SUNY Stony Brook’s “Alt-Right” Philosophy PhD


SUNY Stony Brook philosophy PhD Jason Reza Jorjani, who is now a lecturer in humanities at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and editor-in-chief of what appears to be an alt-right (white supremacist) publishing firm, Arktos Media, is demanding an apology from the philosophy faculty at Stony Brook, according to Inside Higher Ed.

The apology demand is prompted by minutes Jorjani obtained from a SUNY Stony Brook Philosophy Department meeting at which he was apparently described as being “involved in the Aryan white supremacist movement,” and at which someone (it is not clear who) said “we are going to review his research, his dissertation, and we may or may not issue a statement, though this runs the risk of giving the issue more oxygen.”

It is unclear whether such a review is actually taking place, who is conducting it, what it would involve, and what its possible consequences would be. I recently reached out to the chair of Stony Brook’s Philosophy Department, Professor Mary Rawlinson, for clarification, but (quite reasonably, given the time frame) haven’t heard back from her yet. Jorjani does not appear on the SUNY Stony Brook Philosophy Department page listing recent placements and dissertations.

In a video of him speaking at an event sponsored by the white supremacist organization “National Policy Institute” (NPI), Jorjani claims that under his leadership, Arktos will be committed to the following ideas:

  • “Affirmation of the indo-european or ‘Aryan’ tradition.”
  • “An aspiration to transcend the distinction between western philosophy and eastern Indian religions.”
  • “The opposition to a false, modern scientific worldview that’s nihilistically materialist.”
  • A recognition of “psychical phenomena as a key to developing a postmodern or archeo-futuristic science that would deconstruct the distinction between science and spirituality.”
  • “Constructive criticism of the ill-conceived and bankrupt socio-political ideologiues of liberalism, democracy, and universal human rights.”
  • Nietzschean “aristocratic radicalism.”
  • And the idea that “Islam is certainly our enemy.”

According to IHE, John K. Wilson, an independent scholar of academic freedom who co-edits of the American Association of University Professors’ “Academe” blog, said of the case:

I have no idea whether Jorjani is a neo-Nazi, but it is completely irrelevant to his academic credentials… Departments should only re-examine a recent Ph.D.’s dissertation work if there is some plausible allegation of research misconduct, and apparently no such allegation exists… [The claim that someone holds offensive ideas] is no reason to re-examine their dissertation, and such attempts to punish controversial speech have a chilling effect on academic freedom.

Academic freedom indeed protects Jorjani’s expression of his bizarre views. It also, of course, protects the expression of disgust at such views—even by his former professors. If that is all that the supposed “statement” mentioned in the Stony Brook Philosophy Department’s minutes was to amount to, then this is not much of a story. I’ll update this post if/when I learn more.

You can find out more about the alt-right here.

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Will Behun
Will Behun
4 years ago

His comments seem to be very much in line with a lot of Traditionalist and Perennialist thinking, which is not, in and of itself, White Supremacist. Of course, lots of Traditionalists ARE neo-Nazis, so we’re not talking about some radical jump to conclusions. Ultimately, I think it’s important if one is to legitimately battle 21st century Nazism, it’s important not to paint with too broad a brush, which just makes the opposition look scattershot and uncritical. The last thing we need is to give support to the claim that opposition to White Supremacism is merely a smokescreen for an enforced left-establishment groupthink, which I think can happen if we are too quick to label anyone with anti-Modernist views a White Supremacist.

For me, it is the last point that gives the lie to any claim that Dr Jorjani is simply a Traditionalist or Perennialist, considering that René Guénon, one of the most important Traditionalist thinkers, was Muslim. My suspicion is that Dr Jorjani is exactly what most think he is, but as Dr Wilson points out, even reprehensible views are not grounds for reconsideration, though they may call out for a strongly worded repudiationReport

dmf
dmf
4 years ago

https://syntheticzero.net/2016/11/29/alt-right-camps-currents-w-florian-cramer/
Florian maps out the people (including a philosopher or two) and ideas at play these days on the alt-rightReport

Bharath Vallabha
4 years ago

I have only read a few things by Jorjani on righton and seen videos of him on new thinking allowed. Rather than trying to cast judement based on cursory reading, better maybe to address more deeply how we should talk about this topic. There are two extremes to avoid.

On the one hand, simply censoring people who are drawn to white identitarian views seems off. White identitarian views seem like an extension to white culture of philosophical views like Wittgenstein and Heidegger and their criticism of modernity and an alienated individuality. In saying this, I am not in any way defending the ideas that white identity is special or great or the best. In principle, white identitarianism doesn’t have to mean white supremacy, anymore than being for Indian identity means Indians are the best.

