Remember Oxford Professor of the Philosophy of Law Leslie Green, who stated that conservatives are not welcome at universities “because they are universities”? (Here, here and here are some good responses.) Admittedly, Green went on to qualify his claim by restricting it to “a certain kind of conservative” (at least at one point). However, he did not mention other, more welcome kinds of conservatives.
At least in this respect, Professor Joseph Heath, of the University of Toronto, does slightly better in a recent blog post. He distinguishes between “rational” and other conservatives, and writes that only the latter are underrepresented in academia:
Rational conservative ideologies, such as libertarianism, are not underrepresented in the academy – on the contrary, they are probably over-represented, relative to their actual support in the population. What is underrepresented in the academy, for obvious reasons, is the version of conservatism that scorns expertise in all forms and takes political positions that are only sustainable if one discounts both empirical evidence and rational argument.
Whether, besides libertarianism, there are any other “conservative” views that deserve to be called “rational”, Heath does not say. For all Heath tells us, if you are a conservative but not a libertarian, then you are the kind of conservative who is not welcome at universities because they are universities—presumably, institutions aimed at rational inquiry. For example, if you are “Trumpian” with respect to immigration, Heath tells us, then you reject one of the “remaining rationalist components in contemporary conservatism”. And if you believe in traditional family values, then you have one of these problematic “right-wing ideas that have no empirical or rational support”.
In a very similar vein, Professor Anthony Appiah, of New York University, cannot come up with any names of conservatives in academia who are worth inviting for a lecture. The following is an excerpt from a recent, three-part interview:
KAA: I wouldn’t invite [Charles Murray], but I would permit the invitation. I think there are cleverer Conservative intellectuals than Murray who I’d rather hear.
KAA: I read stuff from the Cato Institute. Maybe they don’t count as Conservative anymore, because they’re anti-Trump… I don’t know their names because I don’t read the names. I don’t agree with many of the arguments, but they seem like arguments.
Note: one of the most distinguished philosophers of the moment, a former Princeton Professor and a recipient of the 2011 National Humanities Medal, cannot come up with a single name of a conservative intellectual that he would be willing to invite! He cannot even bring himself to acknowledge that some of them—the libertarians of the Cato Institute—present real arguments (“they seem like arguments”).
Green, Heath, and Appiah are mentioned here only because they are very prominent philosophers, and because their statements have appeared in recent blog posts and interviews. There is no reason to think that Green, Heath, and Appiah are less tolerant of conservatism than the average academic. The opposite is probably true. For example, Heath reports that he is often “the most right-wing person in the room” when there is an academic seminar. One shudders to think how conservatives and conservative views are regarded by the other people in the room.
- The Politicization of Job Advertisements in Philosophy - December 14, 2017
- “A certain kind of conservative” - November 13, 2017
- Why Not Colonialism? - September 17, 2017
- How Our Profession Rewards Ignorance - August 18, 2017
- The Google Gulag - August 10, 2017
- Why a “Philosopher of Color” Declines to Contribute - July 26, 2017
- The American Philosophical Association’s Explicit Bias about Implicit Bias - July 20, 2017
- The Central European University Saga - May 31, 2017
- Live and Let Live, or Let the Left Live? - March 31, 2017
- Philosophy’s Culture of Silence - March 1, 2017