Because They Are Universities


The following is a guest post* by Leslie Green, Professor of the Philosophy of Law and Fellow of Balliol College at Oxford University. It was originally published at his blog, Semper Viridis under the title “Why it is hard to be a campus conservative.”


[Robert Goodnough, “PR”]

Because They Are Universities
by Les Green

When the right claims that US universities have been taken over by ‘liberals’, and that faculty and students of ‘conservative’ opinions are afraid to speak up, they do not mean that its campuses are now swamped by people who think we should restrict liberty only to prevent harm to others, or who demand that social inequalities benefit the worst-off. They mean American universities are full of people who believe things like this:

  • Species arose through natural selection.
  • No author of any gospel ever met Jesus.
  • Homosexuality is a normal variant in human behaviour.
  • The United States lost a war against Vietnam.
  • Human activity is a significant cause of climate change.
  • The United States has worse public health than do countries with nationalized health care.

Even more threatening to conservatives, however, is not these individual claims which are endorsed by all but a minority in serious universities. It the dominance of  habits of thought, modes of inquiry, and sensibilities of outlook that lead people to these conclusions. But none of this is because US universities are bastions of liberalism. It is because they are universities.

Of course, as Mill explained, every society should tolerate some truth-deniers. (He went further. He said that if a society lacks truth-deniers it might invent them, to keep us all on our toes.) But Mill never said their place is in universities, or that it falls to universities to provide ‘safe spaces’ for those whose political identity is bound up with  ignorance and superstition. A university must tolerate, and even welcome, those who follow evidence and argument to conclusions that are false or unpalatable; but it may reject those who seek a platform for hatred or deception. That is why it counts counts against Middlebury College when it shouts down Charles Murray but it counts in favour of Berkeley when it excludes Milos Yannopoulos.

That means universities can never be comfortable for a certain kind of conservative. Those who need the lecture hall to flatter their personal convictions are bound to feel lonely and misunderstood. Those who think views in the college should mirror votes in the electoral college are bound to feel cheated.  Maybe they can take comfort in the welcoming company they can find in America’s churches, legislatures, and even its courts. But they should expect only argument from its universities—not speaking with a single voice, but speaking in that irritating way that universities do: insisting on belief that is proportionate to evidence, and on standards of reasoning that are neither liberal nor conservative, but merely human.

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Tim Hsiao
3 years ago

So, in essence, the answer is more like “because conservatism/conservative beliefs are false, silly, or irrational.”

Well, it’s easy to say that if you’re already convinced your views are correct or enlightened. This explanation strikes me as patting yourself on the back. In reality, it is almost certainly more complex than that (and at any rate, there are *plenty* of good arguments challenging left-leaning beliefs). When it comes to the political disparity in academia (which varies from discipline to discipline), there are a wide range of other sociological explanations that have found support. The author seems to ignore them entirely in favor of the self-congratulatory explanation. Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Tim Hsiao
3 years ago

And good luck with it too. In states like mine, Conservatives dominate the legislature and this sort of thing is just perfect ammunition when making the case for cutting humanities and liberal arts programs.

I’m just so disgusted with my political compatriots in the academy. This is the best they can come up with on the shocking imbalance of liberal and conservative faculty? Report

Bharath Vallabha
3 years ago

What a bunch of baloney. This is exactly why many conservatives have lost trust in universities. And not just conservatives, but many liberals as well, including those who leave academia and feel unwelcome there.

There is certainly a difference between argument and “flattering personal convinctions”, and universities are about argument. So far, so good. But equally obviously, argument is not a disembodied inquiry into pure ideas: it is a mode of communication where reason and power interconnect in all sorts of ways. Any academic who says, “What I am doing is only reasoning” is lying or self-deceived, because being recognized as only reasoning is the main power move in academia. The power move which says who are rational enough to “only” reason, and those who are so confused as to mix reasoning with flattery, or politics, or identity, etc.

An Oxford professor talking about academia as mainly guided by reason is like a Vatican bishop talking about the Church being mainly guided by faith. Both are true as aspirations, and clearly false as institutional claims. Many people, as students, or as people without degrees, feel at a gut level the power of academia in society – the power of prestige, doors opening and a sense of being “in the know”. Why not acknowledge this obvious truth and speak to the worries people are feeling? A defense of academia that doesn’t do this will only further erode the trust towards academia.Report

LTP
LTP
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
3 years ago

While I disagree with the tone of the post, I do think this post is making an important point. To be sure there may be legitimate worries that many have about the intellectual climate on US campuses. However, it is true that a lot of conservatives believe things that no truth seeking person (given current evidence) should believe, such as that climate change is a hoax and that the theory of evolution is completely false and that there are no significant barriers to racial equality left. I know because I have met many people with these attitudes, including people who I think really should know better.

Basically I think both “because they are universities” and your point, Bharath, are true.

Report

InsideBeing
InsideBeing
Reply to  LTP
3 years ago

While I don’t want to become involved in left/right mudslinging contest I still think it is important for people on the left to recognise that it is not only conservatives that believe demonstrably silly things. For example the idea that is held by, I would say, a huge portion of people on the left is that there is literally no difference between male and female other than sex organs. Or, as has been written into Canadian law, that things such as sexuality and gender ‘vary independently’ irrespective of biological sex.
I have met many people with these attitudes, including people who I think really should know better.
So I would say your point is true to an extent, but it only tells half the story.Report

Bharath Vallabha
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
3 years ago

Suppose someone believes that climate change is a hoax. Should that person be able to raise it as a legitimate issue of debate in academia?

