X Close

Power has poisoned academia Scholarship is now a form of activism

Scholarship is now a political performance. Credit: A Philosopher with a Celestial Globe/Wellcome Collection

Scholarship is now a political performance. Credit: A Philosopher with a Celestial Globe/Wellcome Collection


December 21, 2022   8 mins

In the spring of 2017, the journal Hypatia published an article titled “In Defense of Transracialism”, in which the author, Rebecca Tuvel, argued that “since we should accept transgender individuals’ decisions to change sexes, we should also accept transracial individuals’ decisions to change races”. Shortly after publication, following a social media campaign, an open letter was sent to Hypatia’s editor requesting the retraction of the article because its “continued availability causes further harm”.

Precious few details were given about that harm. The signatories, comprising eventually more than 800 scholars, offered some perfunctory scholarly reasons for their demand, but it was clear that the article’s main shortcoming, in their view, was of an extra-scholarly nature: its conclusions went against the political sensibilities prevalent in today’s mainstream humanities, in whose name they were writing. Rather than a scholarly document, the letter was a rallying cry built around such conspicuously political terms as “privilege”, “harm” and “erasure” — which feature abundantly in the current discourse of the Left.

Separately, some of the journal’s associate editors apologised on social media for “the harms”, stating that “clearly, the article should not have been published”. Both Hypatia’s editor and its board of directors, however, stood by the journal’s initial decision to publish Tuvel’s article, which is still available online.

In another section of Anglophone academia, a team of three scholars, Peter Boghossian, James A. Lindsay, and Helen Pluckrose, were perpetrating what they ultimately called the “grievance studies affair”: over two years, they jointly wrote several hoax papers, and submitted them, under assumed names, to mainstream journals in the humanities. Even though these articles advanced blatantly absurd claims, and sometimes made little sense, some of them were accepted for publication — often enthusiastically. In “Human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon”, for example, published in Gender, Place & Culture, the authors claimed that “dog parks are ‘rape-condoning spaces’ and a place of rampant canine rape culture and systemic oppression against ‘the oppressed dog’ through which human attitudes to both problems can be measured and analysed by applying black feminist criminology”.

How did papers of no scholarly merit pass, sometimes with flying colours, the crucial test whereby a scholar’s subjective opinion becomes reliable knowledge: the peer-review process? Because the authors understood how important conformism to the dominant ideological orthodoxy is in the academic humanities. The hoaxers didn’t need to place any real knowledge in their submissions, only the recognisable markers of belonging to the same camp — dazzling buzzwords such as “rape culture”, “queer performativity”, “systemic oppression” — which mesmerised both journal editors and the external reviewers. (When the hoaxers came out of the shadows, the journals retracted the papers.) These two stories reveal, each in its own way, the outsized role that extra-scholarly factors play in scholarship — and, therefore, the extreme overall fragility of the quest for truth in today’s Anglophone humanities.

Almost a century ago, in La Trahison des Clercs (1927), Julien Benda warned against what he considered one of the greatest dangers of his time: the “betrayal” committed by intellectuals who, instead of defending les valeurs éternelles et désintéressées, chose to put themselves in the service of intérêts pratiques associated with specific ideologies, militant causes, social movements, and political parties. These intellectuels engagés pretended to seek universal values, while in fact advancing the specific agenda of one group or another. Max Weber’s theory of “value neutrality”, earlier in the century, had similarly argued that researchers need to keep their own values and personal biases in check if they are to truly understand what they are studying. Not to do so would be to fail as a scholar. Both Benda and Weber were writing at a time of intense ideological battles, not unlike ours. And yet they thought the way out of the crisis was not more politicised knowledge, but less — preferably, none.

This ideal would form the backbone of Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game (1943). Throughout the Thirties, Hesse saw the devastating effects of instrumentalised knowledge in the world around him: in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and fascist Italy, but also in the democracies that were preparing to confront them. In the novel, set in the 25th century, this confrontation marked the beginning of a catastrophic “Age of Wars”. Towards the end of this period, tired of all the senseless violence, social chaos, and political cynicism, people start to envision a solution: the pursuit of pure, rigorous, disinterested knowledge, sought for its own sake, and uncontaminated by any practical interests. Only such knowledge, they thought, will save society from self-destruction. The idea was that:

“…if respect for the world of the mind is no longer operative, ships and automobiles will soon cease to run right, the engineer’s slide rule and the computations of the banks and stock exchanges will forfeit validity and authority, and chaos will ensue… the externals of civilisation — technology, industry, commerce, and so on — also require a common basis of intellectual honesty and morality.”

That’s how the fictional “pedagogical province” of Castalia, the quasi-monastic setting of Hesse’s novel, is established. There, the brightest minds of every country in our future spend their lives doing nothing but playing the equally fictional Glass Bead Game. The game is never clearly defined in the novel, but we understand that it is the highest achievement of the human mind imaginable. “It has particularly taken over the role of art, partially that of speculative philosophy.” The most salient feature of the game is its contemplative dimension. The players don’t pursue it for any practical goals; they dedicate their entire existence to it without any concern for material gain, social status, or worldly fame. They are total scholars pursuing “the life of the Mind”, seeking nothing but useless knowledge.

And yet the Glass Bead Game has a vitally important function in society: through what they do, the Castalians preserve the integrity and purity of thinking, making sure that it doesn’t get contaminated by extraneous factors such as greed, thirst for worldly fame, and politics. Especially politics. For nothing corrupts the pursuit of knowledge more than power. The Castalians live, as Hesse writes, “in a state of political innocence and naïveté such as had been quite common among the professors of earlier ages; they [have] no political rights and duties, scarcely ever [see] a newspaper”. While outside of Castalia, people are free to engage in politics, as well as in business, professional careers, and other worldly pursuits, within the “pedagogical provinces” themselves, there is no place for such things. What lies at their core is not the pursuit of power, but that of service.

Life in Castalia may strike us as outlandish, yet it’s nothing but the fleshing out of an old and widespread idea. The novel builds on the notion that there are largely two existential attitudes, two fundamental modes of relating to the world: vita activa and vita contemplativa. The distinction has been known to every civilisation, Eastern or Western, ancient or modern, simple or sophisticated. We can approach the world pragmatically, and act upon it with a view of bending it to our own needs and desires. This has always been the approach of statesmen and military strategists, politicians and policymakers, revolutionaries and activists of all stripes. Or we can approach the world contemplatively, seeking to understand it in its own terms, and not in relation to us, and hoping to grasp how things are in themselves, regardless of the use we make of them. Achieving such understanding is what the enlightened of all ages and all places have done: Zen monks and Sufi masters, sages and hermits, great theorists and visionaries, Glass Bead Game players and artists of genius — and, in their best moments, scholars, too.

After all, the primary job of the scholar is not to act upon the world, but to understand it. “Not to laugh, not to lament, not to detest, but to understand,” in the haunting words of Benedict Spinoza, the most contemplative of modern philosophers. One cannot understand something and act upon it at the same time; when we are acting upon an object, we put ourselves in a utilitarian, possessive, and manipulative mode, which makes us incapable of grasping its true meaning. On the contrary, a scholar is someone who takes a step back, stays still, and observes everything at leisure (scholē in Greek, from which our word derives). Scholarship, then, ends where action starts. Someone else may use scholarly knowledge to devise a practical course of action, but that enterprise is not scholarly. Those who seek to understand the world and those who want to change it are two different breeds of people, following separate paths. They may occasionally wave and smile at each other, have meaningful conversations, and even be friends, but they remain different.

Karl Marx’s bon mot, in Theses on Feuerbach (1845), that “Hitherto philosophers have sought to understand the world; henceforth they must seek to change it”, was not the beginning of a political liberation, then, but that of a great intellectual confusion. How can one change a world one does not understand?

Almost 100 years after La Trahison des Clercs, Benda’s “betrayal” has become the norm in the academic humanities, especially in the English-speaking world. Nowadays if a piece of humanistic scholarship doesn’t broadcast, or at least allude to, the author’s political views and ideological mindset, it is seen with suspicion by her peers. Weber’s “value neutrality” appears as an aberration. Indeed, to write in its defence, as I am doing here, may be construed as positive proof of — God forbid — the author’s un-leftist views.

For not only are we supposed to wear our politics, visibly, on our scholarship, which is bad enough, but we also need to hold only certain views, which is plainly absurd. As has been observed, over the last few decades academia has progressively shifted to the Left. This has translated into an increasing lack of viewpoint diversity, which has compromised “the ability of scholars to seek truth, and of students to learn from a broad range of thinkers”, as two commentators recently noted. Ideally, there should be no politics at all in our scholarship. Failing that, there should be a variety of political views involved, in the hope that they will cancel each other out.

Yet that today’s humanist academics have strong political views and don’t hesitate to pass them on as real knowledge is not even their worst failure. What’s even more damaging is that the body of humanistic knowledge itself — its basic assumptions, the process though which it is produced, even the language in which it is communicated — is structured along political lines. Much of today’s humanistic scholarship is not just about politics, it is itself a form of political performance: it generates and increases power, it creates and maintains hierarchies, it splits the scholars into camps, tribalising the humanities and turning them into a power-charged field. Most of the time we think and write and act not as mere scholars, but as political actors — always on the lookout for ways to maximise their power, prestige and influence. Regardless of the topics of our research, much of what we do is shaped not by the inner logic of our work, but by something extraneous — by what is going on, micro-politically, in the world within which we operate. We don’t pursue knowledge for its sake, but for our own.

