An “intellectual romance”

The New York Times had a piece about Colin McGinn yesterday, and (better) about the implications for paying attention to sexism in philosophy and universities.

While the status of women in the sciences has received broad national attention, debate about sexism in philosophy has remained mostly within the confines of academia. But the revelation this summer that Colin McGinn, a star philosopher at the University of Miami, had agreed to leave his tenured post after allegations of sexual harassment brought by a graduate student, has put an unusually famous name to the problem, exposing the field to what some see as a healthy dose of sunlight.

“People are thinking, ‘Wow, he had to resign, and we know about it,’ ” said Jennifer Saul, the chairwoman of the philosophy department at the University of Sheffield in England and the editor of the blog What Is It Like to Be a Woman in Philosophy? [Read more...]

Being totally right entirely altogether

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. [Read more...]

Irony-deficient people miss his brilliant irony chiz chiz

I haven’t found a grab of those posts of Colin McGinn’s but he didn’t take all the posts down, and there is plenty of intolerable smugness and self-admiration still on display.

(Honestly – I’ve read other people who write this way – this horribly arch, self-conscious, pseudo-Wildean, labored, unamusing way – can’t they see how awful it is? Clearly not, but then – why not?)

The real biscuit-taker among the surviving posts is perhaps the one titled “Epater les bourgeios” [yes, sic]. You know what it’s going to be before you read more – he’s a flouter of convention, a wit, a challenger of pieties, and all these peasants have misunderstood. Yawwwwwwwwwwwn – never heard that one before. [Read more...]

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. [Read more...]

A professional glass blower might remark

Let’s go back in time a couple of months, to early June, to June 4th to be precise, when the story about Colin McGinn broke. What story, and who? The story that McGinn is leaving the University of Miami because of allegedly sexually harassing emails; McGinn is a fairly prominent (for a philosopher) philosopher.

I saw a lot of mentions at the time but didn’t follow them up, I forget why…But I should have, because the story and the meta-story and the meta-meta are all highly relevant. (Relevant to what? To issues I’ve been talking about 1) as long as I’ve been talking at all, and as long as I’ve been blogging 2) more than before over the past couple of years.)

The story broke in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and was behind a paywall but then people shared it. The philosopher Sally Haslanger has the whole thing on her website. [Read more...]