Unquestionable Orthodoxies of Philosophy


Philosophy, of all disciplines, should never embrace dogmas—it is supposed to be the quintessentially critical subject—and yet now we’re full to the brim with them. You cannot criticize or even question the current orthodoxies regarding race, gender, or sexual orientation within the institutional framework of academic philosophy. 

Those are the words of philosopher Dan Kaufman of Missouri State University (not to be confused with Dan Kaufman of the University of Colorado, Boulder), in an interview with Cliff Sosis (Coastal Carolina) at What Is It Like To Be A Philosopher? You may know Professor Kaufman from his philosophical work, his writing at the The Electric Agora, a site he co-founded, and, of course, his commenting here at Daily Nous (he is among the 5 most frequent commenters here).

The interview is interesting and at times even entertaining, and I recommend reading it.

To comment on one aspect of it, it is striking just how different Kaufman’s view of contemporary academia and contemporary culture is compared to mine.

The quote at the top about being unable to “question the current orthodoxies” in philosophy strikes me as plainly false. His prime example of this is the controversy over Rebecca Tuvel’s paper on transracialism. But note that the article was accepted for publication in the leading journal of its kind, and though there were some calls to retract it, these calls were resisted by the editors of the journal (and criticized by other visible voices in the profession), and the article remains in print. If Tuvel’s paper gives us an example of questioning current orthodoxy, it shows that it’s false that philosophers today are unable to question current orthodoxy. I will admit that, during this controversy, (in my opinion) some people behaved poorly and acted carelessly, but there was also incredibly vigorous intellectual discussion and debate going on, as well as lots of learning. Perhaps most importantly, the Tuvel controversy was so unusual it is odd to use it as representative of what is wrong with philosophy today.

Kaufman’s other example is a paper of his, which he has had difficulty placing, in which he argues against ethical veganism. I guess I missed the memo informing us that veganism is now orthodoxy in philosophy. Even if there are better examples by which one might try to make the case that it is difficult to publish works that question current orthodoxies (e.g.), it is hard to determine whether the problem with these papers is that they question orthodoxies, or something else.

My sense is that, in philosophy, almost any intellectually responsible position is on the table—and a greater number and diversity of them are being discussed than ever before. Discussion of some of these positions may be more emotionally or politically fraught than others, but this doesn’t mean they cannot be explored or defended. It does recommend, though, that they be explored or defended in ways that communicate a sincere understanding of why they are so fraught. (See Michelle Moody-Adams remarks on “offending responsibly.”)

Maybe it would be useful to solicit suggestions of current orthodoxies in philosophy. More specifically, is there some position held by some philosophers, opposition to which is intellectually responsible, that other philosophers cannot challenge in professional philosophical settings, such as journals and conferences? In answering, it would be great if you could say why you think it can’t be challenged. Note: that the challenging of some view would receive widespread or intense criticism does not make that view an unquestionable orthodoxy. Let’s not be snowflakes, people. (By the way, though Kaufman seemed to have obviously-politically-relevant philosophical orthodoxies in mind, we needn’t restrict ourselves that way.)

We can then see if we have enough examples with which to plausibly describe philosophy as “full to the brim”—or even halfway to the brim—with unquestionable orthodoxies.

At another point in the interview, Kaufman complains about “the current sensitivity-culture everyone seems to be in the grip of, which I just find humorless and precious and representative of everything about the current cultural moment that I can’t stand.”

Again, I found myself thinking that we inhabit different worlds. Humorless? There is more, better, and more varied humor in the world being created and enjoyed now than at any other time in human history, on more subjects (targets) than ever before, and in more formats and media than ever before. As with any art form, but perhaps especially with comedy, tastes change, but that’s no basis for thinking our culture has less humor, let alone thinking our culture is humorless.

And “precious”? Maybe I don’t know what Kaufman has in mind—a kind of Victorian sensitivity to offense?—but people, come on. We are living in what, in many ways, is the most disgusting era of humankind. I mean, have you seen the internet?

Anyway, there’s more to the interview than just this stuff. The whole thing is here.

 

photo of people viewing or blithely walking by “Complex Pile,” an installation by artist Paul McCarthy.

 

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Carnap
Carnap
3 years ago

I don’t think that the fact that Tuvel’s paper was published and remains in print shows that Kaufman is mistaken in thinking one cannot question certain current orthodoxies. The fact that many professional philosophers called (without anything approaching a good justification) is sufficient to make Kaufman’s point which is, I take it, that one cannot question certain orthodoxies without at least a real risk of a serious professional (and personal) cost.Report

Carnap
Carnap
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 years ago

Thanks for these remarks, Justin.

I think “negative attention” is a bit coarse-grained for assessing the relevant issues. Negative attention could take the form of arguments against the views which one has defended. While none of us wants to offer bad arguments, that would be a wholly appropriate form of professional “negative attention.” The negative attention received by Tuvel (I know I am harping on a single case) was not of that sort. Instead, in consisted in claims of intellectual malpractice, calls to retract the article, and personal abuse.

I agree with your suggestion that it would be bad if people refrained from defending non-orthodox positions out of unjustified fear of negative consequences and I agree that it would be nice to have more evidence about this sort of thing. It isn’t, however, very clear to me how we could assess this since it is extremely difficult to gather evidence about costs such as invitations to speak, publish, attend conferences, or apply for jobs which one might have, but for one’s controversial speech/views, received.
Report

DoubleA
DoubleA
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 years ago

Justin,

The Tuvel case may well be anomalous, but it strikes me as disingenuous to genuinely wonder whether something obviously deeply hurtful was harmful to her career because the article got more exposure. Report

Carnap
Carnap
Reply to  Carnap
3 years ago

my first comment above should have said “The fact that many professional philosophers called *for retraction*”Report

Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Justin: You and I certainly have very different worldviews, as well as very different views of the current climate in philosophy. Another difference between us would seem to be that you think that such views are in some way demonstrable, and I do not. Suffice it to say that you and I could argue endlessly about our perceptions of the current climate in philosophy and never succeed in proving or otherwise demonstrating that the other is wrong about it.

I am not going to otherwise engage with interlocutors on the interview, as it just seems inappropriate. The interview is not a philosophy paper or an argument, but is a conversation, in which I answered questions about my life, my work, and my views on a number of things, including the current state of our discipline. But since Justin decided not just to link to the interview as he always does, but to engage in an effort at some sort of “takedown,” which he does not typically do (and unsurprisingly, it’s on the political stuff), I thought I would just make this one comment.Report

Recent grad
Recent grad
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 years ago

I’m too lazy to do the legwork, but I wonder if DK ever commented on other people’s interviews as they’ve been posted here.

I agree it would be unfair for people to criticize DK’s views on cognitive science or Wittgenstein, since they were largely in passing and there are experts on those topics. But none of us is an expert, in the relevant sense, on the current climate in philosophy. So I think DK’s comments are fair game.Report

Sam Duncan
Sam Duncan
3 years ago

A lot of issues get really blurred together here. What happened in the Hypatia affair is regrettable, but on the other hand Kaufman seems at points to bemoan the fact that one is expected to treat students and colleagues with minimal respect, and that people might have the temerity to complain if you don’t. Or at least that’s the impression I got from the way he holds up a bit of bullying and juvenile behavior by a senior professor toward a graduate student as some kind of philosophical ideal. One probably couldn’t get away that that nowadays but is it a bad thing? Are we humorless because we think professors shouldn’t mock their students for the amusement of themselves and others? If PC culture means that we expect people with professional jobs to act like actual grownups and not badly behaved children then please give me more of it.

(For what it’s worth I do have some misgivings about safe spaces, trigger warnings, and such, which I think are good in theory but might not always play out so well in practice. And I think we should all be disturbed at the increasing unwillingness of people of all political stripes to listen to those they disagree with. However, these are complicated issues here that deserve a much more nuanced treatment than bemoaning political correctness). Report

Animal Symbolicum
Animal Symbolicum
3 years ago

I would also think that part of Kaufman’s point — though I don’t want to put words in his mouth — is that the orthodoxy, whatever it is, is partly constituted by unquestioned and difficult-to-articulate sensibilities and perceptions that tacitly determine what counts as “intellectually responsible.” And to articulate anything about what it is to be intellectually responsible is to articulate something either unhelpfully formal (what nobody worth listening to would contravene) or idiosyncratically substantive (and thereby the sort of thing that could potentially constitute orthodoxy).

Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 years ago

In philosophy there are some clear examples – for instance, not many people defend the thesis that nothing exists (not even the mind or the universe or anything); and not many people defend the thesis Graham Priest calls trivialism, that every sentence is both true and false (he objects to classical logic by saying that some sentences are both true and false, and classical logic then leads to trivialism).

For clear examples of things that aren’t intellectually responsible even though they’re not so blatantly false, I imagine most philosophers would (legitimately) consider it not intellectually responsible to write a detailed devil’s-advocate defense of Nazi ideology, or other social or political views that have some superficial appeal to many people.Report

Dmitri Gallow
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
3 years ago

A small point re trivialism: On my understanding, it is the view that every proposition is true, and not the view that every proposition is both true and false—at least, this is the view defended as “trivialism” in Paul Douglas Kabay’s dissertation. (Of course, if the view were right, then it would be true to say that every proposition is both true and false, but I think it’s important to understand this as a corollary of the view, and not its central thesis; if the view were correct, it would similarly be true to say that no proposition is both true and false, and that no proposition is true.)Report

Joe Zepeda
Joe Zepeda
Reply to  Animal Symbolicum
3 years ago

‘…the orthodoxy, whatever it is, is partly constituted by unquestioned and difficult-to-articulate sensibilities and perceptions that tacitly determine what counts as “intellectually responsible.”’

