Fleshing out the University (Pt .4)

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Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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  1. Avatar Ian M.
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    says:

    I work in the research science side of the liberal arts and that may be where the conservative intellectuals end up. Political talk at the mixers and whatnot is generally very light – the type of thing you might get from anyone who listens to NPR in the morning and watches the evening noon. I wouldn’t say the percentages of conservative/liberal are reversed, but closer to 50/50.
    One thing about having a research group is that you have to compete for grant money, manage a group (technicians, grad students, post-docs) and conserve resources. Each group is run like a small business so a lot of libertarian leaning folks find it compelling – they fail or succeed pretty much on their own merits.
    If this is old ground covered in previous posts in the series, my apologies.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Ian M.
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      says:

      No, it’s a good point. It seems like this breaks down quite a lot by department. I often hear that history is a conservative department (and what we do is quite literally cultural conservatism), but I find it’s pretty hard to commit to any political program when you remember the past and how all of them have shipwrecked, frequently, in the modern era. Interestingly, many of the examples people have given of ideological or skewed scholarship seem to have come from the lit departments.Report

  2. Avatar BlaiseP
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    says:

    Nunc dimittis. Do Conservatives want Affirmative Action of some sort to bolster their presence in the Academy, on the basis of their politics ? That’s how this reads. What am I missing here?Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to BlaiseP
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      says:

      That’s an impossible question to answer- no, they don’t want any sort of affirmative action based on their politics, but they do frequently claim widespread systemic discrimination against their politics in the profession, which would seem to be unanswerable without some sort of affirmative action.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F.
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        says:

        As for me, here’s what I want: I have a lot of bright students in my senior-level history course and most of them want to go to grad school. I want the senior history major who sits in the front and carries her books in a McCain/Palin tote bag, who is acing the course, to know that she will do fine in grad school if she chooses to go and not have anybody, knowingly or unknowingly, discourage her from entering the profession. That’s all.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Rufus F.
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          says:

          How noble of you. How very considerate of you to believe the girl with the McCain/Palin bag shouldn’t endure the discrimination in grad school that John McCain and Sarah Palin advocate for illegal aliens, who are, after all, just trying to move up in the world like her.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to BlaiseP
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            says:

            Yeah, I’m a real dick there.Report

            • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F.
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              says:

              You think maybe I should flunk her?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Rufus F.
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                says:

                This is a begged question. We have already established she’s acing the course. If History is to teach us anything, it’s this: there is always a sinecure in the halls of power for a Heresy Detector and he usually commands a few platoons of Inquisitors Poursuivant. They take their positions very seriously.

                History shows us plainly how these people work, the positions they take, why they take them and the characteristics of their enemies. Invariably their enemies are freethinkers, especially atheists, scientists, feminists and levelers. If these have retreated into the Ivory Tower of Academia and now hurl down chamberpots on the Conservatives, history provides the reasons they do so.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                Well, and how the halls of power eventually respond.

                All I’m saying about this student is that I try to encourage her just like I try to encourage all the bright students. I’m not saying there’s anything noble or even peculiar about that. But it puts me at odds with those who would discourage her. And I’ve already said, “there’s also a noticeable irony that the people in America who are most loudly discouraging conservatives from entering academia are other conservatives.”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Rufus F.
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                says:

                That is not what you are saying. Here is what you are saying:

                On the one side, academia should not only recognize and acknowledge that the profession has a weak spot, but work to increase support for aspiring conservative academics- scholarships for research into areas of interest for conservatism, conferences, or even interdisciplinary departments to study the history of conservative thought, and public roundtables to discuss topics of interest would help- the things we would do for any other underrepresented group in academia.

                That is, to put it bluntly, Affirmative Action. Do even bother to deny it. Conservatism wants not only a seat at the table but the podium as well, without so much as a single paper submitted. Sermons they have in plenty, but they are not quite up to this Peer Review business, as you have manifestly demonstrated with your nasty Begged Questions.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                I’ve already apologized for the begged question. You asked if conservatives want affirmative action and I said I don’t think they do. I’m not a conservative. I never have been a conservative.

                As for peer review, I’m still here willing to discuss this, although you’ve claimed that you cannot reason with me, based on a single comment. If it’s your opinion that one intemperate comment on a blog thread proves that I’m not up to discussing this rationally with you, I’d imagine not many would live up to that standard.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                Yeah, that happens to him a lot.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                Seconds out, Jaybird.

