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Leigh M. Johnson
Memphis, TN
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Thanks for this, Eric. I especially appreciate your highlighting the violence at the heart of patriarchy. I’m not totally convinced that lex taliones presupposes a form of moral equality in the way you suggest, whough. And I think this is especially evident in hierarchical societies. Consider the following: You and I live in a hierarchically-organized society in which you are a member of the empowered group and I am a member of the disempowered group. One day, you poke my eye out. Then, I invoke lex taliones and poke your eye out in return (for all the reasons you mention in your post, but most esp “to have equal standing with the perpetrators of violence”). It will remain the case that neither our actions, nor our eyes, nor our persons are equal. My eye is gone because of the way our society is hierarchically organized, i.e., in a way that empowers, emboldens, or excuses (or all three) your violence. Your eye is gone (justly or not) because of your prior violent actions. (I think we have to make a distinction between violence and retaliation.) That is to say, had you not poked my eye out first, you would still have your eye. I, on the other hand, exist in a society in which my eyes are *always* vulnerable; they are perpetual targets of violence. Now, replace eye-poking with sexual assault. The fact of the hierarchical organization of our society, which empowers some to commit violence and relegates others to the always-precariously-situated position of potential-victims, remains unchanged when lex taliones is invoked. The disempowered are not asserting their equality in that invocation; they are affirming their inequality. This is what I take to be the point of the the MLK excerpt you quoted—“I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results… But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.”
This is a great essay, Eric. It’s made me wonder about other conditions under which one might be said to have a compromised philosophical integrity and also about what our response to those so compromised ought to be. An example: Over time, I have become fully convinced of the immorality of meat-eating, for a number of reasons and in response to various (social, economic, political, moral) arguments. And yet still, I eat meat. Now this would seem to be a rather straightforward instance of a lack of (what you call) “philosophical integrity” -- my philosophical commitments and my IRL behaviors clearly do not constitute a coherent whole. I can’t really justify the fact that I continue to eat meat, but I think it’s more complicated than “lack of will power” or the irresistible deliciousness of Memphis barbecue. It’s more like, for reasons I cannot fully explain, my commitment to the arguments just hasn’t translated into behavioral changes. For what it’s worth, I’m not ambivalent about the persuasiveness of the arguments. I just haven’t changed. (I suspect a lot of people are in the same boat wrt a number of large and small philosophical commitments. I suspect this because people aren’t out in the streets revolting. At least not here in the States.} I think a case like I describe is different that Scruton’s or Pogge’s. In the Scruton case, we could say there’s a compromised professional integrity, but I might disagree with you that his alleged quid pro quo arrangement with Japan Tobacco is totally inconsistent with his wider philosophical commitments. (Not an argument I want to have right now, though.) In Pogge’s case, well, he more or less denies that he did what he is accused of doing, so while others might take him to have a compromised philosophical (and professional, and personal) integrity, he doesn’t regard himself so. In my example, on the other hand, I *know* that my philosophical commitments and my behaviors are at odds. What should be the consequences? Am I not to be trusted? (Apologies in advance if this is a bit fast and loose. Just had a second to comment before heading out the door, but will follow this thread later!)
I'm genuinely curious how the APA can ban harassers from attending conferences but would be legally liable for "providing victims with a buddy system" at those same meetings?
Our discipline suffered a terrible loss yesterday with the sudden and untimely passing of Pleshette DeArmitt, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy Department at University of Memphis. We here at NewAPPS extend our deepest condolences to her family, her colleagues and her considerable network of friends. From... Continue reading
I suspect there is *some* connection, but I don't know to what extent that connection amounts to a more (or less) causal explanation for students' good/bad behaviors. Not trying to punt on that question, just disinclined to establish a direct causal link between beliefs and behaviors.
By: Leigh M. Johnson If you haven't already, you should read yesterday's Stone article in the NYT by Justin McBrayer entitled "Why Our Children Don't Believe There Are Moral Facts." There, McBrayer bemoans the ubiquity of a certain configuration of the difference between "fact" and "opinion" assumed in most pre-college... Continue reading
In re (ii), just curious: does Berkeley view race-mixing as fortuitous in any way *for* the English upper-classes? That is, are the British upper-classes' vices race-based (heritable)?
