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How philosophy sacrificed the truth Victimhood is more important than biological reality

So be it (Gerardo Vieyra/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


April 5, 2022   11 mins

Back when I was a graduate student in the Nineties, first at St Andrews University and then at Leeds, philosophy departments were terrifying places. Seminar rooms often felt like amphitheatres.

Every week, the same ritual would unfold in the senior research seminar. First, a visiting speaker from another University would spend an hour explaining the details of his new theory to an ostentatiously bored and listless audience. Grimacing through the faint applause, he would brace himself for what we all knew was to follow.

Previously slouched, comatose-looking figures in the audience would ominously stir into life. Hands would shoot up. The objections would start. Frank accusations of confusion, question-begging, inconsistency, and contradiction would be made, against which the stammering speaker would defend himself as best he could. Tenacious questioners would follow up on their original objections and follow up again, to be stopped only when the speaker eventually muttered the shaming words, equivalent to a “give-up” signal in judo: “I’ll have to think a bit more about that.”  Victory achieved, the questioner would fall back in his chair, visibly satisfied to an almost post-coital degree.

The speaker’s immediate ordeal over, he would be dragged to the pub and force-fed copious amounts of alcohol, then on to some probably awful restaurant, where colleagues who were particularly socially unaware — which, let’s face it, was most of them — would continue explaining to him precisely why he was completely and utterly wrong, with huge enthusiasm, late into the night.

When I was a Masters student at St Andrews, the stated aim of some faculty members was to humiliate visiting speakers, with a “win” for the “home” department declared afterwards. A distinguished Professor from Australia once told me that, years later, he still woke up in the night sweating, reliving how badly his paper at St Andrews had gone. At Leeds during my PhD, there were still a couple of Wittgenstein’s original acolytes knocking about. Apparently first learnt at the feet of the master, the habit had spread among staff of theatrically wrinkling and striking the forehead in an exaggeratedly contemptuous manner when they heard something they didn’t like, in full view of the visiting speaker. Sometimes they would wheel round, sneeringly turn their backs on the speaker, and hold their heads in their hands.

Frankly, these places scared the bejesus out of me. At St Andrews, I think I only ever spoke twice in class. The second time, I was scoffed at by the teacher so effectively that I didn’t speak in class again there, ever. In Leeds, I used to shake with anxiety walking down the endless departmental corridor. Towards the end of my time there, I finally dared to put up my hand to ask a question at a research seminar, and thought I must be having a heart attack, so loudly was my heart banging in my chest.

Most places back then were like this. Academic philosophers were nearly all men, and many (most?) of them were eccentric, obsessive, grumpy men with minds like steel traps. Philosophy departments were places where derision, incredulity, and scorn were manifested on a daily basis without any attempt to hide it.

You probably expect me to say how terrible this all was. Actually, I wonder if it wasn’t the best of all possible worlds in comparison to what came next.

***

In 2011, a report came out that was circulated widely within UK philosophy departments. This was a joint initiative from the British Philosophical Association (BPA) and the Society for Women in Philosophy (SWIP), entitled “Women in Philosophy in the UK”. Its aim was to present a new survey indicating women’s relatively low participation in higher echelons of the philosophy profession, despite large numbers of them at Undergraduate level. At the time, SWIP was an organisation I cared about partly for self-interested reasons, naturally assuming they represented me given my membership of the female sex. Later on, when more senior, I would get involved with their mentoring schemes for women in early career stages.

This report enthusiastically leaned into the fashionable theories and buzzwords of the time, hypothesising that the main causes of women’s diminishing engagement in Philosophy over time must be men’s “implicit bias” against women, and women’s experience of “stereotype threat”, rather than, say, the effects of early educational influences, economic or other structural influences ultimately to do with motherhood, or possible sex-based difference across populations. The salient point for us here, though, is that one of the report’s conclusions was that women were being deterred from postgraduate degrees and jobs in philosophy because of male aggression in arguments. For instance, the report noted:

“One piece of stereotypically male behaviour is an aggressive style of argument in the seminar room. This might include, for example, displaying hostility — by words, tone of voice or body language — towards a speaker or audience (or a class discussion) member whom one thinks has failed to grasp a point or adequately address an objection, or pursuing a point well past the stage where it is obvious that the speaker has no adequate response.”

Since stereotype threat and implicit bias were thought to be difficult to eradicate (and arguably are even more so now, since it’s turned out they probably don’t exist as robustly evidenced phenomena), by far the easiest-looking response to the report was to try to make philosophical discussions less intimidating. This project was taken seriously by many colleagues across the country, including my own. One by one, philosophy departments started to advertise on their websites that they abided by the BPA/SWIP’s new Good Practice Guide. By 2018, a study of the impact of this scheme was able to report that: “As a result of the seminar policies many universities reported that the atmosphere was more constructive and less aggressive.”

Based on my own experience of both giving and attending talks around the country, I too can attest to a change in social norms in the philosophy seminar room during this period — fuelled partly by the influence of the report but also by the increasing numbers of North Americans getting jobs in UK Universities back then, and so bringing cultural norms of US academia with them. (Indeed, the two are arguably linked: one of the BPA/SWIP report’s main authors is American.)

The most obvious manifestation of this change was that younger British members of departments started talking like fake Yanks. An implausible degree of positivity in talks became the norm, even amongst the otherwise terminally morose. Upward inflection became commonplace, as did the intensifier “super”, an implied exclamation mark, and an unfeasibly perky demeanour. Ostentatious expressions of folksy informality became more common: some audience members started — shudder — bringing knitting along to talks. Meanwhile speakers, under a guise of flattening the hierarchies, could show off to others about their acquaintance with powerful figures in the profession by discussing their work on a casual first-name basis (“So here’s what Crispin thinks about higher order vagueness!”).

During question periods, there was also a noticeable shift. Elaborate rules would be announced by the chair at the beginning of every question period, the better to try to control unruly audience members. “Junior and minority scholars” would be prioritised over others to ask their questions first; “a hand” should be raised for a main question; “a finger” for a subsidiary follow-up; “hands” absolutely could not be smuggled in as “fingers”, and so on. A typical interaction between chair and questioner would go: (Chair:) “Is that really a finger, or is it a hand?” (Questioner:) “It’s definitely a finger!” (Reader, it was hardly ever a finger).

