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In praise of stigma

This post is going to be about an article by Robert P. George, but it isn't about the subject that probably first springs to your mind (in July of 2015) when you hear that name.

The post in question by George is here, and I'm going to take issue with it. I respect Prof. George for all of his own courageous positions on a variety of crucial social issues, with which of course I agree. I admire him and wish him well. But in this article, I think he is wrong.

George disagrees with those who have argued that Peter Singer should be stigmatized and even fired for his heinous moral views--just for example, his recent statement that one should rescue a large herd of pigs from a fire rather than a single human baby. All of Singer's heinous views flow quite naturally from his utilitarian philosophy. He is nothing if not consistent, as G.K. Chesterton once said about a madman.

Prof. George argues for academic freedom above all differences of opinion on these matters:

My views on ethical matters could scarcely be more distant from Professor Singer’s....And yet, I must break ranks with many of my friends and allies in the movement to defend the dignity and basic rights of the unborn, the newly born, those with physical and cognitive disabilities, the frail elderly, and other vulnerable persons by standing up for Singer’s right to hold and express his opinions. Freedom of thought and expression and academic freedom are for everyone — not just those whose views others find congenial.

Here is my fundamental point: The right to academic freedom is held equally by all who are prepared to do business in the currency of academic discourse: a currency consisting of reasons and arguments. Singer does business in precisely that currency. He is not a demagogue, a shouter, a hater. He does not deploy abusive language or techniques of manipulation. He sets forth his positions with clarity and defends them with rational arguments.

Arguments are to be dealt with by meeting them, not by shutting down (or threatening, or intimidating, or even stigmatizing) the people who are making them. And meeting them requires thinking about them, even entertaining them in a serious way, however much we are scandalized by the positions for which they are adduced.


It is for the sake of the common good of the university as a knowledge-seeking institution that we must honor — fully and not merely formally — the academic freedom of all who are willing to do business in the currency of academic discourse. This is what I claim for myself and for those (scarcely a majority!) who share my moral, political, and religious convictions; and this is what I claim for Singer and everyone else who contributes reasons and arguments to campus and classroom discussions.


To my friends in the movement to defend persons with disabilities and other vulnerable members of the human family, I say this:

Please know that I understand your sense of outrage and insult. Please know, too, that my argument in defense of Singer is in no way a purely pragmatic one — defending him, lest those who are deeply offended by pro-life or pro-marriage reality convictions be fortified in their efforts to shut down my own freedom of speech. Freedom of thought and expression and academic freedom are genuine rights. They are not just conventions that we’ve agreed to respect as a kind of mutual nonaggression pact. There is a profound and important principle here, one that we must honor no matter the offense we take, or even hurt we may feel, at someone’s ideas or their public advocacy.

For Princeton to take action against a faculty member for the content of the views he holds or for the arguments he makes would be wrong — a violation of his rights and an undermining of the institution’s mission. No one who values that mission should demand that he be fired or resign. Indeed, even protesting a scholar’s presence on campus is, in my view, improper. Pressuring someone or trying to stigmatize him is not answering his arguments — and to the extent of its success, it detracts from, rather than supports, the cause of learning.

In saying that I disagree with this, I do not mean to say that there is no truth in the neighborhood of Prof. George's position. In fact, such a defense of the notion of the marketplace of ideas and open debate is rather refreshing in the current milieu of political correctness and snarling hatred from the left.

The problem is that George's statements are overstatements. And if they were sufficiently qualified, it would be difficult for him to maintain that Singer falls on the "inside" rather than the "outside" of such qualifications.

Again, I would not disagree so much if Prof. George made a purely pragmatic argument that, once someone has been given tenure, we should be extremely hesitant to try to pressure him to leave solely on the grounds of the content of his ideas. I actually do value academic freedom. I just don't think it (anymore than freedom of speech) is or can be an absolute, and I certainly don't think that a university is obligated to subsidize the teaching of any and all opinions to the young. It would also presumably be possible, without breaking Prof. Singer's tenure, either to take him entirely out of a teaching position and pay him his salary to go away and leave the minds of the young alone, or, alternatively, to assign him to teach large, boring, introductory classes under strict supervision with a pre-set curriculum until he decides to go away and peddle his heinous theories elsewhere.

