May 11, 2023 - 7:15am

The academic and UnHerd columnist Kathleen Stock is widely considered one of the UK’s most distinguished philosophers, coming first in a poll carried out last year by Prospect magazine to find the “world’s top thinker”. She has authored several books, most notably 2021’s Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism, and is a frequent commentator in the British press. However, Stock’s criticisms of gender ideology have met with backlash, and she was forced to leave her post at the University of Sussex in 2021 following a student campaign against her.

Stock’s planned appearance at the Oxford Union later this month has predictably resulted in calls to no-platform her. Indeed, students at the university have allegedly been offered “welfare support” to compensate for the psychological upset the philosopher’s visit to campus might cause them. 

Despite her many unhappy brushes with ideologically uncompromising students, Stock expresses empathy for young people swept up in intersectional fervour. She visited the UnHerd Club this week to speak to Freddie Sayers about the increased isolation experienced by students, and to explain why young people might be more vulnerable to extreme ideologies:

I think they’re really, really anxious. And that is no doubt a result of the knock-on, downstream effects of technology and the university system, which is not really fostering communities. I was always struck by the fact that a lot of my students didn’t really know that many other students and I’d say, ‘Where are your friends?’ And they’d say, ‘Oh, I didn’t really make any.’
- Kathleen Stock

The conversation moved onto the philosophical groundings and distorted evolution of the liberal ideas that underpin gender ideology:

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There’s also […] the idea of freedom being the highest good the liberal world has produced, through Chinese whispers, a very distorted view that you have to free yourself from everything — or at least you could if you wanted to, and if you want to, then why not? Including your body, including all social norms that you find restrictive, and so on.
- Kathleen Stock

Stock also argued that a myopic obsession with the power of language and words in academic spheres makes it easier to conceive theories and ideologies which diverge sharply from rational thought:

A lot of the gender madness comes from a bad philosophical position that everything is constructed through language. And it makes no sense internally and it makes no sense as a satisfying explanation of what is, but it’s looked very attractive to academics — not philosophers, to be fair to philosophers. If they were to be social constructivists, they would have to be very sophisticated ones that really tried hard to address all the objections that seem obvious. Whereas gender studies social constructivists are not philosophers, but they’ve taken this idea that you can construct the world through words and — what a surprise — they have all the words! And they sit writing words all day. So it turns out that they are the masters of the universe.
- Kathleen Stock