It also became much more common for audience members to start by thanking speakers fulsomely for their talk, then offer banal and unfocused lines of questioning such as: “I was really interested to hear you say X in your talk. Could you say a little more about that?” (Other audience members, inwardly: please God no!). Instead of trying to eviscerate the speaker with a devastating question, the new tendency was to try to be constructive and collaborative in one’s approach, identifying not what was wrong with the speaker’s argument, but what was right about it. Generally it seemed to me that, as ostentatious expressions of civility went up, standards of inquiry dropped — because as a questioner, you no longer had to have grasped the form of the argument to ask an acceptable question.

Unlike the authors of the BPA/SWIP report, I’m not convinced that the originally dominant argumentative style within philosophy departments was ever particularly testosterone-fuelled, though males were certainly its principal authors. They weren’t beating each other up, after all. In fact, outside the seminar room, I have found most male philosophers fairly passive and confrontation-averse, which presumably partly explains why so many have proved supine when it comes to rejecting fashionable gender metaphysics.

Whatever the truth about its origins, the demise of the old approach meant that aggression was still knocking around, but now it had to go somewhere else. As the numbers of PhDs being disgorged into the philosophy job market every year increased, and the number of jobs available decreased, competition amongst philosophers, always high anyway, became even more intense than usual. Where that aggression had formerly been expressed and so somewhat contained within the combative rituals of the seminar room, it now sought new outlets. And what it found was the internet.

***

Though more sensible academics tend to eschew social media altogether, Facebook is a favourite platform for many. Many spend lots of downtime scrolling and commenting throughout the working day. Even the most antisocial of philosophers is usually able to build up large numbers of Facebook “friends” on the basis of shared acquaintances in a close-knit profession, and this often includes lots of graduate students and post-docs.

Around the same time as the BPA/SWIP report was published, and as the popularity of Facebook as a platform was taking off, some senior philosophers realised it provided them with the means to build up secure little fiefdoms — not really private, given the large numbers of colleagues and students looking on, but not really public either. Within a few years, high on the fumes of the media attention being given to a few high profile sex scandals in the profession, these same people were furiously cementing a narrative that philosophy was a terribly dangerous and threatening place, not just for women but for other minorities too.

Now, whether or not academic philosophy was (or is) a truly terrible place for minorities is not my question here, but what was clear back then was that these people really, really wanted to believe it was. Particular stories about harassment and prejudice to individuals that emerged online would be seized upon as obviously indicative of what must be happening to a particular minority at scale in the profession, accompanied by heartfelt exhortations to “listen” to that minority, as if its members were functionally interchangeable. And because a narrative like this needs both heroes and villains and a clear storyline, there was also a lot of sneering about white males and other ideological enemies, and the emotional blackmailing of presumed weaklings into recanting public opinions the in-group didn’t like.

As these figures virtue-signalled, gate-kept, and generally queen-bee’d around in virtual spaces, they consolidated their own power. An example was being set for younger onlookers, desperately hungry to get into the profession permanently, and standing relatively little chance given the paucity of jobs and the high number of competitors. It told them that self-aggrandising and bullying others was acceptable in the philosophy profession as long as it was in the name of social justice. And it told them that drawing attention to their own presumed victimhood was good for their careers, since it was likely to draw the approval of more powerful others.

One website for early career researchers, started around then, was called “The Philosopher’s Cocoon”, helpfully indicating the profession’s new favoured approach. Roughly speaking, this approach goes: tell junior researchers in some particular identity group that the world of academic philosophy will be particularly harsh for them, because of who they are; isolate them from evidence that might disconfirm this, or explain it differently; uplift any narrative that apparently supports it; and reward their ensuing expressions of anxiety with ostentatious cosseting, soothing, and patting. (And also — for the love of God and the continuing flow of student fees and cheap labour — don’t mention that for most philosophy postgrads, there will be no glorious butterfly stage after the cocoon, because there just aren’t enough academic jobs to go round.)

Soon enough, ambitious youngsters who were able to tolerate the obviously infantilising element got the hang of this new game. Via self-published blogposts, comments, and open letters pleading with the profession, they readily became the sort of public victim they sensed their elders would like to see.

Around this time, lots of Facebook groups and dedicated blogs sprang up to support particular identity groups in philosophy. The dynamics of these online spaces were sociologically fascinating to witness. I was a silent member of the group “Academic Mamas in Philosophy” for a while, as well as its parent group the gruesome behemoth “Academic Mamas”, and I still grin when I remember the implicit hierarchies, barely suppressed rivalries, moralised hyperbole, and passive-aggressive spats about exactly who was having to do the “emotional labour” of “educating” others about their linguistic transgressions. (Most of all, I remember the off-the-charts humblebragging: “Hey mamas, just wanted to get your views on whether an hour a week of screen time — supervised, of course — is excessive for a seven-year-old kiddo? And if so, can anyone hook me up to some cool educational websites?”. Ruefully, I would lift my gaze from my computer to wink at my own children, mainlining Penguin biscuits and watching Cars 2 on a loop for the 14th time that day).

But to get back to the main point: by 2017, when junior philosopher Rebecca Tuvel published her article in the journal Hypatia arguing that if transwomen are women, “trans-racial” people like Rachel Dolezal must be black, the groundwork for a debacle of carnivalesque proportions was already prepared. Though Tuvel was earnestly treating her argument as a modus ponens (i.e. since the premises about transwomen seemed true, the conclusion about trans-racialism and Dolezal must also be true), it was obvious to most readers that equally, her argument could work as a modus tollens (i.e. since the conclusion about trans-racialism and Dolezal seems obviously false, there must be something wrong with the premise about transwom… OH SHIT HELP LOOK OVER THERE!).

The resulting attempts to distract from this inconvenient implication involved mass denunciation on a hundred Facebook pages and blogs, widespread public huffing about “failure to engage with the scholarship of trans people and philosophers of colour”, and a comically pompous open letter alleging Tuvel’s incompetence as a researcher signed by big names in feminist philosophy and gender studies. A craven public apology from Hypatia’s own associate editors for having published the article in the first place followed.