Well, simplistically, let’s say academia is composed of science and philosophy (part of humanities broadly). And maybe in science classes climate change denial shouldn’t be taken seriously. What about in philosophy courses, where philosophy is said to “question everything”, including whether there is an evil demon deceiving us, or if the world came into existence two minutes ago? Here is the rub! Why can we question in academia whether there is an evil demon, but not, at least in the same spirit, if climate change is real? Or if colonialism is good, or if men are smarter than women? The only difference between evil demon and climate change denial is that the latter is politically fraught – and so naturally, that cuts against the spirit of questioning everything.

I am not saying the philosophy part of academia should or shouldn’t question climate change. Just that: it is a big philosophical, and very urgent practical, question how we can actually endorse questioning everything in academia (as we ought to) while not letting that reenforce injustice and non-scientific views? What is at issue is nothing less the question: what does public, shared philosophy (of questioning everything) mean in a diverse society? Can academia, or anywhere, be a space of such philosophy, or is it all just power dymanics all the way down? People need to have the guts to face up to this problem head on, not avoid it with self-congratulations – which invariably only comes across as a power move and so proves the opponent’s point.Report

Ray Aldred
Ray Aldred
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
3 years ago

Frankly, I don’t think people should question everything. People don’t have that sort of time and they would be epistemically (if not philosophically) stunted if they did. Maybe I’m doing philosophy wrong, but I’m more interested in helping philosophy students think about interesting questions and how to be good human beings to each other, not question everything. I also don’t have a problem with Universities deciding not to hire people who think climate change is a hoax. Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Ray Aldred
3 years ago

Who gets to choose what we are allowed to question? Here’s my stance: no questioning the Bible. (We shouldn’t question everything.) I have no problem with Universities deciding not to hire people who don’t believe in the claims of the Bible.Report

Libtard
Libtard
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

Well some Catholic universities are pretty clear, in their job ads, they want you to (at least act like you) believe in the scriptures.Report

Bharath Vallabha
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
3 years ago

Agree no person or group can question everything; not possible or desirable. But academia being open to questioning everything means something else: that everyone in academia can question the assumptions they are drawn to question.

And all for focusing on how people can be good to each other. Key feature of which is following one’s passions and questions while leaving room for others to do the same, so that people come together by inspiration and not by force or even by education. No philosophy is required to get everyone to believe the good things, liberal or conservative, through force. But philosophy is required for how to do that without force.Report

Marc Champagne
Marc Champagne
3 years ago

Emulating what happened with the Philosophical Gourmet Report, would there be a way to make DailyNous a place for news about the philosophy profession without also doubling as someone’s personal platform?Report

Tim Hsiao
Reply to  Marc Champagne
3 years ago

Sadly, it seems as if the profession itself has become obsessed with promoting a certain brand of politics.Report

Aidan
Aidan
3 years ago

This is ludicrous and arrogant. A conservative can believe all those bullet points above and still be a political conservative.

Furthermore, the debate does not just come down to “truth” or “falsity”; beliefs regarding values, morality, ethics, rights, norms, etc. are not so simply determined. Of course, values can be argued for or against rationally, and given various justifications, but they are not ultimately true/false in the way scientific empirical facts are.

Facts and evidence of course play a role in any moral stance, but are in themselves not conclusive. For example, the insistence on various human rights is not based on a proof via “evidence”. It is a moral stance. In the end these come down to values which are very hard, if not impossible, to “prove” or “disprove”. E..g. Is all life valuable? Would the world be “better” off without humans? (What do we mean by “better”)? Do some lives matter more than others (humans vs. other species)? What is the best form of government? “Best” by what criterion? Etc.Report

Michel
Michel
Reply to  Aidan
3 years ago

“This is ludicrous and arrogant. A conservative can believe all those bullet points above and still be a political conservative.”

Duh. That’s exactly what Green is saying: the way the term “conservative” is being bandied about these days, it seems to exclude anyone who believes all of those bullet points. Call this type of conservative (the type who doesn’t believe in evolution, anthropogenic climate change, etc.) a conservative1, while one who believes in all or most of those bullet points a conservative2. It’s no wonder that there aren’t many conservative1s in universities, since universities aren’t safe spaces for ignorance. Conservative1s have hijacked the dialogue, and their rhetoric is increasingly pushing conservative2s to the margins (since the more you insist that climate change (or a similar touchstone) is a “liberal” hoax, the more you end up branding conservative2s as “liberals”).

Green’s point is just that you don’t have to be a conservative1 to identify as a “conservative”. There’s plenty of perfectly respectable space to be a conservative without also being a total ignoramus.

This really isn’t that hard, guys. There’s plenty of room to disagree with Green, but at least make an effort to get his point right. FFS.Report

Philippe Lemoine
Reply to  Michel
3 years ago

Of course that’s not what he is saying. If it were what he is saying, he would have said it.

You don’t write a post called “Why it is hard to be a campus conservative” if all you want to do is point out that people who form their beliefs in a totally irrational way, which is the case of only a small proportion of the people who complain that it’s hard to be a conservative on campus (at least it’s not larger than the proportion of people who deny it’s a problem and form their beliefs in the same way), are bound to be uncomfortable in places such as universities, which are supposed to be dedicated to the rational search for the truth.

The fact that here and there Green qualifies his claims by using vague expressions such as “a certain kind of liberal” doesn’t make his post any less idiotic. Are there conservatives who complain that it’s hard to be conservative on campus for bad reasons? Well of course there are, plenty of them even. But that their reasons are bad is obvious, so when you write a post which you claim is about why it’s hard to be conservative on campus and only address those reasons, you are in effect suggesting that conservatives don’t also have good reasons to complain that it’s hard to be a conservative on campus.

