So that’s what a philosophy degree is good for


You remember creepy ol’ Colin McGinn, the philosopher who wrote icky sexual messages to his students and assistants, fantasizing about them giving him handjobs and suggesting that they have sex precisely 3 times over the summer. He’s sort of in disgrace now, except…

McGinn has just opened a consultancy firm to give professional ethics advice to businesses. You read that right. One of the skeeviest philosophers around is selling his dubious ethical skills to corporations. Sounds like just the right kind of thing that corporations might want, but isn’t what they need.

He has a stunning rationale.

McGinn is best known for his work in philosophy of mind, but believes he’s well placed to advise on a variety of business issues, including sexual harassment. “I have insider knowledge of that,” he said. “I consider myself an expert in that subject, having gone through a process, and discussing it with lawyers and so forth, and having to learn about it in detail.”

I was blatantly guilty of sexual harassment, therefore I’m exactly the right person to advise you on sexual harassment. Brilliant.

Comments

  1. davidnangle says

    Perhaps we need actual Nazis running our concentration camps because who would know better how to disassemble a concentration camp? Oh, never mind. We already have Nazis running our concentration camps.

  2. kaleberg says

    To be fair, I met a former safe cracker while waiting for a flight. He was pretty good at breaking into banks, but eventually he got caught and convicted. He did his time. When I met him, he was flying around the country doing security consulting, mainly for banks. I guess he figured out a legal way to get money out of them. His big selling point was that he could case the joint like a criminal.

  3. says

    A few years back, he wrote a book supposedly about the philosophy of physics. It was awful. Imagine the typical crackpottery that you’d find on a GeoCities site of a self-proclaimed misunderstood genius, and then amp it up with the arrogance of an overrated philosopher who has been coasting on his white maleness for his entire career. The he wrote The Meaning of Disgust, which was similarly bad.

    Perhaps The Meaning of Disgust is useful as an aesthetic object in itself: an emblem of that most moern creation, the pop philosophy book. Actual content, thought, or insight is entirely optional. The only real requirement is that the pages stroke the reader’s ego, make him feel he is doing something highbrow for once, something to better himself. The sad fact is the reader would learn more about disgust by reading Mad magazine.

  4. consciousness razor says

    Sure, this is all normal. Philosophers have specialized in “catastrophe anticipation and avoidance” since about 500 BC or so. It’s been a huge success, obviously.
    Parmenides even tried to do some “customized interactive seminars for executives” from time to time, but people kept saying nothing ever happened.

  5. leerudolph says

    Philosophers have specialized in “catastrophe anticipation and avoidance” since about 500 BC or so.

    You never avoid the same catastrophe twice.

  6. Matt G says

    “…discussing it with lawyers and so forth…”? This is what passes for writing in the philosophy world? Not a cover letter I would read twice. Or finish reading once….

  7. Owlmirror says

    @kaleberg:

    To be fair, I met a former safe cracker while waiting for a flight. He was pretty good at breaking into banks, but eventually he got caught and convicted. He did his time. When I met him, he was flying around the country doing security consulting, mainly for banks. I guess he figured out a legal way to get money out of them. His big selling point was that he could case the joint like a criminal.

    The analogy doesn’t match. It’s not like the former safecracker offered to consult on the ethics of building infiltration, lockpicking, and/or property appropriation.

    Although McGinn might actually be consulting on something other than what he claims.

    “Alright, everyone, please make a note of these terms: ‘plausible deniability’, ‘gaslighting’, and ‘joking around’. Now, you’re going to learn what each of these terms means with respect to sexual harassment, but we have to be very careful, because if used strategically, you could perform sexual harassment and not get caught at it like I did! And that would be very unethical, right? [*wink* *wink*]”

  8. lpetrich says

    I remember when Colin McGinn showed up in something called “The Atheism Tapes”, an extra for Jonathan Miller’s “History of Disbelief”. He criticized those who, in his mind, purchased their atheism cheaply. Meaning by atheism something like “How horrible, horrible, horrible it is that the Universe has no God in it,” something that one has rather painfully agonized over.

  9. jamiejag says

    @leerudolph,

    You can’t fail to avoid the same catastrophe more than once. Otherwise, it’s more of an inconvenience, and less of a catastrophe…

    You can’t get fooled again ;-P

    shrubbery 101.

  10. DanDare says

    If he was any good he would not focus on the process that follows on getting caught.
    He should focus on recognising drives and self justification and why sexual abuse is bad. He seems to be totally unaware of self reflection.

  11. shadow says

    @10: Kevin Mitnick is a security consultant. He shows how easy it is to be “socially engineered” into giving away network credentials.

    It’s what landed him in prison — he’s reformed now. . .

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