                As for you, Rufus, insofar as you exhibit some respect for my positions, I’ll return the courtesy. Une hirondelle ne fait pas le printemps. Your apology is accepted.

                You still haven’t clarified how this Fleshing Out the University isn’t Affirmative Action. Do continue along that vein, making your case why the Academy should make room at the table for Conservatives, strictly on the basis of their politics. The Conservatives have made hay on the Academy’s making a place at the table for every other minority, including ones they feel do not deserve such a place or such protections.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                I’m not sure I said it wouldn’t be affirmative action. I thought you asked if Conservatives support affirmative action in the case of academia and I said I don’t think they do, but honestly I really don’t know.

                At any rate, I’ve never been opposed to affirmative action, nor any of the other academic programs that conservatives call affirmative action. For instance, many of them call Women’s Studies affirmative action for feminist scholars whose work wouldn’t otherwise be accepted as scholarship. I don’t agree with that. I think Women’s Studies, African-American Studies, Queer Studies, Disability Studies, etc. etc. all of them have enriched the academy by including other viewpoints that might not have been well-served under the traditional departments. This doesn’t mean that they haven’t had to produce scholarship or do good work in order to succeed; just that they were most likely limited in the traditional department structure. I’m suggesting that academia could try the same thing with conservatism. I suppose the political aspect of it might be a bit different, but here I think of Women’s Studies as making room for feminist thought and earlier fields as making room for socialist thought, so that doesn’t bother me. If that’s affirmative action, I’m okay with it. To be honest, I’ve always considered the “problems” people claim are caused by affirmative action to be on the order of importance of how many people wear white after Labor Day.

                I realize that, if this is affirmative action, it would be hypocritical of conservatives to support it, and I don’t think they’ll drop the animus against universities anyway. But, again, you can call me a conservative if you wish, but I don’t answer to the name.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                If I have presumed you’re a Conservative, it’s on the strength of what you seem to advocate. Nobody wants to be Labeled so I won’t do it to you. “To label me is to negate me” said Kierkegaard.

                The soi-disant Conservative deserves no more place at the table than anyone else. Let him fight for it on his own. Let History show the Conservatism of the last hundred years has resolutely set itself in enmity to the Academy, to all science and freethinkers, preferring instead to set up its own parodies thereof, where they do apply litmus tests and expel their heretics.

                I’m a Quine-ish sort of thinker: most of our conclusions lack much evidence to support them. That being the case, we are all best served to gather more evidence. Adding more conclusions to the mix is not the solution: let those Conservative Concluders bring their evidence to the peer review committee for inspection.Report

              • Avatar Heideger in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                Blaise, Blaise, Blaise, why hath thou forsaken me?

                Okay, let’s get serious here. THAT is NOT AFFIRMATIVE ACTION. You: ” How very considerate of you to believe the girl with the McCain/Palin bag shouldn’t endure the discrimination in grad school that John McCain and Sarah Palin advocate for illegal aliens, who are, after all, just trying to move up in the world like her.”
                What specific acts of discrimination have McCain and Sarah Palin been advocating to be used against illegal aliens that would not be used against legal aliens? And most oddly, you’re conflating Affirmative Action with illegal immigration. A most convoluted and abstruse nexis of logic to be sure. Blaise, it just could not get more simpler: Affirmative Action is Reverse Discrimination. Period. And this is regardless of what racial group discriminated against. In the University of Michigan case, Jennifer Gratz vs. Bollinger, the Supreme Court, by a vote of 6-3, ruled that it was unconstitutional to award points for admission based solely on race. And yes, like it or not, Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher were denied admission because of the color of their skin. That, my friend, IS Affirmative Action AND Reverse Discrimination.

                Hey, does this work? “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Heideger
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                says:

                Denial is not rebuttal. I inserted that bit of trollery precisely in response to this bit:

                Finally, sometimes there are lazy mental shortcuts in the discourse that are taken uncritcally because they’re stereotypically liberal (gender is contructed, crime is the result of a racist society, anti-abortion means anti-woman, etc.) As I’ve phrased it, there’s a sort of consensus effect over time that is less terrible than outright discrimination, but harder to ameliorate because it is less conscious for the most part.

                Now folks, in the Liberal Camp, we call that Consciousness Raising. In China, they still have public meetings where the Counter-Revolutionaries are paraded onto the platform, held by the elbows and made to issue a Self-Criticism.