I do not suggest these remedies lightly, and the fact that I suggest them at all shows that I actually do have an idea of what tenure is and of its legal obligations and the limitations of what can be done to a tenured professor.

But this isn't just about tenure, is it? Prof. George does not simply say, "For Princeton to rescind the tenure of a professor for the content of the views he holds would be unwise" or even "would be wrong."

He goes much farther than that. He says, without qualification, that arguments are not to be dealt with even by stigmatizing those who hold a particular view. He says,

The right to academic freedom is held equally by all who are prepared to do business in the currency of academic discourse: a currency consisting of reasons and arguments. Singer does business in precisely that currency. He is not a demagogue, a shouter, a hater. He does not deploy abusive language or techniques of manipulation.

He even says, and surely knows exactly what he is saying, that we must "seriously entertain" views, including Singer's, that are presented with arguments, no matter what their content.

These are incredibly sweeping claims. It places any idea whatsoever, at least in theory, "within the pale" philosophically and claims for the promulgator of that idea the mantle of academic freedom, indeed, of equal academic freedom with all others who "deal in the currency" of non-abusive language or techniques, of arguments and reasons.

By this argument, presumably, it would be wrong even to discriminate against a job candidate for the heinousness of his views, so long as he does not use abusive language and so long as he couches his presentation in terms of reasons and arguments. A young scholar applying for a position teaching ethics who is pro-infanticide should, on such a view, have no less chance of getting a job, all else being equal, than one who is anti-infanticide, if both deal in this currency.

Consider, then, a thought experiment.

Professor Shminger holds that it is morally acceptable for members of a racial group with a mean IQ of 100 or higher to enslave and even farm for food the members of any human racial group with a mean IQ of 85 or lower, provided that those enslaved and farmed are treated humanely.

He does not use abusive language or demagoguery. He presents his position clearly and offers lengthy, calm arguments for it. Indeed, he has a well-developed utilitarian philosophy, and he fits his race-farming views tightly into this overall utilitarianism.

Prof. Shminger is highly intelligent and has a degree from an Ivy League university. He has a lengthy and prestigious publication record, and his views are gaining wider acceptance in his discipline with every year that passes.

Your department (at a non-religious university) is hiring in Shminger's field and even in his specialty of ethics. Prof. Shminger applies.

Is it wrong for you to discriminate against Shminger on the basis of the content of his views?

What about if you are organizing a conference? Should you accept papers coming from a Shmingerian perspective and hold sessions in which such views are treated as serious candidates for acceptance and their advocates are invited to present? (Remember that conference presentations go on a curriculum vitae and will aid the careers of such presenters.)

What if you are a journal editor? Should you accept papers presenting the Shmingerian views? (Even more valuable for the careers of such philosophers, as well as for making their views more widely accepted and mainstream.)

Given Prof. George's extremely sweeping comments on the subject of not stigmatizing any view whatsoever, it would seem that in all of these cases, those in a position to give a platform are obligated to share that platform with Shminger and his followers and give their views space in the marketplace of ideas.

Note that I am not talking about arresting them. I'm not even talking about anything so "extreme" as revoking Shminger's tenure if he obtains it prior to coming out with this evil dreck disguised as philosophy. I'm talking about not hiring him in the first place, even if he's popular and his views are popular. I'm talking about not publishing his papers advocating these views, not inviting him to conferences to promulgate them. I'm talking about, yes, stigmatizing him. And, yes, I'd be happy to pressure him to leave a tenured position using some of the methods I mentioned above. I'm talking about treating his views as beyond the pale.

Now, I know full well that I will immediately and instantaneously be told that this is exactly what the left wants to do to people like me and to Prof. George. Yes, of course I know that. Prof. George knows it too. That's why he carefully assures his reader that he is not merely making his statements pragmatically but that he really believes that Singer the infanticidal should not be stigmatized. Because he makes arguments and because everybody who makes arguments and "deals in the currency" of the academy really does deserve equal academic freedom.