The outcome of all of this, predictably, was fear. No-one wanted to be the next Tuvel, and especially not younger and more precarious members of the profession, but the more established ones didn’t much feel like it either. The traditional means of defending a position — using arguments — wasn’t fashionable in online spaces anymore. Instead, moves formerly condemned in first year logic classes were in the ascendancy: ad hominems, failures of charitable interpretation, begging the question, confusion of sufficient conditions with necessary ones, derivations of “is” from “ought”, and all the rest. Any white male over the age of 40 with a permanent job and a modicum of self-awareness took the temperature of the times and slid away to the edges of the online world, confining their robust discussion in public to impenetrable questions about panpsychism or metaphysical grounding.

In 2018, I wrote my own blogpost, having noticed that it could be quite an effective medium for getting philosophers’ attention. I wanted to suggest to them that there was a peculiar and undesirable silence in academic philosophy on the obvious problems around legal self-ID in relation to the Gender Recognition Act, which at that point was being discussed furiously elsewhere in the UK as part of a government consultation.

Reader, you probably already know the rest.

***

To date, to my knowledge, neither the British Philosophical Association nor the Society for Women in Philosophy have ever commented publicly on the circumstances of my resignation from my post at Sussex University. But in October 2021, at around the same time I was facing the prospect of men letting off flares at my campus workplace, angry with me for holding views about the importance of naming biological sex, they published another report on “Women in Philosophy”. This one followed up on their original one after ten years and summarised what they thought had changed. Utterly predictably, one of the things that had changed was that by now they weren’t talking about women anymore.

This new report, written by the original two authors, pretends not to notice that the old one was aimed at improving the lot of females in philosophy. It now says that the focus is “gender”, and talks of “woman” and “man” as “identities”, so making a nonsense of the idea that its aim is somehow continuous with that of the previous project. A “methodological note” describes a “newly included nonbinary gender category” in the associated survey of philosophers, but complains with regret that the number of non-binary people recorded in the survey is probably inaccurate, because departments have “inadequate reporting processes for students to change the gender on their records”.

The report seamlessly adapts to the present cultural climate in other ways too. Though the notion of “implicit bias” is still hanging in there, “stereotype threat” — so heavily leaned on in 2011 — is out with barely a mention. And “intersectional oppression” is now in, a mere 33 years after Kimberlé Crenshaw first wrote about it.

Also predictably, the new report also declares that “philosophy is unwelcoming to trans philosophers”. By “philosophy”, they mean me, and a handful of others still hanging in there within the university system, argumentatively defending age-old, culturally ubiquitous, and still perfectly functional understandings of “woman” and “man” in terms of “adult human female” and “adult human male”. To try to demonstrate their lurid assertion about the environment for trans people, the authors link the reader to an article in the journal Transgender Studies Quarterly, in which non-binary author Robin Dembroff writes:

“The situation in philosophy is, to be blunt, a massive, complex, and thorny transgender trashfire. This trashfire manifests most explicitly in the context of social media, blogs, interpersonal interactions, and the occasional journal publication, and it has serious repercussions. (To name one, a number of high-profile court briefings opposing trans rights in both the United States and the United Kingdom cite blog posts by philosophers such as Kathleen Stock … as evidence that trans persons are dangerous and deluded.)”

Now as a matter of fact, none of this is true, and the footnote supplied by Dembroff to supposedly demonstrate the truth of the last parenthesis doesn’t even come close to doing so. But the energy drains out of me when I think about seriously trying to get the report’s authors, or Dembroff — or anyone at all working in feminist philosophy in a University these days — to correct the public record. For I know by now that in their line of business, stating the truth isn’t remotely the point.

This is adapted from a post originally published on Kathleen Stock’s Substack.


Kathleen Stock is an UnHerd columnist and a co-director of The Lesbian Project.
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Max Price
Max Price
2 years ago

The “explanations”given for why women aren’t getting ahead in certain fields sail very close to affirming the very stereotypes of women as inferior to men that feminism has fought so hard against.
The same can be said for affirmative action programs. This is how it is perceived by the average punter on the street and it’s hard to argue with that point of view.
Women gaining access to the professions has been a social revolution and it was always going to take time, perhaps several generations for a natural equilibrium to be obtained.
The constant harping about implicit bias, stereotype threat and the need for affirmative action undermines womens achievements and creates resentment and pushback.

Michael K
Michael K
2 years ago
Reply to  Max Price

Exactly. When looking for a job about a year ago, I noticed some openings that would “preferentially choose women and handicapped people”. Do they seriously not see the irony in that?

Jerry Carroll
JC
Jerry Carroll
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

Are some handicaps preferred over others?

Thomas Rickarby
TR
Thomas Rickarby
1 year ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

The mental inability to notice obvious defects in politically popular opinions seems to be highly advantageous.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael K

The irony is that almost all professional philosophers have autism.

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago
Reply to  Max Price

I expect that you are correct. The difficulty will be that ‘the natural equilibrium’ will never be where some activist thinks it should be.

mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago
Reply to  Max Price

Wise words – Myron Magnet says it well in the Dream and the Nightmare. If these wretched kids (agess 16-90) sobered up and stayed off the internet they may yet learn there is no finite sweet spot in the paradoxes of liberty or equality. They may even accept such as a false goal and accept all we can hope for is gradients of improvement. In the meanwhile i think the best solutoin is give all of them a free transfer – to Putin’s conscript army – that’ll learn ’em.

Last edited 2 years ago by mike otter
Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago

I teach Western Civilization & American Government to private high schoolers. We argue all the time: them with each other, them with me, sometimes me with me while they watch. Philosophy got started largely when 1 man refused (unto the point of his own self-administered execution) to back down from an argument with Athenian elites.

A philosophy department that refuses to argue is pointless. Who would go into such a discipline? How would you even learn?

Last edited 2 years ago by Brian Villanueva
Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
2 years ago

Ahem. Do you have another question?

