or advances to Lopez Aguilar, but “substantial evidence” that he “failed to uphold the standards of ethical behavior” expected of him as her mentor and employer.

In the end, however, the panel decided his actions did not constitute sexual harassment.

Only one note went into Pogge’s permanent record. It was for misuse of Yale stationery.

In an affidavit quoted in Lopez Aguilar’s federal complaint, a Columbia professor wrote that Pogge “had written a series of sexually harassing emails” to a student, “and there had also been some physical interaction between them.” Pogge was later “forbidden by the university administration” to enter the philosophy department “whenever the student had classes there.”

In 2014, Lopez Aguilar’s lawyers sent Yale signed statements from professors about the Columbia incident. The lawyers also included statements from professors who had witnessed and been troubled by Pogge’s conduct with young women at conferences, as well as details about five other women, students at other institutions in countries from India to Norway to whom Pogge had supposedly offered plane tickets, hotel rooms, letters of recommendation, and job opportunities “even though he barely knows them and knows less about their work.”

“It breaks my heart to have to say it,” said Christia Mercer, a former colleague from the Columbia philosophy department, “but it’s clear that Thomas uses his reputation as a supporter of justice to prey unjustly on those who trust and admire him, who then — once victimized — are too intimidated by his reputation and power to tell their stories.”

Martha C. Nussbaum, a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago, said that since learning about the accusations Pogge faced at Columbia, she has chosen not to invite him to conferences and workshops. She also declines to participate in projects he is involved in.

“The time has come for a public investigation,” she wrote in a statement that Lopez Aguilar’s lawyers later gave to Yale.

The article is “Ethics and the Eye of the Beholder,” by Katie J.M. Baker. It includes links to:

Towards the end of the article, Baker raises some questions. Among them:

Pogge uses philosophy as a powerful tool with which to solve global problems—a fact that greatly enhances the discipline’s real-world credibility. Could that have inclined his fellow philosophers to tolerate behavior they would otherwise condemn? 

What is our collective responsibility—to put it in the language of global ethics—when the flawed humans we enshrine as intellectual heroes are accused of being far from heroic?

(Some previous posts at DN on this story: The Issues Behind The Gossip; some details emerge here and hereYale solicits information about Pogge’s alleged violations of university policy. Some questions about what people in the profession should do in light of allegations like this have been discussed in “Hiring and ‘Unofficial Information‘” and “Not Legally Actionable, But…“)

UPDATE (5/21/16): How much did those at Yale who were involved in hiring Pogge know? In her piece at BuzzFeed, Baker reports that at a hearing at Yale regarding Lopez Aguilar’s complaint,

Pogge told the hearing panel that he had indeed been accused of sexual harassment at Columbia, but that the allegation was false. Yale knew about it, he said, and an official “took great pains to investigate what had happened” before offering him a job.

The Yale Daily News, which had independently investigated the story, now has a piece up about it. The authors there write:

The affidavits [from professors at other U.S. institutions], which were disclosed to the News against the authors’ wishes, reveal that Pogge was accused of sexual harassment in the mid-1990s while he was a faculty member at Columbia. As a result of the accusations, Pogge was barred from entering the philosophy building whenever his alleged victim had classes there. According to one philosophy professor cited in the affidavits, Yale was aware of these events when it hired Pogge in 2008.

That is, both Pogge and professors elsewhere state that at least some of the people at Yale involved in hiring Pogge knew about previous allegations of sexual harassment against him at Columbia. Who these people were and how much they knew—those questions remain unanswered, as does this one: what, if anything, ought they have done differently?

Additionally, The Yale Daily News reports:

Despite the accusations, Pogge has remained at Yale, teaching Introduction to Political Philosophy in fall 2015 and two seminars this past spring [2016].

UPDATE (5/22/16): Relevant commentary elsewhere:

  • A post on testimonial injustice and the Pogge case may be of interest to readers, arguing that a lot of commentary on this story “presumes that several women making the exact same types of allegations are less credible than one man.”
  • “Each time I had this experience, every positive thing my teacher/professor had said about my academic work disappeared in a puff of smoke” — Katrina Sifferd (Elmhurst) on sexual harassment she faced as a philosophy student.

UPDATE (5/23/16): Inside Higher Ed reports on the story.

UPDATE (5/24/16): Delia Graff Fara writes, at Leiter Reports:

I had a mildly unpleasant experience with Pogge when I was a senior undergraduate at Harvard and he was a visiting professor who stayed in my “house”, Harvard’s equivalent to residential colleges at Princeton and Yale. (I lived in Cabot House.)

In brief, I was having a meeting with Pogge during and after dinner in our dining hall to talk about Rawls and Rousseau, the subjects of my senior thesis.  He kept me talking for longer than I felt comfortable with.  It was night and the dining hall had long since emptied out.  I finally ended the meeting when he started rubbing my thigh, by just saying that it was late and that I needed to leave.

Pogge

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nothankyouplease
nothankyouplease
4 years ago

Fernanda is so brave. Report

LUG
LUG
4 years ago

A brief note: Buzzfeed is monetizing all this drama (to be).Report

WP
WP
Reply to  LUG
4 years ago

In this case, aren’t they just monetizing real journalism, like every other for profit media organization? I’m not getting your point. Report

Alex
Alex
Reply to  WP
4 years ago

Their point is that it is perverse that they are drawing profits from this is perverse and my intuition tells me that it is based on principle, rather than the particular news item. Maybe LUG will be kind enough to explain..Report

A9 grad
A9 grad
4 years ago

The fact that Yale still has Pogge on their faculty is mind-boggling, and is a main reason I chose not to do my PhD there.

Isn’t there anything the philosophy department can do to remove Pogge from his position?Report

Former Yale grad
Former Yale grad
Reply to  A9 grad
4 years ago

Honestly, I don’t think they can get rid of him. He has tenure. I think many people would like to.

Having been a grad student at Yale I can say that he is almost totally absent from the philosophy department and has been for years. In my whole time there I didn’t speak with him a single time, and was in the same room as him maybe three or four times. He is too busy with all his international projects and lectures to take an active part in the department. He finds grad students or faculty from other departments to “co-teach” his classes with him and/or runs them as “seminars” where outside speakers come and lead the discussion every week.Report

Postdoc
Postdoc
Reply to  Former Yale grad
4 years ago

But is he teaching or advising undergrads or grads in any form? If he is and the (multiple, convergent) accounts are true, Yale is putting students at risk. That’s on Yale. And tenureds can be fired for SH, so that’s no excuse.Report

Member of Yale Community
Member of Yale Community
Reply to  Postdoc
4 years ago

Sure, but there are procedures to go through, and they’ve been used. They reached the wrong result, but even if that’s obvious from a bystander’s perspective, it makes it very unclear (to me at least) what can be done to get rid of him. I think what the article said Jason Stanley did–ask for people with complaints against Pogge to let the relevant parties at the university know, so that they can go through the process again (hopefully reaching the right result)–is the best we can do in the meantime. Report

Former Yale grad
Former Yale grad
Reply to  Postdoc
4 years ago

Just to be clear, I wasn’t offering my comment as a purported justification of why the situation is OK! I agree that it would be *much* better if Yale’s philosophy department could remove him from his position and with it the little teaching and advising he does do for the department itself (pretty much no graduate advising within philosophy now – after the story broke a couple of years ago, students just don’t choose to work with him anymore and some of his existing students switched advisors). The fact that Pogge contributes so little to the department in the way of service, teaching, involvement etc only underscores how little he has contributed alongside all the harm he has done. My point was that because of all of this, many folks in the philosophy department would see getting rid of him as a good thing in pretty much *every* respect, if it could be achieved.

