Fallout from the MacDonald/Philosophia trash trickles down

The journal Philosophia is only beginning to reap the consequences of publishing an anti-Semitic article by Kevin MacDonald. The editor is digging in, but one associate editor has already resigned over it.

Philosophia is edited by Asa Kasher (Tel Aviv). In response to questions about the publication of these articles, he wrote that the papers were refereed prior to publication, but that it was “a mistake” to publish them, explaining that he was “not aware of the general background of the debate” and that he is “sorry for treating the discussion as an ordinary philosophical debate.” He added that further comments from him may be forthcoming.

Yesterday, Moti Mizrahi (Florida Institute of Technology) who was until last night the associate editor of Philosophia, wrote on Twitter: “I had nothing to do with the publication of this [McDonald’s] paper in Philosophia. I’ve asked the EiC to reconsider its publication in Philosophia.” Later in the day, he announced his resignation from the journal.

The ADL has also denounced it. The author of the ADL’s article on MacDonald, Marilyn Mayo, has a good take on the issues.

“It’s not about censorship, but looking at what someone is saying and whether you’re validating views that are antisemitic or racist or promoting ideas that have proven to be conspiratorial and not true,” she continued. “Of course, in academia there is understandably a drive to present all different kinds of views, and that’s understandable — but it is also incumbent upon institutions and journals to vet what’s put out there or put it in context.”

“proven to be conspiratorial and not true” is the key phrase there. Academic freedom is important, but it’s not freedom to publish lies as if they are true.


  1. says

    “proven to be conspiratorial and not true” is the key phrase there.

    But is it? Let’s say a business school PhD and tenured professor writes an article pointing out (correctly) that human caused CO2 emissions are a minority of all CO2 emissions into earth’s atmosphere, and then asserts:

    This proves that any climate change that does occur is not caused by humans.

    Now, of course this proves no such thing, because before human intervention the CO2 emitted vs. CO2 reabsorbed and sequestered roughly equaled each other. When humans cut down forests thus reducing the ability of the biosphere to reabsorb CO2 while simultaneously emitting previously sequestered CO2 we both changed the balance point in such a way that even standard emissions would have exceeded it, but then we went and added to emissions on top of that.

    We are responsible for changing (and exceeding) the climate change tipping point. We are responsible for the accumulation of greater and greater CO2 in the atmosphere over the last hundred years. It’s us. We absolutely know this. The idea that we aren’t responsible is both proven to be false and also part of a larger, conspiratorial lie that climate scientists are lying to us in order to steal underpants and profit or whatever.

    And yet, I can’t see a business school saying that such an article exceeds the bounds of tenure’s protections. Academic free speech has limits, but I don’t think that “conspiratorial and not true” really captures how bad this article actually was and why it should be both retracted AND grounds for the author’s home institution to look into whether it violated their institutional standards.

    I’m on board with you a good way on this, but I think conspiratorial and false simply isn’t an adequate description of what was wrong with this, not even an adequate description of the “key” part of what was wrong.

    This was seething hatred unbounded by any rational inquiry at all.

  2. says

    I can see your point, but rejecting an article because it’s full of hatred is judging it on the motives of the author, which is harder to do than judging it on the quality and accuracy of its thesis. I would reject your hypothetical for the straight forward fact that it’s wrong.

    But otherwise, I’d also say that it is proven that Kevin MacDonald is an obsessed hatemonger, which would justify blacklisting him by every journal, except maybe the ones that still don’t see what’s wrong with Steve Sailer.

  3. indianajones says

    I am absolutely not an academic. I will probably get even fundamental terminology wrong here, so I beg indulgence.

    The whole thing here, to me, seems to be about ignoring context. ie, you absolutely CANNOT be unaware of the context of racist or anti-semitic stuff in general at all and call yourself an academic, right? Or even just a person who is generally aware of the world and I presume that’s a pretty fair pre-requisite to be an academic? It contend that it is not possible to be an academic, of any sort, without an awareness of context, so I say ignore as opposed to be un-aware of btw.

    To labour the point, an historian is not one if they ignore context. Nor is a psychologist studying intelligence. Or a medical researcher studying the difference between the sexes. Or, or, or.

    Having said that, do not philosophers not get a pass on this potentially? As a for instance I am reminded of the utility monster. As I understand it (poorly certainly) Utilitarianism is all about the greatest good for the most people. And the Utility Monster is a thought experiment about what happens if I can be 101 units more happy with 100 happiness units, vs your 1 each of 100 people. Should I not therefore get the 100 happiness units, because they give me 101 happies vs distributing them to 100 people who will only get 100 happies out of them? It, the thought experiment, makes the case for the existence of billionaires. And, again as I understand it, taken to it’s logical conclusion, leads to annihilation for everyone else. So, the conclusion being, utilitarianism aint necessarily all it’s cracked up to be despite how superficially nice it sounds. The wiki article explains it better, I hope you see what I mean.

