Mini-Heap


Here’s a new installment of the Mini-Heap.

 

  1. Some people think that to understand consciousness we need a very detailed map of the brain — scientists are now using artificial intelligence to help produce that map
  2. “Unsettling our conceptions of sex and gender… can be part of the solution to gendered… disparities” — Georgia Warnke (UC Riverside) on the definition of “woman”
  3. Roger Scruton remarks on a “Soros Empire”, Muslim invasions, and the Chinese — and loses his government position as Chairman of the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission*
  4. Psychology Today has launched a new blog on science and philosophy — run by Walter Veit (Bristol), it features essays and interviews
  5. Presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg talks philosophy — in an interview with Meghan Sullivan (Notre Dame) (via Michael Morrisey)
  6. Certain Doubts, an epistemology-focused blog that has been running for nearly 15 years, is coming to an end — Jon Kvanvig (Washington U. St. Louis) makes some farewell remarks
  7. Campus racial incidents — the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education maintains a page listing them

Mini-Heap posts appear when 7 or so new items accumulate in the Heap of Links, the ever-growing collection of items from around the web that may be of interest to philosophers.

The Heap of Links consists partly of suggestions from readers; if you find something online that you think would be of interest to the philosophical community, please send it in for consideration for the Heap. Thanks!

* The original wording of this entry was insufficiently neutral about the nature of Scruton’s remarks, given concerns (expressed in the comments) that some of them were taken out of context.

COMMENTS POLICY

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MA student - King's College London
MA student - King's College London
2 years ago

“Uncle Roger [Sir Roger Scruton] spouts off about a Jewish conspiracy, Muslim invasions, and how the Chinese people are actually robots — and loses his government position as Chairman of the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission”

I don’t blame you for not knowing all the details of this case Justin, after all there are far too many stories for any one person to stay on top of them. However, you ought to exercise constraint on the manner in which you report the story. Sir Roger did not ‘spout off’ about any of those things, a deliberate choice of phrase used to imply it was some sort of uncontrolled rant.

In brief, the story is that Sir Roger was interviewed for the New Statesman magazine by its deputy editor George Eaton. Mr Eaton asked several questions which prompted several answers from Sir Roger.

Included among these answers was the claim that the word ‘Islamophobia’ is ‘a propaganda word invented by the Muslim Brotherhood in order to stop discussion of a major issue’. Whether or not you agree with him on the origin of the word, its use as a propaganda word is a view held by many serious people.

Sir Roger also answered another question with the claim ‘Anybody who doesn’t think that there’s a Soros empire in Hungary has not observed the facts.’ This is not, as Justin reports, ‘spouting off about a Jewish conspiracy’. George Soros is well known as a political financier and, although I do not know the details about it, may well have a great deal of influence in his native Hungary. It has been misreported as if Sir Roger was jumping on an anti-Semitic trope about Jews controlling the world. Mr Soros’s race was never mentioned nor do the charges of anti-Semitism stick to Sir Roger.
I should also mention the dishonesty of the deputy editor in relation to this quote. All the quotes alluded to by Justin and specified by Mr Brokenshire, the Housing Minister, as the reason for firing Sir Roger, were selected and tweeted by Mr Eaton on his twitter feed. Regarding the Soros tweet, Mr Eaton misleadingly began the above quote regarding Soros with the words ‘On Hungarian Jews:’ when Hungarian Jews had nothing to do with Sir Roger’s comment.

Finally, the Chinese quote was equally misleading. Mr Eaton originally quoted Sir Roger as saying ‘Each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one and that is a very frightening thing.’ Justin reports on this as Sir Roger ‘spouts off about… how the Chinese people are actually robots.’ The full context of the quote is, as ever, illuminating. Sir Roger was critiquing the Chinese government’s tyrannical policies. Here is the quote which Mr Eaton gave later after receving criticism:

‘They’re creating robots out of their own people by so constraining what can be done. Each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one and that is a very frightening thing.’

Is Sir Roger a racist or a man who cares about the Chinese people enough to condemn the Chinese government for their brutal treatment of political dissent?

This is a long post and I apologise for that. However, I am troubled by Justin’s very poor editorial decision here to slander Roger Scruton. Sir Roger was fired from his position in the government for tweets that were taken out of context by a malicious deputy editor who celebrated on his instagram later that day. Mr Eaton posted a picture of himself drinking champagne with the description ‘The feeling when you get far-right racist and homophobe Roger Scruton sacked as a Tory government advisor.’