If that’s not what you think, then why not address the interesting reasons people have to complain that it’s hard to be a conservative on campus, instead of writing a post on reasons nobody intelligent cares about?Report

Philippe Lemoine
Reply to  Philippe Lemoine
3 years ago

Of course, I meant he qualifies his claims by using vague expressions such as “a certain kind of conservative“, not “a certain kind of liberal“.Report

Urstoff
Urstoff
3 years ago

This is just lazy. Report

Tristian
Tristian
3 years ago

I’m not sure which ‘conservatives’ Les Green has been talking to or reading but he seems to working from a most simplistic stereotype. The conservatives I’m familiar with think universities are overrun with liberals because, they believe, universities are colleges and universities are full of people who believe things like:

Abortion, euthanasia, and maybe even infanticide are morally permissible at least some of the time.

There are no respectable arguments against gay marriage and those who oppose it must hate gay people.

Affirmative action and generous social welfare programs are self-evidently good and only racists and uncaring people oppose them.

Practicing a traditional religious faith is a sign of deep irrationality.

Traditional gender roles are self-evidently evil and the traditional families is at best one of any number of equally good settings for raising children.

American foreign policy is almost always motivated by evil and is almost always a destructive force in the world.

Capitalism is an intrinsically evil way of organizing economic activity.

Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Tristian
3 years ago

This, this, and this.Report

JTD
JTD
Reply to  Tristian
3 years ago

In your list you forgot: “There are no respectable arguments against interracial marriage and those who oppose it are almost always motivated by racism.”Report

calebt45
calebt45
Reply to  JTD
3 years ago

As popular as that analogy is, I don’t think it holds:

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/07/15350/Report

Jennifer
Jennifer
Reply to  JTD
3 years ago

This belief was held by both Democrats and Republicans back in the 50’s. This is a poor analogy.Report

Alan White
Alan White
Reply to  Tristian
3 years ago

“Abortion, euthanasia, and maybe even infanticide are morally permissible at least some of the time.”
Stats show this is a majority view in the country concerning abortion and some forms of euthanasia (broadly construed–but since you do not distinguish active and passive means or apart from assisted suicide, it’s hard to say what you mean), and the remark about infanticide is so ill-stated as to be merely inflammatory. But unless abortion is allowed in some instances, at least some women will face certain death as a consequence of the absolutist alternative.
“There are no respectable arguments against gay marriage and those who oppose it must hate gay people.”
Since marriage is definable in many religious or purely social contract/legal ways, this statement claims that no argument against any of these different definitions is held to be defensible by people who support gay marriage, and clearly that oversimplifies the entire cohort of gay marriage supporters as a group. Again, another oversimplification. The hate claim is again just inflammatory and stereotyping.
“Affirmative action and generous social welfare programs are self-evidently good and only racists and uncaring people oppose them.”
The Civil Rights Act of the 60s was a form of affirmative action, though recently this has been twisted to mean just “favoritism that excludes people like me” based on an assumed meritocracy that itself assumes the world has achieved sufficient equality in order to assert it, which is very dubious. The “generous” adjective is prejudicial to “social welfare”, and the use of “self-evidently” is unnecessarily pejorative to how social “good” is measured by rational standards, as is the use of “racists and uncaring people”. Again over the top.
“Practicing a traditional religious faith is a sign of deep irrationality.”
Realizing that different faiths–particularly ones that practice divine command theory based on their particular scriptures and authorities and thus sometimes assert contradictory commands from their differing perspectives–might therefore be logically incompatible, is no vice. That is independent of course of how rational one particular religious faith might be. However even if one faith perspective is deemed right–that implies the others are wrong. On a metalevel of what that means for a pluralism of global faiths–that’s not good.
“Traditional gender roles are self-evidently evil and the traditional families is at best one of any number of equally good settings for raising children.”
More “self-evidently evil” claptrap. Such attitudes as accurately described must be a vanishing small part of contemporary scholarship. Philosophical criticisms of gender–even fairly radical ones–have to be charitably set apart from such a ridiculous diatribe. This is more inflammatory rhetoric. And what exactly are “traditional families” except another stereotype? And is the implication that it is rational to believe that only hetero parents are best for raising children? What are the reasons/data for that?
“American foreign policy is almost always motivated by evil and is almost always a destructive force in the world.”
I defer to historians on this. But again, this is voiced in an inflammatory and on the face of it overly-simplified way.
“Capitalism is an intrinsically evil way of organizing economic activity.”
More use of an intensive prejudicial adjective before “evil” and another instance of abject smear of the the complexities of the views that criticize capitalism.

Now compare these caricatures of liberal bias in universities against Green’s bullet liberal beliefs in them. Are they really on the same level of intellectual respectability? Who is being more simplistic here?
Report

Adam
Adam
Reply to  Alan White
3 years ago

“Species arose through natural selection.”

According to the best available evidence. Not sure this is the reason “political conservatives” think the universities are untrustworthy. A strawman.

“No author of any gospel ever met Jesus.”

Again. Another strawman.

“Homosexuality is a normal variant in human behaviour.”

Acorrding to prof. Greg Cochran the best hypothesis is a pathogen and that homosexuality is maladaptive. And no, homosexuality doesn’t exist in every population on the planet. I doubt this would score many points in a university debate though. Probably an all out outrage. The opposite claim, however, that homosexuality is a normal variant in human behaviour, would not result in outrage from political conservatives (at least in today’s society).

“The United States lost a war against Vietnam.”