Unfortunately, however, I think Member of Yale Community above is right; although universities can remove tenured professors when it finds them guilty of sexual harassment, none of this can be done by the philosophy department unilaterally.Report

Postdoc
Postdoc
Reply to  Former Yale grad
4 years ago

Ah, I didn’t take your explanation to be a defense of the current situation, Former Yale Grad. I was just trying to clarify the extent of his absenteeism and particularly, whether he has formal responsibilities for students.

And I also appreciate that perhaps now, nothing can be done, barring further complaints coming forward. But we can still blame Yale as a whole for apparently screwing up on a very important issue, even while recognizing that the philosophy department’s hands are tied, at least as of now.

But going forward, I would hope that Pogge’s tenured status would not protect him from any credible, future complaints (again, I do not take you to be opposing this, Former Yale Grad!). Here, Yale would do well to learn something from the recent embarrassment Berkeley suffered when it came to surface that they systematically abstained from seriously punishing tenured sexual harassers: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/apr/06/uc-berkeley-staff-sexual-harassment-scandal. This scandal has led to the resignations of some of those who gave the sexually harassing profs a pass. Report

recent grad
recent grad
4 years ago

The grooming is so gross. Report

David
David
4 years ago

“A philosopher loves the Tartars so as to be spared having to love his neighbors” — RousseauReport

Jane Baldinger
Jane Baldinger
Reply to  David
4 years ago

David,

What did Rousseau do with his own 5 children born from a woman ‘Mistress’ that he never married? Gee, what’s her name even I can’t remember?Report

Doc F Emeritus
Doc F Emeritus
4 years ago

Where there is smoke there is fire, but sans a more thorough investigation (maybe this was thorough, but I can’t tell from the article), I suspend judgment. Sexual harassment claims can be made in reaction to not getting a perk or fellowship, etc… and are hard to refute. On the other hand, these seem pretty justified and ought be followed up in a more in depth investigation to be fair to everyone involved. I have no idea of the character of anyone involved and am just commenting on being sure to be fair to both claimed victims and potential violators. We sometimes tend to go off too soon and accept guilt. But if guilty, throw the book at him; I am sick of hearing of professor-student relations, harassment, etc…that gives all of us who would never get near any of this hanky-panky (most professors I know) in a bad light. Report

axolotl
axolotl
4 years ago

Buzzfeed describes Pogge as a protege of Rawls. Rawls may have been one of his thesis supervisors, but Pogge was not his “protege.”Report

Alex
Alex
4 years ago

Pretty disappointing to me, as someone who has chosen abstinence over guile without a second thought for most of my adult life. It is still very easy to reconcile my disgust concerning the allegations with my admiration of his work, as I’m a reasonably educated adult…I do not have to like someone personally to appreciate their work…then again, there was a popular petition that circulated to keep a sex-offender’s awful spy novel from being printed, so maybe I am underestimating peoples’ capacities to separate people from their works.

Honestly, I feel bad for all parties involved because regardless of his apparently reptilian nature, Pogge is still a person who has poured a great deal of time into something which is now going to be irrevocably tarnished as a result of his own doing. Maybe it is because I have struggled with my own self-destructive behaviors, but I appreciate how uniquely awful it is to be sitting amid the rubble knowing that it was all my doing. At least he got to do something meaningful with his life before pissing it away by being weak, I suppose.Report

JBR
JBR
4 years ago

Should we separate the person from their work though? I do wonder. If I meet someone and find out that they are intellectually dishonest or lazy, it seems perfectly reasonable to wonder whether that impacts how they write their papers. In some cases, I think it is pretty darn clear that it does, and I think it is reasonable to change one’s interpretation of their work accordingly.

If the allegations about Pogge are true, it is hard for me not to see his behavior as reflecting both a moral and intellectual failing. If he cannot see, or acknowledge, the blindingly obvious conflict between his purported views and his behavior, then he is failing to apply reasonable moral principles to a particular case—himself (a common exclusion among philosophers, it sometimes seems). They say the personal is political. I’d like to see a compelling reason for why it isn’t philosophical as well.

Report

Alex
Alex
Reply to  JBR
4 years ago

To be clear, you are saying that even if an argument is absolutely air-tight, because its speaker has severe defects, that is grounds for dismissal?
Are you honestly unfamiliar with the genetic fallacy? I know that the West is the new Rome, but it seems baffling to me that I am on this website and have someone trying to pass off an argument that is predicated on a fallacy and, even more baffling, six have approved.

Do you people refuse the beauty of Wagner’s music too? Absurd.Report

JBR
JBR
Reply to  Alex
4 years ago

Alex,

Thank you for replying. I am pretty sure that is precisely not what I am saying, and I agree that would be an absurd position. Setting aside whether arguments are ever “air-tight”, I take it the cases I have in mind are ones where argumentative strengths are more indeterminate. And I am suggesting that in some such cases knowledge about a philosopher as a person might help interpret someone’s work (e.g. why they responded to that objection in such an odd way; why they think it is fine to assert as true a rather controversial thesis, etc.) . And perhaps, the current situation with Pogge might be one of those cases (perhaps).Report

LJF
LJF
Reply to  JBR
4 years ago

JBR, you are really considering two separate questions:

(1) Should our assessments of persons bear on our assessments of their positions and arguments?
(2) Should our assessments of moral value bear on our assessments of philosophical/intellectual value?

I’m willing to grant that the answer to (2) is ‘yes’, regardless of whether the object of evaluation is a person or an argument. Personal moral failings can also count as personal intellectual failings. We can say that Pogge should have known better than to exploit power relations unjustly, just as we can say that Jefferson should have known better than to participate in slavery. Plausibly these personal moral failings count against the personal intellectual reputations of these individuals.

Perhaps it can also be legitimate to say that an argument is philosophically defective, on the grounds that it is morally defective. I’m doubtful about this, but I’ll grant the point for argument’s sake.

I think the answer to (1) is still clearly ‘no’. The fact that the author of a philosophical argument may be morally or intellectually defective – or may personally behave in a way that is hypocritical, given what they themselves have argued – simply doesn’t establish anything about the merits or demerits of the argument itself. That’s why we teach our intro students that they should avoid genetic, ad hominem, and tu quoque fallacies, and that criticizing a philosophical argument requires that we actually engage the argument itself, to show precisely where it goes wrong. Your recommendation that one should reassess philosophical work in light of whether one judges its author to be “intellectually dishonest or lazy”, and that one should “change one’s interpretation of their work accordingly”, is, ironically, itself an endorsement of intellectual dishonesty and laziness of an especially pernicious kind, and it runs directly contrary to basic principles of good philosophical practice.