Ponderous questions keep the humanist scholar awake at night. Which methodology should we use: something time-tested, yet old-fashioned, or the latest fad that everybody is talking about and following compulsively, and which would place us in the spotlight? And on which topics should we work exactly: those we believe we have something genuine to say about, or the trendy ones, those that seem to bring instant social media attention, excellent political positioning, and prompt publication — something which the hoaxers of the “grievance studies affair” exploited to great comical effect? Whose work should we cite: that of some long-dead names, yet whose contribution is still crucial, or that of living scholars with influence, the “power-houses” in our field, regardless of their scholarly worth? And when we cite other scholars, should we consider strictly the intrinsic merits of their scholarship, or should we mention them, strategically, because of their gender, race or sexual identity? And, in general, what kind of stance should we take? A risky one, like Rebecca Tuvel’s, with potentially crippling effects on our career, or one that flatters the prevalent orthodoxy and smoothes our way to greater power, fame, and influence?

Deeply preoccupied with such dilemmas, we have seriously lost our way. Even worse, we can’t find our way back to start again, because our journey hasn’t been guided by anything but an incessant adjusting to the latest trends. Worst of all, however, is that, dazzled as we are by our spectacular successes, we may not even know that we have gone astray. Failure can’t cut any deeper.


Costică Brădățan is a Professor of Humanities in the Honors College at Texas Tech University and an Honorary Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of Queensland, in Australia. He is the author, most recently, of In Praise of Failure. Four Lessons in Humility.


Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

97 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 year ago

These “scholarly papers” are filled with buzzwords and fluffery, as the author says. They’re not meant to make sense. The editors read them and don’t understand them, because in that they are indistinguishable from the bevy of “scholarly papers” that come out constantly. This should be a lesson to us all, really. The hard sciences have something to them, experiments can be replicated, etc. But the soft sciences are little more than nonsense bottled, with a fancy label stuck on.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

I agree with you.

But from what I have read, frequently even papers on hard science experiments published in leading academic journals don’t replicate when tested.

And a glance at search results from (say) ‘decolonisation of science subjects’ is discouraging, to put it mildly.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

Yes. Theodore Dalrymple’s book ‘False Positive’ follows papers published in 2017 in The New England Journal of Medicine. He writes a four-page summary of about 60 papers. In some cases the authors were clearly wrong. In others they clearly manipulted results so that their conclusions were more wokish. Once, a paper had to be withdrawn because the conclusions were ‘wrong’.

In the NEJM they seem to have replaced peer review with a combination of two factors: firstly a review of the statistics used to derive the conclusions and, secondly, a woke-tester.

Almost every scientific paper today has to used (simplish) statistics to generate the conclusion. Social workers have taken results from the internet and applied simple statistics to form conclusions – and then called themselves Social Scientists. This rogue-science is what hits the headlines nowadays.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 year ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

True, they sometimes don’t replicate, and there may be flaws, etc. But at least they are meant to, and are expected to. Not so for these soft pseudo-sciences mentioned above.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

Yes. Theodore Dalrymple’s book ‘False Positive’ follows papers published in 2017 in The New England Journal of Medicine. He writes a four-page summary of about 60 papers. In some cases the authors were clearly wrong. In others they clearly manipulted results so that their conclusions were more wokish. Once, a paper had to be withdrawn because the conclusions were ‘wrong’.

In the NEJM they seem to have replaced peer review with a combination of two factors: firstly a review of the statistics used to derive the conclusions and, secondly, a woke-tester.

Almost every scientific paper today has to used (simplish) statistics to generate the conclusion. Social workers have taken results from the internet and applied simple statistics to form conclusions – and then called themselves Social Scientists. This rogue-science is what hits the headlines nowadays.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 year ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

True, they sometimes don’t replicate, and there may be flaws, etc. But at least they are meant to, and are expected to. Not so for these soft pseudo-sciences mentioned above.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Back in the 1970’s the first iteration of this craziness was instituted in Black Studies, Gender Studies, Women Studies, etc. Each one of these could easily have been taught within the framework of History, Economics, Sociology or Anthropology, yet the nascent ‘woke’ ideology plucked them out. They have also become spaces in universities to park less than stellar academics to ensure that they’ll graduate having achieved something no matter how esoteric and useless.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

That’s a process I see in education generally. We lecture our students about sexism, racism and forget that literature and history tell us powerful stories about people treated unfairly for stupid reasons.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

That’s a process I see in education generally. We lecture our students about sexism, racism and forget that literature and history tell us powerful stories about people treated unfairly for stupid reasons.

Addie Shog
Addie Shog
1 year ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Politics, ‘right-on’ thinking seems to have infiltrated so much of science. There is a very real danger of people losing all faith in science and medicine. There was an excellent article about the American Association of Pediatrics on Bari Weiss’ substack site – specifically in relation to covid and also gender ideology.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
1 year ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

It is the phenomenon of the dazzling buzzword that interests me. I wondered – oops, I contemplated – whether these were present in cosmetics advertising on television. I remember back in the day the pseudo scientific jargon laced throughout cosmetic skin product advertising aimed at women, here in the UK. It had a particular structure – multisyllabic, and containing parts of scientific terms put together to give a particular oral ‘shape’ to the spoken word – that when rolled off the tongue gave an instant hit of authority.
James Lindsay – of the Grievance Studies Affair – gives a good breakdown of this phenomenon, but writ large in a podcast about a particular notorious paper on Feminist Glaciology. In the discussion he also identifies such a dazzling buzzword – ‘cryoscape’.
The podcast is well worth a listen for how the infiltration of political pseudoscience from the humanities – marxist feminism and gender ‘excrement’ (he uses a different term) – infiltrated a science discipline in order to take it over and control it for political purposes.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vd_nRQPRmvI&t=1689s

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

I agree with you.

But from what I have read, frequently even papers on hard science experiments published in leading academic journals don’t replicate when tested.

And a glance at search results from (say) ‘decolonisation of science subjects’ is discouraging, to put it mildly.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Back in the 1970’s the first iteration of this craziness was instituted in Black Studies, Gender Studies, Women Studies, etc. Each one of these could easily have been taught within the framework of History, Economics, Sociology or Anthropology, yet the nascent ‘woke’ ideology plucked them out. They have also become spaces in universities to park less than stellar academics to ensure that they’ll graduate having achieved something no matter how esoteric and useless.

Addie Shog
Addie Shog
1 year ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Politics, ‘right-on’ thinking seems to have infiltrated so much of science. There is a very real danger of people losing all faith in science and medicine. There was an excellent article about the American Association of Pediatrics on Bari Weiss’ substack site – specifically in relation to covid and also gender ideology.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
1 year ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

It is the phenomenon of the dazzling buzzword that interests me. I wondered – oops, I contemplated – whether these were present in cosmetics advertising on television. I remember back in the day the pseudo scientific jargon laced throughout cosmetic skin product advertising aimed at women, here in the UK. It had a particular structure – multisyllabic, and containing parts of scientific terms put together to give a particular oral ‘shape’ to the spoken word – that when rolled off the tongue gave an instant hit of authority.
James Lindsay – of the Grievance Studies Affair – gives a good breakdown of this phenomenon, but writ large in a podcast about a particular notorious paper on Feminist Glaciology. In the discussion he also identifies such a dazzling buzzword – ‘cryoscape’.
The podcast is well worth a listen for how the infiltration of political pseudoscience from the humanities – marxist feminism and gender ‘excrement’ (he uses a different term) – infiltrated a science discipline in order to take it over and control it for political purposes.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vd_nRQPRmvI&t=1689s

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 year ago

These “scholarly papers” are filled with buzzwords and fluffery, as the author says. They’re not meant to make sense. The editors read them and don’t understand them, because in that they are indistinguishable from the bevy of “scholarly papers” that come out constantly. This should be a lesson to us all, really. The hard sciences have something to them, experiments can be replicated, etc. But the soft sciences are little more than nonsense bottled, with a fancy label stuck on.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago

To be fair, this isn’t something anybody did “on purpose”. It’s something that happened organically as college education became more accessible. When college was limited to the very wealthy and very intelligent, it was largely isolated from popular politics and popular consciousness. Up until very recently, the number of people who could be considered ‘scholars’ was vanishingly small. They operated largely in very small communities or completely individually. There weren’t enough of them to trigger a lot of the problems associated with human collective behavior. However, when college education became accessible to the vast herd of humanity, it became vulnerable to all those forces that shape our political and social environment at a macro level. Peer-pressure, normalization, echo-chambers, confirmation biases, groupthink, and all those factors that distort human behavior on a collective level grow more powerful in direct proportion to the size of the group. Put more simply, the more ‘scholars’ there are, the less they behave like individual thinkers and the more they succumb to herd instinct and act like a herd of sheep. Beyond that, it’s well known that soft sciences and humanities attract more extroverted personality types who are more susceptible to these sorts of behaviors in the first place, while hard sciences, physics, chemistry, etc. attract more introverted sorts who are more resistant to collective thinking nonsense. Don’t see too many fake articles on quantum physics getting by the peer-review process. It doesn’t help that where there are gullible people, there is money to be made, and that attracts the usual suspects, con-men, hucksters, and corporations who will package and sell any sort of nonsense provided someone will pay more for that nonsense than it costs to produce, and nonsense is, as ever, common as dirt and just as cheap. The traditional notion of scholarship will not, and cannot, survive the leveling force of egalitarianism in higher education.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Depressing but true, Steve. In short, a massive, corrosive and poisonous circle jerk.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Isn’t it more that, as knowledge becomes more universally accessible, the role of ‘academic’ becomes increasingly redundant (particularly in soft disciplines) and therefore academics are incentivised to become more and more engaged in politics in order to defend themselves against the pink slip.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