But on the other hand, for the last four hundred years white identitarianism has coincided with white supremacy (just as during the midle ages ChristIan identity coincoded with Christian supremacy, or Islamic identity with Islamic supremacy). So in our society still white identitarianism tends to express itself as white supremacy, and that leads to racial crime. Just as claims of islamic or Hindu supremacy lead to hateful violence. Real care has to be taken to avoid such violence.

What is the middle ground between these extremes? Would be great if we could address it together and make progress, instead of devolving to one or the extreme. With America becoming majority minority in a couple of decades, white identitatiranism is going to rise, not disappear; that is psychologically inevitabe and understandable. Which means distinguishing it from white supremacy is all the more important, and failure to seperate the two only empowers those who insist on not separating them. If Jorjani doesn’t separate the two, I strongly disagree with him. If he does separate the two, that is worth exploring.Report

dmf
dmf
4 years ago

Bharath Vallabha, where would I find “white culture” in Wittgenstein’s writings?Report

Bharath Vallabha
Reply to  dmf
4 years ago

I didn’t mean it is in his philosophy. Just that one could extend Wittgensteinian ideas that way, the way they are used to explore conservative catholic views, or more liberal views like feminism and post colonialism. I meant just the push against modernity and towards communitarianism.Report

dmf
dmf
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
4 years ago

got it thanks, would be an odd reading of Wittgenstein I think to see him as being anti-modern or communitarian but I realize that the only check on interpretations are social norms/allowances.
Does anyone know if he pushes ‘paranormal’ studies and his related critique of “so called science” at his Tech uni job?Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
4 years ago

Jorjani’s dissertation abstract contains the following: “The mathematical and geometric structure of scientific projections cannot model those phenomena that most strikingly manifest the spectrality of Nature. These so-called “paranormal” phenomena are perfectly normal in animals and even simpler organisms still guided by intact”. It goes on to talk about how we can regain “paranormal” abilities (he has in mind ESP and telekinesis) by abandoning western science and having the right kinds of aesthetic experiences.

Maybe this is just an extreme formulation of what turns out, after extensive philosophical caveats and clarifications, to be reasonable. Googling “Jorjani paranormal”, and listening to a couple of his interviews, inclines me to believe otherwise. He seems to be talking about “paranormal” phenomena in the Ghostbusters/Uri Geller sense.

I can understand how a good institution could grant a PhD to someone who turns out to hold abhorrent political views (white supremacy or what have you). (As we all know, there have been many, many great philosophers with abhorrent political views.) So there *may* be no shame for Stony Brook in the fact that Jorjani turned out to be what he is politically. That, it seems to me, would depend on whether the dissertation explicitly defends white supremacy or what have you.

What I can’t understand is how someone who writes a dissertation arguing that ESP and telekinesis are real and that science’s demand for observational evidence, which theories of ESP and telekinesis can’t meet, is illegitimate. I admit to not having read the dissertation, but the pseudoscience occupies a very large chunk of the dissertation abstract. So maybe there’s nothing wrong with Jorjani’s having received a PhD. I accept this as a genuine possibility. But I would really like for someone from Stony Brook (or anyone who has read the dissertation) to address this issue. The history of pseudoscience can be scholarship and a source of suitable dissertation projects. But Jorjani is peddling pseudoscience and if there’s anything we *shouldn’t* give people PhDs for, it’s peddling pseudoscience.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
4 years ago

One reason to be concerned about this is that a philosopher receiving a PhD for the kind of pseudoscience that would be laughed out of the relevant science departments makes philosophy look really bad.

So again, it would be great if Stony Brook faculty could clarify what Jorjani is doing with the ESP and telekinesis in his dissertation.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
4 years ago

The pseudoscience here is nonsense, of course, and it was the first thing I noticed in the reporting on Jorjani (never mind what that says about my priorities!)

However, I don’t think we can go around rescinding people’s legitimately-granted PhDs simply because they contain nonsense. A PhD is a degree program with its own formal mechanisms for the PhD-granting institution to assess whether the work is worthy of a PhD. Procedural irregularity is a reason to revisit that assessment; so is fraud; but absent either, it’s not procedurally fair to revisit it.

(PhDs are different from journal articles or academic books in that respect: while publication of an article or a book has an indirect effect of conferring a certain status on the author, the direct content of a decision to publish is that the journal or press stands by the publication as intellectually legit. So honest factual error is a reason to retract a paper but not to rescind a PhD.)

If a Philosophy department grants a PhD for a dissertation that uncritically accepts pseudoscience, shame on them; but they have to own their mistake, not retroactively correct it by changing the result of the dissertation exam after the fact. Though in the current case, it’s not remotely clear either whether this was true of the PhD, or whether there is consideration of revisiting the exam process, so these remarks should be taken as addressed to a hypothetical.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  David Wallace
4 years ago

I agree, and that’s why I didn’t mention rescinding his PhD.