Is this supposed to be a fact? Everything depends on the definition of “lost”. Militarily, the Vietcong was crushed. Without political pressure and withdrawal, the South would prevail.

“Human activity is a significant cause of climate change.”

This is considered a denialist position right now. Tells you all you need to know about the direction of bias.

“The United States has worse public health than do countries with nationalized health care.”

The United States has worse public health than do countries with better public health. BA-DUM-TSS.Report

B
B
Reply to  Tristian
3 years ago

Quite apart from the content of “liberal” beliefs, many conservatives also complain about the left-wing methodology of persuasion. “Liberal” professors are widely perceived as being uncharitable, militant, and vindictive, silencing opponents by means of public shaming and professional vendetta rather than persuading them with the open exchange of ideas. These are the “habits of thought, modes of inquiry, and sensibilities of outlook” that conservatives worry about. It isn’t the view that Canada has better health care than the U.S. Report

Philippe Lemoine
3 years ago

Rarely have I read anything that was both arrogant and stupid to the extent this post is.Report

Garrett Warren-Davey
Garrett Warren-Davey
3 years ago

Reading this I find myself wondering if the author has ever so much as actually *spoken* to a conservative, if he thinks that adherence to one, some, or all the bullet-points he mentions here are what define conservatism and those of us who have a conservative outlook. To due so is to drastically oversimplify hundreds of years of social and political philosophy; very shoddy writing, really, as his points can be dismissed so easily. His comment on homosexuality is ironic to me considering that having lived in both America (in a very conservative state) and Britain as an openly gay guy the only people who’ve ever been hostile to me regarding my homosexuality are leftists, given they think the left has a monopoly on minorities. Conservatives, generally having been raised to embody old-fashioned good manners, are always kind and decent people. Report

EDT
EDT
3 years ago

Is there a name for the fallacy wherein “an argument against position X” by its very nature inadvertently constitutes a compelling argument for position X?
Because if not the OP is proof we need one.Report

D B Wharton
D B Wharton
3 years ago

I know conservative faculty (and writers) who assent to all Prof. Green’s bullet points; it’s weird that none of the bullet points is constitutive of being conservative. Professor Green: what kinds of conversations have you had with conservative faculty at your institution? Have you asked them what they think about these issues? I’m not convinced you know what conservatism is.

P.S. Regarding the Gospels: some Bible scholars think that John’s gospel may have been written by the Beloved Disciple. Richard Bauckham’s *Jesus and the Eyewitnesses* makes a strong (if not dispositive) case.Report

Ray Aldred
Ray Aldred
Reply to  D B Wharton
3 years ago

Just because you know conservative faculty (and writers) who assent to the bullet points, doesn’t mean that Green is wrong to ascribe attitudinal trends among conservatives along those bullet points. In fact, most polls do, in fact, suggest conservatives differ considerably on climate change, evolution, etc. With respect to climate change, there are huge disparities on whether man-made climate change is actually happening, and they indicate conservatives generally tend to be on the denier side. Similar things can be said for attitudes about evolution. While more conservatives these days might believe in some evolutionary process, there are significantly fewer conservatives who believe in evolution in comparison to those who aren’t conservative. Report

D B Wharton
D B Wharton
Reply to  Ray Aldred
3 years ago

The latest social science on science denial indicates that liberals and conservatives are equally likely to engage in science denial when scientific conclusions conflict with their attitudes. This effect tends to be invisible to academics, who are overwhelmingly leftish.
Their own science denial (e.g. on GMOs or nuclear power ) appears to them merely as common sense or correct opinion, while they use their own science litmus tests (evolution, climate change*) to reinforce their sense of intellectual superiority to the rubes on the right.

But your comments in no way vitiate my criticism of Prof. Green’s short essay. The fact that a majority of Democrats think that the Septemter 11 attacks were a GW Bush conspiracy, or the fact that liberals are far more likely to believe in homeopathy than are conservatives, does not entail that conspiracy theories or pseudo-medicine are consitutitive of political liberalism.

Political conservatism has particular features — the limiting of government to its proper powers, the principle of subsidiarity, a respect for the value of individuals and private life outside the purview of the state, to name a few — which transcend the issues raised by Green. He doesn’t know this, I suspect, because he doesn’t know any conservative academics. Whether he wants to … I don’t know, maybe he’ll tell us.

(*I don’t know a single liberal faculty member who doesn’t believe in athropogenic climate change, and I also don’t know a single one who abstained from using air conditioning this summer (as I did) here in the American south. It’s like a Protestant faith for them — if they confess it with their lips, and believe it in their hearts, that’s good enough. They don’t actually have to DO anything about it, except vote to compel others to do something about it.)Report

D B Wharton
D B Wharton
Reply to  Ray Aldred
3 years ago
Tom Hurka
Tom Hurka
3 years ago

How about a petition demanding that Les Green’s post be retracted (for grotesque straw man, misuse of “conservative,” lack of evidence, etc.)?Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Tom Hurka
3 years ago

Lol. Good one!Report

Philippe Lemoine
3 years ago

I for one sure hope it won’t be removed. This is quite possible the best thing I have ever seen on why it’s hard to be a conservative on campus. Sure, Prof. Green didn’t do it on purpose, but it doesn’t make his post any less valuable.Report

Philippe Lemoine
Reply to  Philippe Lemoine
3 years ago

*possiblyReport

What Michel Said
What Michel Said
3 years ago

Will everyone just read Michel’s comment. FFS.Report

Jake
Jake
3 years ago

This is a childish obvious straw man argument. The complaint by professors is that evidence in social science that runs counter to a divisive ideology is attacked as bigoted.
Look at evidence on SES for starters. There may be counter arguments and that’s fine, but shutting down evidenced viewpoints because they don’t fit a narrow ideology is not fineReport

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Jake
3 years ago

Or look at the outrageous and irresponsible use of the IAT.Report

Emjay
Emjay
3 years ago

I agree with a lot of the criticism here. I don’t want to repeat anything, so I’ll just add this. The authors writes:

“It the dominance of habits of thought, modes of inquiry, and sensibilities of outlook that lead people to these conclusions. But none of this is because US universities are bastions of liberalism. It is because they are universities.”