I give Prof. George the respect to take him at his word and consider him to be sincere, not merely pragmatic.

But, it might be asked, shouldn't I be more pragmatic? Is this a time to be praising stigma when I know full well that those I support are the ones against which stigma will in fact be used? Wouldn't it be more politic to adopt Prof. George's approach of defending absolute academic freedom, if only for pragmatic reasons?

A few answers to that: First, if some school claims to support academic freedom as a value without regard to ideological content and then starts hounding a professor for being a Christian, for opposing the homosexual agenda, for not being a feminist, or any other view that I support, then I'm perfectly happy to see them sued on procedural grounds and made to eat their words. If they're going to put in black and white that they are a Millian marketplace of ideas, then by golly, I have not the slightest objection to trying to make them apply that standard to views that I consider well within the pale of polite discourse (in fact, views I consider to be true). Why not? If that's their alleged commitment, then by all means, let's make them abide by it when it comes to the truth, at least. Otherwise we get the worst of both worlds--evil must be tolerated but good may be ostracized. To demand that truth-tellers be given the academic freedom that is promised to them is, literally, mere legal strategy and does not require anyone actually to endorse an absolute principle of academic license such as Prof. George has articulated.

So by no means would I tell, e.g., John McAdams, currently embattled at Marquette U., to leave legal stones unturned if Marquette tries to revoke his tenure while claiming the mantle of total academic freedom in its official documents.

But I refuse to endorse statements that I think are false. Attached to any statement about the vast importance of the free exchange of ideas there has always been (I believe) a tacit rider. Something like, "We'll just argue with you politely and won't shun and stigmatize you as long as you aren't endorsing something really insane like cannibalism for profit."

It should be obvious that there really needs to be such a rider and that, in fact, most of us have such a tacit rider. If Prof. Shminger's dossier showed up in the boxes of most philosophers today, they would rightly not take him seriously as a job candidate. Unless, of course, his views had become so popular that they were cowed and felt that they had to jump on the bandwagon. Or unless they had themselves been taken in and no longer considered Shminger's views to be as insane and heinous (whatever specious "arguments" he might bring in defense of them) as they really are.

But that would be a problem, then, wouldn't it?

I have difficulty believing that Prof. George would really say that there are no limits whatsoever, based on content, on his claims of academic freedom equality. Is there no reductio that he would recognize? If not Shminger, what? If we included torture for fun by the "higher humans," would that be over the line? What about pedophilia? What about pedophilia with torture? Does anything whatever get a free pass so long as it is put into the proper processor to crank it out in the "currency" of academic discourse, so long as it can be defended over a glass of wine, with a straight face, in nice clothes? So long as it can be made the conclusion of an argument, however questionable its premises? (Indeed, "Why Should the Baby Live?" was a perfect example of this sort of faux intellectual material.) Fitting heinous ideas into an overall philosophical system is no problem for anyone with a goodly amount of smarts and imagination. Heinous systems are something humanity is pretty good at cranking out.

That there must be a line should be obvious or else we are, in effect, saying that philosophical sophistry in defense of the vilest depths of human depravity must be treated with respect.

The real problem, I submit, is that philosophers, even otherwise good philosophers, are desensitized to Peter Singer in particular and to infanticide in particular. Nobody inside the guild really wants to admit that his views are heinous and vile, because he is accepted--nay, famous and feted--in the guild, and because (as the editor who published "Why Should the Baby Live" a year or so ago pointed out) infanticide has been ho-hum acceptable inside the guild for several decades now. The guild would be criticizing itself if it admitted that it has incorporated vileness into its very vitals--its journals, its high-paid, coveted, tenured positions.

So really, what it comes to is that nobody wants to admit that Singer's views are beyond the pale. It's not that there isn't a pale.

At least I hope not. There had better be a pale.