Justin – you have seen hundreds of comments on this blog from philosophers who have said they as conservatives do not feel welcome in academia and elsewhere. Roger Scruton is one of the best of us conservative philosophers and he has had the deputy editor of a major magazine in the UK deliberately take him out of context. It may even be true that Mr Eaton intended for him to lose his position in the government, but he certainly celebrated this effect. You have also frequently denied that there is such an anti-conservative trend, but by making such a misleading tagline in this link you are contributing to it. Please edit the post and apologise to Sir Roger.Report

MA student - King's College London
MA student - King's College London
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
2 years ago

Thanks for the quick response Justin. I would also direct readers towards Roger Scruton’s defence of himself in relation to this incident here: https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2019/04/roger-scruton-an-apology-for-thinking/
(I don’t know how to format hyperlinks, so please excuse me.)

I won’t comment on the appropriateness of using ‘Uncle Roger’ to refer to him as that is peripheral to the thrust of my (very long) comment.

Also I need to apologise for claiming your tagline included the Islamophobia-as-propaganda-word against Sir Roger. You didn’t say it and I should have been more careful. This was raised by Mr. Eaton, but not by yourself. You did however include ‘Muslim invasions’ as one of the things he spouts off on. Whether or not this was an appropriate thing for someone with a government position to say is beyond me because I know very little about the political history of the region and period he was talking about. I will only say in criticism of your language that ‘Muslim invasion’ can have entirely appropriate contexts which Sir Roger may have been employing. An appropriate context might be in a history textbook regarding wars conducted by the Ottomans, etc. Whether he used it appropriately, and thus whether you were justified in using it as an example, is beyond my knowledge.

Finally, while you may not have the time right now, I urge you to edit this so that it is no longer slanderous at your very earliest convenience and provide whatever apology to Sir Roger you consider appropriate.Report

Neil Levy
Neil Levy

“It has been misreported as if Sir Roger was jumping on an anti-Semitic trope about Jews controlling the world. Mr Soros’s race was never mentioned nor do the charges of anti-Semitism stick to Sir Roger.”.

This is not misreporting. It is accurate reporting, and it is MA student, not Justin, who does not know all the details of the case (or who conveniently elides them). Here is the context. The question asked in the interview was a response to earlier comment by Scruton, in which he did mention Jews explicitly. “Many of the Budapest intelligentsia are Jewish, and form part of the extensive networks around the Soros empire,” That most definitely is Scruton deliberately employing an anti-Semitic trope. Report

MA student - King's College London
MA student - King's College London
Reply to  Neil Levy
2 years ago

Let’s talk about convenient elision then!

The speech you refer to which Mr Eaton asked about was delivered in Hungary and can be read in full here, in case readers doubt my claims: https://www.roger-scruton.com/articles/276-the-need-for-nations

This is quite frankly old news. Back in November of last year Sir Roger was challenged on these remarks and his government post was almost revoked, but the context clears him of using an anti-Semitic trope.

Sir Roger said this in the speech, and for which he was accused of anti-Semitism but did not lose his job:

“The Jewish minority that survived the Nazi occupation suffered further persecution under the communists, but nevertheless is active in making its presence known. Many of the Budapest intelligentsia are Jewish, and form part of the extensive networks around the Soros Empire. People in these networks include many who are rightly suspicious of nationalism, regard nationalism as the major cause of the tragedy of Central Europe in the 20th century, and do not distinguish nationalism from the kind of national loyalty that I have defended in this talk. Moreover, as the world knows, indigenous anti-Semitism still plays a part in Hungarian society and politics, and presents an obstacle to the emergence of a shared national loyalty among ethnic Hungarians and Jews.”

Sir Roger’s point here is that there are Hungarian Jews in Mr. Soros’s networks who feel unwelcome in Hungary because of native anti-Semitism. The presence of the word ‘Empire’ does not automatically mean the anti-Semitic trope of secret control is being employed. Mr. Soros is a billionaire and billionaires very often have ’empires,’ typically business ones. So Sir Roger did not employ an anti-Semitic trope.