Terry Davies
Terry Davies
2 years ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

I don’t understand your post. Can you elucidate?

polidori redux
PR
polidori redux
2 years ago

Crikey, I spent my undergraduate days in a London University philosophy department. Admittedly it was a long time ago and I was pretty semi-detached, having healthier obsessions such as sex and drugs and rock and roll, but even so, you are describing an alien place: You are describing a society in a state of wretched decline.
The men and women who attempted to guide me were kind and generous: “I don’t think that you have thought this through” being the worst thing ever flung at me. And it was fair comment.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I studied political philosophy at LSE, p: there were some famous names including the conservative philosopher Michael Oakeshott and Elie Kedourie. We sat around a large table with these titans. All of my fellow postgrad students were male and to my everlasting humiliation, I contributed only once to the seminar because I felt so intimidated. This wasn’t because the other students were bullies. It was because I needed to gather my thoughts before speaking, while my male colleagues had the confidence to contribute intelligently ‘on the hoof’. How I’ve always envied them! I don’t know whether this was simply a cultural difference at the time, when perhaps we females lacked the confidence of the males, or whether there is a deeper reason connected with biological/evolutionary difference.
To return to the article: the newer, ‘kinder’ opening to discussion, ‘could you say more about that?’ is straight out of psychotherapy. It’s designed not to criticise but to encourage the client to talk. But in philosophy I suspect it’s a deflection away from challenge and conflict which in today’s atmosphere is uncomfortable, even ‘hurtful’ and ‘offensive’. It has become dangerous to be direct.

Michael K
MK
Michael K
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

The difference, I would assume, is in the experience of men and women when growing up. Where women are often consoled, protected and allowed to be weak, men must learn to survive and deal with an uncomfortable reality. The latter of course promotes confidence, as one starts to see that failing at something doesn’t kill you. Once confidence sets in fully, fear retreats and thus lets the intellect work undisturbed. Hence the ability of your past comrades to contribute without much preparation. I am quite certain you could have done the same, but a lot of your energy went into dealing with the inevitable dread of speaking up. Men deal with it, too, but learn to just take the leap without thinking too much (which can also be detrimental, of course!).
If you don’t believe me, just look at the difference between a crying woman and a crying man. While the first is worthy of protection, consolation and possibly even revenge, the second is just seen as pathetic and weak. I didn’t make this up – evolution did.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

“but a lot of your energy went into dealing with the inevitable dread of speaking up” – that’s spot on. Thanks for giving me something to think about (I’m smiling, I just realised what I’ve typed!).

Last edited 2 years ago by Judy Englander
David Batlle
David Batlle
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

Sounds about right. Even as a man, I can fluctuate between both states of mind— highly confident and on the hoof, or cautious and tentative. The subject matter might have something to do with that, or the setting, or what side of the bed I got out of that morning. And perhaps men are more socialized towards the former, and women towards the latter.

Last edited 2 years ago by David Batlle
Rosy Martin
Rosy Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  David Batlle

Excellent observation,. As a woman- chromosomes XX, promise !- I too find I can be in either mode. I was in a profession- medicine- which required decisiveness and at times leadership. I found I could do it, tho was more comfortable in the other mode. I have also noticed that women from the minorities are often excessively anxious and deferential by our standards.I think it is a question of socialising and learned behaviour, and that of course shifts with each generation.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

Perhaps there is a role for personality differences between males and females?
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00178/full

polidori redux
PR
polidori redux
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Young males tend to be impetuous to the point of recklessness. Is that a form of courage or confidence? I don’t know, but if they weren’t that way how would females ever get asked for a date? The cool girl in the corner smoking a gauloise was a lot more intimidating than any fusty old professor. And we both knew it. But needs must, and even if she was amenable she knew that my interest was more urgent than hers. I guess this leans towards a biological/evolutionary explanation.
Don’t forget that a display of intellectual self-confidence is easily misinterpreted as evidence of intelligence. How many academic careers were built on that error? My first tutor, a woman not much older than me and very beautiful, told me on our first meeting, that most of the books that I would read would be poor and recommended one particular book for my first read – A form of intellectual inoculation I suppose. I wish I had listened to her more.
As for “kind and generous” I mean nothing more than that my tutors understood that their role was to guide, encourage, correct perhaps, and interrogate me in what they (mistakenly) believed was the study of my chosen vocation. They were not there to pose or boost their flagging masculinity at my expense. And they were certainly not given to intellectual cowardice – a contemptable trait in a supposed scholar.
Judy, I am surprised to hear you say that you were slow in coming forward.
PS: The cats are creating chaos. I found one in the dishwasher, this morning. I look forward to the day when I can shove them through the catflap.
Edit: I didn’t really address your final paragraph at all: I got deflected by my own thoughts. Sorry.

Last edited 2 years ago by polidori redux
polidori redux
polidori redux
2 years ago
Reply to  polidori redux

¬¬

Last edited 2 years ago by polidori redux
Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Yes, I’ve often sympathised with boys and men who were (are?) supposed to make the first move. That really does take reckless courage. You make a good point. I also agree about the difference between intellectual self-confidence and intelligence.
I’ve changed as I’ve grown older. I’m much more confident. In fact in later intellectual ventures I became quite a troublemaker or – at least – a stirrer of the pot especially where my colleagues were mostly/all women. I found women to be annoyingly ‘nice’ and pushed against what I saw as lack of challenge and straight talking. So a big difference from my early twenties.
I laughed re cat in dishwasher! In my experience trying to shove a cat through the flap is even more distressing to the owner than to moggie.

Katrina McLeod
Katrina McLeod
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Always put the cat through the flap backwards!

Laura Creighton
LC
Laura Creighton
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

I suspect you were raised in a family which valued harmony, and where one of the prime duties of a woman in her family was to attain harmony, after there has been some ‘unpleasantness’.
I grew up without this requirement. Indeed we children were given notes before dinner about what we were scheduled to argue in the half hour to one hour argument session after *next* dinner — thus plenty of time to head for the library the next day. Best arguers got to do it again on Saturday after lunch, or Sunday if the theme came from moral philosophy or religion.
‘Contributing intelligently on the hoof’ is something that can be trained, and my grandfather — in whose house I was living along with other cousins and various relatives, made very sure that we were all well grounded in the art.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

As a fairly shy male kid, I was afraid too of speaking up during University, but as experience in work ( with scientists) showed me that I understood the matter better than others, I gained the confidence to query and challenge in my early twenties – becoming a real pain in the arse devils advocate on any topic as I progressed to middle age. But people, often women, would thank me for asking questions or putting points that they were just too scared to do.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

That was my experience in the same domain of study.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

I missed this article and was alerted to it by a FSU newsletter.
You probably expect me to say how terrible this all was. Actually, I wonder if it wasn’t the best of all possible worlds in comparison to what came next.
It seems to me Kathleen Stock doesn’t overtly put her finger on the embodiment of “what came next’. Is she saying what came next was a marked increase in participation of women in philosophy, and the inherent nature of that participation was an expression of female aggression and a hollowing out of a commitment to argumentative rigour?
I would welcome your observations on this matter.