I think that what we have here is a dilemma for Prof. George. He will fall on one horn if he denies that there are any limits whatsoever to his principles and says that Prof. Shminger should receive "equal academic freedom" with anybody else who deals in the currency of calm and reasoned debate. He will fall on the other horn if he admits that there are limits, that there are such things as views that fall beyond the pale on the basis of their moral heinousness alone, but then admits that he doesn't think Singer's count. Because what then becomes of his earnest plea to his fellow pro-lifers and advocates for the disabled that he understands their sense of outrage? If he doesn't think Singer's views are beyond the pale, then I submit that he doesn't really understand their sense of outrage.

One more question might be asked: Suppose that even something as vile as Prof. Shminger's (or Prof. Singer's) positions has become, most unfortunately, accepted in the halls of power. Must we not fight it by showing its intellectual flaws? But if so, does that not involve debating it and giving it a certain space in which to state its case?

This is really the best question of all for an advocate of stigma, and here is my answer: It is possible to answer evil and heinous positions and their specious arguments without treating them with respect. Consider the difference between this:

"In the following article I will show why Prof. Shminger's vile views are based on poor arguments"

and this,

"My respected colleague, Prof. Shminger, deserves academic freedom. We should not stigmatize him but should respectfully debate him. I recommend that my students take his courses so that they can hear his arguments. We will also be having a respectful dialogue on Friday night in room 315."

Really, it couldn't be more stark. And in the former case, needless to say, Shminger doesn't have a named chair at Princeton. It is possible to respond to morally crazy views (if necessary) without treating them as respectable. To some degree, it is impossible to debate a proposition without "giving it oxygen." That is true and must always be taken into account, especially when a proposition is not only nuts (empirically, morally, or both) but is also, fortunately, a minority view. (This is why I wouldn't debate Jesus mythers, for example.) But when it becomes necessary to answer something, there are ways of doing so that involve giving it the least amount of oxygen possible and making sure there can be no mistake about whether one is treating it as a respectable or truly open or difficult question. Otherwise, one can indeed give the impression that, as I'm afraid all too many people think about Peter Singer, the view isn't really all that bad.

The views of academic freedom that Prof. George is advocating have a kind of likable simplicity about them precisely because they are unqualified and overstated, but that is their downfall. Like many slogans, the claim that we must not stigmatize anybody who deals in the coin of academic debate sounds great, and in fact applies in many real-life cases, but it can't stand up to scrutiny when one starts taking it literally.

Peter Singer, I submit, is already in his own person a reductio of such slogans, taken literally. It is therefore rather unfortunate that Prof. George should instead have tried to use him as an examplar of their truth.

Comments (12)

He sets forth his positions with clarity and defends them with rational arguments.

So Prof George believes that there exist rational arguments for infanticide?

The right to academic freedom is held equally by all who are prepared to do business in the currency of academic discourse: a currency consisting of reasons and arguments.

Irrespective of the starting assumptions? I think Prof George is a befuddled conservative. IT is them that yelp the most for academic freedom and the free and endless flow of arguments. (just like Ryan Anderson and company-rubbing their hands together at prospects of spending decades spinning ever better counter-arguments against same-sex marriage).

Bedarz, in case you haven't yet figured out, I think you're something of a crank. That is true even though in part of your comment you are agreeing with me here. Both George and Anderson do have excellent arguments against same-sex "marriage," as we've discussed on other threads. I don't imagine they rub their hands at the weary prospect of making those arguments in an increasingly insane public square, and indeed it would be better if the matter had never been made an issue. But I'm glad they've made the arguments since it _is_ an issue, and they are useful for people who aren't _entirely_ insane on that particular issue yet. (Those who are, are intransigent, but that is no detriment to the arguments.)

And no, this entire thread is not going to be taken over with your silly rants against the defenders of real marriage for making arguments or defending themselves in court, etc. So please understand that.

Lydia, I like the fact that you have repeatedly characterized Singerian views as insane. This is an important facet of what George is missing.