While I doubt many academics are trying to justify their salary on a conscious level, you bring up a good point. Why should there even be an intellectual class when anyone can just look up any information they want at any time through the internet? Much of the reason for ‘scholars’ in the first place was as keepers of civilizations’ collection of knowledge wisdom. That function is now meaningless, with the caveat that it has been twisted into them telling people exactly how to interpret the information that exists. Still, that was only a part of the function of academia. There’s a good reason the defining requirement for a PhD is still to add something to humanity’s knowledge. That was the other half of the scholar’s basic purpose. Mass producing PhD’s as we do today is thus, mass producing knowledge. Mass production of knowledge, like any other form of mass production, is basically establishing a manufacturing process that will produce a consistent, predictable, result. So we have legions of people driven to conform to a standard so that they churn out the ocean of pointless drivel that passes as academic discourse and provides theoretical justification for their assumed importance. Again, I doubt any of this is conscious on their part, but that’s always the problem with human collective action at macro levels. It’s a runaway freight train that nobody has any real control over.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

While I doubt many academics are trying to justify their salary on a conscious level, you bring up a good point. Why should there even be an intellectual class when anyone can just look up any information they want at any time through the internet? Much of the reason for ‘scholars’ in the first place was as keepers of civilizations’ collection of knowledge wisdom. That function is now meaningless, with the caveat that it has been twisted into them telling people exactly how to interpret the information that exists. Still, that was only a part of the function of academia. There’s a good reason the defining requirement for a PhD is still to add something to humanity’s knowledge. That was the other half of the scholar’s basic purpose. Mass producing PhD’s as we do today is thus, mass producing knowledge. Mass production of knowledge, like any other form of mass production, is basically establishing a manufacturing process that will produce a consistent, predictable, result. So we have legions of people driven to conform to a standard so that they churn out the ocean of pointless drivel that passes as academic discourse and provides theoretical justification for their assumed importance. Again, I doubt any of this is conscious on their part, but that’s always the problem with human collective action at macro levels. It’s a runaway freight train that nobody has any real control over.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
Derek Smith
Derek Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Thanks for this. I saw the early movements of this after tuition fees were abolished, making students into ‘customers’ around the same time as Blair’s 50% of school leavers into higher education target.

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Hi Steve, are you sure:

Beyond that, it’s well known that soft sciences and humanities attract more extroverted personality types who are more susceptible to these sorts of behaviors in the first place, while hard sciences, physics, chemistry, etc. attract more introverted sorts who are more resistant to collective thinking nonsense.

Apropos I point you to Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying discussing an editorial and report in the top hard science journal ‘Nature’ | Reference: DarkHorse Podcast clips (video: <13:24): ‘Trans activist published in top science journal Nature’ (from Livestream #144) (via Odysee).

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

You’ve brought up an excellent point here. I meant the phrase ‘well known’ to imply I was citing colloquial wisdom in general, but I should have made that clearer. I concede I was thinking of the common stereotype of the sociable party girl studying french poetry or the smooth talking hipster spouting whatever the latest PC nonsense is to impress his friends at the frat party. I seem to recall seeing this confirmed with research of some sort but I can’t seem to recall where. It’s clearly a debatable point. My counterpoint is that stereotypes, despite the negative connotation, exist for a reason. Stereotyping is a rudimentary form of classifying things by defining characteristics, an unrefined, undisciplined version of the thought processes that produce much of human knowledge. Whether this particular stereotype is valid is not something I’ve extensively researched. Like I said, I think I’ve seen studies to that effect but I don’t do extensive research to comment on Internet sites. Take it for whatever it’s worth. I will say that people citing research in comments speaks to the quality of discussion on Unherd.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

You’ve brought up an excellent point here. I meant the phrase ‘well known’ to imply I was citing colloquial wisdom in general, but I should have made that clearer. I concede I was thinking of the common stereotype of the sociable party girl studying french poetry or the smooth talking hipster spouting whatever the latest PC nonsense is to impress his friends at the frat party. I seem to recall seeing this confirmed with research of some sort but I can’t seem to recall where. It’s clearly a debatable point. My counterpoint is that stereotypes, despite the negative connotation, exist for a reason. Stereotyping is a rudimentary form of classifying things by defining characteristics, an unrefined, undisciplined version of the thought processes that produce much of human knowledge. Whether this particular stereotype is valid is not something I’ve extensively researched. Like I said, I think I’ve seen studies to that effect but I don’t do extensive research to comment on Internet sites. Take it for whatever it’s worth. I will say that people citing research in comments speaks to the quality of discussion on Unherd.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
R K
R K
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Steve—
It may have begun that way. But now it is exceedingly clear that “academia” is purposefully agenda-driven. Such is required in order to establish and safeguard a narrative cross-threaded with reality.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  R K

I wouldn’t say that academia collectively is agenda-driven, but I will concede that there are many individuals in academia who are, and they wield disproportionate amounts of power and influence. Intellectual authority is a form of power not unlike any other, and subject to the same problems as any other form of power.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  R K

I wouldn’t say that academia collectively is agenda-driven, but I will concede that there are many individuals in academia who are, and they wield disproportionate amounts of power and influence. Intellectual authority is a form of power not unlike any other, and subject to the same problems as any other form of power.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

How is it “well known that soft sciences and humanities attract more extroverted thinkers …” That’s not a rhetorical question. I’m curious. My own field is comparative religion, and no one has ever accused me of being sociable. I have few friends and hardly any professional allies. Have you some specific research in mind?

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I concede I was referring to colloquial wisdom (see above) and common stereotypes. I’ll add in that my personal bias is probably showing. Both my parents are/were introverted chemistry majors and did not have a fond recollection of their classmates who studied certain other subjects. I’m highly introverted as well but never excelled at hard sciences because I dislike math and was far more gifted in words and concepts rather than numbers.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

An admirable comment.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I concede I was referring to colloquial wisdom (see above) and common stereotypes. I’ll add in that my personal bias is probably showing. Both my parents are/were introverted chemistry majors and did not have a fond recollection of their classmates who studied certain other subjects. I’m highly introverted as well but never excelled at hard sciences because I dislike math and was far more gifted in words and concepts rather than numbers.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

An admirable comment.

Jacob Smith
Jacob Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

The hard sciences aren’t immune. They still give out degrees to people studying String Theory remember.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacob Smith

I and most others lack the mathematical aptitude to understand most of modern physics, string theory particularly. It could certainly be hogwash, but how would I even know when I can’t understand the mathematics of it?

John Ramsden
John Ramsden
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacob Smith

Although string theory hasn’t yet produced any testable hypotheses in physics, and some physicists doubt it ever will, the insights gained by the arcane and subtle maths involved have had benefits in other areas of advanced maths.

Look up “mirror symmetry” for example, and if you are keen to know how many conics there are in a quintic threefold, techniques from string theory can easily provide the answer. This would have been an extremely arduous and intricate calculation previously and I don’t think was even attempted.

P.S. The answer, apparently, is 609250 🙂

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacob Smith

I and most others lack the mathematical aptitude to understand most of modern physics, string theory particularly. It could certainly be hogwash, but how would I even know when I can’t understand the mathematics of it?

John Ramsden
John Ramsden
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacob Smith

Although string theory hasn’t yet produced any testable hypotheses in physics, and some physicists doubt it ever will, the insights gained by the arcane and subtle maths involved have had benefits in other areas of advanced maths.

Look up “mirror symmetry” for example, and if you are keen to know how many conics there are in a quintic threefold, techniques from string theory can easily provide the answer. This would have been an extremely arduous and intricate calculation previously and I don’t think was even attempted.

P.S. The answer, apparently, is 609250 🙂

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Depressing but true, Steve. In short, a massive, corrosive and poisonous circle jerk.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Isn’t it more that, as knowledge becomes more universally accessible, the role of ‘academic’ becomes increasingly redundant (particularly in soft disciplines) and therefore academics are incentivised to become more and more engaged in politics in order to defend themselves against the pink slip.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Thanks for this. I saw the early movements of this after tuition fees were abolished, making students into ‘customers’ around the same time as Blair’s 50% of school leavers into higher education target.

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Hi Steve, are you sure:

Beyond that, it’s well known that soft sciences and humanities attract more extroverted personality types who are more susceptible to these sorts of behaviors in the first place, while hard sciences, physics, chemistry, etc. attract more introverted sorts who are more resistant to collective thinking nonsense.

Apropos I point you to Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying discussing an editorial and report in the top hard science journal ‘Nature’ | Reference: DarkHorse Podcast clips (video: <13:24): ‘Trans activist published in top science journal Nature’ (from Livestream #144) (via Odysee).

R K
R K
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Steve—
It may have begun that way. But now it is exceedingly clear that “academia” is purposefully agenda-driven. Such is required in order to establish and safeguard a narrative cross-threaded with reality.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

How is it “well known that soft sciences and humanities attract more extroverted thinkers …” That’s not a rhetorical question. I’m curious. My own field is comparative religion, and no one has ever accused me of being sociable. I have few friends and hardly any professional allies. Have you some specific research in mind?