                Rufus’ invitation to Self-Criticism, smothered in a sauce of weasel words is unadulterated bullshit, from stem to stern and is declined. Putting words in Liberal’s mouths seems an acceptable tradition: the very idea, that there isn’t a racial component to crime when the prisons are disproportionately jammed full of black men. The Conservatives created this War on Drugs: let them be set to rights by their Libertarian counterparts, the only honest people I’ve ever found on that side of the table.

                Now, perhaps it’s high time the Conservatives were made to get their fat, judgmental, rhetorically-challenged ass off their High Horses and run a few miles in the hot hot sun with Drill Instructor Blaise. Pain is the sensation of stupidity and weakness leaving the body.Report

              • Avatar Heideger in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                Hey, that sounds like fun!! A few years ago I ran the Death Valley Marathon in July–and in 122 frosty degree temperatures. Brrrrr. Death stared me in the eye for the last five miles–hallucinations of penguins, and polar bears and icebergs got me across the finish line and believe you me, “finish” was the right word. I was so delirious (not the fun kind) I was screaming for a priest so I could receive Extreme Unction. You remember that word don’t you–
                Extreme Unction–yes, death rights, last rights, in the Extreme. So, all in all a lot of fun–recommend it for everyone, especially if you have a bit of a death wish. And also a life long desire to run a Marathon with the Grim Reaper right by your side.

                Hey Blaise–check out my soon to be, new toy!! Make your reservations early–also, have openings for young female flight attendants–no experience necessary!Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                The Army boot ruined my feet and my great toe nails continue to harbour a particularly nasty jungle rot. I am reduced to bicycling.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                Mr. P., you’ve said that you don’t like me putting words in your mouth. Okay. The suggestion that what I’m really calling for is Self-Criticism, or that I’m saying that there’s no racial component to incarceration is not quite putting words in my mouth- but it’s reading the words in a way they weren’t intended, not even behind the weasel words.

                Here’s what I was thinking of- last week, Thursday afternoon at about 2:30- at a department seminar on crime in public housing complexes in the 70s- when we discussed the problem, we all agreed that crime is the direct result of the racism of the larger society and nothing else. Of course we did. We’re all left-leaning academics. These are the sorts of things we assume.

                I am not saying that race plays no part in crime or incarceration. All I am saying, seriously, is that I spend all of my free time and working time with other academics, and sometimes the discourse gets extremely boring because of all the things that we just assume to be 100% true. All of the examples I gave were based on conversations I’ve had with other academics. When I say we should question our assumptions more, I am *not* arguing that we should confess our failings in public or anything of the sort.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                I was around to watch the Cabrini Green public housing projects be constructed. I watched as black mothers and their fatherless children were stuffed into them in great numbers, since those were the only people who met the insane criteria of those times. Their children were stuffed into Cook County Jail, where I taught literacy for a while, back when there were funds for such things. There aren’t now, but I digress.

                Racism is more than Jim Crow. Racism is the tyranny of lowered expectations and the Tiger Traps this society in its parsimony, yes and racism too, has dug for poor people. As it happens, the set of (Poor Union Black) in the inner cities is damned near equal to (Poor AND Black). Because Chicago didn’t want those black people in their white neighborhoods, they confined them to Cabrini and Charles Taylor Homes.

                Of course it was racism. To deny it is to fly in the face of what I saw at the time and what any competent scholar of the period would tell you.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                Ugh. Is there a point to all this nasty?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                Um, yes. Rufus said the Boring Discussion on Housing Projects had concluded racism was the problem and nothing else.

                What that else might be is not made clear. It’s all quite mysterious, to be sure. I strongly suspect Rufus does have some opinions on what that else might be, but as in that Boring Discussion, they weren’t and aren’t being articulated.

                Rufus makes his argument via a fallacy I’ll call Veiled Inference, a genteel variety of the Bad Faith Argument. We are told that Bob believes crime is the direct result of the racism of the larger society. Alice, however, believes there’s Something Else. What Alice believes that Something Else might be is left for us to surmise, but whatever it is, Rufus will tell us we’re casting aspersions on Alice if we make any guesses.