Stephen Lawrence
Stephen Lawrence
1 year ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

‘on the hoof’ & biological differences – well, how about fighting? that seems like an arena where ‘on the hoof’ is quite necessary. I mean, you could be a strategist, and hold back while you consider your options, and possibly go away – but you often don’t get a chance to come back *and* fight another day. So you have to do it there and then… Just off to check the origin of the phrase now… many suggestions, including ““in the wild” or “in [one’s] natural state” or even “off the cuff”.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Snap. I did my philosophy BA at UCL as a relative youngster in the mid-90’s, followed by a middle-aged MA and PhD at Bristol. There is no way I would return to university now, because I simply will not pay £9k to subject myself to woke.

Richard Craven
RC
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Perhaps we met. I was a philo undergrad at UCL from 1993 to 1996.

Elena Lange
Elena Lange
2 years ago

As an academic philosopher, I can confirm the regression in terms of intellectual vigor and curiosity. Moreover, it seems that *maintaining* these qualities will get you cancelled, sooner or later. For Kathleen Stock, it was a bit sooner, for me a bit later. The solution? Sticking it up for theory.
This piece is a first big step in the direction of processing what went wrong with academia, and we need more of that.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago

It’s always fascinating when a member of a cult escapes and reveals what’s really going on inside.

Sam Wilson
Sam Wilson
2 years ago

Delightfully learned, well written, and powerful. One note – how to salvage what philosophy used to be? That in itself is a philosophical question, namely, what SHOULD philosophy be? I don’t know, but I can tell you that when Socrates set forth his anti-sophist project he certainly didn’t intend for the end result to be a set of posturing intellectuals vying for recognition in a field far more concerned with whatever’s en vogue politically than serious academic discourse.

Leo Strauss distinguished between “great thinkers” who came up with revolutionary systems answering the greatest, most fundamental questions, and the “scholars” who followed on their heels, debating minutiae and interpreting their predecessors. Perhaps, if we want a return to the philosophy of bombastic responses to fundamental problems and then careful debate about the intricacies of those answers, we need to rethink whether current academia will support future great thinkers, or crush them under whatever internal difficulties got Ms. Stock fired.

Last edited 2 years ago by Sam Wilson
Richard Craven
RC
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam Wilson

“what SHOULD philosophy be?”
Conceptual engineering, i.e. the application of logic to concepts.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
2 years ago

If every philosophy department in the UK was closed down tomorrow would intellectual life be any the poorer? Discuss.

Steve Elliott
SE
Steve Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

Richard Feynman had something to say about philosophy in his book “Surely you’re joking Mr Feynman”. He describes a discussion he had with a group of philosophy students at lunchtime. They were discussing the term “Essential Object” and he was asked if an electron is an essential object. In reply he asked them what the term meant and in particular was a brick an essential object. The discussion broke down when they couldn’t decide if the term referred to a particular brick or to the general idea of a brick and it’s essential brickiness. It became clear that they all had different ideas about what was meant by “essential object” even though they used the term in their books and previous discussion.
Richard Feynman’s conclusion was that Philosophy is fatuous.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Thanks Steve. I’ve put that book on my reading list.

Keith Jefferson
Keith Jefferson
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Feynman was probably the greatest scientist of the 20th Century, and also a great engineer with his mind rooted in reality rather than being up in the sky. One of the fundamental differences between scientists of his ilk and the philosophers described by Stock is that scientists absolutely want their ideas to be rigorously challenged. You put up an idea or thesis and invite others to demolish. If it is demolished, you go back to the chalk board, change your ideas, and science as a whole benefits from that. My worry is that the culture described by Stock has already infiltrated the sciences. I could not, for example, be seen to challenge the orthodoxies (on environmental or trans issues, for example) of the Institutes relevant to my own fields without suffering consequences. Science, and philosophy and all other areas of academic study, suffers from that.

polidori redux
PR
polidori redux
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Perhaps Feynman, like me, was a slave to a defunct philosophical school but, unlike me, wasn’t aware of it.

Last edited 2 years ago by polidori redux
Alan B
Alan B
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Well theoretical physics has the wave/particle thing and Plato insisted upon maths as a prerequisite to philosophy so I don’t find this straw-manning of philosophical discouse very compelling. What Feynman had to say about his experience teaching in Brazil is more to the point: “I discovered a very strange phenomenon: I could ask a question, which the students would answer immediately. But the next time I would ask the question — the same subject, and the same question, as far as I could tell — they couldn’t answer it at all!…

…After a lot of investigation, I finally figured out that the students had memorized everything, but they didn’t know what anything meant. When they heard “light that is reflected from a medium with an index,” they didn’t know that it meant a material such as water. They didn’t know that the “direction of the light” is the direction in which you see something when you’re looking at it, and so on. Everything was entirely memorized, yet nothing had been translated into meaningful words. So if I asked, “What is Brewster’s Angle?” I’m going into the computer with the right keywords. But if I say, “Look at the water,” nothing happens – they don’t have anything under “Look at the water”!

Drahcir Nevarc
RC
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Speaking as an ex-philosopher – I quit philosophy the day I got my PhD 10 years ago – the term “essential object” doesn’t mean very much to me. On the standard philosophical understanding, “essential” denotes a relation between properties and the objects possessing them, such that a property F of an object a is essential to a if and only a ceases to exist when it ceases to possess F.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Wasn’t there a time when ‘philosophy’ included what we now call science?