Thanks for this, Eric. I wasn’t familiar with Berkeley’s *Querist,* but I am quite interested in race theory, so I will definitely check it out now! I have one small (nit-picky, really) question w/r/t your claim that Berkeley “is uninterested in racial purity” because he permitted, and in this case promoted, “race-mixing”: does this necessarily follow? Berkeley was clearly working with an idea of “race” (or “stock” or “volk” or whatever other synonyms stood in for what became “race”), that is, he assumed sets of group-specific morphological, intellectual and characterological traits, heritable across generations. And I think you’re right to point out that his encouragement of race-mixing in this instance is a proto-eugenics program, intended to speed along the natural processes evolution, allowing (as Francis Galton described it) for Man to do ”providently, quickly and kindly” what Nature does “blindly, slowly and ruthlessly.” I just don’t see any way that any version of a race-based pro-eugenics program can be “uninterested” in racial purity. That Berkeley wasn’t arguing for purity-of-blood maintenance among members of a so-called “higher” race is not all by itself evidence, I think, for your claim. Anti-miscegenation programs were interested in racial purity because they did not want the blood-borne, “positive” qualities of a preferred race diluted. But a program like Berkeley’s (and Gobineau’s, for that matter) operate by the same reasoning, and thus demonstrate an equal interest in racial purity, when they promote miscegenation. Such programs want the blood-borne, “negative” qualities of an ill-favored race diluted. Either way, it is assumed that there are significant, value-laden consequences to racial purity. In fact, Berkeley reads very similar to Gobineau here, only Berkeley doesn’t seem to think all the way through his own pro-“seed-scattering” logic as Gobineau did. For Gobineau, race-mixing also raises the quality of the lower races, but at the same time it dilutes the strength of the higher races and so, though miscegenation is necessary for the growth of civilization, it will also be the cause of that same civilization’s inevitable decline. Maybe Berkley’s “seed equally scattered” formulation gets him off the hook here, but I’m not sure. Anyway, as I said above, maybe a nit-picky point, but not an inconsequential one, as I see it. Thanks again for this!
Yeah, I think he's jumped the shark here. Since it's not really about me in particular, but a more general pattern of behavior, you can sign me as follow: Mysterious, Noxious, Weird and Malicious Leigh M Johnson
Leigh M. Johnson Department of Religion and Philosophy Christian Brothers University Memphis, TN
by Leigh M. Johnson We continue awaiting the decision of a grand jury on whether or not to indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer, who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, exactly 15 weeks ago today on a suburban street in Ferguson, Missouri. News reporters from... Continue reading
@Daniel Nagase: Thanks for your comments. It's been a long time since I wrote my dissertation, but if you're interested, you can read/download it by googling the title: "Haunted Democracies and the Politics of Possibility: A Deconstructive Analysis of Truth Commissions." If you happen to be interested in and/or working on such issues, I'd really be interested in corresponding with you. My email is [email protected] @Jon: I really have no idea what the bizarrely-slashed category "Habermasian/Badiouan/Derridean" could possibly mean, whether in relation to the subaltern or otherwise. I'm pretty confident that no Habermasian, Badiouan, Derridean or Spivakian would recognize that as anything approximating a coherent category, either. In re the rest of your post, which tbh seems the kind of intentional misreading that is meant to bait, I'll just direct you back to the content of what I actually said or, if you're interested, tomorrow's post on my own blog and NA.
Chris: As I said in my post, it's a non-exhaustive list of examples.
Frank: I've yet to read/hear anyone make the case *for* incivility. Evidence of a person's uncivil speech is not evidence that s/he is "pro-incivility."