Precisely. And for this reason Weinberg’s discussion comes across as determined to miss the point, in order to cultivate an uncomprehending tone that is hard to credit: ‘Gee, what could Kaufman possibly have in mind here?’ Perhaps that’s genuine, in which case the lack of perspective is all the more appalling, to my mind. There is often a very tight hermeneutical circle indeed when it comes to the relationship between intellectual responsibility and (very very recently adopted) ideas about identity. And in every other context on this blog (e.g., the philosophical “canon”, or pedagogical approaches) we would be treated to a lecture about how important it is to examine critically what is assumed or presumed in a putatively neutral notion like “intellectual responsibility.” I hardly think Kaufman (or any other grown-up) needs to be reminded that not all positions outside the mainstream are intellectually responsible. Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Joe Zepeda
3 years ago

Getting a little personal there, Joe.Report

Joe Zepeda
Joe Zepeda
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
3 years ago

True, and I shouldn’t have given vent to my spleen that way. The point about a “hermeneutical circle,” if I can appropriate that terminology for the purpose, is the real point – that and the comparison to other putatively neutral disciplinary/professional norms. My irritation is just irritation. Report

Daniel Tippens
3 years ago

What I want to know is why Justin attached a picture of a shit sculpture to this post…?Report

Daniel Tippens
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 years ago

It seems quite clear to me that Dan wasn’t referring to being humorless about potty-jokes. The context, here, is that of political correctness surrounding “morally-questionable” jokes pertaining to things that involve harm, especially when it is directed at particular groups. Jokes about shit normally wouldn’t qualify under that description.

One need only do a quick google search “political correctness and comedy” to see the kind of thing that Dan is referring to.Report

Daniel Tippens
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 years ago

Like Dan said, its a matter of perception. But when I see a bounty of articles such as the one below, showing comedians declining to perform in various outlets due to concerns of offense, I’m inclined to agree with Dan’s observation about the trend.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/thats-not-funny/399335/Report

Philodemus
Philodemus
Reply to  Daniel Tippens
3 years ago

I only have indirect familiarity with the comedy scene, knowing people trying to break into comedy, listening to podcasts, etc. but I’m pretty sure comedians nowadays are experiencing pressure to jettison material that could be viewed as insensitive by crowds. I mean, even Margaret Cho, one of the most PC comedians imaginable, was booed offstage (not a college crowd) for doing material on rape/child abuse (she herself being a survivor). Btw, I first learned of this event when she was on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. It was pretty hilarious when Cho was trying to explain intersectional theory to Seinfeld. It was also kinda sweet to learn how Seinfeld encouraged Cho early in her career. Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

“More specifically, is there some position held by some philosophers, opposition to which is intellectually responsible, that other philosophers cannot challenge in professional philosophical settings, such as journals and conferences?”

When you put it this way, all you have to say is that opposition to your dogma isn’t intellectually responsible. I presume dissidents will disagree about what constitutes intellectual responsibility!

Here’s an easy one though: opposition to gay marriage. I’ve been told that there are no good arguments against gay marriage. What an interesting standard! What counts as a good argument depends upon the presuppositions one has. One who believes in Christianity has premises to work with that the atheist doesn’t. One could go back and argue about those premises, but for some reason I never hear the debate move in the direction of: “Okay, so now we need to decide if Christianity is true!”Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

I’m sorry that I used too many exclamation points. How embarrassing and grammatically irresponsible.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 years ago

“I think that even if you assume Christianity is true you’ll have a hard time making the differential marriage rights case, unless you are also making a case against secular marriage generally, or a case for something like a theocracy.”

This response is baffling. Assume God blesses nations whose people act righteously and curses those who act sinfully, and that homosexual sex acts are sinful. It’s straightforwardly a good thing to be blessed by God. It’s easy to see how citizens of a republic, believing those things, might freely choose laws to promote righteousness, including laws against homosexual marriage. Who wouldn’t want to be blessed by God? No theocracy required!

All that is required is that religious truths constitute truths like any other, and that people take these truths into account when making law.Report

agradstudent
agradstudent
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

Joshua Reagan: Well, it’s not that simple. One might think that it’s sinful to engage in gay marriage, but as sinful or even more sinful to cause the State to prevent other people who want to from doing so or to withhold recognition from them. Presumably Christians think this about all sorts of things: maybe it’s sinful to utter envious words, but it would be far worse to create a totalitarian state that punished the utterance of such words.

The principle is completely general, of course, and arises for those of us who are secularists as well: some argument is always needed to get from ‘ϕ-ing is wrong’ to ‘it is right for the State to prevent ϕ-ing’. Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  agradstudent
3 years ago

It is for those sorts of reasons that my conclusion was qualified: “It’s _easy to see how_ citizens of a republic, believing those things, _might_ freely choose laws to promote righteousness, including laws against homosexual marriage.”

That said, there is no plausible Christian case that it’s sinful for a government to withhold recognition of homosexual marriage.Report

agradstudent
agradstudent
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

Sure there is: Christianity is compatible with a vision of the role of the state on which it must not engage in legislation that results in variation of rights based on gender, just as it’s compatible with one on which it must not engage in legislation that results in variation of rights based on religious belief (even though obviously Christianity doesn’t treat all relgious views as on a par). Take whatever basically religiously neutral argument you want for that conception of the role of the state, add the premiss that it’s sinful to cause the government to do something that’s not part of the proper role of the state, and you’ve got your Christian case that it’s sinful for a government to withhold recognition of homosexual marriage.

I’m not saying this is something Christians should actively endorse (I’m not a Christian, and I don’t have strong intuitions about which positions it would be good for me to endorse were I one), but it’s hardly frivolous.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

“Take whatever basically religiously neutral argument you want for that conception of the role of the state”

As far as I’m aware, there is no such thing. Religion does, and should, have a huge impact on how one sees the role of the state. Why? Because religion is making claims about reality, and reality matters when determining what the role of the state should be.Report

agradstudent
agradstudent
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

Sure, religion (at least, the Abrahamic versions of monotheism) involves making claims about reality. But specifically, about the part of reality that has to do with God. It’s not obvious that that entails any conclusions about the role of the State, any more than it’s obvious that it entails conclusions about how to paint a painting or sail a boat.

To some degree this is a terminological dispute, but I don’t think it’s useful to equate acceptance of Christianity with acceptance of the extraordinarily broad collection of doctrines (theological, political, moral, social, and so on) generally held by most Christian churches. There’s a clear core to historically orthodox Christian belief: it’s given by the ancient creeds. Nothing in those creeds entails any particular view on state recognition of marriage. You can, if you wish, make a case for a thicker version of Christian doctrine, but it’s that thicker version that enters in as a premiss in your arguments, not merely “Christianity is true”. Report

agradstudent
agradstudent
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

(That was not terribly well formulated: of course, if the core of Christianity is true, then all the world (or at least all concrete objects) have to do with God in virtue of being causally dependent on him. But even if A causally depends on B, many claims about B’s central features may be robust across numerous different competing theories of A’s nature. That’s clearly the case for painting a picture or sailing a boat; I claim it’s perfectly compatible with Christianity to think it’s also the case about the role of the state.) Report

agradstudent
agradstudent
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

(Reverse second occurrence of A and B. The absence of an edit button is at times quite frustrating.)Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

I couldn’t disagree more with everything you said. What’s “thick”? What’s “thin”? Aren’t you already presupposing liberal-friendly doctrines, or something similar, by speaking in these terms? There is no religiously neutral way to resolve what constitutes a true theory of what Christianity is. This should be obvious.

For one thing, about the creeds: the Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed deals with more than just God, it deals also with the Church, i.e., the community of believers on earth.

How could Christianity be solely about God? When one accepts Christian teachings about God, one thereby accepts certain teachings about human relations with God. This is one reason why the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ is so important. Facts about the relationship between God and man is built into the the doctrine of the Trinity! (For those who don’t know, according to the Trinity there is one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Son, Jesus Christ, is said to have two natures: divine and human.) These teachings include what counts as good for us as humans, for developing into what we were created by God to be: to be conformed to the image of Christ, to become God-like.

Hence, from a Christian point of view, a theory of the obligations of the state must take into account what the true good ends of the people are. Liberals think that liberty is good, and hence they support a government that promotes liberty. To *some* extent this is plausibly compatible with a Christian POV. Plausibly, becoming conformed to the “image of Christ” includes learning to take responsibility for oneself in a way that requires some measure of liberty. Yet everyone recognizes that there are differences between good forms of liberty and bad: murder is a bad form. A Christian theory of liberty would have to be shaped by a Christian understanding of the good.

Religions aren’t Lego bricks: you can’t just mix and match them up with arbitrary secular doctrines and expect them to fit.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

I made an awful error in my haste. The Church isn’t the community of believers on earth, (1) because it includes those who are no longer on earth, particularly Jesus Christ who is head of the Church; and (2), because the Church doesn’t include the demons who believe, and yet tremble!

So let’s say, roughly, that the Church is the community of those who follow Christ, plus Christ Himself.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

I’ve made so many grammatical errors in this thread. From a Christian POV this is quite awful. I repent.