Does he really think the run-of-the-mill professor has used that approach to those bulleted statements? Does Leslie really believe that even 1/8 of the professors can intelligently comment on whether the authors of the Gospels met JC? That they can give thorough argument to consider homosexuality is a variant of human sexuality rather than deviant, or that species arose through natural selection, and so on?

I hope not. It’s much more likely that many professors and faculty leaderships know which beliefs are indicative of conservatism and conservative religiosity, which is therefore hostile to their tribalism.

Report

Calum Miller
3 years ago

I was going to write a full comment but it looks like poor old Les has been pretty savaged already. Oh dear!Report

Ben Sixsmith
3 years ago

…insisting on belief that is proportionate to evidence, and on standards of reasoning that are neither liberal nor conservative, but merely human…

I am not sure what is most disturbing: that Professor Green has little idea of what conservatives think or that he has little idea of what his leftist colleagues think. “Insisting on belief that is proportionate to evidence”? How much critical theory has Professor Green read?Report

David Borman
David Borman
Reply to  Ben Sixsmith
3 years ago

Not to derail the thread here (though it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere), but I’m a scholar of critical theory, and this is the second time in as many days that a defender of besmirched conservative intellectual virtue has thrown around the term “critical theory” or the “Frankfurt School” as an apparent shorthand for dogmatism or malignant academic influence – the other is Daniel Kaufman’s comment here: http://dailynous.com/2017/09/14/default-rebuttals-not-retractions/. It certainly seems ironic to do so while simultaneously complaining so vociferously about Prof. Green’s purported strawmaning of conservativism. But perhaps you can explain how there is no inconsistency here (surely you aren’t just echoeing the sort of irresponsible internet conspiracy theory that influenced fanatics like Anders Brievik?!! No doubt your views of critical theory come from careful and detailed study). So, why don’t you start by defining critical theory or the project of the Frankfurt School for me, and be sure to do so in a way that does justice to its internal disagreements. I’ll make it easy for you and agree to accept that you aren’t obviously guilty of the same thing you are complaining about here if you offer a definition and explanation of its essentially dogmatic character that covers just the main philosophical figures: early to late Horkheimer, Adorno, Kirchheimer and Neumann, Marcuse, Habermas, and Honneth. Of course, you should feel free to touch on the economists and psychologists as you see fit. Anxiously I await the lifting of the scales from my eyes.

Details from Professor Kaufman would also be welcome regarding Marcuse’s remarkable, perhaps even unprecedented power to “infect” liberalism, universities, and society as a whole (and people say philosophy is useless!). Perhaps it’s something like the hilarious flow chart reproduced here: http://www.critical-theory.com/why-do-conservatives-and-hate-groups-know-so-much-about-critical-theory/Report

Ben Sixsmith
Reply to  David Borman
3 years ago

Mr Borman hectors me with entertaining ire. First, I should assure him that my problem is with critical theorists more than critical theory. I do not believe it is worthless field, or that the Frankfurt School was some kind of conspiratorial endeavour. (It is true that Conservatives can denounce it carelessly, as if it was the root of all academic evil. Given that, I can’t blame Mr Borman for laying it on.)

But I do believe ideas of social construction have been based too much on shoddy evidence, especially dubious psychoanalytic concepts (such as those of Jacques Lacan, deconstructed by Richard Webster), and a veiled political streak (identified by the otherwise quite sympathetic Christopher Lasch). While Professor Kaufman’s reference to the Frankfurt School was inelegant I also object to the alternative authoritarianism exemplified by Marcuse’s essay on tolerance.

Report

Ben Sixsmith
Reply to  Ben Sixsmith
3 years ago

(I will admit there were better examples and I weakened the track, inviting derailing.)Report

Dick Meehan
Dick Meehan
3 years ago

Some fair arguments here in these posts. But in regard to the whole discussion, the old MIT adage “elimination is the highest form of sttem improvement” may be fairly invoked. I believe this is exactly what many intelligent conservatives have in mind. Report

Marc
Marc
3 years ago

What a spectacular own-goal.

Ideological blinders were never worn with such pride before. Report

D.C.
D.C.
3 years ago

“No author of any gospel ever met Jesus.”