And by the way, here’s an especially clear presentation of Jorjani’s views on ESP and telekinesis:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpJ8CidZqf4

Again, while the dissertation seems to discuss some of the same issues, I don’t know whether it does so in the same way. But that’s what it would be nice to have explained.Report

Chad
Chad
Reply to  David Wallace
4 years ago

The notion that SB is interested in possibly revoking the PhD is not supported by the quoted meeting minutes or any other facts. It’s only support is the misguided graduate and some bad reporting. The “review” was only suggested in order to make an informed public statement about the case, since there is now media attention and inquiries. If there is a scandal here, it doesn’t have to do with academic freedom.Report

Joe
Joe
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
4 years ago

I agree with every sentiment here, JT. But I think you know the answer to your question. Why does someone get a PhD when they don’t deserve it? Because… there are lots of departments who give PhDs to people who don’t deserve them.

What’s the old adage? Don’t look into how hot dogs are made, it will put you off hot dogs for life.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Joe
4 years ago

I agree, that’s part of it, of course, but I think there *might* be other factors at play in this particular case. But I know too little about the dissertation at this point to speculate out loud about them. That’s why I’d like to hear from someone who knows more.Report

Roberto Williamson
Roberto Williamson
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
4 years ago

If you really, care, then read the dissertation and make up your own mind.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Roberto Williamson
4 years ago

I don’t care all that much. I’m just curious. I’m posting about it in a blog comment section, not organizing protests.Report

D.C.
D.C.
Reply to  Joe
3 years ago

Usually the harshest critic of any given PhD dissertation is its author. I am certainly mine’s.Report

Chad Kautzer
Chad Kautzer
4 years ago

Some are turning this story into an indictment of Stony Brook faculty, because they’re reading the comment from the minutes as a call to possibly revoke this white supremacist’s Ph.D. (this is coming from commentaries on the story and is implied by John K. Wilson in this story). Perhaps I’m more generous in my interpretation, because I’m a Stony Brook Ph.D., but my reading is that this is now a hot political issue and they should look closely at his research because questions are being asked and they might need to make a statement. To imply otherwise is very uncharitable and dangerous. If I were on the faculty at Stony Brook, I too wold go back and have a look at his research. Who wouldn’t? This is an important issue and we shouldn’t do the spin work of a white supremacist (and others with an ax to grind) for them. Here is the quote form the minutes: “One of our Ph.D. alumni is involved in the Aryan white supremacist movement,” read the minutes. “Is easily accessible on the internet. I have watched a couple of his videos and they are appropriately described as Aryan white supremacist, couched in Western philosophical tradition. This has come to my attention and many people are concerned. We are going to review his research, his dissertation, and we may or may not issue a statement, though this runs the risk of giving the issue more oxygen.”Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Chad Kautzer
4 years ago

I certainly don’t want to indict SUNY, especially without being sure if the claims against them are true, or hearing what they have to say for themselves. Having said that, I’m not seeing what sort of thing they might find in his research that they should then report on in a statement. Perhaps you could give an example of something that it would be appropriate to report.Report

Pangloss
Pangloss
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
4 years ago

They may just want to do due diligence for an issue that has come into the spotlight, and for which the public may (and apparently already is) call them to court – there is no implication that the review of his research will be included in the possible statement. It can simply provide some context for understanding.Report

Chad
Chad
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
4 years ago

Any media inquiry will call for a comment, particularly since the Inside Higher Ed article recklessly assumed that SB is going after the Ph.D. itself, thus making it an academic freedom issue. If I were on the faculty, I’d want to see what was written, who supervised it, if there were there any concerns at the time, etc. in order to respond to inquiries as well as to see if the general standards internal to SB were upheld in the process. Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Chad
4 years ago

I don’t understand what sort of comment would be appropriate, beyond stating that the department itself has no official political views, and reiterating whatever official views or policies the university has. I don’t see why comments on his scholarship would be an appropriate response to revelations that’s he’s a racist.Report

Jon
Jon
4 years ago

Suppose his *dissertation* defended white supremacy? So what? He’s entitled to have a go at it, and he either comes up with a rigorous argument or he doesn’t. The faculty then decides if it warrants a Ph.D. I don’t see why it matters if that’s pre- or post-graduation, aside from the fact that it’d be harder to graduate because the argument probably sucks.

