A recent meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers featured as keynote speaker Richard Swinburne, a well-established philosopher of religion of the rapidly dwindling “old school,” one might call it: the school for which professional philosophy really was the love of wisdom, and not a platform for professing one’s leftist ideology. Swinburne presented well-known and fairly obvious criticisms of homosexuality stemming from the natural law worldview dating to St. Thomas Aquinas and still believed by some elderly Catholic philosophers and theologians. I used to give these criticisms 15 minutes or so in my historically-oriented ethics classes. I am not sure doing so would be such a good idea today for someone without tenure; for this is 2016, not the 1990s. While far from perfect, the world was definitely saner then. Or, at least, academic philosophy was saner then … somewhat. Needless to say, it was already heading in the wrong direction. After all, on at least one occasion my own criticisms of affirmative action for women met with a borderline obscenity by a leftist philosopher writing in the American Philosophical Association’s flagship publications.
Today the situation is magnitudes worse, of course … and illustrative of how academic philosophy has gone over the cliff and is in complete free fall.
Jason Stanley, of Yale University (!!!), offered this adult, professional philosopher’s opinion of Swinburne’s speech: “F**k those a**holes! Seriously!” Stanley’s comment was picked up and circulated by other philosophy professors across the political spectrum. Naturally, he’s won praise for his articulateness from his fellow academic leftists.
You can read many of the details here; I need not recycle them.
I will note that I predicted, back in 1994, that political correctness and Christianity were on collision course, and that the flashpoint would be the rising and increasingly radical homosexual movement.
More recently, Stanley wrote on his public Facebook page (which he has since, in perhaps one of his rare flashes of intelligence or even — dare I use the word? — wisdom, taken down):
I am really mortified about this. My comment “F*ck those assholes”, posted on a friend’s private FB page about homophobes, was *photographed*. Even *worse*, it made it into *the right-wing hateosphere*, where it is being linked and relinked. I really wish now I hadn’t said that!! I PROFOUNDLY regret not using much harsher language and saying what I really think of anyone who uses their religion to promote homophobia, you know that sickness that has led people for thousands of years to kill my fellow human beings for their sexual preferences. Like you know, pink triangles and the Holocaust. I am really, truly, embarrassed by the fact that my mild comment “F*ck those assholes” is being spread. This wildly understates my actual sentiments towards homophobic religious proponents of evil like Richard Swinburne, who use their status as professional philosophers to oppress others with less power. I am SO SORRY for using such mild language. I am posting this on “public” so that there will be no need for anyone to violate any religious code of ethics and take pictures of private FB pages to share my views about such matters.
This guy is tenured in philosophy at an Ivy League university, one no longer exactly noted for its support for freedom of speech or thought, unless, I presume, the speech is both politically correct, laced with obscenities, and contains casual libel against the expected targets. Pink triangles and the Holocaust? Come on! Oppress others with less power? Where does Stanley believe today’s loci of power really lie? Is he another of these ridiculous characters swinging clumsily at windmills of nonexistent “white privilege” (or “white male privilege”) while those with real power continue advancing their leviathan “trade” deals like TTP and TTIP?
Now, another philosophy professor by the name of Rebecca Kukla … calling these people philosophers just doesn’t seem appropriate … has weighed in. The details of her tira– I mean words of wisdom, of course! — are here.
She is teaching at what was once a proud Catholic institution! She is also a senior researcher at an ethics institute there and editor-in-chief of two academic journals (one of which, Public Affairs Quarterly, used to be sane).
What can I, an ex-academic, say? What can anyone say?
Reading such material, or as much of it as I can stomach without losing my most recent meal, I am reminded of why I abandoned my multi-year search for a permanent academic position in a philosophy department in the U.S. Apparently, these vulgar, chronically angry, ideologically-driven pseudo-intellectuals are now the type of people likely to win tenure and promotions, applause from colleagues, and even editorial positions on academic journals. They win cheers from their many followers in academia on their Facebook pages!
The radical feminists I cross-swords with a number of years ago were not people I either trusted or wanted as colleagues. People like this Kukla woman, and Jason Stanley’s supporters, appear to be ten-times nastier than the PC-addled ideologues whom I encountered back in the 1990s.
I continue to wonder if anyone has noticed that REAL philosophers, whether politically active or not, are rapidly diminishing in numbers as they die, one at a time, and are not replaced. The Jason Stanleys and Rebecca Kuklas of academia aren’t scholars, they are jokes! Any department that would hire these people does not merit being taken seriously even if it is a “ranked” department!
With the few remaining living philosophers who made the field worth studying almost all in their 80s (the youngest is Saul Kripke, 75), in another decade or so not even vestiges will be left of the once-magnificent endeavor born from “love of wisdom” in academia.
Brian Leiter understandably describes this latest academic catfight using phrases like “tempest in a teapot” and “the high school with tenure crowd,” although I don’t think what he dismisses as “right wing websites” are “eating it up.” They are commenting, also understandably, with bemusement on the fall of the universities in our time. They ought to note how students at these institutions are going massively into debt to attend classes offered by these joke-academics, many of whom wouldn’t have the jobs they have without their institution’s affirmative action program, or being otherwise well-networked.
There is an upside to such tempests as this, however. The more the antics of hard-leftist professors with tenure can be exposed … their juvenile rants, their casual obscenities, etc. … in online articles, on blogs, on Facebook, etc., the wider will be the realization that academic philosophy may be active institutionally but is intellectually dead in the water. The wider the doors may one day open to the writings of us outsiders in a troubled world hungering for meaning and actual critical thinking, the sorts of things philosophy traditionally pointed toward and provided.