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Michael Huemer
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Also: there is a big difference between (a) discussing in general how people tend to be biased, or how our intuitions on some subject could be biased, and (b) accusing the specific person you are talking to of having some motive, or doing some thing, that would make them a bad person. (b) is almost always bad. Not because the person you're talking to is almost never actually a bad person, but simply because saying so almost never produces a desirable outcome. We should adopt rules of discourse suited to the purpose of discussion. "Don't insult the other person" comes out as a good rule.
I think the objection to Harman in the OP doesn't succeed because it begs the question. That's not to say I find Harman's view plausible; in fact, I find her view very implausible. On the main question: - Questioning your interlocutor's motives might of course be epistemically justified. Most people have non-truth-seeking motives that sometimes influence their beliefs. The only epistemic error that most of us make when we question each other's motives is assuming that our *own* motives are much better. - Questioning your interlocutor's motives, out loud, *could* be morally justified. But it is rarely a good idea. It is more likely to lead to strings of angry recriminations than to an impartial, rational discussion ending in happy convergence on the truth.
I recently finished a paper about illegal immigration. Here is my question: Is it wrong to immigrate illegally? Added challenge: Assume (contrary to fact) that immigration laws are justified, and that people typically have a duty to obey the law.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 30, 2016 at PEA Soup
A brief comment on message 30. Of course those photos are not appropriate for any course- or university-related web site. It creates the wrong impression of how the professor thinks of students. I didn't think it necessary to point that out, as no one seems to find the pictures appropriate. My above comments were addressed to a different question--that of whether those pictures portray women as stupid.
Maybe I am no good at interpreting photographs, because I don't see all these messages in those pictures. Kathryn Pogin writes: "a. the women in the pictures are clearly portrayed in a sexually objectifying way, a way that diminishes their agency [....] [W]e won’t be thinking about how smart those women are." Can someone explain this to me? What about the pictures diminishes agency? I agree that a typical viewer wouldn't be thinking about the women's intelligence, but that seems different from saying the women are portrayed as stupid. "b. the women in the pictures are portrayed in an academic setting, with an academic, being non-academic themselves..." None of them appears to be reading or working on a proof. But does that constitute a portrayal of stupidity? When I see students around campus, or even in class, who don't seem to be studying or taking notes (which I see all the time), I don't think they are stupid. "c. the photos were staged this way for the benefit of viewers..." True, but I again don't see how that amounts to a portrayal of stupidity. "d. ... there’s empirical data that suggest we do see women who are provocatively dressed as less intelligent and less competent." I believe there are some who think that way. But does that constitute a message in the pictures themselves, or is it just a false assumption by certain viewers? Here is an alternative interpretation: "The women in these photos have all signed up for a logic class. They seem to have stayed after class. There's no apparent sexual interaction with the professor, so it must be that they stayed to learn more from the professor. They're looking at him, probably because they're interested in and impressed with the ideas he's presented. People who love logic tend to be super-smart. So these are probably highly intelligent women." I am not saying that the above is the "true message" of the photos. Here is a hypothesis. There is no message objectively there in the pictures (except perhaps for the false message that "logic is sexy"). Instead, different viewers see different messages, according to the individual viewer's preexisting assumptions. Viewers who implicitly think that sexy women tend to be stupid will see the women in the pictures as stupid. These viewers will then think that the women were "portrayed as stupid." On the other hand, those who think sexy women are smart will think the women in those pictures are portrayed as smart.
@Berit: If the student was handing Hendricks a wad of cash, I'd be inclined to agree. But I thought giving an apple to the teacher was just an innocent tradition, rather than an attempted bribe. I would actually expect a student who brings an apple for the teacher to be one of the better students. What about the provocative attire? I don't know about interpreting photo shoots, but in real life, you would never assume that provocatively dressed students are stupid or that they are attempting to trade sex for grades. The pictures don't seem to depict any sexual interaction with Hendricks either. If the "students" are supposed to be trying to bribe Hendricks, I would take that more as evidence of turpitude rather than stupidity. @Ingo: Could you explain why you think the photographers intended that perception? And in what sense they were "exploiting" the stereotype? Do the photographers, e.g., gain some advantage if viewers (irrationally) infer that the women in the pictures are stupid?
Can someone explain what about the pictures shows that the women are supposed to be "unintelligent" and "completely lacking in academic acumen", as the article says? From looking at those images, I don't see how you could infer anything at all about how intelligent or accomplished those "students" are.