And then there’s McGinn’s Plea for Calm with its paean to epistemic virtue.
Shouldn’t we philosophers be setting a good example of epistemic virtue? We are supposed to be rational, judicious, calm, impartial, non-ideological, just, fair, balanced, careful, scrupulous, accurate, above-the-fray. But such virtues have not been evident recently. Instead we have seen hysteria, presumption of guilt, ignoring of evidence, ignoring of due process and procedural justice, sloppiness, inaccuracy, ideology, vindictiveness, lack of reflection, simple stupidity, ideological fervor, ad hominem invective, and so on and on. This has been sickening to behold and shameful to the values we as philosophers are supposed to live by.
It is true that many people have not been guilty of these vices and failings. They have insisted on basic principles of reason and justice (and have been traduced for doing so). I salute them. I suspect that the bitter divisiveness that we have seen will only continue and deepen, because it reflects a basic difference of moral psychology. The divisiveness will not concern a single case but be pervasive and general. The ideologues and nutcases will hate the rationalists, while the rationalists will despise their opponents. None of this will be pretty. The ideologues will dig in, as ideologues always do, while the rationalists will grow ever more impatient and contemptuous. This will play out in the day-to-day workings of academic departments and personal relationships. Unless and until the epistemic virtues are respected, I expect to see continued strife and bad feeling. This will do nobody any good.
It’s a different version of the same thing – he’s the good one, the exemplar of epistemic virtue, and people who are critical of his behavior are monsters of epistemic depravity. He is rational, judicious, calm, impartial, non-ideological, just, fair, balanced, careful, scrupulous, accurate, above-the-fray. His critics demonstrate hysteria, presumption of guilt, ignoring of evidence, ignoring of due process and procedural justice, sloppiness, inaccuracy, ideology, vindictiveness, lack of reflection, simple stupidity, ideological fervor, and ad hominem invective. All the hooray words on his side of the ledger, all the boo words on their side.
You would think – speaking of epistemic virtue – that it would occur to him that that’s not convincing, at least. Maybe it’s too much to expect him to think it might not be fully accurate, but you’d think he could manage to notice a certain implausibility to the way he loads one scale with chocolates and cherries, and the other scale with pond scum and excrement.
What a spectacle.