                But if we are to take either McArdle or Rufus seriously, the putative ostracism of Conservatives in academia (though not one substantive example has been presented, either here on McArdle’s site) might be an expression of Liberal Bigotry. But Rufus is careful to cover his tracks: the Conservatives have been Big Hatin’ on Academia for half a century in a very public way and he sprinkles all that like so much foo-foo dust over both his point and his Affirmative Action solution. When confronted, oh well, both McArdle and Rufus do their Hamlet impersonation,

                “That’s an impossible question to answer- no, they don’t want any sort of affirmative action based on their politics”

                “I was extremely gratified that more than one conservative either commented or wrote to say “You know what? For the first time, I understand why people favor affirmative action–I’m really rethinking how I felt about it.” Sadly, I did not get a similar reaction from academics, perhaps because conservatives are stupider and didn’t recognize all the problems with my arguments ;-).”

                I’m specially diggin’ the emoticon. McArdle wanders around, her head in her hands, oh what shall we doooo about these poor Conservatives, standing pitifully outside the gates of the Academy, shivering in the cold, denied the opportunity to slag on the Academy from within it.

                Sorry Megan. You weren’t around for the 60s when it was the Left doing it. As Steely Dan put it “All those Day-Glo freaks who used to paint their face / They’ve joined the human race / Life can be very strange.”Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                Yes, you really have a lot of strong suspicions about what I might Really be saying that shape your responses to what I’ve actually said, don’t you?

                Every single time I write something even vaguely nuanced, you argue that I must be using weasel words to cover up a more hardline argument that I really mean underneath it all. You just don’t do nuance, do you? More like sniffing out the enemy and bullying them, it seems. I’m either with you 100% or against you 100%. Easier to comprehend that way. Weasels do nuance.

                Again, I meant exactly what I wrote. We were discussing the crime rate in a local housing project- specifically why it had doubled in a two year period in the 70s. We wondered why that happened and none of us had any explanation aside from societal racsim for it. Including me. That seemed a bit flimsy. Maybe there’s other factors. But, get this straight- I don’t have some alternate explanation that I’m really, in my lying way, trying to suggest; nor did I ever say anything remotely along the lines of that horseshit about how I’ll say your casting aspersions on Alice if you make any guesses as to what it would be.

                Seriously, who the fuck are you arguing with here?! You’ve gone past the point of claiming that I’m “really” saying things I’m not saying to making claims about what I would say in a given hypothetical based on what you think I’m really saying here. I have absolutely no faith whatsoever that it would be possible to have a discussion with you on this or any other topic. You’ve got an axe to grind with someone else. But get this straight- nobody came here to be bullied by a hardliner.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                “But if we are to take either McArdle or Rufus seriously, the putative ostracism of Conservatives in academia (though not one substantive example has been presented, either here on McArdle’s site) might be an expression of Liberal Bigotry. “

                Well Blaise, I wasn’t expecting this, but you’ve given me new appreciation for the other liberals and Left-libertarians who comment here. Anybody can be wrong, but it takes real talent achieve this Olympian level of nasty.

                The idea that you would cheapshot a fourth-year undergraduate for carrying a McCain-Palin bag is not at all ridiculous. I can’t tell if that’s what is offending you, but it has nothing to do with anything Rufus wrote. Your own words betray vindictiveness and lack of self-control much worse than anything Rufus could have written.

                Some people say we should disagree without being disagreeable. For me, that’s naive to expect even if it’s good to hope for. So let me say this instead. With the Right, society carries the possibility that one person can engage another and between them develop financial, spiritual, cultural resources that wouldn’t be created otherwise. These resources are the raw materials for any solution to the big ticket problems. With the Left we have no such hope.

                It would pain me a great deal to take the gift of life and health and spend it on mindless nihilism.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Heideger
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                says:

                Now, now. Remember that Puppy, Rufus. I, too, wonder who I am arguing with, what with all this something else fan dance you have been putting on. That is the gist of my latest screed.

                And you have yet to apologize for your nasty aspersion about flunking your Ace Student. Crime in Cabrini Green went up in the 70s because black women were dumped there with their children in tow in the late 60s and those kids grew up. That’s a simple fact and you haven’t denied it.

                Nor, sir, have you explicated what this Something Else might be, a little gloss from you on that subject might not be owed, but would elevate your position from this condescending bullshit. I have said previously the disproportionate number of black men in prison is concomitant with their poverty, not their race. But in no way does this deny why so many black people are poor: that would be institutional racism.