Jacob Smith
Jacob Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

The hard sciences aren’t immune. They still give out degrees to people studying String Theory remember.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago

To be fair, this isn’t something anybody did “on purpose”. It’s something that happened organically as college education became more accessible. When college was limited to the very wealthy and very intelligent, it was largely isolated from popular politics and popular consciousness. Up until very recently, the number of people who could be considered ‘scholars’ was vanishingly small. They operated largely in very small communities or completely individually. There weren’t enough of them to trigger a lot of the problems associated with human collective behavior. However, when college education became accessible to the vast herd of humanity, it became vulnerable to all those forces that shape our political and social environment at a macro level. Peer-pressure, normalization, echo-chambers, confirmation biases, groupthink, and all those factors that distort human behavior on a collective level grow more powerful in direct proportion to the size of the group. Put more simply, the more ‘scholars’ there are, the less they behave like individual thinkers and the more they succumb to herd instinct and act like a herd of sheep. Beyond that, it’s well known that soft sciences and humanities attract more extroverted personality types who are more susceptible to these sorts of behaviors in the first place, while hard sciences, physics, chemistry, etc. attract more introverted sorts who are more resistant to collective thinking nonsense. Don’t see too many fake articles on quantum physics getting by the peer-review process. It doesn’t help that where there are gullible people, there is money to be made, and that attracts the usual suspects, con-men, hucksters, and corporations who will package and sell any sort of nonsense provided someone will pay more for that nonsense than it costs to produce, and nonsense is, as ever, common as dirt and just as cheap. The traditional notion of scholarship will not, and cannot, survive the leveling force of egalitarianism in higher education.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
AL Crowe
AL Crowe
1 year ago

I am a postgraduate in humanities and the longer I spend in the university environment, the more disillusioned and cynical I become not just about the university setting, but the humanities as a discipline. The source of my disillusionment is laid out very neatly in this article.

I have had to accept that if I will not produce work filled with politically fashionable nonsense that compromises my own personal beliefs, that my work will not be considered worthy of publication and will be received less favourably than that of peers who are prepared to do so. I have also had to accept that any display of my own political beliefs no matter how small comes with risk attached, risk that my peers will ostracise me, risk that complaints will be made, risk that I will be labelled as the source of some kind of ism or phobia that makes others feel unsafe.

Last edited 1 year ago by AL Crowe
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

Please accept my good wishes in your endeavours, and my hope that you come out the other end relatively unscathed. Don’t let cynicism rule you, do your research honestly and you will get something out of it, even if your university is unsupportive.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

There are quite a few anti-woke organisations springing up that need resources that you could support, and potentially establish a career and reputation. Free Speech Union, Sex Matters, etc. The tide is turning and it could be a good time to be joining these.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

What exactly does the Free Speech Union do?

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

It protects innocent people against the depredations of the woke scum.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

Quite a lot, and their influence is increasing – try visiting the website:
https://freespeechunion.org/

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

It protects innocent people against the depredations of the woke scum.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

Quite a lot, and their influence is increasing – try visiting the website:
https://freespeechunion.org/

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

What exactly does the Free Speech Union do?

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

This is why I will not be returning to university.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

Here we have a concrete example of how social groups enforce and establish conformity to social norms. Once norms are established for what is acceptable and what isn’t, these social pressures work in two ways: 1.) They encourage those within the group to conform to the established norms, through rewards like accolades, publication, etc. and 2.) They discourage any challenge to the norms and drive out dissidents by persecuting deviant beliefs through public shaming, character assassination, labeling, etc. It’s a basic carrot/stick approach. The net result is a clique based around established dogmas, rather like a religion. There is nothing particularly wrong with that in and of itself. The problems arise when the members of said clique deny the normative, doctrinaire nature of their group and themselves in an attempt to claim objectivity and/or attempt to establish their clique and as an unquestioned moral authority in a given realm of study. Liberal activists using their personal beliefs to screen what can and can’t be published in humanities journals is basically no different than having a bunch of imams using sharia law to do the same.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
AL Crowe
AL Crowe
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

There is a palpable sense of irony where academics who are pre-occupied with concepts of normativity within wider society lack any kind of conscious awareness of their privileged and powerful positions in maintaining the norms of the academic liberal echo chamber.

It is absolutely on par with religious proselytisation at times, I receive regular unsolicited invitations to events in my university inbox which are like the electronic equivalent of Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking at my door. Would I like to attend a course about racial microaggressions? About as much as I’d want to spend a day watching paint dry. I received no less than 20 separate invites to that event over two semesters in spite of showing no inclination to participate, which was more frequent than the appearances of visitors from my local Kingdom Hall on my doorstep.

When I am the sole individual in a room who chooses not to state my pronouns during an introduction, I feel like a naughty child in Sunday school who refuses to clasp their hands to pray or join in on the collective amen at the end.

Last edited 1 year ago by AL Crowe
AL Crowe
AL Crowe
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

There is a palpable sense of irony where academics who are pre-occupied with concepts of normativity within wider society lack any kind of conscious awareness of their privileged and powerful positions in maintaining the norms of the academic liberal echo chamber.

It is absolutely on par with religious proselytisation at times, I receive regular unsolicited invitations to events in my university inbox which are like the electronic equivalent of Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking at my door. Would I like to attend a course about racial microaggressions? About as much as I’d want to spend a day watching paint dry. I received no less than 20 separate invites to that event over two semesters in spite of showing no inclination to participate, which was more frequent than the appearances of visitors from my local Kingdom Hall on my doorstep.

When I am the sole individual in a room who chooses not to state my pronouns during an introduction, I feel like a naughty child in Sunday school who refuses to clasp their hands to pray or join in on the collective amen at the end.

Last edited 1 year ago by AL Crowe
Paul Curtin
Paul Curtin
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

It is the return of McCarthyism. Fear seems to run through campuses now.
You used to go to university for an education now you go for indoctrination

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

Please accept my good wishes in your endeavours, and my hope that you come out the other end relatively unscathed. Don’t let cynicism rule you, do your research honestly and you will get something out of it, even if your university is unsupportive.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

There are quite a few anti-woke organisations springing up that need resources that you could support, and potentially establish a career and reputation. Free Speech Union, Sex Matters, etc. The tide is turning and it could be a good time to be joining these.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

This is why I will not be returning to university.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

Here we have a concrete example of how social groups enforce and establish conformity to social norms. Once norms are established for what is acceptable and what isn’t, these social pressures work in two ways: 1.) They encourage those within the group to conform to the established norms, through rewards like accolades, publication, etc. and 2.) They discourage any challenge to the norms and drive out dissidents by persecuting deviant beliefs through public shaming, character assassination, labeling, etc. It’s a basic carrot/stick approach. The net result is a clique based around established dogmas, rather like a religion. There is nothing particularly wrong with that in and of itself. The problems arise when the members of said clique deny the normative, doctrinaire nature of their group and themselves in an attempt to claim objectivity and/or attempt to establish their clique and as an unquestioned moral authority in a given realm of study. Liberal activists using their personal beliefs to screen what can and can’t be published in humanities journals is basically no different than having a bunch of imams using sharia law to do the same.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
Paul Curtin
Paul Curtin
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

It is the return of McCarthyism. Fear seems to run through campuses now.
You used to go to university for an education now you go for indoctrination

AL Crowe
AL Crowe
1 year ago

I am a postgraduate in humanities and the longer I spend in the university environment, the more disillusioned and cynical I become not just about the university setting, but the humanities as a discipline. The source of my disillusionment is laid out very neatly in this article.

I have had to accept that if I will not produce work filled with politically fashionable nonsense that compromises my own personal beliefs, that my work will not be considered worthy of publication and will be received less favourably than that of peers who are prepared to do so. I have also had to accept that any display of my own political beliefs no matter how small comes with risk attached, risk that my peers will ostracise me, risk that complaints will be made, risk that I will be labelled as the source of some kind of ism or phobia that makes others feel unsafe.

Last edited 1 year ago by AL Crowe
Jim Jam
Jim Jam
1 year ago

Quite.

Only the other day I saw an advert for Northumbria University. The pitch is no doubt identical to all universities these days.

Have a ganders:

https://vimeo.com/466113393

Gone is any pretence that the primary purpose of the institution is to understand the world and to pursue truth (no matter where that may lead), but purely as a means to change it by the creation of an army of elites whose mandate has been predetermined by a hideously lopsided political agenda. Activism at all levels is the order of the day.

Needless to say, when the goals of scholarship have been laid out in such a way, its impossible to imagine any dissent being tolerated for a second. Only thoughts and research that support the activist agenda will be permitted.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Jam

I did look at the ad., but I didn’t find it a problem. It seems to be a push for science students, and, from my own experience, science students fall into both categories: those who just love the subject and want to understand it, and those who want to do somwething to improve things. I just loved physics and mathematics, but I did meet a student who was studying biology and her impetus was the death of her mother from cancer; she wanted to contribute to finding a cure. This didn’t stop her from pursuing the truth and trying to understand cell biology, it’s just that she an over-riding reason to understand. I suppose what I’m saying is – that to understand and to act are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Last edited 1 year ago by Linda Hutchinson
Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Jam

Gosh what a grim little video.

I share the sentiments expressed here but with a counter-example. I know I’m biased but my daughter studying philosophy genuinely seems to be doing so purely out of curiosity.

