Hypatia: A Bridge Too Far?

Some might look at the recent outrage over Hypatia‘s publication of Rebecca Tuvel’s paper defending transracialism as an indication that the radical left in philosophy has finally gone too far—we have finally hit the high water mark of cultural Marxism in the academy.

I don’t see much grounds for optimism here, if you are on the right. The fact of the matter is that this is an in-house fight between people unified in their belief that non-progressives are evil and/or stupid. So when it comes to truly opening up the profession and seeking true diversity of ideas, there will be no such opening up.

Here’s how the controversy seems to be playing out. The radical feminists who signed the Open Letter against Hypatia, call them the Sally Haslangers, do seem to have gone a bit too far, for they are getting heavily criticized by the mainstream of the profession, call them the Brian Leiters. This is interesting, as it is the first time that I can think of that Haslanger has been accused of politicizing the discipline by the mainstream of the profession. In fact, Leiter’s balanced response to the Open Letter and the apology issued by the associate editors seems to have boosted his credibility.

Coming back to the title question, have the Sally Haslangers gone too far? Perhaps a little. No doubt they will feel all the more adamantly the need to transform the discipline. But for those of us on the right, who cares? Would you rather the discipline be dominated by the Sally Haslangers or the Brian Leiters? It makes no difference to us. The bottom line is that the Sally Haslangers and the Brian Leiters together rule the roost, and they think we are scum. We can have 10 more Hypatia scandals. It won’t matter.

Walter Montgomery

Walter is a philosophy graduate student in New Hampshire. He sometimes wishes he was a lawyer, and other times wishes he was a basketball coach. Some of his favorite childhood memories involve traveling with his immediate family, grandparents, and cousins’ family in big gas-guzzling vans towing campers. He sees philosophy as a tool for getting at Truth, and thinks too many contemporary philosophers see it as a tool for advancing their ideological preferences.

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  1. Walter,

    Do you think the way the people in each of the two groups also are generally disposed to behave in the same way with respect to conservatives, in particular in terms of taking different courses of action in order to keep you from publishing, speaking, and so on?
    Even assuming they consider you equally evil or stupid, it doesn’t follow that they have the same ideas with regard to freedom of speech. For example, there’s also been a debate on the left with regard to Ann Coulter’s invitation to speak, to mention a recent case.

    By the way, do you think that the belief that conservatives are evil or stupid is more common among the left than the belief that – for example – people who support legal abortion are evil or stupid is among the right?

    • Interesting questions, Angra. No I doubt that the two groups are generally disposed to behave in the same way with respect to conservatives. As a conservative, I suppose the world in which the discipline was entirely run by the Sally Haslangers would be slightly worse, but neither is great. The Brian Leiters seem to defend freedom of speech more robustly.

      Regarding the second question, I really don’t know which is more common, but I definitely think it is very common for people on the right to think that support for legal abortion is evil or stupid.

  2. Hi, Walter. I think your analysis is correct. I wonder what right-wing academics could possibly do, in particular right-wing philosophers. What should right-wing philosophers even be trying to accomplish in the first place? Should they accept that philosophy is hopelessly left-wing and they will never be able to change that and will never be accepted in academic society, yet still choose to work in the field? Should they just resign themselves to hide in the closet, or, alternatively, cautiously voice their ideas in the most qualified, milquetoast, non-threating manner possible, appease their leftist masters, and grovel when attacked or punished? Or should they leave the field and put their intellectual efforts into something else?

    I don’t expect you to have answers, but I think these are interesting and important questions that arise in response to you post.

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