Huh? Is this a thing that campus liberals talk or even think about in any significant numbers?Report

Libtard
Libtard
3 years ago

Since Justin won’t publish my previous comments I hope this one will go through. The fact that so many self-proclaimed conservatives read this blog is amazing. The fact that they keep insulting the OP and display such a high level of sensitivity to criticism is not exactly serving their cause. I say this as someone who thinks conservative should be fully able to express their views on campuses, within reasonable constraints applicable to all. But my sense is also that they are, in fact, able to do so without significant burdens. Seriously, what sort of conservative that is *not* accurately captured by Professor Green’s brief characterization feels sincerely unable to do so on a US campus? If you truly have more cogent views than Professor Green seems to believe, then you’re not threatened in any serious way on campuses. Stop pretending otherwise.Report

Philippe Lemoine
Reply to  Libtard
3 years ago

Sometimes people are wrong that posting a comment anonymously would damage their reputation. But sometimes they are not.Report

Libtard
Libtard
Reply to  Philippe Lemoine
3 years ago

Please clarify.Report

Philippe Lemoine
Reply to  Philippe Lemoine
3 years ago

I meant “under their own name”, not “anonymously”. That one fell flat.Report

Libtard
Libtard
Reply to  Philippe Lemoine
3 years ago

that makes more sense, thanks!Report

Emjay
Emjay
Reply to  Libtard
3 years ago

Is the suggestion here that if someone has those beliefs mentioned by Leslie, then some constraints or significant burdens are justified? I mean, as a Roman Catholic, I believe that homosexuality is a deviation of human sexuality, and as a conservative religious person, I believe that some Gospel authors met Jesus. I also support privatized healthcare over socialized medicine. Should I face constraints or significant burdens? Report

Libtard
Libtard
Reply to  Emjay
3 years ago

Of course not. The only suggestion is, if you hold such views, then you may IN FACT be subject to constraints and burdens. Whether that’s acceptable or not I’m not quite sure honestly. But if your only reason for holding such views despite evidence and arguments to the contrary is that you hold such views, or that your ancestors or some authority does, then I’m mildly inclined to think that the fact that you are, assuming you are, subject to such constraints and burdens, should lead you to ask yourself if a university truly is the place where you want to be. If you hold such views on better grounds then again I don’t see why you should be angry since I don’t think you are in fact subject to such constraints and burdens. Universities place some expectations on their faculty and that’s only reasonable given their role. It’s up to you to live up to those expectations or not, but they don’t have anything to do with politics, they have to do with how you pursue inquiry. Report

Brandon Warmke
Brandon Warmke
3 years ago

“If you truly have more cogent views than Professor Green seems to believe, then you’re not threatened in any serious way on campuses. Stop pretending otherwise.”

George Yancey (2011) found that about 30% of sociologists said that if they knew a job seeker was a Republican they would be less likely to support their candidacy. They preferred communists to Republicans. Two-thirds of anthropologists and English professors said that if they knew a candidate was a fundamentalist, it would damage their job prospects. 30% of sociologists said ACLU membership would increase support, however. Inbar and Lammers (2012) surveyed psychologists and found that one-fourth would be somewhat inclined to reject a grant proposal if it seemed to have a politically conservative perspective. One-fifth said they would be more inclined to reject articles with conservative points of view.

In “choosing two equally qualified job candidates,” 38% of psychologists said they’d support the more liberal candidate.

http://yoelinbar.net/papers/political_diversity.pdf
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Libtard
Libtard
Reply to  Brandon Warmke
3 years ago

Thanks for the data. That’s of course not inconsistent with what I said. There’s a million reasons why applicants may have a harder time securing jobs or grants or publications. It’s a shame if this happens on merely political grounds, but I take it that at least a decent fraction of those responsible for such discrimination use political affiliation or political views as a (defeasible) proxy to something more relevant. Unless you want to redefine the way sociology has been done for decades, you know you’re purusing a career in sociology as a card-carrying conservative at your own risk. Life isn’t always fair, sure. But the data doesn’t show that most conservatives are having a hard time on campuses overall. Also, it’d be nice to have data in other fields, such as economics, business and law for comparison purposes.Report

Brandon Warmke
Brandon Warmke
Reply to  Libtard
3 years ago

Glad you asked: see “The Liberal and Conservative Experience Across Academic Disciplines: An Extension of Inbar and Lammers.” They study: Agriculture, Arts and Letters, Business, Education, Engineering, Sciences.

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1948550616667617

Short of it: Honeycutt and Freberg replicate and extend the Inbar and Lammers studies, but find that conservatives are just as wiling to discriminate against liberals as vice versa. Yet because of the vast discrepancy in representation the the academy, it is likely that liberal-against-conservative discrimination will just be more common than that in the opposite direction.

Fwiw, Linda Skitka has a critical reply to the Inbar and Lammers here: http://lskitka.people.uic.edu/LiberalBias.pdfReport

Libtard
Libtard
Reply to  Brandon Warmke
3 years ago

Thanks. So, just like there may be other reasons why women are underrepresented in philosophy than gender-based discrimination (cf. Lemoine!), there may be other reasons why conservatives are underrepresented in academia (or some fields) than politically motivated discrimination. If everyone is equally willing to discriminate regardless of their own affiliations, the fact that conservatives feel (or are) less welcome may simply be a side-effect of their being less prone or competent or willing or whatever to work in the academia in the first place. It’d be nice to see Philippe devote as much effort to debunk the idea that conservatives are being truly discriminated against than he did with women. Unless he’s advocating for a form of politically-based affirmative action?Report

Brandon Warmke
Brandon Warmke
Reply to  Libtard
3 years ago

One crucial difference, I think, is that we have, in the empirical record, academics openly admitting that they would discriminate on the basis of political affiliation. The explanation for at least some of the discrepancy therefore does not seem all that mysterious: it’s in some measure attributable to the ideological-conflict hypothesis.* The finding that both sides do this is evidence for this hypothesis, as opposed to other proposed explanations of the discrepancy.