Suppose I were to adjust the grades on my students’ final papers, in light of my independent assessments of their philosophical abilities, based on personal interactions in class and in office hours. Even if I’m highly reliable at making those assessments, and even if they are highly predictive of the quality of the work my students submit, it would still be outrageous – a gross abdication of my duty as an instructor – for me to adopt such a grading policy. I can’t see any reason why the analogous point shouldn’t hold in the professional sphere.Report

JBR
JBR
Reply to  LJF
4 years ago

LJF,

Thanks for the reply. I took myself to be concerned with (1) and not (2). And note that I did not mention an argument per se. I asked about interpreting someone’s papers, which contains arguments, and dialectic structure, etc (and “views” more generally). I think our default is that what goes into papers is carefully considered; it is there for “philosophical” reasons. But sometimes these reasons are not really philosophical. For example, if the reason is that someone is chronically uncharitable in how they interpret the ideas of people that disagree with them, then learning that about the person that wrote a paper might help make sense of how/why they represent a philosophical dialectic in a particular way, or why they completely ignore important objections that are well-known.

As far as charges of dishonestly or laziness: I am quite aware that what I am wondering about (I would not say endorse) seems to be in tension with an aspect of good philosophical practice. And I agree it would be wrong to not grade or review papers in a disinterested fashion. But I am not sure about your analogy.
Note we of course see no problem in considering one paper in light of what an author says in another paper, when we are trying to understand someone’s views (e.g. when writing our own papers!). So we do not read papers in a vacuum. And if I am deciding whether to hire someone, I will probably use all the information I have available, and in that case, read their written work both on its own merits, but also in light of my background knowledge (gained from personal interactions, discussions, etc.). I think these sorts of cases are more analogous to what I have in mind.

But to return to my rhetorical comment: is the personal (sometimes) also philosophical? I take it that if it is, then it perhaps should be of consequence when doing philosophy (but not always; e.g. when reviewing papers).
Report

LJF
LJF
Reply to  JBR
4 years ago

JBR, I agree of course that we need not read papers in a vacuum – it makes sense, when trying to interpret the view being put forward in a piece of philosophical work, to consider other information we may have about what the author thinks. (For instance, we might cite a personal communication from the author that sheds light on the reason for what might otherwise seem like a puzzling gap in an argument.)

It is possible that such considerations could ultimately lead us to condemn a piece or a body of work as both morally and philosophically defective. I gather something like this is true in the case of the recent Heidegger controversy. But the claim there is that informed interpretation of Heidegger’s philosophy confronts us with a view that is itself objectionable, independently of any opinions we have about Heidegger as a person. (The claim is not that Heidegger is antisemitic, therefore he is intellectually defective, therefore we should read his work as the work of someone who is intellectually defective. That would be unreasonable. The claim is that we have good reason to interpret his philosophy as itself antisemitic, and that this is a moral and philosophical defect of his work.)

It would be fine to recommend that we use all available relevant information to properly interpret the view being put forward in a piece of philosophical work, and then critically assess that view, so interpreted, on its merits. But independent personal judgments to the effect that someone is intellectually dishonest, lazy, or uncharitable do not plausibly bear on the interpretation of someone’s view, because they are little more than generic negative appraisals – to use such judgments to inform our interpretation of what an author is saying would just be to invert the principle of charity. That’s bad practice. If your experience with a person leads you to expect that their work will be of poor quality and probably isn’t worth reading, fine. But if you choose to critically engage with that work, your prior expectations of poor quality are quite beside the point. If you want to argue that an author’s work is poor, you have to point out the flaws in the work itself.

Now, certainly the flaws in a work can be illuminated by considering them in the context of the rest of what we know about the author’s views and commitments. We might attempt to make sense of what an author could possibly have in mind in a given passage by recalling a eccentric view they once expressed in person, a view that we may think is wrongheaded but which could explain their otherwise puzzling inference. That’s just interpretation in accordance with the principle of charity, and it may help us to identify specifically where and how the author has gone wrong. But if we find a passage inexplicable, and we recall that, well, the author previously struck us as intellectually dishonest and lazy anyway, that observation adds nothing of value to our interpretation of the work.Report

JBR
JBR
Reply to  LJF
4 years ago

Hi LJF,

Thanks for the thoughtful response. Please excuse me for not giving a more substantive reply. I will just say that I think this passage:

“That’s bad practice. If your experience with a person leads you to expect that their work will be of poor quality and probably isn’t worth reading, fine. But if you choose to critically engage with that work, your prior expectations of poor quality are quite beside the point. If you want to argue that an author’s work is poor, you have to point out the flaws in the work itself.”

Is interesting, because the latter is not quite what I had in mind I think. But I will leave it at that. Thanks again.
Report

ContingentSoCal
ContingentSoCal
4 years ago

I think his work may be fine — but I imagine seeing it cited would be a serious harm to those victimized by him. There are enough smart people saying enough smart things to cite — some even in his secondary literature. I’ve worked on his material before. I won’t be citing him in written work again. Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  ContingentSoCal
4 years ago

I don’t understand this comment, at all. There is no serious harm to seeing your abuser’s name mentioned in print. Supposing there is some harm caused, moreover, the harm does not proceed from the author who cites the abuser; it is caused by the abuser. There is reason not to mention an abuser in a casual conversation with a victim, even if your mention has nothing to do with the abuse. However, there is no reason not to mention the abuser in a public work which one anticipates victims might read. Citing a person’s work is not an endorsement of their conduct.Report

nothankyouplease
nothankyouplease
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
4 years ago

“There is no serious harm to seeing your abuser’s name mentioned in print.”

I wonder what makes you think this is (so obviously) true, but fwiw in my own experience this is false. There is serious harm in seeing your abuser treated as an otherwise normal member of the profession. This is so at least partly because treating abusive individuals as otherwise normal members of the profession signals to victims that their abuse is irrelevant to the proper functioning of the profession. This is particularly so when the harms perpetrated against you and others is an “open secret”, or widely acknowledged. just my two cents. Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  nothankyouplease
4 years ago

If there is an “open secret”, then someone needs moral courage to pursue justice. If no one pursues justice, then all we have are rumors, and no one should avoid citing another person because of rumors. Of course, the justice system must not be rigged against either accuser or accused. If it is rigged against the accuser, then some amount of vigilante justice seems justifiable, which could include avoiding citing the person. This could also be justified if you very much trust an accuser, for epistemically valid reasons.

But I still question the severity of harm. I never denied *some* mental distress, but I just don’t see how this distress would be severe, unless there were something else going on. I feel the same way about “triggers” in classes. The more we develop a “policing” culture, in academia — a culture that controls what you can say, who you can cite, and so on — the further away we move from genuine inquiry. Kindness is one important value in inquiry, but it is not the only one.Report

somephilosopherorother
somephilosopherorother
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
4 years ago

Arthur, because of your name, I’m assuming you’re male. Because sexual harassment and assault of men is much rarer than is harassment and assault of women, I’m going to assume you’ve not been harassed or assaulted (I know I could be wrong about this, so if I am, please correct me). If you’ve never been harassed or assaulted, you’re in no position to make claims about how or whether it could harm a victim to see their victimizer discussed in their discipline or to be exposed to potentially triggering material.

Two claims here, and I’m making both: (i) you’re in an epistemically very poor position to be making broad claims about these issues, one that does not meet even minimal standards of assertion, and (ii) in making such claims, you are disregarding the testimony, here and elsewhere, that it be extremely harmful to victims to see their abusers professionally valorized or to be exposed to triggering material.