She’s in her third of four years and should probably be thinking a little more about employment but, nah, she right.

She claims to know little of politics and doesn’t seem overly concerned with climate change/racial justice/the plight of women.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Jam

I did look at the ad., but I didn’t find it a problem. It seems to be a push for science students, and, from my own experience, science students fall into both categories: those who just love the subject and want to understand it, and those who want to do somwething to improve things. I just loved physics and mathematics, but I did meet a student who was studying biology and her impetus was the death of her mother from cancer; she wanted to contribute to finding a cure. This didn’t stop her from pursuing the truth and trying to understand cell biology, it’s just that she an over-riding reason to understand. I suppose what I’m saying is – that to understand and to act are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Last edited 1 year ago by Linda Hutchinson
Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Jam

Gosh what a grim little video.

I share the sentiments expressed here but with a counter-example. I know I’m biased but my daughter studying philosophy genuinely seems to be doing so purely out of curiosity.

She’s in her third of four years and should probably be thinking a little more about employment but, nah, she right.

She claims to know little of politics and doesn’t seem overly concerned with climate change/racial justice/the plight of women.

Jim Jam
Jim Jam
1 year ago

Quite.

Only the other day I saw an advert for Northumbria University. The pitch is no doubt identical to all universities these days.

Have a ganders:

https://vimeo.com/466113393

Gone is any pretence that the primary purpose of the institution is to understand the world and to pursue truth (no matter where that may lead), but purely as a means to change it by the creation of an army of elites whose mandate has been predetermined by a hideously lopsided political agenda. Activism at all levels is the order of the day.

Needless to say, when the goals of scholarship have been laid out in such a way, its impossible to imagine any dissent being tolerated for a second. Only thoughts and research that support the activist agenda will be permitted.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

Excellent essay. Captures the rot infecting academia perfectly.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

Excellent essay. Captures the rot infecting academia perfectly.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

As a humanities student in the 1970s, i can well recall the disgust i felt at the time with both the careerism which lecturers paraded their so-called “learning” and on the other hand, the despair of the academic ‘dead wood’ – those, who everyone knew had simple given up the game – and that the whole business was indeed just that – a game.

Nothing encapsulated this more than one particular lecturer who would turn up for a post-lunch seminar pissed as a fart and promptly fall asleep for the duration. No-one complained (we didn’t fund our courses back then) we just chatted amongst ourselves for an hour. His fellow academics knew full well about this, but did nothing. There but for the grace, etc.

It appears the game hasn’t changed apart from some tinkering with the rules, and with the same result: careerism, corruption, corpulence of the academic body. The Humanities are, after all, Human, All Too Human.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

As a humanities student in the 1970s, i can well recall the disgust i felt at the time with both the careerism which lecturers paraded their so-called “learning” and on the other hand, the despair of the academic ‘dead wood’ – those, who everyone knew had simple given up the game – and that the whole business was indeed just that – a game.

Nothing encapsulated this more than one particular lecturer who would turn up for a post-lunch seminar pissed as a fart and promptly fall asleep for the duration. No-one complained (we didn’t fund our courses back then) we just chatted amongst ourselves for an hour. His fellow academics knew full well about this, but did nothing. There but for the grace, etc.

It appears the game hasn’t changed apart from some tinkering with the rules, and with the same result: careerism, corruption, corpulence of the academic body. The Humanities are, after all, Human, All Too Human.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 year ago

The social sciences are too easy a target. The worrisome thing is how far the politicization and the replication crisis have extended into the more pragmatic realms of enquiry.
I understand that the big pharma companies all have large (and expensive) labs dedicated to trying to replicate studies that have been peer reviewed and published already. They wouldn’t bother if they didn’t see a need. A frightening number of studies turn out to be useless.
But what gets my goat is the climate change studies that use manipulated data sets to advance their agenda and the imprimatur of international NGOs to lend themselves the presumption of credibility. The reality is that most of this work is done by activist organizations who are trying to drum up donations to keep themselves going for another year. It’s not a formula for good science.
That the public has so thouroughly accepted the narrative and that so few actual scientists have spoken up to contradict the nonsense makes it a bit frightening.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 year ago

The social sciences are too easy a target. The worrisome thing is how far the politicization and the replication crisis have extended into the more pragmatic realms of enquiry.
I understand that the big pharma companies all have large (and expensive) labs dedicated to trying to replicate studies that have been peer reviewed and published already. They wouldn’t bother if they didn’t see a need. A frightening number of studies turn out to be useless.
But what gets my goat is the climate change studies that use manipulated data sets to advance their agenda and the imprimatur of international NGOs to lend themselves the presumption of credibility. The reality is that most of this work is done by activist organizations who are trying to drum up donations to keep themselves going for another year. It’s not a formula for good science.
That the public has so thouroughly accepted the narrative and that so few actual scientists have spoken up to contradict the nonsense makes it a bit frightening.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Not one of the progenitors of the greatest event in human history, bar none, the (English) Industrial Revolution, went near a University.
They were all self taught and eminently practical men.

Contemporary Universities were the preserve of the priestly class of copious Anglican God botherers.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago

Yes, the universities were designed for thinking and not for practical things. Presumably, the great industrialists were great because they didn’t waste precious time on thinking.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

There’s nothing wrong with ‘thinking’ per se – in fact it’s essential, and what we all do every second of our waking hours (except those whose hours are woke, of course), and possibly beyond, as the brain defragments itself during dream-sleep. Those scientists and engineers who pioneered the Industrial Revolution certainly didn’t waste time on thinking for its own sake, which is what i suspect you meant.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

“One cannot understand something and act upon it at the same time”
Thankfully these heroes didn’t believe this nonsense cited in the article.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

There’s nothing wrong with ‘thinking’ per se – in fact it’s essential, and what we all do every second of our waking hours (except those whose hours are woke, of course), and possibly beyond, as the brain defragments itself during dream-sleep. Those scientists and engineers who pioneered the Industrial Revolution certainly didn’t waste time on thinking for its own sake, which is what i suspect you meant.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

“One cannot understand something and act upon it at the same time”
Thankfully these heroes didn’t believe this nonsense cited in the article.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago

Yes, the universities were designed for thinking and not for practical things. Presumably, the great industrialists were great because they didn’t waste precious time on thinking.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Not one of the progenitors of the greatest event in human history, bar none, the (English) Industrial Revolution, went near a University.
They were all self taught and eminently practical men.

Contemporary Universities were the preserve of the priestly class of copious Anglican God botherers.

Lorraine Devanthey
Lorraine Devanthey
1 year ago

This has not happened by accident. This is the praxis of “Critical Theory”, aka Wokism. “Critical Theory” has taken over the academy and its tenets are being taught to naive students, who believe they are being taught some kind of truth. If we want to save ourselves, all students need in the university need to be taught Western intellectual history, philosophy (particularly epistemology), as well as a good dose of science and scientific method. This should give them the tools to detect BS.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago

Unfortunately, many students believe Critical Theory is synonymous with Critical Thinking. They don’t even know there is a difference, which is why many of them in the Social Sciences come off as dangerously naive and arrogant.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago

Unfortunately, many students believe Critical Theory is synonymous with Critical Thinking. They don’t even know there is a difference, which is why many of them in the Social Sciences come off as dangerously naive and arrogant.

Lorraine Devanthey
Lorraine Devanthey
1 year ago

This has not happened by accident. This is the praxis of “Critical Theory”, aka Wokism. “Critical Theory” has taken over the academy and its tenets are being taught to naive students, who believe they are being taught some kind of truth. If we want to save ourselves, all students need in the university need to be taught Western intellectual history, philosophy (particularly epistemology), as well as a good dose of science and scientific method. This should give them the tools to detect BS.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

If transracialism is a problem because of “privilege”, “harm” and “erasure” then so is transgenderism unless you accept women have privilege over men, are not harmed by men and have never been erased. And if you accept that, then you must think feminism is a problem…

How can any one of those 800 “scholars” be considered scholars when they defy even basic reasoning skill?

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

I would not use the term scholar for these people. Ideologues is a much better descriptor for them. Driven by the need for attention and the desire to appeal to the current Zeitgeist.

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

I would not use the term scholar for these people. Ideologues is a much better descriptor for them. Driven by the need for attention and the desire to appeal to the current Zeitgeist.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

If transracialism is a problem because of “privilege”, “harm” and “erasure” then so is transgenderism unless you accept women have privilege over men, are not harmed by men and have never been erased. And if you accept that, then you must think feminism is a problem…

How can any one of those 800 “scholars” be considered scholars when they defy even basic reasoning skill?

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
Max Price
Max Price
1 year ago

Here in lies the problem: “ an open letter was sent to Hypatia’s editor requesting the retraction of the article because its “continued availability causes further harm”.
Not, it shouldn’t have been publicised because it’s bat shit crazy nonsense.

Last edited 1 year ago by Max Price
Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
1 year ago
Reply to  Max Price

I am not familiar with the article, but what if its goal was to point out the absurdity of the transgender ideology by extending it to transracialism? Race is once again untouchable in our current cultural climate, and racial boundaries are just as impenetrable as they were in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the antebellum American South, the one-drop rule made a person black and thus a social pariah, a persona non grata; today, it’s used to uphold a perpetual state of victimhood.
I have asked the same question of people whom I know to have favourable opinions of transgenderism, and I admit that questions are meant to provoke. They are meant to be thought-provoking, but I have learnt that I am expecting too much of people who cannot think critically and independently; they only regurgitate what others have fed them.