I second the call for an edit button!Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

Doesn’t this argument quickly generalize into an argument for theocracy? If God blesses nations that enact particular policies, then surely the best thing to do is to enact all and only the religiously correct policies, unless they cross a line of being *so* awful that they negate the benefits of any blessing.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
3 years ago

I have trouble understanding what this has to do with theocracy. There need not be rule or even much political influence by cleric, prophet, or any other religious figure. I’m simply talking about a population in a whose understanding of the good matches up with the claims of the Christian religion and who vote accordingly. The form of government could even be what the USA has, and obviously the USA isn’t and never has been a theocracy.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 years ago

“I will concede that one does not often see “first, assume Christianity is true” as the basis of arguments in mainstream philosophical articles.”

I suppose I had pedagogy in mind, and what is considered “helpful” during class discussions. My experience with introductory ethics courses is that professors don’t broadcast the fact that they see acceptance of Christianity as on par with acceptance of a flat earth theory. Yet such classes are ordered as if those things are on par, in that religion isn’t covered except maybe unconvincing hand-waving at the Euthyphro for a single lesson. It’s very confusing for Christian students who don’t understand why they can’t bring their religious beliefs to bear on the discussion of various topics. “Abortion is bad because God said so” is a good argument if God really does say so and He determines what’s bad.

I’d love to see the arguments showing that Christianity is false, however. I’m familiar with the spherical earth arguments already!Report

Temp
Temp
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

Joshua,

One reason for refusing to engage much with arguments from God’s will is that these arguments are not arguments which most reasonable people can be expected to accept. That judgement does not depend on the claim that they are false: there are plenty of religious secularists. It might be that a full enquiry into all the possible arguments for and against (say) abortion should engage with religious arguments. But that’s not something most classes have time to do. The relevance of Euthyphro here is clear: if God condemns abortion for independent reasons, we can discuss those reasons. If God condemns abortion because he feels like it, there’s not much to discuss (apart from ‘why should I care what God thinks?’, perhaps).

It’s true: if a student writes that they think abortion is wrong because God says it is wrong, I’ll want to see both some evidence that God says it is wrong, and some sense of why God’s saying it is wrong indicates that it is wrong. Religious students, in my experience, are rarely capable of providing either of those. That leads me to suspect that they are simply reporting knee-jerk reactions. The same result would occur if they reported that abortion is wrong ‘because it just obviously is’. Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Temp
3 years ago

First of all, the problem with your religious student isn’t that they ignore alternative perspectives, it’s that you do. They have presuppositions you don’t share, but either you don’t know what those are or you don’t care and don’t bother to engage them.

“most reasonable people can be expected to accept”

Now all you have to do is define “reasonable people” in such a way that Christians are excluded, and you’re all set!

Most people in this country claim to be Christian. In most of the country, the majority the students in an ethics class will consider themselves Christians. Whether Christianity is true makes a huge difference about how one ought to live. To teach ethics under these conditions without engaging Christianity is ludicrous—philosophical pedagogy is supposed to be about taking students from falsehood to truth. Where the students are in their belief matters.

Actually, even a dose of honesty would be a great improvement. Either say, “Look, Christianity is like flat earth science” so that students know what they’re getting; or make arguments against Christianity so that it’s clear that it doesn’t matter for ethics. Let the students see your opposition to their religion so they know where they stand.Report

Temp
Temp
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

Well, I don’t think we live in the same country. But even if we did, you’ve ignored my point: whether or not arguments from what God believes or doesn’t are ones that we ought to cover in philosophy classes does not depend on the percentage of people who are religious. There are all sorts of belief systems whose truth or falsity makes a difference to ones life. And I agree that, as one of the most widely accepted in the US, Christianity ought to be rigorously examined in American philosophy degrees. But that doesn’t mean that *bare* religious arguments (by which I mean appeals to God’s will, rather than arguments that appeal to independent reasons that are also believed to be God’s will) are worth much time in an ethics class. Report

Temp
Temp
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

I also disagree that philosophical pedagogy is about ‘taking students from falsehood to truths’. I think that the main purpose of philosophical pedagogy is about getting students to critically examine their own beliefs, to be able to engage in critical reasoning, and to be able to engage with reasoned and critical discussion with others. I don’t see why refusing to accept ‘because God says so’ works against any of those aims. Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

“you’ve ignored my point: whether or not arguments from what God believes or doesn’t are ones that we ought to cover in philosophy classes does not depend on the percentage of people who are religious”

Wrong, I responded directly to that point. Falsehood => Truth pedagogy…

“But that doesn’t mean that *bare* religious arguments (by which I mean appeals to God’s will, rather than arguments that appeal to independent reasons that are also believed to be God’s will) are worth much time in an ethics class”

Bare? I don’t know what you mean by that. Obviously a Christian should have to answer questions about whether God exists, what He has commanded, etc. I never said it would stop at “God says”.

If you don’t think it’s worth class time next time you start an intro to ethics course, feel free to borrow my line about flat earth science.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

You’re wrong about the point of philosophy. The point is to find the truth. Critical thinking is a means to that end, not the end in itself.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

Well, find the truth and avoid falsehood, to make a quick revision.Report

Temp
Temp
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

The point of philosophy might well be to find the truth. It doesn’t follow that the point of philosophical pedagogy is to ‘take’ students from false to the true.

You claimed that we should spend much more time engaging with religious arguments in ethics. I’ve said that either the religious arguments can be put in secular terms (i.e. X is wrong for these reasons, which are the reasons that God thinks X is wrong) in which case there’s no real need to engage with the religious perspective, or that they are ‘bare’ appeals to religion.

Any philosophy course has to make choices about what is covered. My point about reasonableness is that in a secular context (which, most US universities are) arguments should appeal to premises that all reasonable parties can accept. Despite your attempt to suggest otherwise, that doesn’t imply that I think it’s unreasonable to be a Christian – I just don’t think it’s unreasonable to reject appeals to God’s will as ethical evidence.

As for your advice: I’m very clear that simply saying that you strongly believe something isn’t an argument. And I explicitly include a reference to religious belief here: mainly because of my experience of religious (mainly, but not only, Christian) students’ tendency to appeal to their religious beliefs in an uncritical way. That isn’t the only kind of belief that’s appealed to in this way, and I mention religious belief only as one of several examples. Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

“I’ve said that either the religious arguments can be put in secular terms (i.e. X is wrong for these reasons, which are the reasons that God thinks X is wrong) in which case there’s no real need to engage with the religious perspective, or that they are ‘bare’ appeals to religion.”

This is stunningly wrong. Christian arguments against things like abortion, homosexuality, etc. depend upon a number of metaphysical claims that are particular to Christianity. You are demonstrating a shockingly poor understanding of Christianity right now, so it’s no wonder you have trouble reaching your Christian students.

*All* students are uncritical. Ask an edgy atheist freshman why he thinks slavery is immoral, and if he gives an answer that isn’t terrible (maybe a %10-30 chance?) then ask why once or twice more. It won’t take long to reach a bedrock dogma. If there are certain student in your class who don’t become better at answering these question over time, that’s your fault, not theirs.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

“My point about reasonableness is that in a secular context (which, most US universities are) arguments should appeal to premises that all reasonable parties can accept. Despite your attempt to suggest otherwise, that doesn’t imply that I think it’s unreasonable to be a Christian – I just don’t think it’s unreasonable to reject appeals to God’s will as ethical evidence.”

Objections, numbered:

(1) Universities are institutions who have as one of their aims the pursuit of truth. Unless we rule in advance that this isn’t Christianity, then it’s not clear to me that they are inherently secular.

(2) “arguments should appeal to premises that all reasonable parties can accept”

No, they shouldn’t. In ethics there are no such premises, so if your standard was correct then it would turn out that there should be no arguments about ethics.

(3) “I just don’t think it’s unreasonable to reject appeals to God’s will as ethical evidence”

This is consistent with a reasonable person believing otherwise.Report

Temp
Temp
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

Glad as I am to stun you, you’ve unfortunately misunderstood me. Nothing I said is incompatible with the fact that Christian ethics rests on distinctive metaphysical claims.

As it happens, I don’t have that much trouble reaching my Christian students, and most of them show a marked improvement over the course of the term in their capacity to write and argue in ways that aren’t just knee-jerk appeals to God’s will. Which is nice. Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

Wrong. You wrote:

“I’ve said that either the religious arguments can be put in secular terms (i.e. X is wrong for these reasons, which are the reasons that God thinks X is wrong) in which case there’s no real need to engage with the religious perspective, or that they are ‘bare’ appeals to religion.”

The first part of the disjunction is wrong, because Christian arguments require particularly Christian metaphysical premises. The second part is wrong because the arguments have nothing to do with “bare” appeals to religion, whatever those are. (If you mean sometimes students say “God says” and stop there, then fine, push for more. But this is no different from a student saying, uncritically “equal rights” and stopping there.)

You have excluded the possibility that Christians have anything more than “bare” appeals to make, apparently, because you don’t know any better. What a shame.Report

Temp
Temp
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

What makes a metaphysical premise “particularly Christian”?

Also, I think you may need to look up the word ‘secular’. It doesn’t imply, as you seem to believe, that religion (general or particular) is bad, false, or wrong in some other way. Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

The word “secular” has many meanings, and I understand them just fine. Maybe you don’t. You were appealing to the “secular context” of the university to justify your lack of engagement with the views of many or most of your students, and you were wrong to do so.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

Your question about what makes a claim “particularly Christian” strikes me as more apt.