Society has a right and duty to decide matters of truth, even when there are differing claims by differing points of view. If I write a check for $20 million and insist to my bank that they honor it because (I believe) that money is in my account, and take them to court when they refuse, society has the duty to judge that the views of my bank's accountant are correct and my views are not. The fact that I "sincerely hold" my view doesn't mean society can withhold judgment and let the "marketplace of ideas" roll around on it. The merchant who sold me a "previously unknown da Vinci" for $5 million can't "decide for his part" that my check is good, while the bank janitor decides for his part that it is not because he won't be paid otherwise. There HAS to be areas that society decides on, and nuts to the disfavored view. Society really can decide "no, your argument is _just_plain_wrong, regardless of the plausibility it has to some people."

And there has to be matters of claims of truth that society has the capacity to say "no, that's insane. People who think that (sincerely) are insane and need to be locked up." Even if the people who hold them do so politely, with rational-sounding arguments, with kind demeanor and pleasant acknowledgments of 'disputed POVs', and "have another doughnut". To refuse to say there are limits based on content alone is to hand society over to insanity, literally.

The right to academic freedom is held equally by all who are prepared to do business in the currency of academic discourse: a currency consisting of reasons and arguments....[snip] It is for the sake of the common good of the university as a knowledge-seeking institution that we must honor — fully and not merely formally — the academic freedom of all who are willing to do business in the currency of academic discourse.

Robbie George makes 2 (at least) other errors here. First, regarding the nature of the "the university" and the "academy" in "academic freedom". The university is not, first and foremost, above all, the place in which new truth, previously unknown to society, is searched out and acquired. That's not it, that is neither historically nor currently nor in principle nor in practice the MAIN reality of "what the university is for." Universities are and have always been primarily schools, for the teaching of the young. By far the vast majority of teaching the young consists in handing down what is already known. (This remains true even if prefaced by the qualifier "so far as we know to this point".) The associated and secondary roles of new experiment, investigation, and discourse toward still better understanding of truth than society has heretofore obtained have always been located at the university because that is a convenient location, given that it already houses many of the best-educated men, who are undertaking the teaching of the young.

If you were to separate out the two functions, both in place as well as in the people doing them, then we would see clearly the vast, immense difference between hiring a Peter Singer to teach the young his outre and experimental theories, and hiring a Peter Singer to investigate and discuss solely among already mature, educated adults the limits of sane thinking.

The second mistake is George's flawed use of "freedom" in the expression "academic freedom". All freedom, if it is human, resides in a pre-existing context: freedom is capacity to progress toward flourishing. And "flourishing" requires the backdrop of "for a human". A sadist isn't making an offer of real freedom to say "I am giving you a free choice, you are free to cut off your own finger, or you are free to die." Because neither "option" represents real progress toward human flourishing. Freedom spoken of without acknowledgment of human nature is mere word play.

And it isn't "freeing" to present to young minds, before they have the grounding and wherewithal to parse the reasons for it, insane ideas that have the appearance of plausibility. This is one reason why we do not put before high school kids deep problems of advanced philosophy. We do not present 3rd graders with the serious moral dilemma-like problems of history. Just as nobody has the moral right to yell "fire" in a crowded theater when there is no fire, so also a mature adult philosopher has no right to impose on immature freshman minds problems of philosophy that graduate students would have trouble with.

The university leadership has a positive duty to regulate the teaching so as to prevent such a mis-match of capacity and difficulty. That mis-match will not actually promote freedom properly understood. And, again, society as a whole and the university authorities in particular have the right and duty to JUDGE between the ideas (and presentations) that are properly put before young minds to encourage them to grow into maturity, and the matters that will wilt them as too-intense sun wilts a new shoot of grass. While there might be SOME forum in which a properly complete philosopher can and should take on Singer in order to dispose of his theories, saying that it should be the university merely because that's the most convenient location of studied leisure in our society is to forget WHY it is the most convenient location of studied leisure - the teaching of the young. Granting a Singer access to those young minds isn't actually in pursuit of freedom properly understood.