By Leigh M. Johnson How we ought to understand the terms "civility" and "collegiality" and to what extent they can be enforced as professional norms are dominating discussions in academic journalism and the academic blogosphere right now. (So much so, in fact, that it's practically impossible for me to select... Continue reading
Leigh M. Johnson is now following Stephen Kuusisto
Sep 7, 2014
This is great, Samir. As to whether or not Dr. Salaita's tweets were taken "out of context," I refer readers to the excellent analysis of those tweets by Phan Nguyen here. For what it's worth, I worry that there's more than a little bit of technophobic prejudice evidenced in many of the warnings against social media use by the professorate. Twitter-- like Facebook, like the blogosphere, and like every other digital space of that ilk-- is a place of/for "public" speech. It is distinct from and irreducible to the academia, though it obviously influences and is influenced by what goes on in academia. *All* public spaces are mutually contaminating, but they have different (more or less official) rules of engagement, different reaches and consequences, different ways of determining acceptable or unacceptable participation. The rules and values of one domain are rarely translatable to another domain without some loss. What if Dr. Salaita had uttered aloud statements with the exact same content of his tweets in a bar, or a church, or any other place where citizens of moral conscience speak publicly? Would his employer be justified in terminating its contractual agreement with him or, if one is inclined to read his employment status as *merely* promissory, revoking on that promise of employment? Samir's analogies are especially apropos, I think, because they show the far-reaching danger of policing the speech (or, more to the point in this case, the tone) of academics when they speak outside of the paramerters of scholarly print and/or the classroom.
I'm inclined to say that yes, it is possible for nonviolent force to manifest as a "more powerful force" even in the absence of a real/meaningful commitment to the rule of law on the part of aggressors. I think we've seen such occur in actual historical events like the ones I cite in this post... but also, philosophically speaking, I this is one of the things GWF Hegel meant to show in the famous section from *Phenomenology of Spirit* in which we witness the "breaking of the hard heart" and the achieving of reciprocal recognition. (cf., "Spirit Certain of Itself: Morality") On the other hand, if what you're asking is whether or not such possibility still exists in a situation in which the *attacked* do not possess some meaningful/enacted commitment to the rule of law, I'm not sure.
As someone who has spent the better part of her career researching, analyzing and teaching not only about the structure and nature of oppressive power regimes, but also better and worse ways to resist or transform such regimes, I've nevertheless been unable to settle in my own mind, to my... Continue reading
Thanks for the heads-up. I've edited the post to reflect the day it was written. Appreciate your comment!
America has been and remains an apartheid state. That sad but increasingly undeniable fact was made apparent last night in Ferguson, Missouri to a group of peaceful protesters amidst tanks, deafening LRADs, a haze of tear gas and a firestorm of rubber (and real) bullets. Continue reading
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. -- President Barack Obama, Press Conference (Aug 1, 2014) "That is another of your odd notions," said the Prefect, who had a... Continue reading
Thanks Gordon, sk and Robin. This comment thread has been very helpful. I suppose I’d say, first, that I agree with Gordon’s claim that neoliberal ontology is “thin”… and, secondly, that I think Robin stipulated as much in her (‘as if’) elaboration above. So, I think the difference between Robin and Gordon is one of emphasis. The more important point in Robin’s original piece was to point out how epistemology and ontology are conflated in/by/for neoliberalism, and her emphasis there was really on what the epistemology looks like and how it operates in this new neoliberal “epistemontology.” It was my piece that really pushed the ontology angle and, in retrospect, I perhaps erred on the side of taking neoliberal ontology (such that it is) at face-value rather than pointing out its deeply problematic reductions. I don’t know whether or not neoliberals really believe that the market is ontologically primary—or whether, as I put it in my essay, “the market is all that is the case”—but they certainly act, operate and analyze ‘as if’ they believed it. It may not matter much, in the end, how resolute or authentic that belief is… but this thread has inclined me to think otherwise. Gordon is right to remind us that “all metaphysical propositions are political” and it is the business of politics (and political theory, I think) to critique onto-theology. I suppose that is the sort of critique I thought I was doing in my piece but, again, I can now see how including this ‘as if’ caveat would have been of tremendous value. At any rate, thanks again for this discussion. One last thing for Gordon: I’d be interested in hearing more about your objection to the use of “algorithm.” I’m neither a mathematician, a coder nor an economist, so be gentle!
There's been a good bit conversation recently about the merits and demerits of "public philosophy" and, as someone who considers herself committed to public philosophy (whatever that is). I'm always happy to stumble across a piece of remarkably insightful philosophical work in the public realm. Case in point: Robin James... Continue reading
The news has just been released that Rev. Fred Phelps, founder and lifelong shepherd of the Westboro Baptist Church (in Topeka, Kansas) has died at the age of 84. I find it difficult, I confess, to summon the normal human compassion that usually accompanies news of another's death in this... Continue reading