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Jul 28 2013

The “genius project”?

It gets worse.

There was a second post from McGinn, explaining and self-defending some more. It too is now unfindable, but Bill Benzon at Crooked Timber quotes enough to get the astonishing drift.

From McGinn’s post on The Genius Project:

The student (hereafter NN) and I were engaged on what we called “the Genius Project”. The purpose of the genius project was to make NN into a truly original and outstanding young philosopher (one who could expect to find an attractive job later). Part of this project involved techniques for encouraging unconventional thinking, and the concept of “taboo-busting” was deemed helpful towards this end.

Toward the end:

Most of the genius project took a more conventional form, but it is within this context that they [two email messages] should be interpreted. They were not just gratuitous snippets of risque prose, sent out of the blue. I believe that had the genius project continued it would have borne significant fruit; and indeed a colleague has remarked to me that NN’s philosophical abilities went from “good” to “superb” following the several months during which I was attempting to make her into a “genius”.

You have got to be kidding.

10 comments

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  1. 1
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    There’s not enough *facepalm* in the world… ><
    I don't know how good McGinn is as a philosopher, but he should be writing risqué novels. He sounds just like the protagonist in one.

  2. 2
    Jean

    PZ talked about this not too long ago here and here

  3. 3
    Bjarte Foshaug

    Wow…
    This guy would make Billy Meier proud (you know, the guy who – among other things – claimed a photography of dancers from a TV show in the seventies was actually of two aliens. When the true source of the photography was identified, he suddenly “remembered” that the Men in Black had, in fact, stolen the real picture of the aliens and replaced it with the picture of the dancers to discredit him). It that level of stupid!

  4. 4
    Sili

    What an ingrate that bitch turned out to be.

    /snark – in case it was necessary.

    It’s really shocking that this is what passes for a prominent philosopher (at least prominent enough to get tenure). No wonder that people like me tend slip into the mode of mocking the whole profession.

    More seriously, I find it hard to believe that a subject that’s supposed to enlighten us about the human condition (that *is* the point of philosophy, right?), thinks it’s equipped to do so with only 20% women in its ranks.

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh but philosophy – it’s more of a guy thing.

    See Sally Haslanger for examples of exactly that.

  6. 6
    Ophelia Benson

    NOT TO MENTION Rebecca Goldstein’s talk at Women in Secularism 2.

  7. 7
  8. 8
    maudell

    @Sili

    The argument goes like this: there are only 20% women in philosophy because women complain about sexual harassment all the time. At least that’s the information I got from McGinn’s blog last May.

    @Ophelia
    Off the top of my head, he wrote 6 or 7 posts about this altogether. All of them were equally repulsive.
    (basically: it’s all her fault, we poor hoi poloi don’t understand that because we are brainwashed by the system)
    Oh, and the “genius project”? After enough people pointed out how sick it was, it turned out to be a “joke” (of course). We didn’t understand it was a joke because we are brainwashed by the system (again). Like how we don’t understand that a ‘hand job’ is actually a manicure (which was his intended meaning, retroactively). The real smart people, free from brainwashing got the joke right away.

  9. 9
    Claire Ramsey

    Sickening. So arrogant. So full of hot gas.

    I am extremely sophisticated and a genius to boot, and I’ve spent some time in nail salons. There is absolutely no manicurist in the English speaking world who would ever refer to a manicure as a ‘handjob.” That term has one meaning and no others. Take it from me. I am a professional linguist and I approve this message.

  10. 10
    Anthony K

    I believe that had the genius project continued it would have borne significant fruit; and indeed a colleague has remarked to me that NN’s philosophical abilities went from “good” to “superb” following the several months during which I was attempting to make her into a “genius”.

    It’s a pretty damning indictment of the field of philosophy to suggest that the role of a tenured philosopher can be fulfilled by construction worker stereotypes on a lunch break.

    Nonetheless, I think it’s safe to say that there are few, if any, women who haven’t been the subject of “The Genius Project”, often from complete strangers. So if women have that going for them, then what can we do to make men like Dr. McGinn smarter?

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