It seems to me that different worldviews develop different reflective equilibriums, and sometimes the beliefs stably held in one person’s mind have no analogue or anything like it in another person’s mind. This is the case with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity; as far as I know, no other worldview accepts a Trinitarian model of an ultimate, divine being. This belief is stably held in the minds of most Christians because the things they take to count as good evidence support it. It’s held stably in few if any non-Christian minds, because the things these people take to count as good evidence don’t support it, I presume.

The Christian explanation for this difference is that God has revealed Himself to a certain community (i.e., the Church) and not others. How do we know whether this happened? Obviously the conversation turns to epistemology at that point.

You don’t want to talk about all that in your class. You have finite time and you think it’s a waste. Okay then, just don’t pretend you’re critically engaging your Christian students. Tell them “God’s not real,” so they know where they stand.Report

Temp
Temp
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

So, to be clear, you think that any Christian argument against (say) abortion has to rely on the Trinitarian model of a divine being? Maybe it’s just my stunning lack of knowledge, but I’ve never seen a Christian argument against abortion refer explicitly to the Trinity (and yes, I’ve read some Christian arguments against abortion).

It seems pretty weird to me to think that, because I don’t want to devote an ethics class to a fairly intricate discussion of Christian metaphysics, I am best off telling my students that God’s not real. For one thing, as I’ve repeatedly tried to say, I don’t think anything I’ve said about philosophical education should even be that controversial for a religious believer. If, as you seem to suggest, understanding the Christian view properly requires a significant devotion of time, which would require the exclusion of other topics, and if (as is my experience) most religious students are capable of developing their ethical views in secular terms, it seems to me reasonable to (a) refuse to spend much time on specifically religious ethical arguments (b) to refuse to credit students who appeal to God’s will without further comment, and (c) to do so without having to perform a parody of the philosophy professor in God’s Not Dead. Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

“So, to be clear, you think that any Christian argument against (say) abortion has to rely on the Trinitarian model of a divine being? Maybe it’s just my stunning lack of knowledge, but I’ve never seen a Christian argument against abortion refer explicitly to the Trinity (and yes, I’ve read some Christian arguments against abortion).”

Yes, I’m saying that a genuine Christian argument against abortion depends upon a whole metaphysical picture that includes the Trinity. How much work does that specific doctrine play? It’s tough to say exactly, because of the holistic relationship between the two; the Incarnation is a little more directly related.

Of course one can, to some extent, abstract away from the particulars, and argue from a God that may be unitarian, may be Trinitarian, or may be something else altogether. Such an abstracted argument may be interesting to Christian students. But since you’re fishing hard for a quick gloss (I guess?) the argument would be something like: God created everything, and in the act of creation He also made a divine order. To act in accord with the divine order is good, not to do so is bad. God created the order, so it depends on Him. This order may or may not be something we can discover without revelation (this part is disputed), but in any case God can reveal it. God has revealed it on the issue of abortion. So it’s wrong because it’s against the divine order, which is the way it is because God made it that way.

“If, as you seem to suggest, understanding the Christian view properly requires a significant devotion of time, which would require the exclusion of other topics, ”

A non-terrible gloss by someone who knows a little about it would take maybe 3 or 4 lessons. I suppose that’s debatable, just an initial guess. I think that’s worth it in a majority Christian classroom, but obviously you think otherwise.

“if (as is my experience) most religious students are capable of developing their ethical views in secular terms”

Why is that relevant? Your secular students can develop their views in religious terms, but so what?Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 years ago

Justin— I just want to let you (and others) know that I posted answers to your honest question here earlier, but now these posts are missing. The rest of the thread is now attached to Bharath Vallabha’s post. Perhaps software trouble?Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 years ago

Thanks, that fixed it.Report

G
G
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

getting in late and I had to skip much of the heated Christian/gay marriage thing. But as a Christian I think morality is based on Love (yes there are philosophical issues about what grounds it all (I’m certainly not a divine command theorist). But it seems to reject gay marriage is to unlove those who will thrive in such relationships–you may think that such thriving is an illusion, but that is an empirical matter.
Also, I think the question of how we know what God believes is hard, really hared. You cannot short circuit your intellect by going to church (though I think thoughtful reflective reading of the Gospels is actually a great way to come to to grips with fundamental moral issues. ]Report

Rick
Rick
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 years ago

I’m not sure it’s a problematic dogmatism or as reasonable as rejecting flat-earth papers. Generalist journals probably need to have some kind of appeal to most philosophers, and right or wrongly most philosophers are atheists or lean that way. So most arguments which assume the truth of Christianity will probably be uninteresting and reasonably not expected to show up in a generalist journal.

On the other hand, I can certainly think of cases where such an argument could have intellectual merits: e.g. showing that certain Christian tenets plausibly entail non-obvious substantive commitments in seemingly-unrelated philosophical sub-disciplines, or showing how a (particular) Christian worldview might provide a set of interestingly-consistent solutions to a variety of philosophical problems, etc.

So generally rejecting such papers is not impermissible dogmatism, but also not as unquestionably correct as rejecting flat-earth papers.Report

Brian Weatherson
3 years ago

It’s not quite an orthodoxy in the exact sense you mention, but it is interesting to think about how differently broadly Bayesian approaches and broadly frequentist approaches get treated in philosophy. It’s not that no one can argue against (broadly speaking) Bayesian approaches; Deborah Mayo does, for example. But you can assume some relatively basic parts of Bayesianism in the service of an argument for some other conclusion and usually no one will complain. For example, you can assume that if something E is said to be evidence for something else H, that can be modelled as Pr(H | E) > Pr(H). On the other hand, you can’t assume equally basic parts of a broadly frequentist approach to statistics without a lot of justification and setup.

Now I’m part of the orthodoxy here, and I think the broadly Bayesian approach is right. (Though I have some weird views about how to fill in the details.) But there is something like an orthodoxy and a heterodoxy here that creates different costs for theorists in different (but both intellectually respectable) paradigms.

What’s fascinating to me about this case is that in a number of statistics departments, things are exactly the other way around. (Or at least were until recently; things may be changing.) Use of Bayesian machinery needs justification, but frequentist tools sail through unchallenged. So it feels a lot like a kind of cultural orthodoxy in philosophy; other fields do not have the same presuppositions.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Brian Weatherson
3 years ago

I think it’s too strong to call Bayesianism an unquestionable dogma. It may not now be sufficiently questioned—and as a mild skeptic of Bayesianism I think this is probably right—but my sense is that the culture is one in which questions about it would be welcome or at least acceptable.Report

pirateofthecaribbean@gmail.com
Reply to  Brian Weatherson
3 years ago

For what it’s worth, my impression from talking to junior people in stats or stats-heavy disciplines (astrophysics, i.e.) is that there’s a heavy dose of “I do what my advisor did” but that, bracketing that, the trend line in changing practices strongly favors Bayesianism.

pace Deborah Mayo, I think that what I take to be the mainline stance toward Bayesianism is pretty much right–it’s not unquestionable, but it’s best around especially in absence of any reason to think you’re dealing with some potential failure case. So, I tend to think the methodological standards you outline are just right. But that’s obviously a substantive judgment. Report

Jom
Jom
Reply to  [email protected]
3 years ago

Another non-political case: the treatment of internalism in language and mind. Content externalism is standardly assumed within lang/mind work and is routinely used as an assumption in other areas to prove this, that, or the other. Most people just recoil or smile pityingly when I talk about the arguments in favor of internalism.

I think there are also departmental discrepancies here. Likely many cog science folks are internalists or would be internalist (I won’t say most as there is no poll and anyway it isn ‘t likely most of them have not thought about the issues in terms philosophers favor.) Certainly standard language syllabi and intro books tend to focus on the victory of externalism and don’t talk about the diverse responses made in the interim. But maybe this is changing?
Report

Brian Weatherson
Reply to  [email protected]
3 years ago

Yes, I agree that the trend line favours Bayesianism. But when I talk to folks in political science, or business schools, even ones who are very Bayesian sympathetic, they are pretty surprised at the state of play in philosophy. I mean, they think it’s basically a good thing (I tend to hang out with Bayesian folks, even at kids soccer games), but they are surprised at how one sided it is.Report

Steve
Steve
Reply to  Brian Weatherson
3 years ago

I’m coming to this very late, I know, but I found Prof Weatherson’s example of Bayesianism very helpful. I think he’s right that there is a sense in which Bayesianism is an orthodoxy, in that you can just assume a broadly Bayesian framework in lots of philosophical work, whereas you can’t assume the truth of frequentism. Furthermore, this “assumption” is just built into a lot of philosophical training and arguments, such that it’s plausible that lots of people implicitly endorse a position which a well-informed outside observer might think is at least questionable. Of course, there are all sorts of reasons to worry about this kind of orthodoxy, but I take it that there is a difference between this kind of case and the kinds of cases which might be bugging some people (like Kaufman). The difference concerns enforcement. Even if you might find it hard to publish an article which just assumed frequentism – so there is some weak pressure to “conform” and just assume Bayesianism – there are no major social costs associated with, say, publishing a paper explicitly arguing for frequentism as a general account of probability. By contrast, at least recently, the same is not true of other disputes which a well-informed observer might think are at least questionable; for example, Tuvel was subject to sustained and personal attacks on social media for publishing her paper. Even if we think that in cases like the Bayesian/frequentist example a certain degree of “orthodoxy” is good or valuable or necessary – all of which is questionable – we might still worry that there are further issues about how those orthodoxies are created and maintained. I think it might be helpful to keep these issues distinct. Report