Richard Craven
RC
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

It sounds like either you have misremembered Feynman’s discussion, or that Feynman and his interlocutors were guilty of a category error. Being essential is a 2nd order property i.e. a property of properties, not a property of objects. Briefly, a property is essential to an object if the object loses that property on pain of annihilation.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

It’s interesting that the standard qualification for entry into politics these days is Philosophy, Politics and Economics, so called PPE. Personally I think maths might be a better subject to include and last time I looked there wasn’t a single maths or science qualification in the cabinet.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Don’t despair, Jamie Wallis MP is a Chemistry graduate from Christ Church, and also holds PhD from somewhere else.

polidori redux
PR
polidori redux
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

Are you winding us up?

ARNAUD ALMARIC
AA
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Yes.

Colin Elliott
CE
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Nadhim Zahawi read chemical engineering, but that’s a case of the exception proving your rule. I believe scientific education is rare not only for politicians, but for civil servants, too.
I read physics, and as I read the above article, I had insurmountable trouble in understanding how anyone could distinguish between those who should succeed in graduating and those who shouldn’t, and also wondering if there was the slightest use for either, other than for the, I hope, limited number of jobs available in teaching.

Alison Wren
AW
Alison Wren
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Yes its terrifying that they seem to have no idea about objective biological truth. Was Thatcher the last scientist to rule????

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  Alison Wren

I think it is deeper than that. They have no idea how we have come to understand reality is organised. Consequently, they have no idea how reality is organised.

Dee Carter
DC
Dee Carter
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

You seem to overlook/forget/be unaware (?) that ethics is philosophy: a key plank of philosophy along with epistemology and formal logic. Some would claim ethics as the whole of philosophy.
Are you suggesting that ethical theory and discussion are a waste of time? In the current time where emotivism rules, unfortunately, surely some robust intellectual counter to this is badly needed?

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
2 years ago
Reply to  Dee Carter

No, I am not suggesting that these topics are unimportant or should not be discussed; quite the contrary. But I wonder if the philosophy departments of our universities have anything useful to contribute to those discussions given the way that Kathleen Stock’s views, for example, were outlawed.
‘We cannot tolerate your views because they are unfashionable’ is hardly a basis for rigorous intellectual discussion.

Dee Carter
Dee Carter
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

Yes, I agree with all that. It’s a sorry state that’s come to pass. Students invited to give their ‘opinions’ rather than to argue a case for these; then all ‘opinions’ affirmed as equally valid. But now something worse: a narrow band of ‘opinion’ is the only ‘right belief’ – without any demonstration of its validity – and to reject this, via argument is simply ‘worthless hate-speech’.
That a situation such as the treatment of Kathleen Stock should occur, be tolerated, excused, covered up is truly shameful and craven.
The world has gone mad.
Simon Edge’s novel, ‘The End of The World is Flat’ is worth a read.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago

Also predictably, the new report also declares that “philosophy is unwelcoming to trans philosophers”.

Reality is also not welcoming to trans philosophers, but where do we go from there?

Richard Beale
RB
Richard Beale
2 years ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Nicely done!

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
2 years ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Well said!!

Last edited 2 years ago by Alison Wren
David McDowell
DM
David McDowell
2 years ago

Philosophy gave up on the truth in the aftermath of the second world war because of where the search for truth had led. The result was relativism, which feminism exploited to deny that men and women are fundamentally different animals. Trans-activism is exploiting relativism to legitimize next stage genderism and delegitimate post war feminism. You reap what you sow.

Alison Wren
AW
Alison Wren
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

I know no second wavers in the UK who ever suggested men and women are the same!! And we weren’t “equality feminists” they came from the USA, we were liberation feminists ie reward and value the things more women are good at (caring, empathy,child bearing and rearing) as much as we value the things more men are good at (building maths etc). And never forgetting that whilst there is a lot of overlap in these skill sets they still tend to cluster according to sex.

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  Alison Wren

I very much agree with the second part of what you say but feminist mainstream publications like the Guardian in the early 2000s were littered with articles suggesting that biological differences between men and women were either imaginary or irrelevant. More importantly, the philosophical basis for those arguments was relativism, which is the same basis the trans activists are using to undermine contemporary feminism.

Last edited 2 years ago by David McDowell
michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

Can you tease out the relativism a bit more? Are you talking about the postmodern relativistic notion regarding knowledge acquisition for example?

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago

I’m thinking mainly about the denial of biological reality perpetrated by feminists to seize power from the patriarchy back in the 1960/70s. What you refer to is much more recent and frankly less relevant to the position Stock and other anti trans activists now find themselves in.

Stephen Lawrence
Stephen Lawrence
1 year ago
Reply to  David McDowell

Suppose one discusses two biological systems, which are supposedly the same in basic function except that one system produces outcome A as a building block 55% of the time and outcome B 45% of the time, whereas the other system has different probability distribution (say 45/55). Are the systems intrinsically different? Do they produce instrinsically different outcomes? I would say No; Yes.

Martin L
ML
Martin L
2 years ago

As ever, a well thought out piece. If only more members of academia would stand up and be counted we might see the tide turn completely and the gender ideologues forced into retreat. We can then begin the full dismantling of the structures that have promoted the infiltration of gender identity theory into the mainstream. We need to get organisations like Stonewall and Mermaids out of our schools, out of corporate offices, out of the ‘training’ environment, out of the NHS, out of police forces, out of political parties and, preferably, out of business altogether. Then we need to make every person accountable for what has been allowed to happen in our institutions.

Michael James
Michael James
2 years ago

From speaking truth to power, academia is now devoted to speaking power to truth.
Kathleen Stock paints a picture of academic philosophy as completely exhausted and futile, and dominated by personal mischievousness and delinquency, just as the number of students has never been greater. Are all academic subjects going to the dogs like this? If there was any investigative journalism left in the msm the public might hear more about it and many young people diverted into something more worthwhile.

Last edited 2 years ago by Michael James
Michael K
Michael K
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael James

It’s already happening, with academic jobs not really paying as much as the “privileged class” (that is everybody with a useless degree) would like.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
AA
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago

“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato”

(* Sir Alfred North Whitehead, OM. 1861-1947.)

Michael K
Michael K
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

This cracked me up. Plato the healthy weightlifter, who was wise beyond his years, and sadly we have consistently failed to understand his message.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
AA
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

Yes I agree, a bit of a disaster since, but some may differ.

Paul Scannell
Paul Scannell
2 years ago

Kathleen’s book is, by its very nature, reasonable – as is she. She strikes me as a sincere person who seeks reason and truth.

