Creepy in a Frankenstein sense

Eric Schliesser at NewApps took a look at the “Genius Project” excuse and found it well and truly creepy.

2. There is as Jonathan Kramnick pointed out to me on Facebook, something decidedly creepy (in a Frankenstein sense) in the very idea of Genius-Development.

3. McGinn admits to deliberately erasing the lines between the professional and the personal. This is not unique to McGinn in the discipline. As Jason Stanley noted “there is an overly personal and unprofessional aspect to the friendship and socializing in the profession.” (This feature of Stanley’s comments got lost in subsequent discussion over his views about the prevalence of assortative mating in philosophy.) We are dealing here with a phenomenon that is at the heart of many of the ‘culture’ problems within professional philosophy.

Maybe they’re all trying to re-enact Socrates and Alcibiades?

Commenters pointed out that he had included identifying information about the grad student, and how awful that was. For example:

Two things of note in this latest missive from Dr. McGinn:

1.) The behavior, and indeed the very project, he describes, both manifest classic grooming behavior by a practiced sexual predator.

2.) The inclusion of identifying information on the accuser is plainly retaliatory and should fall squarely in violation of most universities’ AA/EEO policies concerning retaliation against reporters of harassment and discrimination.

The more I learn about this, the more appalling he seems to be.

There’s also the whole issue about credibility and rhetoric and narcissism. Canadian Grad Student looks at that:

Why place any credence on his testimonial over the graduate student’s complaint? McGinn’s account is a bizarre, slightly unhinged narrative ostensibly crafted to make him the victim of quasi-conspiratorial machinations, but which reveals instead a staggering narcissism and inability to conceptualize how others might perceive him in this situation (the cult of the hand? the genius project? ‘breaking taboos’ with hand job jokes?).

If one finds what he has written compelling and plausible rather than strange, abnormal, and flatly pathological I begin to worry: who reads this and thinks, “yes, of course: a genius project–now finally this whole thing makes sense!” Why not a more mundane story where a serial sexual harasser cows graduate students with his stature until one brave soul reports him? What is more plausible, that an entitled, narcissistic jerk fabulates a Pygmalion back-story, or that a famous tenured scholar with legal representation is victimized by the local feminazis? Come on. Talk about a litmus test for one’s grip on reality.

Exactly. The combination of the obvious vanity and absurdity of the material in the posts with McGinn’s apparent confidence in their quality and persuasive power is very puzzling to an outsider, and I would imagine worrying to insiders.



  1. says

    I hadn’t thought about it before, but shouldn’t you show some signs of reasonable smarts before you can administer a “Genius Project”?

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