                It is true, you are no Hard Liner. A hard line would imply you actually take a stand on something.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Rufus F.
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              says:

              (roars of laughter) come out, come out, wherever you are. Nobody has called you a dick. Those who carry around McCain/Palin bags must learn to defend their positions. Self-pity and taking umbrage are the contemptible tactics of fussy children. What’s needed is more Rhetoric, lots of Cicero especially. What do they teach children these days?Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                Sure, but a big part of the problem here is that students aren’t taught to defend their positions, whatever they are, anymore. When I started instructing, I asked what I should say if I posed a question in class and someone answered with something that was flat out wrong- “Don’t outright tell them they’re wrong, because that could hurt their feelings- instead agree with them in a way that steers them towards the correct answer.” I thought this was ridiculous until the first time I said, “Oh, no, that’s wrong” in class at the student looked at me like I’d kicked his puppy.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F.
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                says:

                Incidentally, I do still tell students when they’re wrong. I just make a point at the beginning of the class of saying, “Don’t take it personally. If I didn’t respect your intelligence, I wouldn’t correct you from time to time.”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Rufus F.
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                says:

                Well, insofar as I’m not banned from here, you will never again resort to putting words in my mouth, especially not Dick. In other words, if there are Other Words, I will say them for myself. You took it personally, and I shall hold you to your word about that Kicked Puppy business.

                The Conservative has made his bed very hard. The Academy is Liberal by default: the Conservatives have taken to condemning the Academy as a Bastion of Liberalism. There’s a reason the ballot is secret, it’s so we don’t have to wear our politics on our sleeves. In all my long years since I turned away from Conservatism, I have never met a Conservative honest enough to grant a single positions of mine so much as as “so stipulated”, though I’ve said it here, even within the short period of time I’ve been here, many times.

                It is my observation what passes for Conservatism these days is far too doctrinaire, too set in its ways, too assured of its own righteousness to ever survive in the to-and-fro of the Academy. In short, as you have demonstrated, when confronted, they are brittle and instantly resort to ad hominem and begged questions. I cannot reason with such people.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                Fair enough. I appologize for bristling at that and making the dick comment. You did not call me a dick.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                I am more offended by the suggestion of flunking this McCain/Palin girl.

                I have watched John McCain for lo these many years and concluded he is a contemptible opportunist, an effete child (and husband) of privilege as George W. Bush. Excused his many failures both as an airman and a prisoner of war, he is, in the words of Captain Beefheart, a Zig-Zag Wanderer.

                And still, what passes for Conservatism in these parlous times would put such a man in the Oval Office. As for Sarah Palin, well, the less said the better, but Contemptible Opportunists of a feather will flock together.

                I will tell you plainly what is keeping Conservatives out of academia. They are True Believers, the spirit of inquiry is dead in their camp and the dead hand of Doctrine is spread over them in a dreadful benediction of bilious ignorance. They do not deserve so much as a bucket of warm piss until they exhibit some humility and demonstrate some scholarship. Should they rouse themselves from their dead asses, fumble around, load an APA template into their word processing software and write a few papers, they will be welcome within the Academy. But not a moment sooner.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                “I will tell you plainly what is keeping Conservatives out of academia. They are True Believers, the spirit of inquiry is dead in their camp and the dead hand of Doctrine is spread over them in a dreadful benediction of bilious ignorance. “

                Okay, well, I’m not thinking about the True Believers and there’s nothing I can do if they don’t want to enter the Academy. I don’t imagine they make up the entirety of conservatives, however, because I do get undergrads who apparently vote Republican and also “exhibit some humility and demonstrate some scholarship.” So long as they do the latter, I couldn’t care less if they do the former. I’m sure you agree, and really I’ve never met anyone in the profession who doesn’t agree. But, the urban legend has it otherwise.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                That’s excellent news. Conservative is an adjective, I’ve always maintained. No thinking person could possibly stomach the current GOP positions on everything and in charity, I will assume they don’t. There’s a difference between Philosophy and Politics, but you’d have to study some Marx to see it written out for the first time. I’ve yet to meet a Conservative who’s actually studied Marx in depth, but then, I must in charity suppose many of them have.