*http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0963721413510932Report

Libtard
Libtard
Reply to  Brandon Warmke
3 years ago

“The finding that both sides do this” seems very much worth noting indeed.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Brandon Warmke
3 years ago

That would not make it okay.Report

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Reply to  Brandon Warmke
3 years ago

No one says it makes it okay, Prof. Wallace. The discussion is not about political discrimination in general, but about conservatives, and if it turns out they are not subjected to more discrimination than the opposite side, much of the upoar around here seems moot.Report

Brandon Warmke
Brandon Warmke
Reply to  Brandon Warmke
3 years ago

“The discussion is not about political discrimination in general, but about conservatives, and if it turns out they are not subjected to more discrimination than the opposite side, much of the upoar around here seems moot.”

From the finding that “both sides do it” or “both sides are equally inclined to do it,” it does not follow that conservatives “are not subjected to more discrimination than the opposite side.” This is especially clear when we keep in mind a point I made above: self-identified liberals far outnumber self-identified conservatives in academia (for numbers, see the Honeycutt and Freberg study I cite above). Report

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Reply to  Brandon Warmke
3 years ago

Brandon Warmke, you haven’t kept in mind a point I made above: the reason why this is so might simply be the product of an initial asymmetry in conservatives vs. liberals’ interest or ability to thrive in academia. If we have more liberals in the first place–for reasons others than discrimination–and if then discrimination occurs is equally likely to occur regardless of political affiliation, then conservatives are not subjected to more discrimination than others. They’re just outnumbered. But this in itself is not discrimination.Report

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unnamed
Reply to  Brandon Warmke
3 years ago

Here’s an analogy. Imagine a truly outlandish scenario in which Marxists are outnumbered in US business schools. Suppose that we don’t know exactly why this is the case, but we can reasonably postulate that their lack of willingness to work in a business school is one factor, among others. Now, also consider the non-Marxists’ interests, standards, values and beliefs. Suppose the school is hiring and the job description is open enough that Marxists and non-Marxists alike are eligible and willing to apply. Now, we’ve agreed that both sides are equally likely to discriminate based on political affiliation, to the extent of course that the latter is detectable. Quite simply, we should expect Marxists to be at a clear disadvantage, despite the fact that both sides are equally likely to discriminate. But this is just due to the initial distribution. Now, if the latter can be explained, not by discrimination, but by divergent interests, standards, values and beliefs, all we can conclude is it’s not easy to be a Marxist in business school because… well, because Marxists are not really meant for business schools, and that’s fine. I think something similar happens for at least a certain type of conservatives, in part for reasons stressed by Les Green. We can keep pretending conservatives really want to thrive in universities, but many of then won’t, or only will in specifically designed safe spaces like conservative religious institutions, Liberty University, right-leaning business schools and law schools, and the like. I’m not going to complain because I would be discriminated against in those places, first of all because that’s just fair, second because I DO NOT WANT TO WORK THERE. Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Brandon Warmke
3 years ago

This doesn’t follow. Suppose for the sake of argument that factors other than discrimination means that the baseline representation in a university department would be 80/20. If the liberals then discriminate (because, we’re assuming, both liberals and conservatives discriminate) then it might end up at 95/5 or something. In any case, discrimination exaggerates pre-existing imbalances, and unfairly blocks out some of the people who have conservative views but still want (and would be good enough to get) a university position.

This is almost precisely isomorphic to underrepresentation of women in, e.g., the hard sciences or the tech industry. Almost no-one denies that a lot fewer women than men are interested in working in those fields in the first place (there’s a substantive dispute as to why that is, with reasons ranging from discrimination and stereotyping in childhood, to innate preference difference). So even absent discrimination, you’d expect fewer women than men in those fields. But it’s widely (and, I think, largely correctly) believed on the left that over and above that, there is discrimination of various sorts against women in academic science and the tech industry that skews the numbers even further and that needs to be combatted.Report

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Reply to  Brandon Warmke
3 years ago

Fair enough, and yes, that’s exactly the point I was making about women. The crucial difference is gender-based discrimination is rarely if ever justified in the fields in which it takes place (there might be exceptions but I don’t want to go into that and I’m not even confidence there are). Politically motivated discrimination may not be great, I agree, and is unfair if applied to equally skilled applicants, but it’s also just a reflection of the initial fact again: many conservatives don’t thrive in universities. If what it means to be a conservative, including or especially of the kind described by Les Green, remains constant, discrimination is just the continuation of the initial difference in interests, values, beliefs, standards, etc. But I agree that, ceteris paribus, discriminating against a candidate exclusively on the basis of his or her political beliefs may be unfair. And it’s surely bound to be unfair for conservatives more often than for liberals given the ratio, but the fact that it happens more often can’t be blamed on liberals. It should be attributed to many conservatives’ incompatibility with universities.

So, sure, we should strive for less discrimination overall. I never denied that. But I deny that it’s a problem conservatives in particular are well positioned to complain about. Report

Brandon Warmke
Brandon Warmke
Reply to  Libtard
3 years ago

Might I also add: your original claim was not a comparative one (e.g., “conservatives do not experience more discrimination than liberals”) but an absolute one (“If you truly have more cogent views than Professor Green seems to believe, then you’re not threatened in any serious way on campuses”).Report

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Reply to  Brandon Warmke
3 years ago

by which I of course implied more than others, or the claim wouldn’t be interestingReport

Nommunist
Nommunist
3 years ago

The level of stupidity displayed in this comments section is astonishing. Prof Green’s thesis is that large numbers of American conservatives hold irrational beliefs and think the reason these beliefs are trashed in respectable universities is due to a liberal conspiracy. These people are mistaken. The reason their beliefs are marginalized have more to do with the fact that no reasonable, well informed and honest person can believe them. Prof Green is right about this and he provides several examples of such beliefs.