Derek Bowman
Derek Bowman
3 years ago

No doubt the difficulty of questioning these orthodoxies is the reason that Dan Kaufman has such a hard time finding a public platform in which to share and his views on philosophy, politics, and the academic professions. Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Derek Bowman
3 years ago

I presume he isn’t complaining about lack of access to blogs.Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
3 years ago

I’ll just comment on the veganism bit–and thanks Justin for picking up on this. I must also have missed the memo that ethical veganism is now orthodoxy in philosophy. I have multiple times been among the few if not the only vegan at philosophy conferences. Sure, there may be more veg*ans in philosophy than in some other fields, and maybe more than in the general population (although I seem to remember Eric Schwitzgebel’s studies suggested otherwise). No doubt it’s gained traction and is viewed increasingly favorably among philosophers. Yay! But this has a lot to do with the fact that the case for it is pretty strong–namely with arguments, not any orthodoxy. On the other hand, DK must have missed a number of publications defending eating meat or generally arguing against the moral status of animals or the idea that death could harm them or that they are conscious or … Getting papers rejected multiple times has become the norm but somehow this one had to do with tone policing. Maybe DK’s paper deserves a place, maybe. Or maybe not. Until I’ve seen it I won’t take its rejection as evidence of any form of orthodoxy.

That said, I was pleased and honestly quite surprised to learn that DK was a fan of punk rock. Report

Bharath Vallabha
3 years ago

The issue isn’t whether one can debate anything in the philosophy profession understood abstractly; one can publish anything in some journal if one doesn’t care about prestige. Real issue, I suspect, is about the trend-setting departments and journals, and how they affect rest of the profession. So, was the intellectual culture at a place like CUNY better in the 90s or now? Should professors be able to act the way superstars like Fodor did, drawing squares on walls, etc.? Seems this is what Dan and Justin are really disagreeing about.

I vote it is better now. But that is compatible with 1) In some ways it was better in the 90s and 2) even now a great many topics don’t get onto the table.

Re 1: debate requires atmosphere of trust and a sense that the contingent differences between the participants don’t matter. This was better in the 90s, sure. But only because the system was set up to keep many people old. I also would love to have someone like Fodor as a professor, but not at the cost of ignoring, as the 90s did, a whole bunch of other issues.

Re 2: Am sure there are social justice type professors now who are getting many of the advantages Fodor had in the 90s. Just because they are against the Fodor type of privilege, doesn’t mean they aren’t perpetuating it in new ways. There are so few positions at the top and so many philosophical topics, no way all topics are on the table. Less protest and more open discussion about the structural issues might help.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
3 years ago

“debate requires atmosphere of trust and a sense that the contingent differences between the participants don’t matter.”

No it doesn’t. That sounds like a recipe for avoiding debate about anything interesting.

In fact, debates are often a lot more exhilarating and fruitful for one who can resolve not to concern himself about the consequences, and to say what’s true regardless. Doing this well requires actually knowing true things, naturally, and also having well-placed confidence in that knowledge.Report

Bharath Vallabha
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
3 years ago

Not sure where we disagree. I agree with your second paragraph.

Also in my comment, there was a typo: it’s supposed to be “… keep many people out”, not “old.”Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
3 years ago

I may have misunderstood you, but my stance is that the contingent differences between students matter a lot in a classroom debate. How could they not? Student X believes in unpopular position Y, and in defending it he might become the object of mockery, and perhaps even experience serious negative consequences. ( This could be so even if it turns out that Y is right.) This matters. My view is that it’s often healthier and better for X to disregard the consequences and argue for Y anyway.Report

Bharath Vallabha
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
3 years ago

We used “contingent differences” in different ways. I meant them to pick out that one is a man, the other is a woman; one is white, the other is brown, etc. Of course, the contingent differences in what two people believe is relevant to their debate.

Broader point: that I am brown and someone I am debating is white shouldn’t matter ideally to a debate (even if we are debating colonialism); philosophy is meant to bring people together beyond the differences. The 90s functioned on this ideal. But ideals like this can’t be realized simply by asserting them – they have to be realized by creating spaces of trust and openness, which the 90s didn’t. We need the carefreeness of the 90s with the awareness of the present.

This is complicated because, if you are Christian and I am a Hindu, or if you are a materialist and I am dualist, we can’t set those identities aside in debating – they are crucial for the debate. Well, the same is true if you are a feminist and I am not, or if I am a critical race theorist and you are not. Which identities need to be set aside when, in what way for a debate to flourish is a huge, thorny issue. The people who yearn for the 90s or the current social justice warriors seem to think the answer to this issue is already clear. But it seems not at all clear.Report

ikj
ikj
3 years ago

Joshua Reagan is the new Dan Kaufman.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  ikj
3 years ago

That’s not fair to Prof. Kaufman who I’m sure objects as much as the rest of you to my views. Also, I think his views are objectionable too, though less obnoxious than what I generally choose to argue against on a blog when I should be writing my dissertation.Report

IGS
IGS
3 years ago

To me, the importance of the Hypatia affair is not that the article remains published but that another, similar article will not be published in the future. In response to the uproar, Hypatia will likely change its practices in the future, consciously or subconsciously, and authors will refrain from submitting those articles in the first place. It is not the formal status of the paper that matters most in evaluating this impact on silencing.

It is also worth nothing that in cases of effective silencing, there will be no Hypatia affairs because potential authors will silence themselves to avoid social punishment before they consider submitting the papers.Report

Animal Symbolicum
Animal Symbolicum
3 years ago

Very few examples of orthodoxy have been offered. I suspect it’s because it’s difficult to articulate orthodoxy. And I suspect it’s difficult because orthodoxy is, by nature, largely invisible. And it’s largely invisible because it’s so entrenched and so deep. It’s the stuff that remains unsaid and must remain unsaid if we want either to begin or to finish saying stuff to each other.

I’ll venture an example: call it the items-in-external-relations orthodoxy. Its status as orthodoxy might be suggested by the fact that upon its articulation you might wonder: how else could things be? And in an obvious sense, the orthodoxy isn’t new; what’s new is its contemporary manifestation.

The contemporary items-in-external-relations orthodoxy reaches something of an apotheosis in model-theoretic semantics. Meaning is articulated in terms of some item’s referring to some other item or items, where reference is supposed to be an external relation. And the model-theoretic picture funds much of today’s metaphysical speculation about possible worlds and their relations — all external — to each other.

Then there’s the treatment of thoughts, propositions, desires, beliefs, judgments, intentions, reasons, concepts, and representations as items. They’re items that may or may not fall into external relations with minds, agents, states of affairs, referents, or objects, not to mention other thoughts, desires, beliefs, and so on.

The items-in-external-relations orthodoxy informs the way we interpret others, too. We talk ourselves into tangles trying to interpret Plato, Aristotle, or Kant — to name the big ones — because we suppose, for example, that the relationship between form and content must be (or must be like) the relation between two externally related items.

I can only hope some of this strikes the reader as familiar. As I said, this stuff is hard to articulate. Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Animal Symbolicum
3 years ago

I presume one difficulty is that many are hesitant to state publicly how they disagree with such an orthodoxy. This is presumably because doing so would incur social and perhaps professional costs that aren’t worth suffering.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

I just realized that I might be giving the wrong impression of my own department. As far as I know, almost everyone in the philosophy department at Rice University thinks I’m very mistaken in my moral and political views. Nevertheless, most grad students and faculty here are quite gracious in their disagreement, and I have received an excellent graduate education here.Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
3 years ago

Pretty much anything can be published in the right circumstances and in the right circles if they exist. I think one question is whether there are certain groups within academic philosophy that will actively attack those who oppose their ideology. The answer is pretty obvious. That they might not always be successful is not a great defense. Suppose we had bands of neo Nazis harnessing people and trying to get them fired or have their papers retracted, albeit unsuccessfully. Would we then say “meh, they aren’t very successful. Nbd.”? I should think not. I think our reaction would be “oh, crap. How can we minimize these people’s influence on the profession, they have clearly demonstrated that they cannot be trusted with power.” We would almost certainly rebel if they held major positions in, say, the APA.

I should also say that I disagree strongly with some of Kaufman’s other points about methodology. The most pleasure I get when reading philosophy is from small pedantic papers that establish some conclusion more or less conclusively, no matter how small or conditional. That is how knowledge is built. It might not be sexy, but it is better to say something small than say nothing at all. In this regard, I think Kaufman fails to realize that much of the problems with orthodoxy in the discipline are methodological in origin. It becomes easy to reject a paper you disagree with when there are no precise established standards about what makes a good paper and what the relevant evidence is. Report

Tim Hsiao
3 years ago

Two examples of orthodoxies come to mind: factory farming being immoral and homosexuality being permissible. It’s possible to publish against these things, but those few who do are given short shrift. Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Tim Hsiao
3 years ago

Again, these are orthodoxies only to the extent that they have pretty strong cases supporting them. And you’ve been able to publish against them (at least the former I think), so it’s not like anybody’s preventing you from questioning them. It’s also good, especially in philosophy, to consider the possibility that you might be wrong. I think this should apply to your own orthodoxies—anthropocentrism and homosexuality is evil. But I might be wrong.Report

C
C
Reply to  Tim Hsiao
3 years ago

I think they’re given sufficient shrift. (We’ve read the arguments, thanks.)Report

Professor Plum
Professor Plum
3 years ago

Justin, I think this post is a fairly good exemplification of several facets of the “orthodoxy” that I imagine Kaufman is gesturing towards.