Furthermore, why do we even care at all that a philisopher *might* be a white supremacist? And would the existence of that argument really be more pernicious than a lot of the crap that comes out of critical race theory (e.g., that minorities can’t be racist), etc.? And why the double standard–e.g., how’s this different from Saida Grundy’s racist tweetstorm? Report

SA
SA
Reply to  Jon
4 years ago

Really? A partly-stipulative redefinition of ‘racism’ that precludes ‘reverse racism’ – without denying that minorities can hate, stereotype, discriminate against white people – is not ‘really’ less ‘pernicious’ than actual white supremacy? This sounds wrong to me …

Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  Jon
4 years ago

Grundy observed, in a salty manner, that crime committed by white college-age males is not viewed in the same racialized manner as crime committed by minorities, that businesses are so overwhelmingly owned by white people that it’s not possible to avoid them (which is not true for black-owned businesses–and that’s why her tweet is not like a white person saying they try to only patronize white-owned businesses), and that slavery as perpetrated by white people against black people was a uniquely pernicious problem. More here. Nowhere did she assert the superiority of black people.

Jorjani said that Indo-European Aryan culture was “uniquely worthy of affirmation,” which is as explicit a statement of white supremacy as you could wish for.

There is no double standard at work here.Report

Sabrina Hom
Sabrina Hom
4 years ago

As Chad says, there is no reason the faculty shouldn’t look back over his scholarship (dissertations are written to be read, as rarely as that may happen), and every reason they should consider the possibility of making a statement given that one of their graduates has affiliated himself with thoroughly reprehensible groups. There is no evidence that Jorjani’s degree itself is under review (indeed, anyone familiar with academia ought to know off hand that such a thing is impossible.) In a typical white nationalist ploy, Jorjani is trying to spin legitimate criticism and concern about his position into some sort of PC persecution. Dr. Jorjani has every right to conduct his preposterous research and to work in any department that will have him. But anyone affiliated with Stony Brook should review Jorjani’s work (as I have done, squeamishly) and have the decency to disavow his ideology. Report

Cora Diamond
Cora Diamond
Reply to  Sabrina Hom
4 years ago

If Sabrina Hom is suggesting that it is impossible to rescind a degree, that is a mistake. I was involved in the rescinding of an undergraduate degree at my University. The man in question had cheated on a final examination, and believed that he would not have received the degree if he had not cheated. Some years later he asked to have the degree rescinded. We prepared a resolution for the Faculty to consider, and it was approved. The degree was rescinded. The man’s name was not divulged to the Faculty when the matter was being considered. Report

D.C.
D.C.
Reply to  Cora Diamond
3 years ago

I think the general consensus is a degree can be rescinded over academic fraud or wrongdoing, but not because it’s deemed unworthy after the committee’s signed off on it.Report

Bharath Vallabha
4 years ago

The main claims against Jorjani seem to be 1) pseudo science and 2) white supremacy. Both maybe true. But from what I have read by him and seen in videos on New Thinking Allowed, neither seems obviously so.

Re 1: that someone believes in extra sensory perception or the limits of the scientific method for being aware of the world doesn’t strike me as psuedo science. Moreover, in the videos he seems in touch with developments in AI, robotics, virtual reality, etc and not dismissive of science. Maybe he is not an expert, but seems to have thought interestingly about technology and the future of humanity.

Re 2: Jorjani is an Iranian-American, and from the little I read, he seems to engage with european, iranian, Indian and Japanese philosophy and wants to help create a global spiritual framework which integrates religion and science; in any case, this is the kind of stuff he seems to talk about. He seems more intersted in other philosophical traditions than many liberals. He does endorse aryan identity, but the aryan seems more expansibe than europran in a traditiona sense, and includes parts of middle east and asia. On his view Rumi and Buddha are white. I doubt many alt right people agree with most of this, even if Jorjani has a positon in the alt right. Yes, he is against Islam (then again so is Sam harris). I don’t know what he thinks re Jews, blacks, gays, womens movement, etc. Possibly he has intolerant views on all these, or not. I don’t know. Either way, what is the alternative to talking, hard thought it may be? If ostraciting is the approach, what is the end game for fostering peace?

Am I being an apologist or a concessionist to hate? I hope not. Simply trying to figure out the extent to which reflexes of moral outrage can be trusted in tumultuous times.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
4 years ago

“Re 1: that someone believes in extra sensory perception or the limits of the scientific method for being aware of the world doesn’t strike me as psuedo science. Moreover, in the videos he seems in touch with developments in AI, robotics, virtual reality, etc and not dismissive of science. Maybe he is not an expert, but seems to have thought interestingly about technology and the future of humanity.”

Bharath, with respect, rattling off a few talking points about this or that development in VR or AI doesn’t even start to justify the kinds of parapsychological claims in question. This is much too cavalier an attitude to take towards scientific standards.