And there is no principled reason why a person like Singer must be _given_ a platform to spout insanity, let him do it from his own if he wants. (Taking away the gratis offer of platforms and their paid lifestyle might dry up about 90% of the insanity, anyway).

People in offices of responsibility have the real duty to judge matters of judgment and not let them be decided by "processes" or pro-forma rules and such. It is inherently a matter of judgment to decide when a teacher's ideas are "a little odd" but not dangerous to freshmen, or "quite disturbed" but not dangerous to the more advanced seniors, or "insane and not to be granted any platform we have at our disposal." The real basis for academic freedom does not extent a writ for any and every idea that can be expressed in fine form, for any and all audiences. Heck, even movie producers submit to the judgment of ratings boards on which movies are fit for different audiences. University administrators have no less a role.

I love this line:

Heinous systems are something humanity is pretty good at cranking out.

Yes, indeed.

Tony, I think your distinction between a place for the education of the young and a place for the exploration and discovery of new ideas is well-taken, and you make a fascinating point that the university has become both more or less by default, without much thought concerning the difficulties of trying to meld the two functions.

I would (and I'm sure you would agree with me) go even farther and say that, even if we separate out the function of discussing and investigating new ideas among mature people, there are ideas that ought to be stigmatized. This is related to my claim that "scholarly" papers pushing certain ethical claims ought not to get space at conferences and so forth.

I think this is importantly related to the notion that the human mind can rationally grasp ethical truth in a strong and immediate fashion. It is not an opaque question as to whether farming human beings for cannibalism is wrong or whether infanticide is wrong. Therefore, there is no chance that, by giving positions and platforms to those advocating such views, even in venue that are chiefly for mature reflection among the educated few, we are possibly fueling genuinely new discoveries in ethics. In that respect, science and ethics are quite different, the latter being far more an a priori matter and theories therein subject to fairly direct reductio ad absurdam. In contrast, if someone proposes to revive the ether theory, it could be genuinely useful and interesting for physicists to listen to his argument.

Even in empirical disciplines, of course, decisions have to be made, since resources are not limitless. But in a purely empirical discipline there is always a danger to be balanced with the desire not to waste time and money--namely, the danger that some true theory will be overlooked in the name of maintaining the status quo so as to avoid waste. We will all have our favorite examples of that sort of sclerotic approach to the empirical sciences.

In ethics, however, there is a kind of false tentativeness involved in saying that we wouldn't want to block anything out of the marketplace of ideas lest we miss something. That seems to imply that we can't really know for certain that anything is wrong! Hence, that we have to be careful lest, in stigmatizing anything at all in the ethical realm, however heinous, we might miss out on a new insight that would show us that infanticide isn't really wrong--a new discovery. This is to my mind an incorrect notion of the capacity of the human mind to grasp morals rationally, and it leads to oddities such as implying that there really are _rational_ arguments for infanticide--which surely must involve some equivocation on "rational."

Another result of this false tentativeness is the inevitable degree of patronization that comes out even in Prof. George's article. For example, there is this:

Freedom of thought and expression and academic freedom are for everyone — not just those whose views others find congenial.

In the context, this seems to mean that, if you think it's a scandal that Singer has the position he has, this arises from the mere fact that you "don't find his views congenial"--surely a very milk and water way of referring to what is wrong with his views!

Elsewhere (in a part I didn't quote) he says,

There is a profound and important principle here, one that we must honor no matter the offense we take, or even hurt we may feel, at someone’s ideas or their public advocacy.

I note again the ineliminable condescension. Those who are horrified at Singer's prominence and position are characterized as taking offense and feeling hurt. There is no room here for manly, mature, righteous anger leading to absolute rejection of vile and insane ideas. There is in this picture room only for "not finding congenial" and "feeling hurt."

Again, I think this arises from an overly limited notion of what the rational mind can grasp and how firmly it can grasp it.

But this isn't just about tenure, is it? Prof. George does not simply say, "For Princeton to rescind the tenure of a professor for the content of the views he holds would be unwise" or even "would be wrong."