TL;DR: Mansplaining to sexual harassment victims how they are or are not impacted by harassment not cool.Report

John Turri
Reply to  somephilosopherorother
4 years ago

“If you’ve never been harassed or assaulted, you’re in no position to make claims about how or whether it could harm a victim to see their victimizer discussed in their discipline or to be exposed to potentially triggering material.”

This is way too broad and, ironically, devalues the power of victims’ assertions. I’ve never been harassed or assaulted in this way. And yet I know based on introspection and testimony that such harms could occur. The same is true for many others.

I get that you’re ultimately interested in contesting that people without relevant experienced could knowledgeably *deny* certain things. But it’s probably best to do that without saying things that literally entail that victims can’t inform other people about what happens (such that the latter can thereby know and, in turn, inform others).Report

somephilosopherorother
somephilosopherorother
Reply to  somephilosopherorother
4 years ago

I should’ve said that someone who has not been victimized is in not in a position to make claims based on their *self-derived* assumptions about what it would be like to be a victim. Of course testimony is important, but Arthur Greeves’ claim conflicts with testimony in this very thread and isn’t derived from any other testimony, so far as I can tell. It appears to come from his own assumptions about what it is like to be a victim, assumptions not rooted (I’m supposing) in ever actually having been a victim.

TL;DR. Ok, but it’s still mansplaining.Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  somephilosopherorother
4 years ago

You seem to think we are talking about a small, tightly-knit community of like-minded people. I agree that, in such a community, speaking about an abuser as if they were a member of the community could be deeply harmful. But I don’t see academia that way. It’s not a community, much less a tightly knit one. Perhaps people consider it a community, and expect others to be like-minded. But academia only becomes a community of like-minded people AT THE EXPENSE OF ITS OWN RAISON D’ETRE.

An academic culture where no one can talk about Hitler — for fear of triggering his victims — is no academic community at all. We can only combat seriously problematic ideas by taking them seriously. If we become primarily a community of people being kind to each other, then we lose the ability to vigorously search for the truth.

That said, I think I was wrong when I said, “There is no serious harm to seeing your abuser’s name mentioned in print”, and I thank you for correcting me. My point, on reflection, is not so much that the harm is necessarily not serious, but rather that (a) the harm is caused by the abuser, and (b) that, in some cases, we cannot remove the harm without compromising the search for knowledge. Report

John Turri
John Turri
Reply to  somephilosopherorother
4 years ago

“someone who has not been victimized is in not in a position to make claims based on their *self-derived* assumptions about what it would be like to be a victim.”

Too strong again. Empathetic people can be and indeed have been in a position to make such claims.Report

John Turri
Reply to  nothankyouplease
4 years ago

I have two questions about what it means to treat someone as “an otherwise normal member of the profession.”

I condemn the behavior described in the article quoted in the original post. I believe that further investigation is called for. Based on what I know right now, I would oppose my department making an offer to Pogge, if the issue ever arose. (To be clear, it has not.) I would strongly advise my daughter to not study with Pogge. (Again, to be clear, this is not currently a live prospect.) I could go on listing other condemnatory attitudes.

Despite all that, if my thinking on an issue was influenced by Pogge’s published work, I would cite it. Indeed, it would be a violation of academic integrity to not cite it.

Now, it just so happens that, given my research focus, my thinking has not been influenced by Pogge’s work. But suppose it was and I cited him for that reason. Would that count as treating him as an “otherwise normal member of the profession”? Would it somehow imply that serious abuse of young members of the profession is “irrelevant to the proper functioning of the profession”?

To my mind, this would count as acknowledging an intellectual debt and *in that one respect alone* treating Pogge as he deserves to be treated. It does not speak to how I do or would treat him in any other professional capacity or context. Nor does it reveal anything about what I believe is relevant to the proper functioning of the profession, except my belief that intellectual debts should be acknowledged.Report

nothankyouplease
nothankyouplease
Reply to  John Turri
4 years ago

Hi Turri, thanks for your thoughtful response. I take your point — I think there are serious considerations in both directions with respect to citing known predator’s work in your own research. I guess I tend to think (maybe wrongly) that it’s likely fairly rare that one absolutely must, for the sake of intellectual integrity, cite the work of a known predator. (Really? That work is *absolutely critical* to the development of your ideas? Well, okay then. Cite away, I suppose.) But the comment that I was responding to referred to seeing one’s abuser’s name in print, and I had in mind a host of relevant professional considerations. One way of seeing your abuser’s name in print is to see his or her name on a conference poster, another is to see that they’ve been invited to contribute to a volume. My general point was about treating abusive individuals as otherwise normal members of the profession in this broader sense. I hope that clarification helps. Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  nothankyouplease
4 years ago

“Really? That work is *absolutely critical* to the development of your ideas? Well, okay then. Cite away, I suppose.”

Did you think I was claiming that people should frivolously cite Pogge, as an afterthought? I was saying that people should cite him if his arguments are relevant to their thesis. Apparently you agree with me.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  nothankyouplease
4 years ago

I think conversations like this display a very odd approach to the scholarly function of citation. In lieu of argument, here’s a narcissistic reposting of my comment on this from DN a couple of years ago:

RESPONSE TO REFEREE’S COMMENTS

The referee criticises my paper for poor scholarship, noting that
(a) Teleparallel logic, the central theme of the paper, was in fact introduced in Bloggs (1997) and that my listed source is simply a review paper discussing Bloggs’ work.
(b) The main technical result in the paper is a fairly straightforward corollary of results presented in Smith (2008).
(c) My paper does not engage with or mention Jones’ (2011) proof that teleparallel logic is inconsistent.

However, all of these omissions are justified. With regard to (a), Bloggs left the University of Arkham in murky circumstances and some disgrace after accusations of sexual harassment; to give further citations to his work would only serve to strengthen his already unjustifiable position in the discipline. As for (b), I have refused to engage with any of Smith’s work since it became clear from blog discussions that he has a well-established track record of sexual relations with graduates and possibly even undergraduate students: it is by continuing to tolerate people like Smith and by engaging with their writings that we perpetuate the inappropriate environment of current philosophy. (I should assure the referee that I came across Smith’s results independently, and indeed only knew that Smith had essentially proved them already when reading this report!) Finally, Jones has been a longstanding and outspoken supporter of the Israeli occupation of Gaza, and I’m frankly a little shocked that the referee even suggests that I engage with the work of this reprehensible person, whatever its merits on narrow academic grounds.