In the video I linked to above, Jorjani bases his defense of the existence of ESP and telekinesis on a few discredited studies and then offers a patently absurd defense of the studies. His defense boils down to the claims that we don’t perceive objects in space-time, but rather as objects to be used; and that science illegitimately demands that hypotheses be accountable to spatio-temporal obsevation. This seems to me like a silly view of perception in and of itself–of course we have spatial perception (e.g., depth perception), and if you want to argue otherwise, you would need to engage with the massive scientific literature on the subject, which Jorjani doesn’t do. Furthermore, it’s unclear to me why typical scientific data is spatio-temporal in any loaded sense. Does the report that a measuring device reads a particular number commit us to some kind of wrong philosophy of perception?

But maybe there’s a philosophy debate to be had there. Unfortunately for Jorjani–and this is the key point–this debate wouldn’t at all address the criticisms of the studies Jorjani cites. For example, studies coming out of the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab have been accused of many basic and crippling methodological flaws and have not been published anywhere reputable. Wikipedia has a good summary of these criticisms:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princeton_Engineering_Anomalies_Research_Lab

I don’t rule out the possibility of coming out with a legitimate defense of the experiments. And of course, you’re right that merely believing in parapsychology per se isn’t pseudo-scientific. But responding to the criticisms of it with such pitiful red herrings is.Report

Bharath Vallabha
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
4 years ago

Your points seem right and fair. I don’t know the studies, and wasn’t defending any which way.Report

mhl
mhl
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
4 years ago

This is one of those cases where the actual video is so much more informative than quotes pulled from the transcript. It isn’t what he says as much as how he knows how use coded language to play to a room of angry white people.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
4 years ago

“I don’t know what he thinks re… blacks….”

One thing we know is that he thinks they are descended from members of a worthless civilization, since he thinks the “Indo-European civilization” is “uniquely worthy of affirmation”.Report

Bharath Vallabha
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
4 years ago

He seems to think that the Indo-European Aryan civilization is unique and best in that it has fostered the most inclusive societies. See at the 5:15 mark at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXBc7DcAU3w

This strikes me as basically very similar to how western civilization is portrayed in academic phil, as the only truly cosmopolitan framework. Jorjani is saying out loud what is implicit and conversationally implied in academic phil, only he is not talking about Kant but about Iranian thinkers before muslim rule.
Do I believe Jorjani? No really, but I also don’t believe it about Kant and Modern Europe. But do I find horrible the very idea that some cultures are more inclusive than others? No, and neither do most people I think. So the debate really ought to be which cultures are more inclusive and how, which advances were made by this culture and which by that culture, and have that conversation. My guess is such conversation can be healing in the long run, though painful in the short term.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
4 years ago

Granting your interpretation of the video, if he really infers “uniquely worthy of affirmation” from “most inclusive”, then he is a silly, silly man and is going well beyond academic philosophy’s disproportionate focus on western philosophy. Obviously I would engage with him in a context like a blog, as I engage with many very silly people. But, as you can guess, I wouldn’t treat him as a scholar or serious thinker (nor would I treat Kant as such had he only written what he wrote about race).Report

Jon
Jon
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
4 years ago

How’s that different from Jared Diamond’s *Guns, Germs, and Steel*? As an anthropological claim, it hardly seems controversial. As a normative one, it’s a non-starter. Just have to be clear what the project is.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Jon
4 years ago

I don’t know which claim you’re talking about, but if you mean the claim that Indo-Europe (or Europe, or any civilization) is uniquely worthy of affirmation, then this is very different from anything I remember from Guns, Germs, and Steel, which is a book that attempts to explain greater Europe’s political and economic dominance, not put forward moral claims about being worthy of affirmation.Report

D.C.
D.C.
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
3 years ago

Of course, Indo-Iranian culture includes modern-day Iran and large swathes of Pakistan and Bangladesh, which kind of is inconsistent with his Islamophobia.Report

Eric Johnson-DeBaufre
4 years ago

I’m not sure that this has been said yet, so I will say it: It is important to note that *Jorjani* himself introduced the idea of rescinding his Ph.D. *None* of the documents he cites indicate an interest in doing this, neither on the part of his PhD granting institution (SUNY Stony Brook), nor the department, nor any of the professors in that department. The only person who has made that threat is Jorjani himself. And it should be quite obvious to everyone why he has done so: namely, because it inflates his own high self-regard, increases the likelihood that he will be perceived as the latest victim of persecution by an out-of-control academy (a narrative that plays well both among already active participants in the alt-right movement and potential recruits), enhances his visibility within the alt-right movement and, by extension, his efforts to position himself as one of its leading voices, and boosts the chances of sales of his book.

Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
4 years ago

For the record, for those who are concerned with painting too broad a brush, or forming judgments on too cursory of a reading of Jorjani’s views, Leiter’s discussion of this rests not only the one speech he gave at the NPI conference (though, I suppose, I’m actually quite surprised people don’t think that’s enough to justify an allegation of holding white supremacists views — whether or not he said as much explicitly, in a way that is obvious to all of us, that he is an Aryan supremacist, the mere fact that he would willing give a talk at that conference that didn’t begin something like, “I’m here because I think the political beliefs represented here are problematic, and I’m hoping to change your minds…” should be enough to ring serious alarm bells). After Leiter posted about this, I spent some time reading through some of his writing and watching some of his videos. Lest anyone think the charge of neo-Nazi was being applied indiscriminately, he gave a talk in October at an identitarian event that looks to the Nazi regime as a sort of blue-print for his idea about psychic revolution.

Of course, you might think praising Hitler’s views about the Occult are separable from his ideas about how German society should be structured, but Jorjani himself concluded otherwise. He said: “However catastrophically they failed, these first postmodernists not only understood that the key to overcoming modernity lay in a psychical revolution in the sciences, but also that such a scientific revolution presupposes a political one. It cannot come about unless society has been radically reorganised into a hierarchically integrated organic state.” He says that to call such a society ‘identitarian’ would be an understatement, because once everyone has ESP or whatever, we cannot have anything that would stand between relationships of deep trust with our fellow citizens.

If we are not justified in saying that someone who thinks society ought to be identitarian, hierarchically organized, that Aryan culture is uniquely worthy of affirmation, and that while they might have failed, the Nazi’s got it right that we need this hierarchical reorganization, is a Neo-Nazi, I honestly don’t know when we would be. Report

David Johnson
4 years ago

I specialize in the Kyoto School and would like to point out a serious error in scholarship in Jorjani’s book. In the tenth chapter of his book (which is excerpted on his website), he claims that Nishida was a student of Heidegger in the 1920’s. Nishida never met Heidegger, nor did he have a straightforwardly favorable view of him, as Jorjani implies. His presentation of this material is astonishing in its carelessness.

To my mind this raises questions about the other claims he makes–which among these are equally under-researched, unsubstantiated, or just plain factually wrong?Report

Christopher Faille
4 years ago

I’d like to draw attention to this strange article by Jorjani:

https://www.righton.net/2016/11/05/world-religion-of-the-future/

As you can see if you follow that link, the article appears on a website called “RightOn” which proudly calls itself reactionary, promising to put the “action” in “reactionary.”

Let’s use this to look at Jorjani a bit. The article is called “The World Religion of the Future.” It kicks off with Heidegger, and a story about a Japanese student of his, who in 1919 introduced Heidegger to aspects of Zen Buddhism.

Then there’s a long bit in which Jorjani is just quoting and sometimes paraphrasing Leo Strauss on Heidegger, without giving us any clue whether he thinks Strauss was right. Then we’re really just trying to hold on tight as a train of thought zigs and zags through the mountain passes. The Indian caste system, Descartes, Nishida Kitaro, Dostoevsky, etc. All signifiers of “I’ve read everything and thought about everything.”

But if I understand it at all, the key points of the article can be phrased simply:

1. There will be a single global state — the fact is inevitable, resistance is futile;
2. The single global state will need a single globally dominant religion;
3. This ought not to be any of the three religions that trace themselves back to Abraham, because they have all sold themselves out to a “soulless global marketplace.”
4. In order to devise a world religion that has some soul and can serve in a market-transcending way the need of the coming global empire, one needs to syncretize Japanese traditions involving Zen with the Indian caste system and the German culture as reflected in Heidegger’s work.

Thoroughly ugly stuff. Of course, Japan and Germany were once allied in a struggle for world domination. India? Well … throwing in India helps sanitize the swastika, and the reference to the caste system suggests that some people are just naturally better than others, born that way: which presumably will be recognized by the world religion of the future.

India was of course part of the British Empire when Japan and Germany were allied. There was a strong Independence sentiment at the time, and independence would become a fact not long after the war. So yes there were Indians who out of principled pacifism and/or a refusal to serve their own colonial overlords, refused to co-operate with resistance to the Japanese.

Nonetheless, there were also many Indians who fought bravely against the Axis powers, notably in the two-week battle of Kohima and Imphal. This battle (or these two simultaneous battles — as the name indicates that’s a matter of interpretation) represented Japan’s furthest push westward, and the moment when the rising sun were thrown back below this particular horizon. This was the “Midway” of the BIC theater. And nearly all the troops throwing the Japanese back were Indian.

Relatedly, perhaps, there are two different sorts of swastika, a fact Jorjani doesn’t mention. The crooked arms can turn in one direction or the other.

And, yes, the idea of a single global state can and should be resisted. In large part it must be resisted because of the reasonable fear that people like Jorjani and his idols will end up running it. There must never exist the concentration of power such a presumption implies.

