Two of them, actually, the second to repudiate the first. They’re both pretty bad.
One of the world’s most celebrated philosophers has apologized for writing a racist email in which he used an appalling racial slur and said he believed it was “true” that “Blacks are more stupid than whites.”
Before we get to the flaming racist bits, I have to question that. “One of the world’s most celebrated philosophers”? Nick Bostrom? Seriously? He’s a bloodless weirdo who writes bizarre fantasy stories about the world being a simulation that seems to be mainly taken seriously by Libertarian Silicon Valley tech-bros. Is he really a celebrated philosopher? Or a fringe goofball who caught the imagination of a tiny group of rich dudes? Let me know, philosophers. And if that’s true, you all have some in-house cleanup to do.
Anyway, snapping back to the content…Bostrom was dismayed to learn that someone was snooping around in the archives of an old listserv he participated in, and was rushing to pre-empt the disclosure of some ugly things he shared 26 years ago. Among these unpleasant exposed bits of rubbish, which he’d intended to share with only the cozy fellow white dudes of this listserv, was this bit about “offensive communication styles,” where, as an example, he wrote:
Blacks are more stupid than whites.
I like that sentence and think it is true.
He then goes on to say that he thinks it probable that black people have a lower IQ than mankind in general (which is weird in itself — aren’t black people part of mankind?), and throws in a racial slur. He then explains his point:
My point is that while speaking with the provocativeness of unabashed objectivity would be appreciated by me and many other persons on this list, it may be a less effective strategy in communicating with some of the people “out there”. I think it is laudable if you accustom people to the offensiveness of truth, but be prepared that you may suffer some personal damage.
Please note precisely what he is saying: here is what he really believes, but it wouldn’t be expedient to say it in public. Honesty is admirable, but only if it is strategic, and otherwise, DON’T SAY THE QUIET PARTS OUT LOUD. But now, uh-oh, the normies are uncovering the stuff they weren’t supposed to here, and it’s time to cover his butt.
That was the message a quarter century ago. Now that it’s being exposed, yeah, it’s butt-covering time. That’s the whole point of Nick Bostrom’s new email, which you can read at the link. It’s an interesting exercise in loudly repudiating your old views while not actually repudiating them. He announces in bold:
I completely repudiate this disgusting email from 26 years ago. It does not accurately represent my views, then or now. The invocation of a racial slur was repulsive. I immediately apologized for writing it at the time, within 24 hours; and I apologize again unreservedly today. I recoil when I read it and reject it utterly.
OK, good, now stop. Stop, I said. Shut up! Dear god, why do you have to keep on babbling on, undercutting your own repudiation? Yeah, he did not shut up. After listing all the charities he donates to (see? He really is a good person), he decides to expand on that black IQ business.
Are there any genetic contributions to differences between groups in cognitive abilities? It is not my area of expertise [So shut the fuck up already!], and I don’t have any particular interest in the question [So disinterested he can’t shut up about it]. I would leave it to others, who have more relevant knowledge, to debate whether or not in addition to environmental factors, epigenetic or genetic factors play any role.
That’s how he “rejects utterly” his racist ideas from 26 years ago…by saying, oh gosh, I don’t really know, maybe my more racist friends ought to talk about it a lot more.
Then he goes on to ask,
What about eugenics? Do I support eugenics? Hold on there. The old email doesn’t say anything about eugenics — why do you suddenly feel the need to go on and on about it? Are there some other emails you haven’t told us about where you talk about policy to take care of
inferior races that you’re feeling guilty about? Really, you should definitely shut up.
If you’re curious about his position on eugenics, he is
in favor of some uses and against others, which fits perfectly with his declaration of complete repudiation and utter rejection. It’s just more waffly shit.
So we’re now left to make a choice: should we believe his old email, which argues that you should like to hide your offensive views from us people “out there,” or should we believe his new email that claims his offensive views are totally false while being unable to simply say so?
It’s like a philosophical dilemma that is trivially easy to solve!