In short, I believe that the referee’s comments, while no doubt well-intentioned, trade on an overly narrow conception of scholarship inappropriate in the contemporary academic world, and I ask the editors to reconsider their decision not to publish.Report

Izzy
Izzy
Reply to  David Wallace
4 years ago

I think we should make an important distinction. It’s one thing to choose not to engage with someone’s work who you know to be guilty of great harms and who you do not wish to empower professionally. It’s another when you have been influenced by a philosopher in the past, prior to your knowledge of their harms, and are seeking to publish something inspired by that work, which is the kind of case that I take it John has in mind. In that case, it seems to me you should either abandon the project or cite them.Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  David Wallace
4 years ago

Poe’s law strikes again… Given that David Wallace is an intelligent person with degrees in both philosophy and physics, I am going to go out on a limb and assume that he is not a Stalinist. Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  YAAGS
4 years ago

The fact that there’s no such thing as teleparallel logic also supports this reading.Report

Donald P. Wyatt
Donald P. Wyatt
Reply to  nothankyouplease
4 years ago

“There is serious harm in seeing your abuser treated as an otherwise normal member of the profession”

So what are you proposing, then? A law that forbids people who mistreated you to be employed by anyone? Life in prison? The death penalty?Report

Philomena, Yale '10
Philomena, Yale '10
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
4 years ago

Mr. Greeves–

Different people’s triggers can manifest differently. One person with a trauma history may have panic attacks or flashbacks on seeing their abusers name in print; another may not. I have personal, academic, and clinical experience dealing with trauma, including sexual trauma. As such, I would like to kindly caution you against assumptions and blanket statements, and invite you to ask me any question you think may help you understand better.Report

Philomena, Yale '10
Philomena, Yale '10
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
4 years ago

With regard to sexual misconduct and professionalism, I invite you to read Dylan Farrow’s haunting open letter to Hollywood, published in the NYT on Feb. 2, 2014. In it, she writes the following, addressing actors who have worked with Woody Allen:

“What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?”

What often happens to sexual misconduct victims is they are driven out of their community. We do not live in a world that is in any way kind to victims. Even if you never speak out, you must either remove yourself from the community, or live in the abuser’s world. The irony is that even if you attempt the former, it only reifies the latter. Allen’s “alleged” rape of Dylan has been common knowledge since 1993, but, as she says, the film industry has chosen to “accept the ambiguity” as she puts it, or, as I put it, to feign neutrality. But, as Desmond Tutu says, when an elephant has its tail on the foot of a mouse, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. To remain neutral is to tacitly join the side of an abuser.

When a profession turns a blind eye to disgraceful or evil actions of its members–even and especially its prominent ones–they send a message to that person’s victim(s) and to other victims that they are not believed, and that as such they cannot both be a victim and be welcome in that community.

Martha Nussbaum has placed Pogge on her personal blacklist for a reason, a reason she’s specifically stated: she wants women to know that philosophy can be a place where they will be welcomed and supported by their peers, and protected from violence by their colleagues. If I were an actor I would refuse to work with Woody Allen; if I were a philosopher I would choose not to support the work of someone who has harmed others. If what Joshua Cohen told me is true, that Pogge’s reputation is entirely undeserved and he is revered mostly out of political correctness, then I suspect the field will suffer not at all if he is never cited again, except as an example of the insidious nature of false idols in ivory towers.Report

LFC
LFC
Reply to  Philomena, Yale '10
4 years ago

I am not a philosopher but I have some read some of Pogge’s work. It is notable in my view for the way it tries to connect philosophical and moral arguments with empirical material, i.e. important facts about the world, and also for the way it reaches out to disciplines beyond philosophy. I think Pogge has raised issues of great importance about, for example, the connection between the working of the global economy, int’l institutions, and extreme poverty.

As I said, I am not a philosopher and I therefore will not presume to judge his work as technical philosophy. But I judge his work highly for its effort to engage with issues that affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Some other philosophers also do that, but I think it’s not all that large a group.

The allegations against him, if true, show that his personal behavior has been reprehensible and disgraceful. It will of course affect my judgment of him as a person, but I don’t think it will affect my judgment of his work.

Report

Philomena, Yale '10
Philomena, Yale '10
Reply to  LFC
4 years ago

To continue my analogy, I’ll point out that Woody Allen’s work is, as you say, notable. He is considered an ingenious film-maker. He also raped his 7-year-old step-daughter, and Hollywood’s turning a blind eye to that fact effectively sends the message that Dylan and her rape do not matter.

The term is overused, so I think people forget what it means: A hostile environment is one in which a person’s very human dignity is under deliberate and active attack. When a predator like Pogge is given more respect in the field of philosophy than the very humanity of his victims, then the field of philosophy has become a hostile environment. It isn’t a theoretical, or dare I say, philosophical dilemma about separating the man from his work. It’s just how the phenomenon works. When this phenomenon happens consistently across fields, professions, and domains of our world, then it becomes a hostile world.

I can assure you that we victims live in a very hostile world.Report

Jane Baldinger
Jane Baldinger
Reply to  Philomena, Yale '10
4 years ago

THANK YOU…Philomena beautifully said.

That “Blind Eye” I witness regularly, as sexual abuse apologists of all varieties, (male and Female) will roar bloody hell when their options of entitlement are threatened of challenged. Report

Jane Baldinger
Jane Baldinger
Reply to  Jane Baldinger
4 years ago

OR challengedReport

Simon
Simon
4 years ago

The question of how this incident would—or should—affect the way we approach his work reminds me of the similar question regarding Heidegger.Report

ES
ES
Reply to  Simon
4 years ago

In a nutshell, the Heidegger controversy (I assume you’re referring to the Black Notebooks) was caused by the revelation of just how deeply his antisemitism influenced or was otherwise entwined with his philosophical thought.
Unless and until we find evidence of Pogge’s harmful behaviour not only somewhere in his work (Heidegger’s Nazi sympathies were never a secret) but entwined at the core with his philosophical views, I find it to be quite a different case.
This relates to the comments of Alex and JBR also. Extracting the person from their work is possible (even for reasonable adult human beings) if that extraction can plausibly be made. In the case of Heidegger, it became obvious to many that this was no longer the case (recall: http://dailynous.com/2015/01/19/germanys-heidegger-society-chair-resigns/). Off the cuff, I can see no similar reasonable conclusion here.
The question then becomes the more difficult one of how to deal with the views of an influential yet morally repugnant author. The fact that the offence here is obviously worse than the usual academic mishaps still makes it qualitatively different from the Heidegger case. I am inclined to think it is also qualitatively different from the case of a merely unlikeable colleague.
(This does not, I think, exclude other possible sanctions, such as that mentioned by ContingentSoCal.)Report

Phoenix, son of Amyntor
Phoenix, son of Amyntor
4 years ago

I think the thing to note here is the Herculean effort it takes on the part of victims to convince anyone that there is even a stench in the Augean stables. I realize that the standard response is “Well, these things are hard to prove…”, but that explanation falls way short in accounting for administrative resistance. It is not just that Colleges and Universities act as though every professor has sovereign immunity; they also act as though every victim must prove themselves before they are even given a hearing.Report

ES
ES
Reply to  Phoenix, son of Amyntor
4 years ago

See also the toxic counter-opinion that “Sexual harassment claims can be made in reaction to not getting a perk or fellowship, etc… and are hard to refute.”Report

WikiLeaks
WikiLeaks
4 years ago

I’m curious if others have noticed the movement on his Wikipedia page – the allegations keep getting posted and removed. Is it considered libelous in the US (or, at least, by Wikipedia employees) to discuss these allegations qua allegations? If so, does anyone know why?Report

Merely Possible Philosopher
Merely Possible Philosopher
Reply to  WikiLeaks
4 years ago

I think that this is just an artifact of Wikipedia’s policy on biographies of living people (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Biographies_of_living_persons). In general, they are fairly conservative with what they allow in. For example, this policy “If you cannot find multiple reliable third-party sources documenting the allegation or incident, leave it out.” could have been ruling this out (though there is now at least the Yale Daily News article in addition to the Buzzfeed article, so the edit wars will probably continue). Report

Postdoc
Postdoc
4 years ago

I just now read the original article, and the details are truly disturbing. Worth reading the whole thing.Report

Crimlaw
Crimlaw
4 years ago

Does anyone even understand the Title VI complaint against Yale concerning the non-Yale students that Pogge is alleged to have pursued? I would appreciate any explanation of what this part of the complaint amounts to in this situation. Report

Philomena, Yale '10
Philomena, Yale '10
Reply to  Crimlaw
4 years ago

Read the OCR complaint document that is attached to the Buzzfeed article.Report

Crimlaw
Crimlaw
Reply to  Philomena, Yale '10
4 years ago

I did read the OCR complaint. That’s why I asked my question. Report

Philomena, Yale '10
Philomena, Yale '10
Reply to  Crimlaw
4 years ago

Sorry. Then I’ll clarify:

Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin.