    So, the utility monster is a pretty awful thing for us and a pretty nasty idea for philosophers to come up. Naively evil in fact. But out here in the real world there are in fact the moral horror that are billionaires and for philosophers to have played with the idea as a concept might give us an insight into them. And therefore be ok as an idea for philosophers to toss around. For the good of the rest of us and all. Could this not run along similar lines? That exploring the idea as academic philosophers is not endorsement at all definitionally just by the fact that they are philosophers? We do have academic fields and academics who do explore other rancidly evil ideas after all. And we do trust them to do it, and they are worth exploring so that we can understand and prevent serial killers and other moral horrors say.

    I haven’t read the Kevin McDonald article so what would I know. I definitely don’t want the Joe Rogan, say, take on it. But I just don’t think that exploring an idea by trained experts simply because it is untrue absolutely implies it being not worth examination by said trained experts is all. I think it might give us insight rather into combating evil. At least potentially.

  4. Susan Montgomery says

    Let’s keep chasing our tails trying to be fair and balanced to those who wish to destroy everything we hold dear.

    I’m sure that, when they write the history books, they’ll mention how we took the high road.

  5. kome says

    The topics academics choose to study (and the manners in which we study them) reflect our own values, and the things academic publishers choose to publish are reflections of what they perceive to be of societal importance. There is a very long history in science and philosophy of placing an extremely high value on any line of reasoning, no matter how flimsy or incoherent or even based on entirely fabricated evidence, that is used to justify existing sociopolitical prejudices and hierarchies.

    And, so often, the biggest defense of academics continuing to pursue those topics of study boils down either to academic freedom or to some delusion that sunshine is the best disinfectant when it comes to prejudicial views, despite all evidence to the contrary. It’s all largely bullshit disguised to make palatable for those on the sidelines excuses for why we should continue to have very serious academic discussions that by their very nature validate the idea of questioning the basic humanity of certain classes of people, from racial minority groups to disabled groups.

    The academy, by and large, has been and continues to be another weapon used to marginalize vast swathes of the population for the benefit of the (largely white, largely cis, largely het, largely male) few. It’s not only that, but it is also that. And we just don’t do much of anything to try and fix anything at the institutional level; we’re content to just verbally tut-tut at individuals on occasion. It’s pretty gross.

  6. indianajones says

    Susan I get your point, I think, and agree with it. Your cartoon is indeed apropos. To draw another example, I know without doubt that slavery is bad. My point is that I ONLY know that in the absolute sense because the idea was academically explored by experts. And that therefore only by discussion by experts, in a journal written by presumably experts talking to each other expertly in an expert forum and no one else in this instance and more generally, can we know such things in that sort of absolute sense. And that therefore and in this context ONLY could this anti-semiitic idea even being discussed let alone taken seriously, which I doubt is the case, be worth doing.

    JAQING off and sea-lioning and chasing our tails by being fair and balanced is what anyone else would be doing with anti-semitism for sure. Many of them with the stated or unstated goal of destruction. I don’t wanna be mentioned in the history books as ‘At least he took the high road!’ among the ruins of civilization either.

  7. indianajones says

    I want experts to examine evil so I don’t have to and so that it can be combated better-er-est.

  8. indianajones says

    Sorry for triple post.

    kome I agree. I am happy to be wrong on this one. It’s why I made such a big deal out of context in my initial post. I think there might be some wriggle room this time because exploring evil aint the same as endorsing it. By presumably well meaning professionals only. But I am happy to be wrong about it too.

  9. azpaul3 says

    Does anyone see this as a good thing? And I’m not just talking about shutting down a racist blowhard.

    I think it is good this article was published. I think it is good that its publication raised one hell of worldwide stink to the point where careers are in jeopardy. I think it is good to see the human moral consciousness of this species so visibly reject an errant and dangerous creed.

    I am happy.

  10. unclefrogy says

    I am sorry but do not think i need “experts” and learned academics to understand that slavery is bad or that racism is bad.
    I can find no argument or series of rational-isms that would not be just a bullies self justifications for being an asshole and a bully and give a justification for any and all cruelty they might advocate I thought that when I was 6 years old and still think it.

  11. dorght says

    It is a shame that the term anti-Semitic seems to now include criticism of the Israeli government’s policies. It is enough that when someone is labelled for being anti-Semitic I now have to figured out if they are bigoted, racist, nazi or merely someone that said that maybe Israeli shouldn’t continue to oppress the genetically indistinct people they have displaced.

  12. Walter Solomon says

    Why even go through the trouble of publishing your bigotry when you can express it anytime you like as UPenn law professor Amy Wax has done repeatedly without any repercussions?

  13. flange says

    A lie is not a point of view, an opinion, a hypothesis, or a different way of looking at something. It’s just a lie.