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
1 year ago
Reply to  Max Price

I am not familiar with the article, but what if its goal was to point out the absurdity of the transgender ideology by extending it to transracialism? Race is once again untouchable in our current cultural climate, and racial boundaries are just as impenetrable as they were in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the antebellum American South, the one-drop rule made a person black and thus a social pariah, a persona non grata; today, it’s used to uphold a perpetual state of victimhood.
I have asked the same question of people whom I know to have favourable opinions of transgenderism, and I admit that questions are meant to provoke. They are meant to be thought-provoking, but I have learnt that I am expecting too much of people who cannot think critically and independently; they only regurgitate what others have fed them.

Max Price
Max Price
1 year ago

Here in lies the problem: “ an open letter was sent to Hypatia’s editor requesting the retraction of the article because its “continued availability causes further harm”.
Not, it shouldn’t have been publicised because it’s bat shit crazy nonsense.

Last edited 1 year ago by Max Price
Zenobia van Dongen
Zenobia van Dongen
1 year ago

Right. The next fad will be trans-shoe-size-ism

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

I’m going for transheightism. I want to identify as 5ft 9ins, and I shall be really offended if clothing made for 5ft 9ins women is too big for me.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Well the obvious one for blokes is, and has always been, transpenisism. People accuse men of deluding themselves about their proportions, and this is just bigotry.
And the role of their partners is to fully accept that they really are well endowed, and definitely not to laugh. I, of course, have never had to worry about that!

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

What i’d add to that is the desire for trans-rulerism, where the five and a half inches really indicate eight

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Nope, nor I.

Cue purile male humour…

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

What i’d add to that is the desire for trans-rulerism, where the five and a half inches really indicate eight

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Nope, nor I.

Cue purile male humour…

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Well the obvious one for blokes is, and has always been, transpenisism. People accuse men of deluding themselves about their proportions, and this is just bigotry.
And the role of their partners is to fully accept that they really are well endowed, and definitely not to laugh. I, of course, have never had to worry about that!

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
AL Crowe
AL Crowe
1 year ago

Take your pick of the ideas slowly gathering pace on the sidelines of the cult of diversity and inclusion whilst most eyes are on the louder aspects of it. Neuroquestioning is one such idea, essentially a subtle form of transableism that removes the need for diagnosis in order to identify as having conditions like autism, adhd, etc, and access all the specialised services and adjustments available to those who have went through the proper diagnostic processes.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

I’m going for transheightism. I want to identify as 5ft 9ins, and I shall be really offended if clothing made for 5ft 9ins women is too big for me.

AL Crowe
AL Crowe
1 year ago

Take your pick of the ideas slowly gathering pace on the sidelines of the cult of diversity and inclusion whilst most eyes are on the louder aspects of it. Neuroquestioning is one such idea, essentially a subtle form of transableism that removes the need for diagnosis in order to identify as having conditions like autism, adhd, etc, and access all the specialised services and adjustments available to those who have went through the proper diagnostic processes.

Zenobia van Dongen
Zenobia van Dongen
1 year ago

Right. The next fad will be trans-shoe-size-ism

Seth Edenbaum
Seth Edenbaum
1 year ago

Tuvel’s argument was absurd. Kathleen Stock defended Tuvel but was offended by this:
Stock on twitter (deleted)
—If you’re tempted by the currently fashionable philosophical idea that working descriptive categories are a bit like clubs, and should be “expanded” or “ameliorated” for humane reasons, to be more “inclusive” of people who want to be counted, then see if this tests your resolve.—
Linking Holly Lawford-Smith (account suspended by twitter)

this is a real paper:

‘How dare you pretend to be disabled?’ The discounting of transabled people and their claims in disability movements and studies—
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09687599.2015.1050088
Abstract

Although the contours of the ‘disabled person’ category are questioned by anti-ableist activists, they remain rigid regarding transabled people (who want to become disabled). For anti-ableist activists, transabled people do not count as disabled. They are perceived to: be falsely disabled; steal resources from disabled people; and be disrespectful by denying, fetishizing, or appropriating marginalized realities. By combining critical discourse analysis, genealogy, and deconstruction, I examine these negative discourses to encourage alliances between anti-ableist activists and transabled people. Ideas developed in disability and trans studies reveal the limits of these discourses anchored in ableist and cisnormative* assumptions.

Tell me why a philosopher who defends transracialism wouldn’t defend transablism. The distinction is purely ideological. We need a sociology of academia, but philosophy is incapable.
Tell me why drag shows are in a different category than minstrel shows. It’s related discussion.
“Much of today’s humanistic scholarship is not just about politics, it is itself a form of political performance” All scholarship is political performance, but now the performers are at war with each other. What was once taken for granted is contested. What does it mean that you sound like a moralist attacking moralists? Why should I prefer one over another?
The best, simplest, comment on Rachel Dolezal’s pretensions I’ve ever read. A tweet I saved that the author later deleted
“Rachel Dolezal saw Get Out and was like “oh hell f*****g yes”
And this site censors my use of an obscenity Really?

Last edited 1 year ago by Seth Edenbaum
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Seth Edenbaum

Actually I’ve long thought that Drag Shows were on a par with Minstral Shows, they kind of assume that just being a black person or a woman is intrinsically funny. So, after watching one, rather tame, TV version I have never watched one since. I gather that the club versions can be vile, but I can’t attest to this as, like I said, I’ve never seen one.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

I never watch them either but they’re so ubiquitous now that it’s difficult to avoid seeing clips.
It’s weird how ‘dragging’ drag shows from the alternative culture into the mainstream culture, and now children’s culture, hasn’t stopped the use of fairly obscene innuendo more suited to nightclubs.
In the old days mainstream drag artists used innuendo for jokes, even in pantos, but kept it very very clean. Now we have drag artists telling young children to ‘suck it’ and suchlike, and wearing tiny outfits that parody the physique of women.

John Solomon
John Solomon
1 year ago

Two inappropriate and reprehensible thoughts occurred to me when I read your comment. First, if any human group (OK – perhaps not cancer patients!) stops being intrinsically funny it is a sad day for humanity.
Second, I like the concept of women being intrinsically funny, but my goodness they are not nearly as funny (in all senses) as trans women, just as minstrels are not nearly as funny as the terribly earnest devotees of BLM.
I have been saying for some years that we should point and laugh a bit more, and cave in and submit a bit less.
A propos of nothing at all, a random thought : I was re-reading Lord of the Rings the other day, and read the bit about orcs being made by the great enemy in mockery of the elves. Are trans women (as a group) made by some great enemy (‘the Left’) in mockery of women? Some of them certainly act that way!

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  John Solomon

A good comparison with the orcs; they do seem rather mocking.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
1 year ago
Reply to  John Solomon

I am reading it at the moment. Book 2 – at the point where Gandalf appears in Fangorn.
IIRC,I remember that description. Your application of it is an interesting observation when applied to The Left and Trans-Identifying Males.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  John Solomon

A good comparison with the orcs; they do seem rather mocking.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
1 year ago
Reply to  John Solomon

I am reading it at the moment. Book 2 – at the point where Gandalf appears in Fangorn.
IIRC,I remember that description. Your application of it is an interesting observation when applied to The Left and Trans-Identifying Males.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

I never watch them either but they’re so ubiquitous now that it’s difficult to avoid seeing clips.
It’s weird how ‘dragging’ drag shows from the alternative culture into the mainstream culture, and now children’s culture, hasn’t stopped the use of fairly obscene innuendo more suited to nightclubs.
In the old days mainstream drag artists used innuendo for jokes, even in pantos, but kept it very very clean. Now we have drag artists telling young children to ‘suck it’ and suchlike, and wearing tiny outfits that parody the physique of women.

John Solomon
John Solomon
1 year ago

Two inappropriate and reprehensible thoughts occurred to me when I read your comment. First, if any human group (OK – perhaps not cancer patients!) stops being intrinsically funny it is a sad day for humanity.
Second, I like the concept of women being intrinsically funny, but my goodness they are not nearly as funny (in all senses) as trans women, just as minstrels are not nearly as funny as the terribly earnest devotees of BLM.
I have been saying for some years that we should point and laugh a bit more, and cave in and submit a bit less.
A propos of nothing at all, a random thought : I was re-reading Lord of the Rings the other day, and read the bit about orcs being made by the great enemy in mockery of the elves. Are trans women (as a group) made by some great enemy (‘the Left’) in mockery of women? Some of them certainly act that way!

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Seth Edenbaum

Actually I’ve long thought that Drag Shows were on a par with Minstral Shows, they kind of assume that just being a black person or a woman is intrinsically funny. So, after watching one, rather tame, TV version I have never watched one since. I gather that the club versions can be vile, but I can’t attest to this as, like I said, I’ve never seen one.