In the link above to his recent Spectator comment on this debacle, Sir Roger has this to say about the ‘Empire’ and Mr. Soros which should dispel any last shred of doubt that Sir Roger has said anything objectionable about Jews in his speech or in the recent interview. If a reader can sit through the following quote and still read anti-Semitism into that word ‘Empire’ I suspect that reader of having ulterior motives:

‘In retrospect I could have chosen the words more carefully. But my purpose was to point out that anti-Semitism has become an issue in Hungary, and an obstacle to a shared national identity. As for the Soros Empire, I am the only person I know who has actually tried to persuade Viktor Orbán to accept its presence, and that of the Central European University in particular, in Hungary. I did not succeed, but that is another matter. I should add that I am neither a friend nor an enemy of Orbán, but know him from the days when I helped him and his colleagues to set up a free university under the communists. What Orbán did then was the first step towards the liberation of his country, and George Soros was one of those who helped him too. It is sad for Hungary that the two have fallen out, and that the old spectre of anti-Semitism has been reborn from their clash.’

Neil Levy, you either do not know the details of this case or you deliberately elide them.
Justin, you still need to edit this post.Report

SirRoger'sGhost
SirRoger'sGhost

If backpedaling in response to rightfully merited criticism somehow changes the meaning of words said, then sure you win Roger, I mean “MA Student.” This technique works for Trump too! He never means what he says – why are people always mad at that guy?!Report

Neil Levy
Neil Levy

The very lines MA student quotes make it clear that Scruton’s point is that Jews are, in the words of another anti-semitic trope, rootless cosmopolitans – people who will not accept Hungarian national identity. He offers an explanation for that (they are unable to understand true nationalism and lingering native attitudes don’t help) but sadly those are the facts. Scruton’s genteel antisemitism may be acceptable to MA student but others may not want to buy it. Report

MA student - King's College London
MA student - King's College London
Reply to  Neil Levy
2 years ago

Thank you Neil for being a foil to bring out the evidence. I think I have said enough, and at good length, about the anti-Semitism charge. Your new claim (did you read the speech you quoted from before accusing me of elision?) is too weak to need refuting and I will leave it to readers to make up their minds whether the philosopher who said ‘It is sad for Hungary that the two [Orban and Soros] have fallen out, and that the old spectre of anti-Semitism has been reborn from their clash’ is an anti-Semite or not.

Sir Roger’s Ghost, I will take it as a compliment to my writing that you have confused me with Sir Roger. His prose is much better than mine and anyone familiar with his style would not confuse us. Report

Neil Levy
Neil Levy
Reply to  Neil Levy
2 years ago

We agree: enough has been said and readers can make their own minds, on the basis of the texts provided.Report

Matt
2 years ago

“Sir Roger”… oh barf. Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Matt
2 years ago

Guide to readers on how to refer to the person in question:

“I want to conform to UK norms of nomenclature, either because I accept them or out of generalized respect for other cultures.” – Sir Roger, Sir Roger Scruton.

“I want to avoid taking any stand on the UK honour system while continuing to refer in a polite way” – Scruton, Roger Scruton.

“I want to actively reject the UK honour system, either out of general principle, or because I think Scruton’s knighthood was or is undeserved, or just to be rude” – Mr Scruton.

“I want to be rude without commiting myself on the UK honours system one way or another” – Uncle Roger.

“I want to demonstrate my ignorance of UK academia” – Professor Scruton.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  David Wallace
2 years ago

I missed one:
“I respect the UK honours system but don’t understand it” – Sir Scruton.Report

Matt
Reply to  David Wallace
2 years ago

Also forgot: “I am making a dubious rhetorical move” – Sir Roger.Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
2 years ago

I don’t think the charge of anti-Semitism sticks. Scruton spells out and defends a notion of national loyalty (not the ideology of nationalism), applies it to the Hungarian case, and argues that the institutions of the EU are not in the people’s best interest. He’s clear that the national loyalty he’s defending is based on shared custom, history, and territory, not ethnicity or religion. He brings up the situation of the Jews in Hungary in order to point out how hard it is for central European Jews to reconcile with nationalist sentiments. He’s most certainly not suggesting that there’s anything about being Jewish that precludes taking part in a shared national identity, or that European Jews are somehow part of the problem. He writes

If the government in Budapest is to enjoy legitimacy, that legitimacy must come from below, from the people whose unity and identity is expressed in the workings of government. This legitimacy must be inherited by each government, whether right or left, whether minority or majority. It must not be a loyalty of cliques, or a reprimand to the peasantry issued by the intellectuals of Budapest, or an edict issued by the true Hungarians in the villages against the traitors in the city. The electorate itself must be identified in territorial terms, since the jurisdiction is territorial, not ethnic or religious. The alternative is fragmentation, as competing ethnic groups or factional interests form parties whose purpose is not to rule in the interest of everyone, but to pillage for the sake of the group.