                I presume the factions of every new generation must give rise to its own political ethos. I can only hope a new generation of Republicans emerge to stand up for the principles of Madison and a sound republic, for the current bunch are a sorry lot, vindictive fearmongers followed by an uneducated rabble, intent upon destroying what remains of our public education system with nothing to replace it.Report

              • Avatar Heideger in reply to BlaiseP
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                Forgive me, Blaise, for such a silly question, but has anyone even considered that the idea of entering the Academy has absolutely no appeal for Republicans/Conservatives? When you really think about it, why would it? Conservatives do things, build things, build businesses, yes, create wealth and opportunities and jobs for many, many people. Why would they want to be stuck in some stuffy academic fortress with a bunch of nitwit, Left-wing eggheads, who will never be able to see the forest through the trees? Give me the outdoors, any day, pal.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP
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                Heidegger, Heidegger. Rufus made this point.

                Secondly, we can’t ignore the fact that public conservatives have been making the case for four decades that academia is not for them. There is something profoundly un-conservative about trying to bring down one (barely) remaining center of cultural authority as a blow for ‘democracy’ or to suit one’s own political agenda

                It seems the wealthiest states are also the Bluest states. Yer Garden Variety Conservative hails from a bit farther down the Road to Serfdom than he’d like to admit.Report

          • Avatar dexter in reply to BlaiseP
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            says:

            I think illegal aliens should have every right that Americans have including being arrested for breaking the law.Report

            • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to dexter
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              says:

              Not sure where you’re going with this. Illegally entering this country is itself a misdemeanor in most jurisdictions, IIRC.

              So are you arguing that we ought to be locking people up for misdemeanors? Aren’t the prisons overcrowded enough already?Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Pat Cahalan
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                I think he was saying that he’s currently registering adult illegal aliens to vote, since that’s a right that Americans have.Report

              • Avatar Heideger in reply to Rufus F.
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                says:

                Thanks Blaise for bringing it to my attention and apologies to you, Rufus–I promise I didn’t try and steal your words or ideas–just hadn’t gotten around to reading your comments before I posted mine. Your ideas on this subject are very, very good. Thanks.Report

              • Avatar dexter in reply to Rufus F.
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                I was being snarky because I thought Mr. BP was saying that illegals should go to college here. I have stated my thoughts about the illegals before, but to make a long story short, I would not arrest a single illegal alien. I would however apply every law possible against people who hire them. Since the republicans constantly wail about the democrats wanting the illegals because they would all vote straight democratic tickets it might be a good idea if we let them vote. Maybe then we could get some things passed that need to get passed . . . like killing the corn subsidies that I have heard is doing terrible damage to Mexican farmers. The only thing I have against the illegal aliens is that I believe they cost me money.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to dexter
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                says:

                Speaking as a dual-citizen who has been through one immigration system and will eventually go through another one, I would agree with this with one addition- it should be those who knowingly hire illegal aliens. It’s really easy to screw up and realize that you’re not as legal as you thought you were. Let me put it this way- there are illegal aliens and then there are illegal aliens. I don’t think I’ve ever been illegal, but it’s really hard to be 100% sure.Report

              • Avatar dexter in reply to Rufus F.
                Ignored
                says:

                I agree with the knowing part, but it has been my experience that, at least in the construction trades, the bosses knew they were hiring illegals and did it because they were cheaper. The bosses also knew there would be no repercussions. I have sympathy for people who are trying to get here legally.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to dexter
                Ignored
                says:

                @dexter : I was merely trolling in a desultory fashion, making an obtuse jape about a complex issue on which sensible people can disagree without defending the obviously-broken and hideously unfair system.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to dexter
              Ignored
              says:

              Absolutely. When I see those Fine Upstanding American folks who hire these illegal aliens being stuffed in the back seat of the patrol cars after being arrested for noncompliance with tax withholding laws, then let’s talk.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Rufus F.
        Ignored
        says:

        The questions seems quite straightforward. How do we correct it? With the very form of action they most despise, the form their thinkers most viciously oppose. No, the Conservative has isolated himself from the Academy. He may go, hat in hand, to Oral Roberts (very fine sports program) or to Liberty or some Bible College or anywhere his calumnies against the Academy might prove more welcome.

        I used to have a refrigerator magnet in my house. In Wild West type, the sort you’d read on a Wanted handbill of the 1860s, it read: “Children! Leave Home While You Still Know Everything!”

        No, I see no need to treat the Conservative any different than he has treated the Academy. Over all the long years he has shit on my value system of freedom of thought and the rights of man and of the rampant, unscientific attacks on those who espouse those views, no, I see no need for Affirmative Action for those who have made a point of denying it to others. Academia would not suit them, temperamentally.Report

        • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to BlaiseP
          Ignored
          says:

          > I will tell you plainly what is keeping Conservatives
          > out of academia. They are True Believers, the spirit
          > of inquiry is dead in their camp and the dead hand
          > of Doctrine is spread over them in a dreadful
          > benediction of bilious ignorance.