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Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  Christopher Faille
4 years ago

Yes, I think that’s the same piece I sent Leiter that he linked to in an update. Note also he refers to the caste system as a “color”-coding system. He also mentions here what David, above, was referring to (where Jorjani claims Nishida was a student of Heidegger.)Report

Avi Z.
Avi Z.
4 years ago

This guy’s dissertation (judging from the abstract) is not exactly my cup of tea, and it may be lacking in scholarly accuracy (as some here have indicated), but some of the general themes are nothing new in Continental philosophy. From what I can tell, it seems to carry further an arguably Heideggerian viewpoint (technology as the eclipsing of an authentic European/Indo-Aryan culture). It revitalises this Heideggerian theme with a shot of post-modern identity politics (shifted to the right, of course) and an injection of some pseudoscience of the paranormal. The anti-Semitism implicit in all this is also nothing new, as is obvious from the debt to Heidegger (and despite a nod to Leo Strauss). That the author is of Persian descent (or at least has a Persian-sounding name) perhaps made his project seem more palatable to his advisors (who should be ashamed of themselves for promoting it).Report

Tim
Tim
4 years ago

Gee, a whole Daily Nous thread with lots of philosophers going through this guy’s work, providing explanatory context, making relevant distinctions that can help us categorize him, comparing and contrasting him to canonical thinkers, etc.
What is it that interests you people so much about whether so-and-so is or is not a Nazi, or a near-Nazi, or whatever? Just ignore this blankety-blank and move on. There are lots of young philosophers who write politically responsible and philosophically interesting things, and most of us would be happy to get a tenth of the discussion devoted to our work that you have given to this guy already in this thread.Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  Tim
4 years ago

Well, suppose someone was arguing that, whatever your religion is, it is “our” enemy. Or that your culture is “our” enemy. Or that society ought to be reorganizes in a hierarchical fashion, and implicit in that, you ought to be near the bottom. And in doing so, they appealed, in part, to someone who had committed genocide as a providing a model. and whether or not their audience otherwise includes you, they do, in fact, have an audience. You wouldn’t think that might merit some comment or reflection?

But, in any case, if you have something you would like feedback on from me in particular (I’m not a political philosopher) feel free to email me. Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Kathryn Pogin
4 years ago

Lots of people hold abhorrent views. Is there something special about this guy? I don’t think it hurts anyone if we post saying that we don’t like racism, but it does seem like philosophers preaching to the converted yet again.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
4 years ago

I think different people are interested in this case for different reasons. I’m interested in it mostly because of the questions it raises about the standards for completing Stony Brook’s doctoral program.Report

D.C.
D.C.
Reply to  Tim
3 years ago

Because his political activity makes his work far more relevant than most young philosophers’ work.Report

Tom Davies
Tom Davies
4 years ago

I work in comparative Indo-European philology and ancient Greek philosophy. My research resembles some of Jorjani’s hobby-horses: I have argued, and continue to argue, that inherited Indo-European beliefs, along with contact from the Near East, had a significant impact on the development of early Greek philosophy. So I feel a sort of personal responsibility to point out, publicly and in detail, that Jorjani has no idea what he’s talking about. I don’t just mean in the sense that Jorjani is a white supremacist who believes the psychic inhabitants of Atlantis built the pyramids with the power of their minds (tinyurl.com/ja7pen5). I mean that Jorjani backs up his racist views with linguistic and historical claims which are demonstrably wrong. I don’t know why a desire for race-based fascist autocracy so often links hands with an interest in classical antiquity, nor how parasitic intellectuals, no matter how desperate, can bring themselves to make their living shilling a travesty of scholarship to neo-Nazis. But I do believe that in times like these it must be made very clear that voices like Jorjani’s are not fringe because their ideas frighten the establishment–they are fringe because people like him are very bad at what they pretend to do.

Jorjani is an awful, incompetent historian. Despite his extensive reliance on ancient evidence, he betrays no critical capacities for assessing ancient texts. His lectures are littered with offhand repetitions of scraps from fictionalized ancient biographies (e.g. “Plato was a member of the Pythagorean order,” “Pythagoras spent a decade in Persia”); he relies uncritically for almost all his information about Persian history on the highly unreliable Herodotus; he takes Plato at his word that the story of Atlantis is a literal record of a secret book written by Solon. His dating of the Avestan Gathas is a good example of this method. Against a sea of historico-linguistic evidence that the Gathas of Zarathustra were composed sometime between 1500 and 700 BC, he instead takes the word of a few Greek authors who guess that Zarathustra lived 6000 years before Plato. How would anybody in ancient Greece know what was happening in the Near East six millennia before their own time? Doesn’t matter: for Jorjani, the question of reliability ends with the invocation of ancient authority.