Thomas Pogge targets women who are of Asian or Latina descent, and often specifically women who hail from the very impoverished nations he claims to champion. Fernanda is from Honduras. Aye is from an impoverished Southeast Asian country. The complaint makes reference to a 21-year-old Chinese student. There are others who do not wish to come forward publicly.

Yale had knowledge of this, some from evidence provided by Aye, and some from before. The complaint says that by knowing of Pogge’s actions and failing to stop them, Yale violated Title VI by permitting discrimination based on race and national origin to occur. Report

Crimlaw
Crimlaw
Reply to  Philomena, Yale '10
4 years ago

How many Yale students is Pogge alleged to have discriminated against in this way?
Additionally, is part of the idea that Yale is potentially vulnerable because of Pogge’s alleged treatment of non-Yale students?Report

Philomena, Yale '10
Philomena, Yale '10
Reply to  Crimlaw
4 years ago

I don’t know how much of this you already know or not, so forgive me if this isn’t new to you.

The “Titles” are elements of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It says that an institution that violates these standards of non-discrimination is not eligible to receive federal funding. A complaint on these grounds is filed with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). If investigators find that an institution has failed to adhere to these standards in even one instance, that institution becomes ineligible to receive federal funding.

For these purposes “how many Yale students” isn’t a relevant question. The argument is simply that Pogge discriminated and Yale allowed it, ergo, Yale violated Title VI.

Similarly, as for your second question, it’s not about which populations are or are not vulnerable. It’s about whether or not Yale violated the Civil Rights Act in either discriminating directly or indirectly by allowing discrimination to occur.Report

Crimlaw
Crimlaw
Reply to  Crimlaw
4 years ago

This isn’t new to me.
I’m not sure what you mean by saying that my questions aren’t “relevant” — is it not ok to ask the questions if you don’t think they are relevant?
I assume you understand that if things go far enough it eventually will be up to the presiding judge to decide what questions are relevant. It certainly will not be up to me or to you.
If the “argument” you gesture at is the legal argument then I am confident that the Title IX strand of the case appears to have a more secure basic legal foundation than this Title VI “argument” does. Perhaps I am mistaken. Report

Philomena, Yale '10
Philomena, Yale '10
Reply to  Crimlaw
4 years ago

Of course it’s okay to ask the question, but for the purposes of the OCR complaint, the number of Yale students Pogge has targeted based on national origin doesn’t matter. If it happens even once and Yale could have stopped it but didn’t, that’s the violation.

OCR investigations are conducted by OCR fact finders and outcomes determined by the Office based on these findings. There are no judges or courts of law. For a judge to become involved, the matter would have to be taken out of the domain of a Title Vi or IX investigation.Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  Crimlaw
4 years ago

Given that Yale’s policies allow for third-party complaints, I’m not sure how far the “these individuals were not Yale students” defense can go in protecting them from either a Title IX or a Title VI complaint. Report

Crimlaw
Crimlaw
Reply to  Crimlaw
4 years ago

If the answer to “how many Yale students has Pogge discriminated against?” is, just for example, “50” then that question and answer are highly relevant aren’t they? This is not to say that Yale might not be responsible even if the answer is “just one”.

Yale policies do allow for “third party complaints” in one sense of that phrase. This doesn’t show that Yale is responsible for any and all discrimination Pogge allegedly engaged in no matter the connection of the alleged victim(s) to Yale.

I’ll clarify for those who seem to want to read lots of things into my basic questions: i’m offering no “defense” of Pogge of any kind. I don’t know nearly enough about the situation to defend or attack him at this point. I’ll leave that to those of you who have such knowledge. Report

Philomena, Yale '10
Philomena, Yale '10
Reply to  Crimlaw
4 years ago

Whether you intend it or not, by questioning the viability of the complaint, you are concern trolling.Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  Crimlaw
4 years ago

Of course, but (i) the policies explicitly set out procedures for when complainants are neither current nor former members of the Yale community (which is to say, the university policies seem equally concerned with discriminatory conduct directed at members of the Yale community and discriminatory conduct of Yale community members towards others which occurs in their capacity as members of the Yale community), and (ii) if, for example, Yale does not regularly decline to take third-party Title IX complaints, and when they do so it seems correlated with race or national origin, then it does seem as if there may be a case that the complainants were subject to differential treatment.

Also, I don’t know if the “defense” comment was directed at me, but I never said nor implied that you were defending Pogge. My use of the term “defense” regarded what Yale might say in response to the Title VI and Title IX complaints. Report

Crimlaw
Crimlaw
Reply to  Crimlaw
4 years ago

If you think it’s “concern trolling” to ask questions about the complaint then I’m happy to be a “concern troll” in your sense. As far as I can tell, there are some clear strong points in the complaint and some clear weak points too. There are also many parts of the complaint that I am in no position to assess. If that evaluation makes me a “troll” of some sort then again, I’m happy to join the many other “trolls” who don’t find it immediately clear from this complaint that Yale is in violation of federal law or that Pogge should be fired under Yale policy. Report

Postdoc
Postdoc
4 years ago

One important aspect of this case that has not been mentioned yet is that Pogge is accused of specifically targeting non-American women of color. This is from the Yale piece: “[Aguilar’s] complaint also accuses Yale of violating Title VI, which prohibits race discrimination, as it alleges that Pogge targeted foreign women of color unfamiliar with the United States.”

And a question. Are there complaints against Pogge at the University of Central Lancashire or at Oslo’s Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature? According to Wikipedia, he also holds appointments at those institutions. The article only mentioned Yale.
Report

Philomena, Yale '10
Philomena, Yale '10
Reply to  Postdoc
4 years ago

Yes, but those involved declined involvement in any complaint against Pogge.Report

Izzy
Izzy
4 years ago

Regarding the citation discussion, the fact a given philosopher is alive and still in the institutional capacity to benefit from others engaging with their work should be considered. The fact that their victims are alive and/or active in the profession also should be a salient consideration. Locke was a slaver, but he is no longer alive and able to benefit from the power afforded by his profession, although descendants of his victims are alive. A further complication, as noted by ES above regarding Heidegger, is to what extent the philosopher’s work substantively relates to their wrongdoings. In the case of historical figures like Locke and Heidegger, it seems a far more plausible case can be made (and is the view I personally think is correct) that we should continue to study these figures, especially when they are guilty of great harms, although those harms should be not be hidden or ignored when assessing their work and its worth.

Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
4 years ago

Actually, there is a very straightforward way in which his behavior could affect the viability of his theory. Insofar as he grounds his ethical theory on intuitions the fact that he has behaved in such an immoral manner serves as as an undercutting defeater for his theory. That is, it shows that his capacity for moral intuition (if there be such a thing at all) is unreliable, and therefore should not be taken as strong evidence for his theory. Now I must admit that I am not familiar with his work, being a LEMMing, so I do not know how much his theory actually relies upon appeals to ethical intuitions. Perhaps it almost entirely relies upon explicit argumentation and a few commonly accepted principles, in which case his behavior should have little effect on whether we consider his theoretical claims to be true.Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  YAAGS
4 years ago

One can act against one’s moral intuitions.Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
4 years ago

True, but rare. Usually people find a post-hoc way to justify what they’re doing. I strongly suspect that this is the case with Pogge. It is not at all uncommon to take an extreme moral position in one regard as a way of compensating for one’s moral failings in other regards. That’s the problem with appealing to intuitions in moral theory. We’really just too psychologically crooked when it comes to finding ways to justify our actions.Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  YAAGS
4 years ago

“True, but rare.”

Except in the area of sexuality. There are libraries full of examples of people indulging in “guilty pleasures”. Sure, they offer post-hoc rationalizations, but they are not stupid enough to think that these are genuine reasons, and they will often admit as much, in an honest moment.Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
4 years ago

That might be the case with cheating on one’s spouse or eating an entire box of donuts, but it generally isn’t the case with harassers or rapists. They typically think that it isn’t a big deal and the other person is just being melodramatic, or that the other person led them on and deserves it. Note also that it doesn’t even touch my point that his extreme views on poverty and charity are a way of overcompensating for his other failures. Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  YAAGS
4 years ago

I’d love to! So I take it that you agree that we shouldn’t use psychological states like intuitions as evidence for our theories? Because as soon as you do you make psychological facts regarding what goes on in philosophers’ heads directly relevant to the evaluation of their theories. And to be blunt, Freudian psychoanalysis probably has about as much (if not more) scientific weight as the claim that we posess a faculty of rational intuition that gives us direct access to the moral truth.Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  YAAGS
4 years ago

Justin, I know why you asked and I did stop after you asked. To be fair, my point was never aimed at speculating about Pogge’s actual psyche. I just had a methodological axe to grind. 😉Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
4 years ago

Another note on the citation issue–while I think the issue is complex, and how best to navigate it depends on a variety of factors, I also think it would be a shame if, for example, work like this was not written: https://www.academia.edu/1416708/Can_a_Violent_Husband_Violate_Human_RightsReport

Timothy Stock
Timothy Stock
4 years ago

I’d encourage anyone coming to this issue, or following the discussion (which is needful) to spend some time on “What it’s like to be a woman in philosophy”, which is mentioned in the BuzzFeed piece, and perhaps start with this one from February. https://beingawomaninphilosophy.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/thoughts-from-an-assault-survivor-in-philosophy/Report

paolo
paolo
4 years ago

I think there is no good solution to the problem of what to about the work of sexual harassers (or worse) in view of the continuing harm to the victims of their actions caused by the presence of their work in a given field. It’s basically impossible to solve. What if the sexual harrasser is someone who discovered a procedure to cure cancer? or is a famous architect whose buildings are all around the world? It’s part of the odious nature of this kind of behavior that it can continue to harm victims well beyond its occurrence. We cannot quite cease to engage with the work (if it is good) but we can cease to engage with the person (if he or she is alive). The harm was done by the person, not by the work (though, presumably, the work is usually not that irreplaceable). But all the more reason for prevention to be strong, and for people to take claims by victims seriously as quickly as possible and make it as “easy” as possible for them to come out. So both sides are right – but it is a contradiction that is brought into the world by moral violation and it cannot be erased once there. But it can be eased by good will and compassion I think.
Two notes:
1) On the presumed innocent vs believing victims. These are not incompatible. We should believe victims and extend the our compassion, help, and understanding. If it is later proved false, the harm caused by doing so is none or minimal, especially if action is taken quickly and resolutely. To the alleged harasser- we do not need to extend compassion, help, or understanding to them. But we are required to treat them, until proved otherwise, as innocent – as a matter of principle. This is a rational requirement, not one of heart. If they are proved innocent, we can always extend them our compassion and help them recover at that point. Obviously, there is a tension in all this and it’s not a “no harm to anyone will be done” situation, but that tension is not difficult to deal with – harrassment and rape are difficult to deal with.
2) Sexual harrassment or rape is not quite the same as, say, Heidegger’s antisemitism. In the case of harassers they did direct, intentional harm to concrete individuals by acts both morally widely acknowledged to be wrong and prohibited by law. It’s their individual character flaw and they should have known better. Heidegger’s and other similar cases, though on a scale, are intelligible as parts of wider societal beliefs, sometimes implemented even as laws. They are much less individual flaws, as flaws of the society. We do not need to not acknowledge them to continure to read Heidegger. But we should see him for what he was, with all the flaws, and address it if it is pertinent to his work. In some cases, like Aristotle’s pro-slavery, it’s easier – he was pro-slavery in a slave based society (so in this sense like other people) but he also said that no one as it stands is enslaved justly. He saw that it is not right, but he did not see that it could be made right by removing the institution altogether. He also treated his slaves very well (I should note that Ancient slavery is not the same thing as its modern, much more racist counterpart). Heidegger fell into a trap of stupid ideology and to that extent he is more blamable and he should have recognized his own intellectual (and moral) failing. He would have been a better philosopher (and a better human being) had he done so. There were societies not ike Nazi Germany in his time. A case like Pogge’s (IF true)- it’s not a matter of intellectual failure to see beyond one’s societal horizons. The societal horizon is OK, the person is violeting laws and doing intentional harm.Report

Rebecca Kukla
Rebecca Kukla
Reply to  paolo
4 years ago

“Sexual harrassment [sic] or rape is not quite the same as, say, Heidegger’s antisemitism. In the case of harassers they did direct, intentional harm to concrete individuals by acts both morally widely acknowledged to be wrong and prohibited by law. It’s their individual character flaw and they should have known better. Heidegger’s and other similar cases, though on a scale, are intelligible as parts of wider societal beliefs, sometimes implemented even as laws. They are much less individual flaws, as flaws of the society.”
Wait what? I have no idea what some of this means – “on a scale”? Huh? But did you just seriously imply that being a sexual harasser is more of an individual flaw than being a Nazi? That can’t be what you meant.
Apart from the fact that, well, being a Nazi is pretty much the worst individual flaw I can think of, I don’t even see the disanalogy. Both lived first in eras where morally bad things were normalized. Sexual exploitation was normalized in academia, the genocidal slaughter of millions was normalized in Nazi Germany. (Again, er, not on a moral par, but moving on.) Both continued to treat these things as normal after the world had moved on – Pogge is still harassing and exploiting even though academia is at least nominally now aware that that’s not ok, and Heidegger continued to stand up for Nazism after the era died. I think both “should have known better”. The fact that one broke the law seems less morally interesting than that the other advocated for a genocidal regime.
Obviously none of this is to in any way let Pogge off the hook.
Report