Michael James
MJ
Michael James
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Scannell

That’s why she was a threat to some of her colleagues.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago

The scum who organised the open letter against Kathleen Stock are a married couple called Jonathan Ichikawa and Carrie Jenkins, both Philosophy professors in Canada. If I was still in academia, I would refuse to share a platform with them.

AC Harper
AH
AC Harper
2 years ago

Take the old Greek philosophers, and many of the later ones. They were mostly about the best way for a person to live. That seems to have been superseded in the more recent philosophers (almost all academics) by a need to promote their own concepts that will get them to the top of the greasy pole.
Jaundiced view of philosophy, moi?

Mark Kennedy
Mark Kennedy
2 years ago

As a white male, alas well over forty, uninterested in engaging with the new barbarians’ passionate intensity, this is my belated first encounter with professor Stock’s acute perceptiveness and delightfully original voice. Those in my ‘identity group’ have lately found themselves transformed into reluctant connoisseurs of the near-nothing. Hence, what a treat to read someone who knows what Modus Ponens and Modus Tollens even are.

The Wikipedia entry on professor Stock suggests her main focus is literature, but she seems ideally positioned to give us a book on the sociology of philosophy and its professional practitioners. The fact that she knows and understands the players, and respects the rules of inference, should enable her to develop relevant research approaches of her own and draw enlightening conclusions from the data.

I would welcome any insight into the prerequisite mental gymnastics–the mass bobbing and weaving–that somehow allows anti-intellectual ideologies to take root in minds capable of being attracted by philosophical issues in the first place. If, back in the 1970s when I was a graduate student in the University of Toronto’s then-excellent Philosophy Department, there existed anybody farsighted enough to anticipate the circumstances in which professor Stock currently finds herself, that individual breathed no warning word. The ivory tower, never free from pettiness and intrigue but for centuries a refuge for the intellectually able, has remarkably become one of anti-intellectualism’s principal institutional agents.

Last edited 2 years ago by Mark Kennedy
Drahcir Nevarc
RC
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Kennedy

“Hence, what a treat to read someone who knows what Modus Ponens and Modus Tollens even are.”
It would be remarkable if Professor Stock didn’t know about Modus Ponens and Modus Tollens. Pretty much all 1st year philosophy undergraduates have to pass a course in elementary logic, and will be very well acquainted with these two terms.

Last edited 2 years ago by Drahcir Nevarc
Mark Kennedy
Mark Kennedy
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Sure… but philosophy students comprise a vanishingly small proportion of the set of people sharing their thoughts online in articles and discussion forums. Most contributors to public discussion have never opened a book of logic in their lives; and while ideally, in a very different society, that wouldn’t be true, it’s definitely true in this one (alas!).

Lloyd Byler
LB
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago

If we can, after birth, transform men into becoming women without injecting them with estrogen (naturally, nutritionally or artificially) and without physical sex operational identity change, AND, likewise, if we can transform women to become men without injecting them with testosterone, in any manner, and without physical sex identity change, then I would be cool with all this haranguing of transgenderism.

Otherwise, this transgender species discussion and efforts are all fruitless because they will not self-reproduce in any case, thus self-destruction and self identity mutilation is it’s own destiny.

Some hundreds years later from this date circa year 2022, no element of transgenderism will be even discussed or immediately obvious except to be noted as the least fruitful subject of philosophy of all time.

Thank God for that.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Lloyd Byler

LOL

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 years ago
Reply to  Lloyd Byler

Which would be nice but that’s why they’re grooming children into their cause and pushing for a “don’t question just accept” approach.It’s gone from being a fringe fetish to being a mainstream cult!

Alan Groff
Alan Groff
2 years ago

It seems the truth is under attack, yet it may be the decadent phase of an ending era. Our society has more to commend it than we may think.
Anthropologists suggest that early communities tore themselves apart because members wanted the same thing they couldn’t all have, producing uncontrolled infighting. Eventually, mobs formed and killed a member they resented. Paradoxically, peace fell across the community as the execution demonstrated the risk of desiring what the dead person was aiming for. The retelling of the story further attenuated human desiring harmful to the community. 
The violent cycle soon repeated, but the momentary peace was so profound that communities came to believe these gods in human form saved the community from tearing itself apart. And so emerged mythology, and from mythology, religion.
Psychoanalysts call all that we deny ourselves our “shadow,” largely thrust upon us by our community and perhaps our biology; our failure to conform produces shame and restrains us. 
Nietzsche explicitly attacked this phenomenon labeling it slave morality built upon the ressentiment felt by enslaved Jews who revolted by inverting the aristocratic values of their masters. Foucault carried on the attack. Freud saw the shadow enmeshed with sexuality and aimed to throw off restraint. Marcuse and Lacan followed suit. 
No-one stopped to ask if those constraints served a societal good at the foundation of functioning communities.
Having freed ourselves from the psychological restraints produced by our mythologies, we should not be surprised by a return to ancient behaviors of mob scapegoating or a decline in mental health.
Having attenuated our shadows to such a degree, we are free to feel resentful. 
But instead of a philistine return to old values, I will put forward the Groff Hypothesis: social media is a marketplace for cultural creation powered by ressentiment. 
We had something great—mythology and religion—but it had big problems, so together, we’re going to create shared mythology and religion suited for our time, not by bringing it into safe harbors of certainty and conformity but to the open seas where change is a permanent sanctified element
We can make an analogy to the economic market that channels humans’ instincts of pugnacity and acquisitiveness into productive materialism. One person’s desire constraints the next’s greed and the web of negative feedback applied to collective energy guides toward productive ends. 
Negative feedback is the foundation of high-functioning biological and electronic systems. The story of Howard Stephan Black’s negative feedback is central to the foundation of all electronic communications and computing and a metaphor for the functioning of the hypothesis. 
Rather than a sign of a decadent society, the cacophony of expressed ressentiment is a healthful commotion that can lead to renewal. Those who would censure and compel speech may have their way in the purview of their Facebook network and the University Department. Still, none can ascend to the position of the Catholic Church, Lenin in Russia, or Mao in China. Their apparatus of truth will not lead to safe harbor as Foucault, and other reformers hope, but to the open sea.  