Earlier he writes

Europe is, and in my view has ever been, a civilisation of nation states, founded on a specific kind of pre-political allegiance, which is the allegiance that puts territory and custom first and religion and dynasty second in the order of government. Give them a voice, therefore, and the people of Europe will express their loyalties in those terms. In so far as they have unconditional loyalties – loyalties that are a matter of identity rather than agreement – they take a national form.

While I can see how a quick read might leave one with the impression Scruton was illicitly trucking in anti-Semitic tropes, that impression doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. And it’s not like there isn’t plenty to remark on in his essay – the discussion of religion and the law in European history, for instance, or the line of thought leading to this passage:

Burke…reminded his readers that human beings are thrown together by accidents that they do not choose, and derive their affections not from their decisions but from their circumstances. It is proximity, not reason, that is the foundation of ordinary charitable feeling. Take that thought seriously, and you quickly come to see that territorial forms of association are the best remedy that we have against the divisive call of ideology. National attachment is precisely what prevents ‘extremism’ from taking hold of the ordinary conscience.

More generally, we should collectively be troubled by the fact that some people in the profession have normalized the practice of morally condemning philosophers whose politics they disagree with. It’s unhealthy for the profession and the cultures we inhabit, and it seems hardly a week goes by before someone else gives us another instance of it. Though I can appreciate wanting to ward off the evils in question, we owe it to our colleagues to relate to them in good faith. As philosophers, we need to be able to openly discuss and debate these issues. We cannot do that when we police the discourse like this. Report

Scrutonizer
Scrutonizer
2 years ago

Scruton ‘had dismissed Islamophobia as a “propaganda word” and said homosexuality was “not normal”… Such views were known five months ago when Scruton was first appointed, and the Labour party immediately demanded he be sacked. But the response from Theresa May’s government was to defend him… The episode lays bare their profound lack of concern about Islamophobia and the depths of their denial. The Muslim community in our country deserves an explanation and an apology, and to finally see Scruton stripped of his knighthood.’
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/15/roger-scruton-conservative-party-islamophobia?CMP=Share_iOSApp_OtherReport

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  Scrutonizer
2 years ago

Thanks Scrutonizer; that was illuminating. Here’s a bit more context:

Scruton has repeatedly argued that Islamophobia is a “propaganda word” used to “hide the truth”, and that those mocking the idea that Islam is a religion of peace run the risk of an “Islamist” killing them. This paints Muslims as violent, dangerous others, who don’t share the west’s values and shouldn’t be trusted. Such speech stokes fear and loathing towards Muslims at a time when Islamophobic hate crime is rising in our society and around the world.

The author goes on to relate how these charges were used by the opposition in an effort to prevent Scruton from being appointed five months ago, and notes that May’s government defended him at the time. We’re then told that the Conservatives were confronted with new allegations, and we learn about the renewed calls for Scruton’s ouster that the accusations brought forth.

Based on how this is being reported, I have little faith that there’s something ethically dubious in what Scruton actually said. Maybe he’s a raving racist, I don’t know his work. But this reporting just isn’t accurate when you scratch past the surface. And the idea that it’s beyond the pale to consider whether Islam is truthfully described as a religion of peace is ludicrous. I can’t find anything in these accusations other than distaste for Scruton’s view of the facts, a disagreement over what the facts are and show, and a willful disregard for what the man said. And I say all of that with no prejudgment as to either the factual or value-laden positions Scruton stakes out.

It’s a great shame of the journalism of the age that this kind of organized suppression of debate is not only tolerated but championed across a variety of platforms. There are a range of issues in play here that remain hotly contested in the public sphere, and the decisions made will likely shape the world for generations. We need to be able to talk openly about what is happening and what to do about it.Report