paolo
paolo
Reply to  Rebecca Kukla
4 years ago

Thank you for ridiculing my English and reading what I wrote with the mind set to trying to understand. It’s really nice. But to your points.
1) “on a scale” means – as I tried to show by examples, that past dead philosophers, from different eras held variety of views that were problematic – sometimes they were problematic but not really different from views of anybody else (and even a bit more “progressive” – Plato’s and Aristotle’s views, for example on women, slaves, or foreigners) whereas others held views that were already being challenged but still accepted in large swaths of society. Heidegger did some questionable acts, but it appears he was active only in 1933-4, afterwards he was more of a passive follower. I do not know more about the case, nor about what he knew or did not. But his case is also a case of a person who lived in a totalitarian regime – I assume you did not, I did. I think you have just about zero idea what that means besides having read some books and being quick to judge other people. It’s abit more complicated than being morally righteous in contemporary US academy. I have my family persecuted by the communists, including gulags. Some of them entered the party later to protect themselves. I do not jduge people morally terrible automatically just because they were members of a communist party and did some questionable acts. You have no idea how it feels to live in such a place, what fear of your life is, or your family, your career, how your thinking is manipulated and so on. Heidegger was not an SS member, or concentration camp guard, murder, or anything like that. He was probably a misguded intellectual, ambitious, and so on. I fault him to an extent, for bad things he did, and his anti-semitism, not being able to part with Nazi party antirely. BUt I do not think he was a criminal. As I indicated, his case is more problematic than Aristotle’s, hence on a scale. How did Heidegger stand up for Nazism after the era died? You mean he publicly defended its ideas, denied holocaust and so on? Maybe he did, I do not know. But in any case, I do not care about him. I was merely drawing a contrast to Pogge who, I assume, is not living in a totalitarian regime of sexual harrassers. I do not know how you read into what I said that Pogge is supposed to get off the hook. It was exactly the opposite thing that I tried to assert.

Btw. communists committed as bad crimes as nazis around the world. man of you US academics advocate communist views. What am I to do? When I point that out, I am usually told I have no idea what I am talking about…it’s a nice treatment one gets from “educated” people.Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
4 years ago

This seems… I won’t say particularly disturbing, but one of many disturbing things:

“Separately, Lopez Aguilar said, Yale’s legal department informed her that the time during which she could have taken legal action had expired — and that she was a weak witness, given that she had previously taken medication for anxiety and acknowledged changing her account of that night in the hotel.”

So people who have anxiety are prima facie less reliable, and may be victimized with impunity, because the university won’t believe them? Not to mention that being harassed is itself likely anxiety-inducing. A shocking attitude.Report

Herewego
Herewego
Reply to  Matt Weiner
4 years ago

Yes! Thank you for pointing out Yale’s bizarre smearing of Aguilar based on the fact that she *takes anxiety meds* (!) That is itself such a terrible injustice and Yale should be called out for it.Report

GuessWhatWhen
GuessWhatWhen
4 years ago

Call for Papers
Theme: Poverty, Solidarity and Justice
Type: 4th International Philosophy Congress
Institution: Philosophy Department, Uludağ University
Location: Bursa (Turkey)
Date: 13.–15.10.2016
Deadline: 27.5.2016

When current debates are taken into account, it can be clearly
recognized that justice is a concept discussed, written and thought
about at great length. However it is possible to see that when
justice is referred to, the concept is taken out of its context and
devoid of content. The concept of justice is commonly used in
relation with poverty. Poverty, a problem of all ages, is standing as
one of the basic problems of our age. Today, while many people bring
up the problem of “violent capitalism”, poverty is believed to be a
hard pressing issue that has to be overcome. In this sense, it is
generally admitted that urgent measures have to be taken to establish
a just worldwide distribution of income. As injustice can be
encountered in all spheres of human life, the idea of justice arising
from injustice has become a subject/concept of growing importance
that should be thought of seriously as a necessary condition of
communal life. Consequently in all dimensions of life, solidarity and
its spirit should be universalized.

This is where we see the greatest need for philosophy/philosophers
and a philosophical contribution. Philosophy offers a perspective
that attempts to cover the essence of a given subject along with the
associated phenomena in their exactness. Thus, philosophy always
needs to be inside phenomena/life itself. Now is the time to ask the
questions that has been left aside for long. What is poverty? What is
solidarity? What is justice? The essence of these specific subjects
can be touched and the concepts can be elucidated only if the above
questions are discussed. Yet, what really happens is that the core of
the subject is left untouched, people get deluded because of rhetoric
and the concepts themselves are decontextualized and treated as means
for political ends. These concepts can only be illuminated philosophy
and as a result become grounded firmly.

When the concepts of poverty, solidarity and justice are considered,
the following issues need to be clarified: What does justice mean?
What do we understand by solidarity? What is the relationship between
justice and equality? Is justice equality? Can there be detected any
link between religion and justice? Is there any possibility to
establish justice and just social, political and economic system? Is
justice a concept relating to law or politics? What is the
relationship between poverty and justice? What is or what has to be
the philosophical approach to poverty? Is there a relationship
between poverty and religion? Can poverty be considered a global
problem? What should the philosophical stance towards poverty be? How
can poverty and solidarity be related? Is solidarity based on class
divisions? Are religion and solidarity connected? Can solidarity
bring justice?

We have agreed to organize the current congress under the title
“Poverty, Solidarity and Justice” in an attempt to scrutinize all
these concepts and to put forward new and distinct ways of theorizing
questions of poverty, solidarity and justice.

Themes

– Poverty and Solidarity
– Poverty and Democracy
– Poverty and Justice
– Poverty and Art
– Poverty and Religion
– Class and Solidarity
– Art and Solidarity
– Religion and Solidarity
– Women and Solidarity
– Culture and Solidarity
– Solidarity and Existence
– Solidarity and Utopia
– Solidarity and Justice
– Democracy and Justice
– Religion and Justice
– Equality and Justice
– Right and Justice
– Law and Justice
– Politics and Justice
– Ethics and Justice
– Freedom and Justice

Keynote Speakers

Prof. Dr. İoanna Kuçuradi, (Maltepe University)
Prof. Dr. Betül Çotuksöken (Maltepe University)
Prof. Dr. Thomas Pogge (University of Pennsylvania)

Congress Language

The congress language is Turkish and English. Full text papers are
supposed to follow The Chicago Manual of Style (15th Edition).

Important Dates

Deadline for Abstracts:
27 May 2016
Announcement of Accepted Abstracts:
06 June 2016
Deadline for Full Text Papers:
19 August 2016
Announcement of Congress Program:
02 September 2016
Date of Congress:
13-15 October 2016
Registration Fee:
100 Euro

Venue
Uludağ University, Görükle Campus Prof. Dr. Mete Cengiz Congress
Center, Bursa – Turkey

Contact:
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Metin Becermen, Academic Coordinator
Philosophy Department
Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Uludağ University
Bursa
Turkey
Phone: +90 224 2941834
Email: [email protected]
Web: http://philosophy4.uludag.edu.tr/en/index_eng.html
Report

Jane Baldinger
Jane Baldinger
4 years ago

Maybe Pogge can get Laura Kipnis to back him up – after all it’s just a little – cultural ‘exuberant sexual defiance.’

Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe – Laura KipnisReport