Kaufman makes some claims in an informal interview asserting that there are unquestionable orthodoxies in academic philosophy, and you go after him on this point and suggest that a better explanation of why he’s had difficulty placing a paper might be “something else” (presumably the supposed low quality of his unpublished paper). That’s fine, I suppose. But we all know there is *no way* you would ever respond in a similar way to a person of color making a similar assertion about the unquestionable orthodoxies in academic philosophy.

You set forth your skepticism in a tone that is perfectly civil but is at the same time positively dripping with scorn and dismissiveness and winking to your allies (those who stress the importance of civil discourse seem to miss just how snide and patronizing superficially respectful words can be). To add an exclamation point, you end your post with a picture of a pile of excrement which in the comments you claim was a response to Kaufman’s assertions about preciousness but which reads very much like your final, utterly dismissive, take on Kaufman himself.
Report

Professor Plum
Professor Plum
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 years ago

Just so I’m clear: in your post extolling the openness of philosophy and its lack of “unquestionable orthodoxies” you are going to ban me (someone who happens to be a woman of color) from commenting on your blog under a pseudonym, when you freely allow others that option, because I have expressed my disagreement about your post in a manner you find distasteful even though it was perfectly civil? Report

IGS
IGS
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 years ago

Well, this was ugly. I can only speak for myself, but since you are looking for examples, it is responses of this form that silence me on many topics:

“I can assure you that if Dan Kaufman was a person of color I would have replied to what he said in this interview in the exact same way. But is that a worry of yours, Professor Plum? That people of color have it too easy?”Report

agradstudent
agradstudent
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 years ago

I don’t mean to stir anything, but … Prof Kaufman here spoke of “orthodoxies” that “cannot be questioned” and about a month ago, Prof Jenkins (in the same venue) spoke of “comfort zones” and “questions … being dismissed and belittled”. If I recall, the Daily Nous coverage, as it were, was a lot more charitable to Prof Jenkins.

Now “orthodoxies” are not the same as “comfort zones”, but it seems odd that here the view that (paraphrased) “orthodoxies that cannot be questioned” is rather harshly challenged, but the view that (paraphrased) “questions out of comfort zones are dismissed” was not.

Be that as it may, it is obvious that Profs Kaufmann and Jenkins have starkly opposed views on certain topics; that they both feel sidelined may be considered ironic. We all know which “side” of this Daily Nous is on, and based on this knowledge, it is not hard to see some scorn here.Report

Gray
Gray
3 years ago

Here are some examples of what seem like heretical views in academic philosophy. (Some of this is copied from a post of mine in a comments thread from a while back: http://dailynous.com/2016/08/30/ideas-students-protected-from-faculty-fearful-to-defend):

-Opposition to affirmative action, along with skepticism about the value of diversity initiatives more generally
-Questioning whether the badness of the situation for women in philosophy is overblown (N.B.: One need not go so far as denying that sexism and sexual harassment are a problem. Even if one merely suggests that the extent of the problem may not be *as* bad as it’s often made out to be, one is liable to be met with hostility.)
-Whenever a certain (supposedly common) feeling among women or other minority groups is touted as indicative of the bigotry and oppression they face, questioning whether the feeling is reasonable–or, for that matter, even simply suggesting that the reasonableness of the feeling is up for debate–is the spark that can trigger a hostile, moralistic dogpile of a response from one’s peers
-Suggesting that feminism is wrongfully anti-male and/or fosters a victimhood mentality that is infantilizing to women
-Arguing that men face sexism comparable in severity to that facing women

While the above list focuses on issues of gender, a similar list could perhaps be given for other axes of identity politics, such as race.

Of course, one might object that there are in fact people in the profession who publicly defend views like the above. But, as some other commenters have pointed out, that’s not the point. The point is that publicly defending views like the above often comes with a high social and professional cost. Nor is the cost simply a matter of ideas being criticized. Rather than “Here are some reasons why those claims are implausible,” the critical response one gets is more along the lines of “There’s something suspect about you as a person for entertaining those ideas, and from now on I’ll do what I can to make sure you’re punished for having done so.” Now, such a message will be more or less explicit, depending on the occasion–but that often *is* the message that’s expressed, even if it’s in a slightly subtler way. And it’s a message that is confirmed by people’s subsequent behavior. I myself, for example, have faced personal and professional backlash for suggesting views like those listed above. A few years ago, when I was more naive about the profession and assumed that all the talk of “tolerance” and “inclusiveness” meant something, I was less guarded about which views I found plausible. It took an experience or two of seeing my peers react to me in the form of a hostile pile-on–a pile-on which, despite a few constructive responses, was marked largely by ridicule, demonization, virtue-signaling to others at my expense–before I realized the ugly truth.

Since then, the backlash hasn’t stopped; academic philosophers, I’ve learned, can hold grudges for a long time. People in my department still spread negative gossip about me to newcomers. They still try to find ways to damage with my career. (I have no doubt that if some people here are ever in a position to influence my being hired or published somewhere, they’ll do what they can to make sure I’m not.)

I know that I’m not the only one who’s had such experiences. My own experience, together with what I’ve heard about others’ experiences, makes me inclined to take very seriously the charge that there are after all unquestionable orthodoxies in academic philosophy.

More generally, from what I’ve seen, it appears that those who voice concerns about the suppression of ideas in academic philosophy tend to be those who hold (at least some of) the unpopular views at issue, while those skeptical toward concerns about the suppression of ideas in academic philosophy tend to be those who lack the views at issue. This doesn’t prove anything by itself, of course, but it is suggestive.

For those who don’t have the kind of views at issue and are interested in furthering their empathy for those who do, here’s an exercise that might be worth trying. The next time you’re with a group of philosophers who don’t already know your views on the matter, tell them that you do hold some views like those listed above, and make a genuine effort to defend them in the ensuing discussion. See what kind of response you get. I suspect that for many or most, this would be an eye-opening exercise.

Of course, such an exercise would involve lying, and I could understand why this would make some reluctant to try it. But one could always follow up the brief discussion with an “Actually, just kidding–here’s my real view…” statement. Views on how morally acceptable this is will vary. Or perhaps the empathy one might gain from the exercise would offset the badness of temporarily lying. In any case, setting moral concerns briefly aside, it’s worth asking yourself whether this is an exercise you’d like to try. If it’s an exercise you find yourself averse to even apart from a concern about lying, consider whether your aversion is based on a worry about what kind of response you might get or what your fellow philosophers might think of you. And if indeed it is, well–then perhaps even simply considering the exercise will have helped you feel a bit more empathy for those who actually do hold the kind of views in question.Report

KH
KH
Reply to  Gray
3 years ago

Wonderful post, Gray. This sounds like a story of someone who didn’t know the secret codes, perhaps because the people in your pre-academic life were very different from your colleagues. So you learned the codes but can’t unsee what you saw.

The challenge you issue is great, and I don’t see how it could be immoral (though I appreciate that you went out of your way to consider that it might be!). It’s rather a great way that diversity advocates could learn something about diversity. Pose as an outsider to your in-group!Report

Jake
Jake
Reply to  Gray
3 years ago

I admit that I’d be surprised if you could get a career going on the basis of a defense of some of the mentioned views alone. But once tenure is had, you probably wouldn’t lose your job for writing some of those politically charged things down. Witness David Benatar who wrote The Second Sexism. There was a backlash to be sure—i.e. not everyone liked it and many wrote as much. But he seems to remain gainfully employed. So just get a career going by arguing for something less charged like the being born is always a harm and having kids is always wrong.Report

sahpa
sahpa
Reply to  Jake
3 years ago

Right on. I think too that much of this ideological gatekeeping happens outside the usual institutional mechanisms like tenure and publications, as you point out. For example, on my dept, it is taken as doctrine that our discipline as a gender problem (beyond the very real problems of sexual harassment), and it is very clear to anyone with a modicum of social intelligence that challenges to this doctrine will be met with hostility. That in itself is a form of silencing. It might remain true that your heterodox views could get published (ignoring that their subject matter is more sociological than philosophical), in some obscure venue, or that you won’t be denied a job or tenure for them (this is highly implausible, but spot me) but that doesn’t mean you won’t pay a high social price for voicing them.Report

sahpa
sahpa
Reply to  sahpa
3 years ago

And let me say that this might be true for the other side, too. For example, the view that philosophy is a fundamentally sexist and capitalistic enterprise might also be similarly censored. That too is a problem.

All such views should be taken on their philosophical merits, not shut down through instruments of social control.Report

JCM
JCM
3 years ago

Again on the less politicised orthodoxies, or on the way orthodoxies can express themselves in less political ways:

As Animal Symbolicum observes, orthodoxies can be as deep as world-views. The conversation between Joshua Reagan and Temp illustrates this well. The differential in knowledge of the matter at hand between Reagan and Temp is night and day, and this is because, obviously, JR lives and breathes what he’s talking about, and Temp has just picked up by osmosis the received wisdom about Christianity. What’s interesting here–I mean, what is the expression of orthodoxy–is that Temp thinks that this is enough: Christianity, goes the assumption, is sufficiently intellectually irresponsible (to use Justin Weinberg’s phrase, which Symbolicum earlier rightly pointed out is ripe for rhetorical equivocation) that it doesn’t need a theologian to point out its errors to some benighted soul who adheres to that worldview.