Seth Edenbaum
Seth Edenbaum
1 year ago

Tuvel’s argument was absurd. Kathleen Stock defended Tuvel but was offended by this:
Stock on twitter (deleted)
—If you’re tempted by the currently fashionable philosophical idea that working descriptive categories are a bit like clubs, and should be “expanded” or “ameliorated” for humane reasons, to be more “inclusive” of people who want to be counted, then see if this tests your resolve.—
Linking Holly Lawford-Smith (account suspended by twitter)

this is a real paper:

‘How dare you pretend to be disabled?’ The discounting of transabled people and their claims in disability movements and studies—
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09687599.2015.1050088
Abstract

Although the contours of the ‘disabled person’ category are questioned by anti-ableist activists, they remain rigid regarding transabled people (who want to become disabled). For anti-ableist activists, transabled people do not count as disabled. They are perceived to: be falsely disabled; steal resources from disabled people; and be disrespectful by denying, fetishizing, or appropriating marginalized realities. By combining critical discourse analysis, genealogy, and deconstruction, I examine these negative discourses to encourage alliances between anti-ableist activists and transabled people. Ideas developed in disability and trans studies reveal the limits of these discourses anchored in ableist and cisnormative* assumptions.

Tell me why a philosopher who defends transracialism wouldn’t defend transablism. The distinction is purely ideological. We need a sociology of academia, but philosophy is incapable.
Tell me why drag shows are in a different category than minstrel shows. It’s related discussion.
“Much of today’s humanistic scholarship is not just about politics, it is itself a form of political performance” All scholarship is political performance, but now the performers are at war with each other. What was once taken for granted is contested. What does it mean that you sound like a moralist attacking moralists? Why should I prefer one over another?
The best, simplest, comment on Rachel Dolezal’s pretensions I’ve ever read. A tweet I saved that the author later deleted
“Rachel Dolezal saw Get Out and was like “oh hell f*****g yes”
And this site censors my use of an obscenity Really?

Last edited 1 year ago by Seth Edenbaum
AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

This is a fine essay about a contemporary issue (although you can argue that it goes way back). The value of the vita contemplativa to society was that it kept the Grate Branes away from the levers of power, but that detachment is now abused.
If you want to upset yourself further, consider how many middle managers are engaged in a similar performative dance only loosely connected to reality.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

This is a fine essay about a contemporary issue (although you can argue that it goes way back). The value of the vita contemplativa to society was that it kept the Grate Branes away from the levers of power, but that detachment is now abused.
If you want to upset yourself further, consider how many middle managers are engaged in a similar performative dance only loosely connected to reality.

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
1 year ago

I’m not sure it’s true that academics have become more left wing, but they are definitely more PERFORMATIVELY left wing. This is attached to the nature of the job: compelled to make “impact” research, they reach for fundable topics, like gender and race and ‘queering’ everything.
I also don’t see anyway out of this. It’s a long slow self destruction.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Dr. G Marzanna

I’d compare academia to the Catholic Church prior to the Reformation.

Just to bear in mind that the unthinkable (at the time), happened.

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
1 year ago
Reply to  Dr. G Marzanna

Ultimately, universities, the seat of academia, are about money. When the pendulum swings back, and it will, because it always does, those same academics will swing with it.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Dr. G Marzanna

I’d compare academia to the Catholic Church prior to the Reformation.

Just to bear in mind that the unthinkable (at the time), happened.

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
1 year ago
Reply to  Dr. G Marzanna

Ultimately, universities, the seat of academia, are about money. When the pendulum swings back, and it will, because it always does, those same academics will swing with it.

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
1 year ago

I’m not sure it’s true that academics have become more left wing, but they are definitely more PERFORMATIVELY left wing. This is attached to the nature of the job: compelled to make “impact” research, they reach for fundable topics, like gender and race and ‘queering’ everything.
I also don’t see anyway out of this. It’s a long slow self destruction.

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago

”“dog parks are ‘rape-condoning spaces’ and a place of rampant canine rape culture and systemic oppression against ‘the oppressed dog’ through which human attitudes to both problems can be measured and analysed by applying black feminist criminology”.”

Pity this study has been withdrawn as the Portland Police Department based their community integrity and equity policies on the study of it. Using a $500,000 grant from the ‘Justice Community and Bill Gates Policy Think Tank’ and several new hire ‘Community mutualizers’ they designed a new way of carrying out respectful policing and neighborhood harmonization with practices based on the studies cited in it.

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago

”“dog parks are ‘rape-condoning spaces’ and a place of rampant canine rape culture and systemic oppression against ‘the oppressed dog’ through which human attitudes to both problems can be measured and analysed by applying black feminist criminology”.”

Pity this study has been withdrawn as the Portland Police Department based their community integrity and equity policies on the study of it. Using a $500,000 grant from the ‘Justice Community and Bill Gates Policy Think Tank’ and several new hire ‘Community mutualizers’ they designed a new way of carrying out respectful policing and neighborhood harmonization with practices based on the studies cited in it.

Cool Stanic
Cool Stanic
1 year ago

It seems to me that pretty much all of this could have been written about CAGW (“climate change”) scientists.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Cool Stanic

I don’t know about this. But do rememember, all mathematicians (barring some loons in California) agree that 2+2=4, this doesn’t mean that they are politically captured or in some elitist bubble.

John Solomon
John Solomon
1 year ago

I’m not a mathematician, but I suspect that a real mathematician would agree that 2+2=4 is true in base 10, but not always!

John Solomon
John Solomon
1 year ago

I’m not a mathematician, but I suspect that a real mathematician would agree that 2+2=4 is true in base 10, but not always!

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Cool Stanic

I don’t know about this. But do rememember, all mathematicians (barring some loons in California) agree that 2+2=4, this doesn’t mean that they are politically captured or in some elitist bubble.

Cool Stanic
Cool Stanic
1 year ago

It seems to me that pretty much all of this could have been written about CAGW (“climate change”) scientists.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago

The Castalians practise pure thinking, the idea being that they are not contaminated by ideas of profit. This thinking is science in the sense that Plato was science. It can include a lot of thinking about everything but falls short of science because it doesn’t produce tangible results.

For results you need experimentation, so you need equipment and this would bring in the outside world. Then you need more results for statistical meaningful conclusions. This would also require an interface with the outside world.

So this monkish(?) existence might be good for philosophy or even social behaviour – but not for designing a new, more efficient battery.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago

The Castalians practise pure thinking, the idea being that they are not contaminated by ideas of profit. This thinking is science in the sense that Plato was science. It can include a lot of thinking about everything but falls short of science because it doesn’t produce tangible results.

For results you need experimentation, so you need equipment and this would bring in the outside world. Then you need more results for statistical meaningful conclusions. This would also require an interface with the outside world.

So this monkish(?) existence might be good for philosophy or even social behaviour – but not for designing a new, more efficient battery.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
1 year ago

The World is, indeed, too much with us late and soon.
Virtue signaling is rampant in quasi-scholatic platforms, such as journalism and print media. Strategic placement of key phrases such as of course or we know that is a sure sign that the writer is reminding us of his/her political correctness before making some new point that might be otherwise interpreted as a violation of what every credible commentator already knows to be true.
Virtue signaling is also in common use among the utilitarians. But theirs is more obvious, less subtle, often with a fox or newsmax or maga credibility mention that assures unity of purpose: to defeat the antifa idiots who lurk in dark offices of academia or “mainstream media.”
The centrist, such as I am, attempts, carefully, to negotiate a path between these two polarities. The principal path of which I write is the one of Faith, which can, indeed, be manifested, nurtured, and acted upon, without conceding to the dictates of maga madness.
It is no surprise that, in a world such as we now have, and have had for several millenia, the bravest, wisest man of all was nailed to a cross. But he survived that deadly ordeal, which is why I have chosen him as my source for credibility and life itself in the eternal realm where virtue signaling will be obsolete and unnecessary.
It is hard to be a Christian and a liberal at the same time, but Jesus did it, so I can do it to, with his enabling grace. “I was hungry and you fed me, a stranger and you took me in, in prison and you visited me.”

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  LCarey Rowland

Good post. I like that you began by quoting one of Wordsworth’s best sonnets, and ended with one of the most powerful known sayings of Jesus. I would just like to add the next line for both:
Wordsworth: Getting and spending we lay waste our powers
Jesus: Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  LCarey Rowland

Good post. I like that you began by quoting one of Wordsworth’s best sonnets, and ended with one of the most powerful known sayings of Jesus. I would just like to add the next line for both:
Wordsworth: Getting and spending we lay waste our powers
Jesus: Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
1 year ago

The World is, indeed, too much with us late and soon.
Virtue signaling is rampant in quasi-scholatic platforms, such as journalism and print media. Strategic placement of key phrases such as of course or we know that is a sure sign that the writer is reminding us of his/her political correctness before making some new point that might be otherwise interpreted as a violation of what every credible commentator already knows to be true.
Virtue signaling is also in common use among the utilitarians. But theirs is more obvious, less subtle, often with a fox or newsmax or maga credibility mention that assures unity of purpose: to defeat the antifa idiots who lurk in dark offices of academia or “mainstream media.”
The centrist, such as I am, attempts, carefully, to negotiate a path between these two polarities. The principal path of which I write is the one of Faith, which can, indeed, be manifested, nurtured, and acted upon, without conceding to the dictates of maga madness.
It is no surprise that, in a world such as we now have, and have had for several millenia, the bravest, wisest man of all was nailed to a cross. But he survived that deadly ordeal, which is why I have chosen him as my source for credibility and life itself in the eternal realm where virtue signaling will be obsolete and unnecessary.
It is hard to be a Christian and a liberal at the same time, but Jesus did it, so I can do it to, with his enabling grace. “I was hungry and you fed me, a stranger and you took me in, in prison and you visited me.”