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 years ago

Ahhh…. followers of the words of little known philosopher Testiclese…

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago

This article confirms my conclusion when graduating a very long time ago in PPE that western philosophers would do better to study choice than seek truths. There being no absolute truths that were not tautological. Ethics is about choice with no absolute answers.
What a name means depends entirely on usage and historically man and woman have been used for a biological differentiation. Naming is arbitrary so it can be changed and the words used to name something different such as “self-identified gender”. However you cannot change the usage of a word without re-examining its appropriateness in all the instances of its usage. In doing so society will almost certainly find the words are no longer appropriate in some of the old situations. Society will also find new names are required to describe the biological differentiation it used to be used for, simply because it is a useful distinction that needs a name.

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

Male and Female are already very adequately described in biology. Adult and Human are also defined. Just keep the words that have been adequate for centuries and stop erasing woman!!

mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago

The dirt bags who the writer describes may be able to destroy the philosophy depts where they work or study, and with them the love of learning in those who study there for genuine reasons. In the same way the Beghards or Henry VIII could destroy an Abbey and its library, or Putin do the same to the seats of learning in Donetsk. However they will not destroy philosophy itself – from Plato through the enlightenment to pseudo philosophers like Sartre and Derrida ideas cannot be killed – only papered over to bounce back at a later time. The kindergarten kids at Uni of Sussex may be vicious and stupid morons but the canon of philisophy has with stood far stronger foes – Trajan, Vikings, the Inquisition, NSDAP and Soviets to name a few.

Miriam Cotton
Miriam Cotton
2 years ago

“It told them that self-aggrandising and bullying others was acceptable in the philosophy profession as long as it was in the name of social justice.” This is happening everywhere.

Nicholas Rynn
Nicholas Rynn
2 years ago

Could we please have more articles from Kathleen Stock.

Marty
M
Marty
2 years ago

I saw this brave new world coming in the mid-‘90s when I took my partner and her children bowling, and was introduced to the abomination known as ‘gutter guards.’ My dad had been a champion bowler in Buffalo, NY in the 1960s and he intended for my brother and me to learn proper bowling technique. “Shake hands with the pin!” He would demonstrate over and over till we were numb with fatigue and had bowled gutter ball after gutter ball. Took all the fun right out of the game.

But more than fifty years later, I remember the techniques he taught and am a passably good bowler. When I took those children bowling in the ‘90s and learned that gutter guards would prevent them from ever bowling a gutter ball, I knew the species was doomed. How, I asked my then-partner, were children supposed to learn a new skill if they never experienced failure? These same children didn’t play outside with friends, getting scratched and scraped and dirty; they had pristine ‘play dates’ carefully organized and mediated by adults. When contests were held in their classrooms, every student got a prize.

Many Americans are dismayed by these unfortunate exports. I’m hardly a Trumper; I’m a lifelong feminist lesbian who’s always leaned left. I just never managed to divest myself of common sense and a critical eye. And so it’s hard not to think the far future as outlined by HG Wells in ‘the Time Machine’ is nearly here. We are raising, have raised, the Eloi.

Last edited 2 years ago by Marty
Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
2 years ago

The most obvious manifestation of this change was that younger British members of departments started talking like fake Yanks.

I’m glad I took philosophy long before Society for Women in Philosophy destroyed it. Women in Mathematics is worse: https://quillette.com/2018/09/07/academic-activists-send-a-published-paper-down-the-memory-hole/

Last edited 2 years ago by Rod McLaughlin
Graff von Frankenheim
GV
Graff von Frankenheim
2 years ago

Look at the photo….look at it again….does anyone miss the resemblance with ISIS warriors? If so, this would be a good time to go for therapy. The unhappy reality is that fundamentalism has the same external face wherever it appears….

Alan B
Alan B
2 years ago

Happy birthday Thomas Hobbes!

“Words are wise men’s counters but they are currency to fools.”

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan B

YAY! Thank you for reminding me of that quote!

Kerry Godwin
Kerry Godwin
2 years ago

This article is flat-out terrifying. If the venerated halls of truth have become this toxic, what is our true condition? (Man/Medium size)

David Kingsworthy
David Kingsworthy
2 years ago

Transgender Studies Quarterly, …. it’s certainly impressive how quickly (or stealthily?) these previously non-existent ideas have entrenched themselves in academia.

Anthony Lewis
Anthony Lewis
2 years ago

Thankfully I did science avoided the humanities and all this insanity – or have I – how longe before someone argues evolution is transphobic – or even gravity – they probably already have ….

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
2 years ago

Well, I’m just coming to the end of The Other Nietzsche by Joan Stambaugh, a philosophy prof, and she has knocked my socks off by pointing out that Nietzsche demolishes Kant by saying that there is no true world or real world or phenomenal world. But what is there? Well, all I can say is that there is Groundhog Day, every year on Feb 2, and don’t you forget to watch.

Jerry Carroll
JC
Jerry Carroll
2 years ago

I suppose it’s a good thing that nobody pays attention to philosophy these days except for people in the trade.

Ian Burns
Ian Burns
2 years ago

All i can say to this Dr Stock, is brilliant confessional, well said, and about f*****g time. Philosphy debating society grew out university fencing clubs, now as you rightly point out, they are little more navel gazing knitting circles.

rod tofino
rod tofino
2 years ago

I think the reaction of a typical layperson to this piece would be to say “philosophy departments are of neither use nor ornament – close them all all down”. They certainly seem staffed with wretched specimens of humanity.
I’m surprised there still Wittgenstein hacks about. A most tedious and overrated person.
Kathleen – you are well out of that cesspool. I hope you find other employment.

Jacob Mason
Jacob Mason
2 years ago

I have to say I enjoyed this article for many of the reasons brought by other commenters.
But also because Kathleen stock is a hilariously funny writer.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

Meanwhile speakers, under a guise of flattening the hierarchies, could show off to others about their acquaintance with powerful figures in the profession by discussing their work on a casual first-name basis “So here’s what Crispin thinks about higher order vagueness!”
As a DPhil student at Oxford in the 1970’s, Crispin Wright notoriously formed an intellectually snobbish, heirarchical, and exclusive discussion group with Christopher Peacocke, Gareth Evans, and John McDowell.