A further expression of orthodoxy is the lack of success Reagan had in schooling Temp. This illustrates the vastness of the intellectual distance between the two worldviews. I’ve often been in Reagan’s position with regard to my own (far less politically charged) heterodoxy. You sometimes just don’t know where to begin: all the seemingly neutral and basic words by which you can describe your view are interpreted in different ways by your interlocutor, and you end up no further along. Or you end up an iota further along: for there *are* ways of getting out of these impasses, but they require huge amounts of labour, and this sort of labour can’t be done more than a few times in a philosopher’s life. But there are so many different worldviews, as grand as Catholicism and as local as Bayesianism, that, as Bharath Vallabha notes, getting to a position of not having an orthodoxy is as infinitely distant a goal as getting to the position of knowing the truth. I’d rather philosophers were open about this than that they patted themselves on the back for being open-minded. For this is implicitly: so open-minded that all that they disagree with is intellectually irresponsible.Report

Urstoff
Urstoff
3 years ago

Needing substantial training in logic beyond basic predicate logic to be a professional philosopher seems somewhat like an orthodoxy to me, given how such logic courses are generally required by Ph.D. programs. Report

Mark Alfano
Reply to  Urstoff
3 years ago

This comment wins the thread. Report

Chris Stephens
Chris Stephens
Reply to  Urstoff
3 years ago

Actually, my understanding is that such requirements (logic beyond a first course) are in decline. So this orthodoxy may be on its way out.Report

M
M
Reply to  Urstoff
3 years ago

At least here in Germany, I don’t know of *any* Ph.D program that *requires* you to get training in advanced logic. On the contrary, in many places you wouldn’t even be able to get that training if you wanted it, since there is none being offered. Like, at all. (If the original post was meant as a joke, then I obviously missed that. Sorry.)Report

Urstoff
Urstoff
Reply to  M
3 years ago

Not a joke at all. In the mid-2000’s, a logic course that went through Godel’s proofs and beyond was required for a graduate degree at the program I was in, and I think that was the norm in the US. Report

sahpa
sahpa
Reply to  Urstoff
3 years ago

I agree, but I always understood those courses as having greater philosophical import than logic as such. The incompleteness of any axiomatization of arithmetic proved the fundamental failure of a particular way of doing philosophy–in particular, the way that gives no quarter to certain realms of synthetic a priori truths. Report

sahpa
sahpa
Reply to  sahpa
3 years ago

When, in reality, those realms of synthetic a priori truths are where 99% of philosophy happens!Report

JTT
JTT
3 years ago

Required courses in other areas are also fairly common, even orthodox—ancient, modern, mind, epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, or maybe a proseminar on contemporary philosophy. Report

Sam Duncan
Sam Duncan
3 years ago

Now just to start I want to say that I think that Reagan ought to be a bit more careful with his assumptions: Not every Christian assumes that you can’t put Christian moral commitments in non-religious terms or that the best account of morality is some sort of divine command theory. Someone with better knowledge of the history can correct me if I’m wrong, but if I’m not mistaken these issues were a lot of what the debate between the natural law theorists and their opponents in the middle ages hinged on. And whether I’m right on that or not many contemporary Christians wouldn’t buy either of those claims (I don’t). I suppose there might be some supposed tenets of Christianity such as opposition to gay marriage that are hard to account for without reaching for divine command theory, but then again many of us don’t really buy those claims either.
But I do have to say that I find the tone of responses to his claims telling. There’s a dismissiveness of religious belief here that strikes me as more than a bit condescending. For instance, Weinberg seems to liken religious commitment to belief in a flat Earth and, whatever their intention, Temp’s comments come off as bordering on contemptuous. (If you don’t think so ask yourself this: If someone talked to a woman this way in an actual conversation would you hesitate for a second to tell them they were mansplaining?) I’ve seen a lot of this in philosophy. People don’t feel that they have to respect religious belief or even know much about it. I’ve heard a lot of otherwise courteous, respectful, thoughtful people take potshots at “religion” or “Christianity” in conferences without really much thought about it, and this sort of move predictably gets a laugh. I’ve usually tried to push back in a polite way, but I’m someone with a full time, stable job who doesn’t plan to go on the market ever again if I can help it. I imagine that a lot of grad students, adjuncts, and VAPs feel they just have to put up with this kind of thing.
Just to be clear I hardly think religious people are persecuted in the academy. People being a jerk to you isn’t the same as being fed to the lions. But there is a bit of orthodoxy and I dare say bias here that academics don’t think much about.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Sam Duncan
3 years ago

Justin asked me to quit commenting for a while yesterday, which is completely fair given my flurry of posts. But I hope he won’t be bothered if I leave just one last message on the topic. (I apologize to those who ask me questions above without getting a response—now you know why. Feel free to e-mail me at my Rice e-mail address if you’d like a response still.)

Regarding the tone of responses to me, I am not really bothered by what some apparently see as Justin’s or Temp’s “condescension”, and I don’t think others should be either. It’s understandable that someone should express some measure of contempt for views they find contemptible. Furthermore, I was rhetorically aggressive myself. I’m not unaware that my outspoken defense of Orthodox Christianity as I understand it is rather offensive to most professional philosophers. I do it anyway because I think the value of expressing my views in such a manner outweighs the obligations of courtesy which would compel me to speak only timidly or not at all. Presumably something like the same consideration holds for those who push back. Obviously there are still limits to the kind of rhetoric used, and rhetorical escalation shouldn’t be taken lightly.

I do not think it’s possible to separate one’s “bias” from one’s considered perspective about a matter. Whereas I disagree with Justin’s apparent assessment that Christianity is on par with flat earth science, that may be his considered view. Shall he not express his considered view just as I express mine? There are norms of courtesy that would permit his words and not mine, and others that would permit mine and not his. Which norms are correct/appropriate? One’s conclusion about the right set of norms is a function of other normative background theory one holds, and presumably that background theory will include or entail certain conclusions about the substance of the matter under discussion. And surely norms governing the expression of some view X is determined at least in part by whether X is true! When two people differ on the truth of X and X is sufficiently controversial there is almost certainly to be a meta-debate about which norms of expression are appropriate.

Accordingly, when I debate about some such X I try to focus on the object-level debate, not the meta-level debate about norms of expression. I don’t know what else to do.

As for whether I have correctly represented the Christian point of view, I continue to maintain that I have—the Orthodox Christian point of view, which I take to be correct. If anyone would like to discuss that with me further, feel free to send an e-mail to my Rice address.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
3 years ago

How about these as orthodoxies? It can be demonstrated what the confederate flag means without getting into tricky questions in philosophy of language. It can be demonstrated which people are women without getting into tricky questions in metaphysics and the philosophy of language. Philosophy about men has no special need for critique from men.Report

Andrew
Andrew
3 years ago
Moosbrugger
Moosbrugger
Reply to  Andrew
3 years ago

Hey, at least Soble actually wrote that!Report

ejrd
ejrd
3 years ago

Seems like we’re headed toward another 100+ response thread in which the first two posts (Carnap + JW) essentially laid the groundwork for the conversation we ought to have had while the other 90+ posts then went on to equivocate “unpopular” with “unquestionable” and around and around we go.

Justin’s (a) and (b), in particular (b), are the only material questions that bare on the question of the existence of (bad) orthodoxy: “(a) how likely is it that my paper will generate significant negative attention from the profession? (b) how likely is it that this negative attention will have a seriously negative effect on my career?”

So far, most people with views that are unpopular to some in philosophy are focusing on (a). I’m waiting for evidence of views for which (b) are true. Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  ejrd
3 years ago

As regards (b), though, “have a seriously negative effect on my career” is way too high a bar to establish an effect. If there are lots of things you can choose to work on, and you’re not antecedently massively committed to working on one rather than another, then even “have a mildly annoying effect on my career” can be enough to chill discussion.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  ejrd
3 years ago

What sort of evidence should people be able to provide that expressing these opinions will lead to a negative backlash?Report

ejrd
ejrd
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
3 years ago

How about “X had a decent career going until they published that paper/book that went against [insert orthodoxy], after that they stopped getting speaking gigs, stopped getting papers accepted in good places, etc etc etc”

Without evidence, what are we actually doing in this thread? Venting? Report

sahpa
sahpa
Reply to  ejrd
3 years ago

But you see, this is exactly what people are complaining about. When Carrie Jenkins talks about the chilling effects of the discipline on various feminist claims, she is not met by skepticism and a demand for evidence by the administrator of this blog or most other people for that matter. Yet, when a (relatively) conservative white male says something analogous, all of a sudden everyone demands to be presented with concrete evidence. Never mind that there are prominent feminist philosophers all over the place with research chairs and lengthy publication records! If a feminist woman said it, it must be true.Report

sahpa
sahpa
Reply to  sahpa
3 years ago

It’s important to remember who those people were who *did* demand evidence: people like Dan Kaufman! When those demands were then dismissed by the very people who later turned on him, you might begin to see why he thinks something’s amiss.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
3 years ago

I think to say that one “cannot criticize or even question” overstates the case, but in a world where most of us have quite a lot of choice about what we work on, even somewhat-weaker forms of discouragement still matter a lot. Here’s a philosophy-of-science-oriented way to illustrate the point:

In academic circles, you frequently hear appeals to “established scientific results” about (e.g.): intelligence differences between sexes and races; employment and academic differences between sexes and races, and their origins; relevance of genetic and epigenetic factors to racial categories; prevalence of various forms of sexual assault, and of false claims of sexual assault; coherence and prevalence of “implicit bias” and “stereotype threat”; validity of the IAT as a method of assessing stereotype threat.