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

To be unconcerned with fame and status is not identical with pure detachment. In my reading, the scholars of Castalia were quite absurd and useless. Even many monks and nuns often have an outward reaching mission too, unlike the non-spiritual renunciates of Castalia, who pursued abstract braincraft in a post-cataclysmic world. Still, I read The Glass Bead Game with great interest, and found Hesse’s celebration of the utterly cerebral life somewhat persuasive. Maybe there should be a place for such pure dreamers, if they’re bright enough to get to the gig.
Yet the (all male) competitive camaraderie and warring individual dispositions of Castalia were part of its ethos too. And in at least one of the three fictional biographies that form a sort of epilogue to the novel, Joseph Knecht leaves the ivory tower and becomes a tutor.
I agree that political and ideological bias should be avoided in scholarship, across all the disciplines. Or, to the extent politics must intrude, competing voices should be the norm.
Academia is in an overall state of heightened, one-sided politicization, but pure detachment has never prevailed in universities or other scholarship. In previous generations and centuries the bias was more often dogmatically religious or culturally chauvinistic than it was “political”, for example purporting to “prove” that Protestants or Catholics, England or France, were “objectively” superior.
But not all scholarship that isn’t hard science, or doesn’t pass through some crucible of rigid empiricism, is therefore worthless or even “soft”. Especially in humanistic disciplines like history, psychology, and divinity–not worldly, but humane at its best–one may have a valid goal of teaching, helping, or inspiring one’s readers.
Once the scholar has been well-taught and well-thought, some form of outreach or interestedness, rather than total detachment or a pretense of pure objectivity, is both allowable and dang-near inevitable. That shouldn’t become polemical or dogmatic, but needn’t disavow all persuasive art or human engagement either, and probably shouldn’t try to.
Even a study of 1,000 brains kept in jars may need real, subjective involvement and interpretation to be worth much to the living.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

To be unconcerned with fame and status is not identical with pure detachment. In my reading, the scholars of Castalia were quite absurd and useless. Even many monks and nuns often have an outward reaching mission too, unlike the non-spiritual renunciates of Castalia, who pursued abstract braincraft in a post-cataclysmic world. Still, I read The Glass Bead Game with great interest, and found Hesse’s celebration of the utterly cerebral life somewhat persuasive. Maybe there should be a place for such pure dreamers, if they’re bright enough to get to the gig.
Yet the (all male) competitive camaraderie and warring individual dispositions of Castalia were part of its ethos too. And in at least one of the three fictional biographies that form a sort of epilogue to the novel, Joseph Knecht leaves the ivory tower and becomes a tutor.
I agree that political and ideological bias should be avoided in scholarship, across all the disciplines. Or, to the extent politics must intrude, competing voices should be the norm.
Academia is in an overall state of heightened, one-sided politicization, but pure detachment has never prevailed in universities or other scholarship. In previous generations and centuries the bias was more often dogmatically religious or culturally chauvinistic than it was “political”, for example purporting to “prove” that Protestants or Catholics, England or France, were “objectively” superior.
But not all scholarship that isn’t hard science, or doesn’t pass through some crucible of rigid empiricism, is therefore worthless or even “soft”. Especially in humanistic disciplines like history, psychology, and divinity–not worldly, but humane at its best–one may have a valid goal of teaching, helping, or inspiring one’s readers.
Once the scholar has been well-taught and well-thought, some form of outreach or interestedness, rather than total detachment or a pretense of pure objectivity, is both allowable and dang-near inevitable. That shouldn’t become polemical or dogmatic, but needn’t disavow all persuasive art or human engagement either, and probably shouldn’t try to.
Even a study of 1,000 brains kept in jars may need real, subjective involvement and interpretation to be worth much to the living.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
John Ramsden
John Ramsden
1 year ago

Today’s academia is sometimes likened to a secular version of the medieval church. But, despite the similarities, there is one significant difference:

In religion the explicit goal (of the medieval clerics anyway) was presumably endless recapitulation of the same doctrines and beliefs. Variations or deviations were frowned on, and usually considered heretical and suppressed

But today’s academics, despite their dogmas, are, of necessity, novelty hounds! Their ethics prohibit outright plagiarism, and each dissertation or paper must have, or is supposed to have, some element of originality.

So, although they may be conformist in outlook, once a faddish topic is fully mined, and ever more absurd extremes completely exhausted, no doubt the worm will turn, and some modern-day Luther will, as it were, pin a new manifesto to the gates of academia and all the wokery will be swept away in a fresh wave of principles.

Perhaps minorities will come to be seen as more sturdy and self-reliant and less in need of championing and protecting than patronising wokists take it upon themselves to assume today.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Ramsden
John Ramsden
John Ramsden
1 year ago

Today’s academia is sometimes likened to a secular version of the medieval church. But, despite the similarities, there is one significant difference:

In religion the explicit goal (of the medieval clerics anyway) was presumably endless recapitulation of the same doctrines and beliefs. Variations or deviations were frowned on, and usually considered heretical and suppressed

But today’s academics, despite their dogmas, are, of necessity, novelty hounds! Their ethics prohibit outright plagiarism, and each dissertation or paper must have, or is supposed to have, some element of originality.

So, although they may be conformist in outlook, once a faddish topic is fully mined, and ever more absurd extremes completely exhausted, no doubt the worm will turn, and some modern-day Luther will, as it were, pin a new manifesto to the gates of academia and all the wokery will be swept away in a fresh wave of principles.

Perhaps minorities will come to be seen as more sturdy and self-reliant and less in need of championing and protecting than patronising wokists take it upon themselves to assume today.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Ramsden
Steven Somsen
Steven Somsen
1 year ago

I studied social sciences from ’68 on in Amsterdam and the groupthink and -jargon was very strong there already. I remember that after I left college I once passed the university’s Library at Koningsplein and everyone was wearing the uniform: jeans (jacket and trousers), faded blue.

Steven Somsen
Steven Somsen
1 year ago

I studied social sciences from ’68 on in Amsterdam and the groupthink and -jargon was very strong there already. I remember that after I left college I once passed the university’s Library at Koningsplein and everyone was wearing the uniform: jeans (jacket and trousers), faded blue.

Edwin Blake
Edwin Blake
1 year ago

I think you draw a false dichotomy between intellectual rigour and being involved in the world. The glass bead game’s Magister Ludi eventually gives up isolation in order to return to the world, a key point that you seem to ignore.
Pragmatism, for one, shows a way of knowing that is very connected to reality. I always took Marx as saying that the condition of the world is such that one cannot stand aloof but must engage in both knowing and acting.
Finally Hesse’s book speaks of getting beyond the illusions of the world, beyond Maya. That, rather than a notion of “objectivity” seems to be the way out of current academic nonsense.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Edwin Blake

Well said. In book after book (Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund, Journey to the East) Hesse addresses the struggle for transcendence while engaged with or at least unable to escape temporal concerns.
I’m not sure this quite connects to what you call pragmatism, but it doesn’t mean total aloofness or retreat either. Like most thoughtful people, Hesse shared sympathies with both Narcissus and Goldmund, Buddha and Siddhartha.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Edwin Blake

Well said. In book after book (Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund, Journey to the East) Hesse addresses the struggle for transcendence while engaged with or at least unable to escape temporal concerns.
I’m not sure this quite connects to what you call pragmatism, but it doesn’t mean total aloofness or retreat either. Like most thoughtful people, Hesse shared sympathies with both Narcissus and Goldmund, Buddha and Siddhartha.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Edwin Blake
Edwin Blake
1 year ago

I think you draw a false dichotomy between intellectual rigour and being involved in the world. The glass bead game’s Magister Ludi eventually gives up isolation in order to return to the world, a key point that you seem to ignore.
Pragmatism, for one, shows a way of knowing that is very connected to reality. I always took Marx as saying that the condition of the world is such that one cannot stand aloof but must engage in both knowing and acting.
Finally Hesse’s book speaks of getting beyond the illusions of the world, beyond Maya. That, rather than a notion of “objectivity” seems to be the way out of current academic nonsense.

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
1 year ago

Thank you for taking time to craft a thoughtful essay. It’s a “keeper.”

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
1 year ago

Thank you for taking time to craft a thoughtful essay. It’s a “keeper.”

Will D. Mann
Will D. Mann
1 year ago

Academia has always been about the clash of competing ideas, ideologies and values. The “objective researcher” looking for ” The Truth” has always been something of a myth.

Lorraine Devanthey
Lorraine Devanthey
1 year ago
Reply to  Will D. Mann

This is not a clash of ideas. You will have a hard time getting a job in the Humanities in Canadian universities unless you subscribe to “Critical Theory” ideology, so unless you are already a professor, you will not be there to clash. Most research funding under the Trudeau government is directed at Critical Theory’s aims. White males are explicitly excluded from most Canada Research Chairs, because identity trumps merit.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

This certainly applies to US academia too, not only but especially in the humanities. The “clash” is mostly between the left, the far-left, and the further left. Ideologically non-conformist views, though no more than centrist or moderately traditional, are not often published or even voiced in public.
Ask former U of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson whether competitive or clashing viewpoints are welcomed in the present-day university. Unfortunately, Peterson seems to have taken a hard right and lost the sense of humor he once displayed (sparingly), but his initial stance against enforced speech codes was bold and worthwhile.

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
1 year ago

A frightening development. I also wonder whether its proponents do not instinctively grasp the weakness of the ideology they so vehemently defend? The theoretical underpinnings are so nonsensical and contradictive that they must be defended with great fervour and loud screaming (a well-known tactic of distraction), and a closer examination in the b