Apparently this mundane observation was beyond the grasp of some commentators who preferred instead to attack a completely different thesis not stated by Prof Green. This is the thesis that a) one cannot be a conservative and believe the points listed by Prof Green and b) conservatives can never be the victims of unfair discrimination. None of these claims can be found in the article by Prof Green.

Anyone who takes an honest look at the statistics on evolution and climate science denialism among Republican voters and observes how these topics are covered in conservative media knows that there is a sizeable subset of conservatives in America who will not be happy with with universities for precisely the reasons Prof Green stated. Contrary to what Kaufman, Lemoine et al seem to believe, this is consistent with thinking that conservatives can be the victims of unfairness in the academy.

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Frank Tisdale
Frank Tisdale
Reply to  Nommunist
3 years ago

” that large numbers of American conservatives hold irrational beliefs “

Ben Shapiro spoke at Berkeley last week. Please let everyone know what he said that was irrational

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9eWuqir9J0

Or you can continue to pretend that modern American conservatism is some straw-man which cares only about “evolution, homosexuality, and jesus”, rather than about defending free speech, limited government, and free enterprise.Report

Joe Zepeda
Joe Zepeda
Reply to  Nommunist
3 years ago

Thanks, Nommunist, for your stunning display of superior reading comprehension *and* application of the principle of charity – so very liberal-minded. It might have helped the reception of Prof. Green’s argument if he hadn’t framed it as an answer to the question, “Why is it hard to be a campus conservative?” Seems to me perfectly reasonable to take him at his word when he claims to be answering that question, and then provides reasons why it is impossible to even *become* an academic when you hold certain conservative views – which obviously isn’t the same question.

I think his post is perfectly cogent as a (partial) riposte to anyone who thinks that equal representation by political affiliation is in itself a worthy goal for academia. If their is a consensus among those who know the most about some subject that view X is irrational, and if a party enshrines view X as part of its platform or ideology, then no matter how fallible expert consensus is, we shouldn’t want to overrule that judgment for the sake of “political viewpoint diversity” or whatever. But I don’t think Green’s post really deals with the situation of actual conservatives already present on typical college/university faculties, who are unlikely to check the boxes he lists, and who have various reasons why they (like liberal academics) find themselves making common cause in a two-party system with many people with irrational modes of belief formation – i.e., normal human beings.

I dislike the tendency out there to cast the situation of academic conservatives in terms better suited to martyrdom. It’s tempting to use victim-worship against those who seem to practice it on every other occasion, but we shouldn’t. I’m not a martyr, but the fact that I don’t check *any* of Prof. Green’s boxes doesn’t mean I’m not conservative, and it sure doesn’t stop me from feeling like a very odd duck in this environment much of the time! Most of my colleagues simply take things for granted about which there’s no reason to think that reason and experience have removed all controversy. And really, it’s not very surprising: most of us academics are experts in something, but none of us are experts in everything, and we are still susceptible to confirmation bias and the like – not to mention we’re probably more susceptible to overconfidence in our own rationality. We take the consensus of the smart people around us as evidence that that’s where rational thinking must go, even when on reflection we should realize that these smart people are, for any given political issue, mainly non-experts who think extra highly of their own rationality… Report

Frank Tisdale
Frank Tisdale
3 years ago

This is what happens when you never talk to actual conservatives, and instead simply invent cartoon versions of them in your mind.Report

Eric
Eric
3 years ago

There’s pretty good data where left leaning professors admit a willingness to discriminate against conservatives when asked in anonymous surveys. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/shatteringparadigms/2017/09/the-academic-reason-why-there-are-so-few-conservatives-in-academia/Report

Ariel Frontar
Ariel Frontar
3 years ago

Apparently Professor Green left out some bullet points in his characterisation of beliefs held by (some) liberals that make (many American) conservatives uncomfortable in universities.

-It is unwise to criticise a blog post if you are unable to follow a couple of paragraphs of argument.

-Pseudonymous posts are often accompanied by hostility.

-It is rude and uncollegial to address some you have never met by his first nameReport

seth edenbaum
3 years ago

“That is why it counts counts against Middlebury College when it shouts down Charles Murray but it counts in favour of Berkeley when it excludes Milos Yannopoulos.[sic]”

As I wrote in a comment on Green’s site, which he refused to publish, by his logic a university would be right to allow a presentation by the authors of the Nuremberg Laws but deny a venue to the rabble-rousing journalist who supports them.

Murray is an exponent of the pseudoscientific racist theories; he cites researchers supported by the Pioneer Fund. You might want to google them. Or just start here http://fair.org/extra/racism-resurgent/
Psychologist Richard Lynn: “What is called for here is not genocide, the killing off of the population of incompetent cultures. But we do need to think realistically in terms of the ‘phasing out’ of such peoples…. Evolutionary progress means the extinction of the less competent. To think otherwise is mere sentimentality.”
I assume Lynn passes the test of academic discourse that Green supports. His definition of free speech is like that of those who “oppose all regulation on guns” but would exempt sub-machine guns and shoulder held rocket launchers.

Academia isn’t a free speech zone. You fail your students if they write the wrong words. And it’s not a hotbed of radicalism. Students have the right, as citizens, to invite speakers to off campus locations. On campus speech is policed. And “academic freedom” is a misnomer, for the same reason. You don’t get hired if what you write is deemed mistaken or inappropriate by the powers that be. Institutions are conservative by definition.

I don’t pretend academia is the final arbiter in intellectual life. Institutions have a role to play, no more, no less.Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
3 years ago

Sharing shallow anaysis like this on a major philosophy blog is how you help philosophy programs get defunded.Report