In each case, when I’ve got into the primary literature (not to the extent I would if I planned to seriously work on this, but at the “spend a couple of afternoons satisfying my curiosity, with a vague thought on working on it later” level) I find a tangled mess – a philosophically interesting tangled mess – that doesn’t bear much resemblance to the impression of clear consensus one gets from more casual references. In principle, trying to disentangle that mess looks like a pretty interesting project, either for me as a side project, or as a dissertation topic for a philosophy-of-science grad student. (It’s a little distant from my core interests in physics, but it’s nice to branch out from time to time.)

But I doubt I’m going to carry out that project, and I doubt even more that I’m going to suggest that dissertation topic. The reason is that disagreement here is heavily moralised by at least a respectable fraction of philosophers, and by a substantially larger fraction of those philosophers who are active on social media. To disagree with the “consensus”, or more accurately to make philosophy-of-science-style objections to the claim that there is a consensus and/or that the evidence supports that consensus, is likely to get you criticised not just in academic language (ill-conceived, incoherent, etc) but in moral language (bigoted, racist, white-supremacist, rape-apologist). Certainly that’s been my impression at least half the time when I’ve (nuancedly, tentatively) explored any of this in blog comments.

Is this the biggest problem in the world? Does it make these topics impossible to discuss? No and no. For somebody with my secure status it’s mostly an irritation on a social and personal level; it obviously isn’t going to affect my position: my relations with colleagues are sufficiently grounded in personal interactions as not to be vulnerable to social-media reassessment; I guess I might be *slightly* worried about it affecting the likelihood of my making a move I wanted to make at some later time, but in practice I doubt it would be salient. My hypothetical student would probably have more to worry about, although even then I think it could be finessed. (They’d better be a *very good* hypothetical student, I guess.)

But I have lots of things I can research, and lots of things I can suggest as research topics for students. Of course controversy can itself be interesting and stimulating, but I’ve defended controversial minority views in philosophy of physics lots of times, and while it requires the usual academic’s thick skin, it’s not personally upsetting or irritating to anything like the same degree. So intellectual curiosity, alone, probably isn’t a sufficient reason to work on these topics from a contrarian starting point. And that inevitably means that work on these topics is dominated by one viewpoint, and that people who explore the contrarian viewpoint are passionate enough about it to overcome the unpleasantness. That in turn means their work (on average, etc, etc) will tend to the extreme and low-quality. To paraphrase: if researching X is bigoted, only bigots will research X.

Report

Mark Alfano
Reply to  David Wallace
3 years ago

I’m puzzled by this. There have been multiple recent high-profile criticisms of the IAT (eg by Machery). I’ve published on between-group differences on measures of intelligence in handbooks for respected presses. As far as I know, Machery and I have not faced the kind of backlash envisioned here. Are we exceptions? I have no reason to think so. Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Mark Alfano
3 years ago

I think that’s important, and (somewhat) encouraging. For one thing, it might suggest that the response to academic-literature engagement on these issues is more measured than the philosophy-social-media engagement with them, which I thought about when I posted (but I didn’t want to bog down an already-long post with speculation).

Incidentally, I meant to recommend Alice Dreger’s “Galileo’s Middle Finger” as a discussion of some of the activist/scholarship-nexus issues that arise in at least some cases like these.Report

Upsilon
Upsilon
Reply to  Mark Alfano
3 years ago

Mark, I just looked up the abstract of your paper on race and intelligence:

“Philosophers have in recent decades neglected the state of the art on the psychology of intelligence tests as related to racial difference. A major theoretical issue is the measurement invariance of intelligence tests, the fact that blacks, Latinos, women, poor people, and other marginalized groups perform worse than average on a variety of different intelligence tests. But the skepticism now surrounding measurement invariance includes the importance of stereotype threat or the correlation of decreased performance level after test takers are exposed to stereotypes about themselves. Recent research suggests that people’s conceptions of intelligence influence how their own intelligence is expressed. In a study when high school students were informed that intelligence is not an essential or racially determined property, higher grades and better performance in core courses resulted.”

Not the sort of work that defies any progressive orthodoxy on this topic, and thus not the sort of work that one would ever expect to come in for political criticism even if David Wallace’s perspective were correct.Report

Mark Alfano
Reply to  Upsilon
3 years ago

I guess it depends on what you think the orthodoxy is. David Wallace mentioned “established scientific results” regarding “intelligence differences between sexes and races.” I assumed he meant that the orthodoxy about this was that there are no differences. Ask any psychologist who works on intelligence, though, and they’ll tell you exactly the opposite. My paper starts from these established results, i.e., that tests of intelligence reliably indicate different means for different groups. It then offers an explanation of how those differences arise that’s based on Conway’s “overlap” model of the processes that contribute to intelligent cognition and behavior.

What do you think the orthodoxy is?Report

Upsilon
Upsilon
Reply to  Mark Alfano
3 years ago

I think the orthodoxy is simply that there is no good evidence of biologically-explained racial differences in general intelligence.

There are some progressives who go beyond this orthodoxy in making further claims like the nonexistence of intelligence as a well-defined trait. There are probably also many uninformed progressives who believe that people from different races get the same average results on IQ tests, but that opinion is too verifiably false to become part of orthodoxy. So there are people “to the left of you,” but that doesn’t make the views advocated by you and your co-authors unorthodox.

I actually agree with the progressive orthodoxy on race and intelligence, although not for the reasons you adduce in your paper, as I think the evidence for stereotype threat as a robust phenomenon that affects minority test scores is very weak. BUT I think reasonable disagreement on this question is possible, and I have a serious problem with the pressure that’s been employed to suppress unorthodox views, including physical violence in the case of Middlebury College.Report

Mark Alfano
Reply to  Upsilon
3 years ago

Should also mention that I have three papers on this topic. The most recent, with Conway and Holden, is the best-informed of the three.Report

Mark Alfano
Reply to  Upsilon
3 years ago

This exchange makes me doubt that any unquestionable orthodoxies have been identified. An orthodoxy is not a taboo topic. It’s an proposition or set of propositions. Almost every alleged orthodoxy I’ve seen in the 100+ comments on this post is either a topic or a very vague proposition that stands in need of serious clarification. If you want evidence of someone who does not seem to have been professionally punished for questioning the alleged orthodoxy that biological race is real, look no further than Quayshawn Spencer. Report

DoubleA
DoubleA
3 years ago

When prepping for the job market my two faculty mock interviewers told me that regardless of the gender composition of your syllabus, a question about female representation in it should be met with an eager request for more female authored articles to include. That at least made me think that the othrodox view was “the more female authors the better” when it came to syllabi. I’m sure that some people disagree with this view in public, but they are those who are already securely employed.Report

G
G
3 years ago

Okay, when I was a grad student there was a job candidate who was a Christian and one my colleagues openly said that her being a Christian is was a negative. That was a while ago, but maybe such prejudices still loom large. But independent of religion, metaphysical views that are considered dead –Meinongianism and idealism for example, are not views that help one get a job or prosper in philosophy. YES people do it, but they have to work harder–God Bless them! Try getting a job at an analytic dept. with a thesis on Derrida, or even Heidegger and Sartre. Again, its not like it does not happen, and things are more “pluralistic” nowadays.. but I would have thought that we philosophers would want to encourage honest proponents of provocative, unconventional views… I mean its F***ing BORING to read once again a philosophy of mind article that blithely presupposes naturalism (not that there is anything wrong with that….)

I was talking to a philosopher who had as a mentor a well respected philosopher who took seriously parapsychology. I asked whether he published anything about that, she retired “oh he would not publish that stuff”
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Tristan Haze
Tristan Haze
3 years ago

One that occurs to me, although I don’t think it should be called ‘unquestionable’ without qualification, is the idea that philosophy has extrinsic value. Obviously this can be questioned, and it’s not particularly scary to question it publicly, but it seems to me that in some situations where funding is needed in order for someone to get certain work done, this idea must be upheld by that person. And I’m sure many people merely pretend to uphold it in this sort of case. I’m not bemoaning this state of affairs, but it has struck me while looking at certain application forms and the like.Report

Gray
Gray
3 years ago

My comment seems to have been removed. I’m not aware of any ways in which it went against the comments policy, though. Perhaps more software trouble? Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Gray
3 years ago

I suspect that trouble-makers are abusing the “report” button so that certain comments are withdrawn temporarily for moderation. My comments have been disappearing for hours at a time and then reappearing, presumably when Justin releases them.Report

Clifford L Sosis
3 years ago

Don’t mean to necro this thread, but a supporter attempting to share a link to the interview told me that, “Facebook removed my post of it because it supposedly ‘violated community standards’.” Did anybody else have this experience?Report