One of his major claims is that contact with Persia revolutionized “the Homeric culture of Greece, which remained static for many centuries before the contact between the Persians and the Greeks” (tinyurl.com/hzaz2sa). Now, it’s stupid enough to think that the world depicted in the Homeric poems reflects the world of its authors (who explicitly affirm that they are depicting a distant past)–but it takes a special kind of ignorance to claim that Greek culture remained static before Persian contact. The centuries prior to the Persian conquest of Greek Ionia (547 BC) saw the discovery of iron metallurgy, the adoption of alphabetic writing and the invention of vocalic characters, increased trade, the spread of panhellenic festivals such as the Olympics, and the rise of the city-states that would be the main players in Greek history to the time of Alexander. This was not a static period in Greek history: the whole culture was radically transformed in the centuries before the Persian Wars.

Jorjani’s jaw-dropping failures as a linguist are set beautifully against the blithe confidence of his pronouncements. He bases one argument on his belief that the Norse god Týr’s name is related to Persian “tir,” “arrow” (tinyurl.com/zpy68fu). But Týr is from Proto-Germanic *Tīwaz, which comes in turn from Proto-Indo-European *deiwós, “god”; while Persian “tir” derives from the Old Persian word for “pointy,” “tigra”–not related to *deiwós in any way. Down falls the argument. Jorjani also thinks the word “hero” comes from “eros” (tinyurl.com/jguyhum). It’s hard to convey how amateur an error this is. Greek ἥρως starts with an ‘h’ sound, like our “hero.” Aspirates in Greek come from sibilants in the ancestor language: most words starting with an ‘h’ in Greek once started with an ‘s’. Since Greek ἔρως/eros doesn’t start with an ‘h’ sound, it didn’t once start with ‘s’, and so can’t be related to ἥρως/hēros, much less derived from it according to an unparalleled morphological transformation that Jorjani made up in his head. Nobody with minimal training in historical linguistics could make these kinds of mistakes.

Even in the field he regards as his specialty–Iranian Studies–his knowledge consists mainly of Iranian nationalist propaganda. Jorjani asserts, repeatedly, that the Persian Empire abolished slavery (tinyurl.com/hcqvkef). Unfortunately, there is abundant evidence that Persian nobles owned slaves in conquered territories throughout the duration of the empire. These include records from Persepolis showing that at the height of Darius the Great’s reign, the imperial family relied on more than 20 000 indentured workers, paying them nothing but subsistence portions of grain. Jorjani’s similar claim that the Persian Empire was humane in its treatment of the conquered is equally silly. You can read Darius the Great’s own words for yourself on the Behistun Inscription. Here is how he brags of treating a Median rebel: “I cut off his nose, his ears, and his tongue, and I put out one eye, and he was kept in fetters at my palace entrance, and all the people beheld him. Then did I crucify him in Ecbatana; and the men who were his foremost followers, those at Ecbatana within the fortress, I flayed and hung out their hides, stuffed with straw.”

People on the alt-right are increasingly trying to win respect for their reactionary beliefs by appeals to the classical past (see here: tinyurl.com/j4zam6o). They are aided in this endeavour by scabs like Jorjani, who sell them pseudo-respectable pseudo-history, placing their parochial, 21st-century political neuroses in a cardboard Grand Tradition: they convince basement brownshirts that their impotent rage is a volley in a great world-historical battle, the noble Aryan race against the barbarian horde for the spirit of the world. Jorjani’s game is presenting himself as an erudite, cosmopolitan, scholarly voice in support of Aryan supremacy; the well-dressed, well-spoken philosopher of the white nationalist movement. But nearly everything he says is false or misleading. He has read enough to toss names and facts around, but he hasn’t developed the skills necessary to sort the plausible from the risible, to detect and guard himself against false information, or to admit to himself where the facts conflict with his views. His idée fixe compels him to scholarly industry but not to scholarly integrity. He sucks up information–good and bad, true and false–and spits back whatever supports the cause. By shackling his intellect and eloquence to the worst desires of the mob, he perhaps believes that he has taken it by the reins. In reality he is a mechanical advocatus, who will permit any claim, no matter how unreliable or ridiculous, to pass through his brain and out of his mouth, so long as it furthers the agenda of the ignorant racists who are his primary audience. He has spent enormous intellectual effort in service of the basest and cruelest inclinations of people even dumber than he is. It’s hard to imagine a more degrading fate for a philosopher.Report

PeterJ
PeterJ
4 years ago

Weird. So, he supports two utterly opposed goals.

1. “An aspiration to transcend the distinction between western philosophy and eastern Indian religions.”
2. And the idea that “Islam is certainly our enemy.”

The first goal seems admirable but the closer be comes to reaching it the more ridiculous his view of Islam will appear to be. A philosopher would worry about what is true and what is false, not about promoting some pet ideology.and inflicting it on other people. Report