It would also be precisely the sort of thing that would happen if he published a paper that touched on group differences in a non-approved way. Ironically, driving Singer from professional life and into destitution for advocating such horrible things is precisely the sort of scalp-taking that conservatives in academia need to undertake in order to make it clear that the consequences of abandoning pluralism is open culture war, not whatever this is where conservatives let the SJWs beat up on them while claiming to take the moral high ground by not fighting back.


Full agreement here. My college professor once was asked what to do with an immoral debater who refused to recognize the wrongness of his immorality? He cared not for what the law said, nor the Bible, nor the public opinion polls, nor God himself. He stubbornly refused to admit that wrong was, well, wrong. So, professor, what do you do? "Rub his nose in what he advocates." That strategy is stigma, and it has its place.

Also, I loved this quote:

Otherwise we get the worst of both worlds--evil must be tolerated but good may be ostracized.

This is the current cultural climate; we are getting the worst of both worlds.

I misremembered: it was not decades but years to come.
This is from Matthew J Franck at the Public Discourse on 29th June.

” But Obergefell is also embarrassingly bad as a contribution to the political and social debate on marriage. From this I take heart that the battle can be rejoined, with the making of better arguments—each side offering its best against the other’s best—in a struggle that will continue for years to come."

I do not think it is off-topic. Precisely the error (strategic and tactical) you diagnose in Robert P George is visible here.

Yes, that's a really silly quote from Franck. I agree with you there. It is your other comments from other threads to the effect that we should not argue and should not have argued in the public square and particularly not in court to which I was alluding.

In any event, I am not saying that for Robert George to offer arguments is wrong, either morally or strategically. I was explicit about that in the main post.

Can I just say, I wouldn't say acts like refusing to offer a person like Singer a job, or refusing to publish his articles, or even (if someone could grow a spine) firing the guy, even COUNT as a stigma? Those are all professional level treatment for his failing his own profession. That's all.

Stigma would be to go even further, and apply social reprisals for his refusal to recognize what "beyond the pale" means: leaving a party when he shows up, not introducing him in a reception line, turning you back on him when he wants to discuss the weather or traffic, your lawn or his sidewalk, telling your kids not to treat him as a respected neighbor, shop owners saying "I would rather not sell you anything, please leave." These are the effects of stigma.

It should go without saying that he should not get professional level rewards for failing his profession (and society). But that's not a punishment, not a penal response, it is simply not granting what he hasn't earned. Stigma would be imposing social penalties for going beyond the bounds of civilized behavior. And (nicely enough) as social rather than legal, there is no place for things like waiting for officials to charge, try and convict - social penalties don't work that way.

Tony, I like the way you think. I suppose one could differentiate "professional stigma" and "social stigma."

I want to draw attention to your phrase "failing his profession." I think your Thomism is showing there, in a good way. This is related to what I said above about the ability of the mind to grasp truth. The use of the profession of philosophy as Singer has used it is, quite precisely, sophistry. It is an abuse of the profession. It is using the _outward forms_ of the profession to advance a conclusion that is obviously *contrary to reason* and hence contrary to the love of wisdom, aka philosophy. The problem with Prof. George's article is that he is mistaking the outward forms of the profession for the true coin of the profession. He even uses the word "currency." But what Singer is offering is a counterfeit. If I may misquote the Apostle Paul, this is having the form of philosophy, but denying the power thereof. Prof. George never tells us why we should agree that any position whatsoever that dresses itself up in the garb of the profession automatically deserves to be treated as a respected part of the profession and could not be an abuse of the profession. And if it is an abuse of the profession, then it doesn't deserve the professional rewards--job, prestige, speaking gigs, conference spots, etc. In order to say those things, though, one has to have the confidence to say that some things really are an abuse of the appearance of reason, really are sophistry, despite their outward form. George for some reason seems not only to lack that confidence himself but to be chiding it in others.

We can turn Peter Singer against himself by getting enough people to prefer him to be stranded on some isolated island. https://www.change.org/p/the-majority-of-people-with-preferences-lock-peter-singer-up

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