Kathleen Stock: I feel sorry for the students trying to ban me
The philosopher speaks about the confusion of the younger generation
The academic and UnHerd columnist Kathleen Stock is widely considered one of the UK’s most distinguished philosophers, coming first in a poll carried out last year by Prospect magazine to find the “world’s top thinker”. She has authored several books, most notably 2021’s Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism, and is a frequent commentator in the British press. However, Stock’s criticisms of gender ideology have met with backlash, and she was forced to leave her post at the University of Sussex in 2021 following a student campaign against her.
Stock’s planned appearance at the Oxford Union later this month has predictably resulted in calls to no-platform her. Indeed, students at the university have allegedly been offered “welfare support” to compensate for the psychological upset the philosopher’s visit to campus might cause them.
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Despite her many unhappy brushes with ideologically uncompromising students, Stock expresses empathy for young people swept up in intersectional fervour. She visited the UnHerd Club this week to speak to Freddie Sayers about the increased isolation experienced by students, and to explain why young people might be more vulnerable to extreme ideologies:
The conversation moved onto the philosophical groundings and distorted evolution of the liberal ideas that underpin gender ideology:
Stock also argued that a myopic obsession with the power of language and words in academic spheres makes it easier to conceive theories and ideologies which diverge sharply from rational thought:
I’m not sure KS has got it quite right in attributing the views of students who oppose her to a desire to be free of social and intellectual norms.
Rather, i’d say students were all too eager to be conformists to the social mores they find themselves being steeped in at university. With regard to intellectual freedom through the manipulation of language, i don’t believe the vast majority of them possess the necessary intellectual capacity, or the experience of a wider realm of thought in which to consider their views. If anything, they’re subject to closed minds which can’t bear the very idea of freedom, intellectual or otherwise.
KS’s patience and fortitude are something to be admired.
I expect most of us have read her book and know there is a complete disconnect between her actual views and what people imagine they are, if indeed they imagine anything other than that she is a semi-mythical baddie with superpowers to destroy their world (I am reminded of the hapless protestors who turned up to protest against Julie Bindel thinking she was Julie Burchill, whose views they probably even have even less knowledge of).
Mind you, they’re probably right, because if they did all read her book, their fictional world might seem less real. The problem is really her colleagues, whom she credits as at least knowing that all this is mad, but condemns for their complicity in it. Her compassion towards the confused students remains largely intact to her credit.
Will you be posting the full video at some point? It looked like a great evening!
Much of the gender-language chaos can be traced back to the massive expansion of sociology as an academic option after the war. Decanted into what was all too often a political and societal vacuum at the heart of the sixties university campus , Sociology has helped seed the dogmatic re-invention and intolerance that we are experiencing today .’ All mouth and no trousers’ as they no longer say.
I was lucky enough to be there – and it was a great evening. An honest, intelligent, principled and unpretentious thinker and teacher. Much to celebrate and nothing to condemn there. I hope she gets a respectful hearing at the OU – but unfortunately I doubt it.
“…explain why young people might be more vulnerable to extreme ideologies”
If claiming that a biological male is indeed a man is considered extreme ideology, then we are doomed.
So true. A strong aspect of virtual reality makes you feel in control. In the physical realm, we are exposed to various senses, we receive so much more, and the likelihood that we can invent ourselves to our wishes is tempered by people in the flesh. This is probably not going to get better soon.
And then as you say, words and meanings can have a direct emotional effect when cleverly manipulated. So often all the positive words and phrases have been taken by those that wish to radically change the status quo because they put so many copywriters into it. How the gender ID idealogues grabbed ‘be kind’ when in fact they are the ones hurling abuse and violence. How they hooked every liberal sentiment to protect the underdog trumping the reality of violence against women until thoughtful critics became the enemy of kindness, progress and being on the right side of history and should be justifyingly harmed. To the surreal point that Oxford University will be providing care and support to students attending your talk…as if that doesn’t speak volumes to the unaware. And you reply by being compassionate and thoughtful.
I feel we all need to do far more to engage with and help resolve the real issues the younger generation has. I get no sense at all from my dealings with them that this really is a real issue for them, but they do have quite a lot of real issues especially post pandemic where the young really suffered totally disproportionately to any benefits the authoritarian lockdown policies potentially had.
I suspect she is right that the anxiety of these kids drives a lot of what they do. I think it’s set in motion quite young, most have no real experience of freedom, or self-reliance, or experience of having to make decisions away from adult eyes. It’s interesting that this lack of normal childhood freedom seems to develop into this intense desire for social conformity along with, as Stock says, an elevation of an abstract version of “freedom” as the highest good.
excepting freedom of thought, of course.
One of the key drivers of the current mass psychological malaise has been the influence of the famous degenerate, paedophile philosopher Michel Foucault and the others in the deconstructionist movement. Foucault’s work focused on the ways in which power and knowledge are intertwined and he has been very influential in a number of disciplines, including literary theory, sociology and cultural studies.
The deconstructionists seek to undermine the stability and coherence of text and language and argue that meanings are not fixed or inherent in texts, but are constructed through a complex web of linguistic and cultural power relations. There is no objective truth, therefore there is only my truth, my lived experience. Little wonder its a mess.
I am looking forward to her address at the Oxford Union and hope that they broadcast it.
An interesting excerpt from her discussion with Freddie, but too short. I wonder why Unherd didn’t post the whole discussion?
I am still to watch, but I doubt Kathleen said what you say in the title. Or better, she might have said it, but not in the condescending tone that transpires.
Maybe you should have included a quote that included the word “sorry” for context.
Either way, this is a bad editorial choice as.I am sure it is NOT that main takeaway of what Kathleen said.
I have now watched the video.
Does the word “sorry” appear at all?
Tis true she didn’t use the word sorry and there is a great difference in meaning between ‘feeling sorry for’ and ‘saying sorry to’. It was only the former sense that the word sorry in the sun heading was true. She said she had great sympathy for some of them and explains that. The headline was true to established subeditors principles; to get people to read it or in this case watch it; to up the drama, to crystallise the content, click bait. And if it meant that some people watched it hoping she would say sorry.. good.
I find the headline rather undignified, though. 100% clickbait.
“having sympathy for” and “feeling sorry for” mean pretty much the same thing.
KS cites “technology and the university system, which is not really fostering communities.” It is progressivism, as well, which works everywhere to replace the horizontal relationships that unite people into traditional communities with vertical ties that bind atomized individuals to the state and to corporate capitalism. Trans ideology is a part of this.
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