          Change “Conservatives” to “the current incarnation of the GOP” and I’d say this is a bit dramatic, but essentially fair.

          I don’t know that it applies to all Conservatives. I especially don’t know if it would apply to anyone right of center who wants to join The Academy.

          In short, I think Blaise’s objection is more focused on people Rufus isn’t talking about.Report

        • Avatar Heideger in reply to BlaiseP
          Ignored
          says:

          “Over all the long years he has shit on my value system of freedom of thought and the rights of man and of the rampant, unscientific attacks on those who espouse those views, no, I see no need for Affirmative Action for those who have made a point of denying it to others. Academia would not suit them, temperamentally.”

          This is starting to border on some kind of messianic complex disorder, and frankly, I’m a bit worried, Blaise.

          “Over all the long years he has shit on my value system of freedom of thought”—hey, try living in North Korea or Cuba for awhile–the you’d really know what shitting on your freedom of thought was.

          I’m starting to think you have a background in military intelligence. Psyops, probably. Multi-language fluency, facility like how you frequently perform the peeling the onion breakdown of concepts. Fascinating mind there, Blaise. If I could only get you to let go of some your truly wacky conspiracy theories. Also, your obsession with “demonic” and”diabolical” Conservatives is not at all good for your health–mental or physical. Cheer up!Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Heideger
            Ignored
            says:

            Worry away, Herr Heidegger. We seem to be in perfect agreement on the stupidity of Affirmative Action.

            The gods answer the prayers of the stupid, literally and with great promptness. I have watched the GOP wander away from their defense of the republic and into the arms of their corporate pimps. James Madison observed If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy..

            It has arrived, folks. Every abrogation of our rights in law has been quashed while these CINOs wave their hands about and roar at the top of their lungs “We’re at WAAAAR!”Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to BlaiseP
          Ignored
          says:

          “The questions seems quite straightforward. How do we correct it? With the very form of action they most despise, the form their thinkers most viciously oppose. ”

          So you assume that the only possible way to correct a discrepancy is through quotas? That’s a surprisingly simplistic solution coming from an intellectual.

          That is, of course, assuming that you’re seriously discussing the issue and not just trolling, and I’m kind of starting to wonder about that.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to DensityDuck
            Ignored
            says:

            I have not proposed any such thing. I read, (scroll, scroll, mark, copy, paste)

            work to increase support for aspiring conservative academics- scholarships for research into areas of interest for conservatism, conferences, or even interdisciplinary departments to study the history of conservative thought, and public roundtables to discuss topics of interest would help- the things we would do for any other underrepresented group in academia.

            Now if that isn’t Affirmative Action of the most Affirmative and Action-y sort, you tell me why it isn’t.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Rufus F.
        Ignored
        says:

        If conservatives are underrepresented in the Academy even though there are no legal barriers to their entry, we can’t be afraid to consider that on the whole they lack the gifts required to succeed there: an inquiring mind, the ability to understand points of view they happen to disagree with, and an IQ above room temperature.Report

  3. Avatar Pat Cahalan
    Ignored
    says:

    > Making people functionaries who can be fired at any
    > moment tends to increase the likelihood of them
    > speaking truth to power.

    Just an aside, that got a huge laugh.Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to Pat Cahalan
      Ignored
      says:

      To me, that’s the obvious explanation – one of the recurring themes of modern right-wing thought is that freedom to speak one’s mind against real power is to be destroyed whenever found. One of the big reasons that right-wingers hate professors is that professors can say stuff without fear of being fired. Same for unions, of course.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Barry
        Ignored
        says:

        I don’t know about right wing thought, but I don’t think that’s where Sully intended to be going with that idea (an attack on freedom of speech). I think his idea is that untenured people in academia are at the mercy of the tenured for one reason or another, so if we remove tenure, there’s no disparity. Of course, then we’re all at the mercy of ass-covering administrative bureacrats, the more entitled undergrads, the general population and local politicians. So it’s not clear to me how doing that is supposed to empower anyone. I think the real problem is that critics will talk about ending tenure without any clear idea what that’s supposed to fix. They just figure that way we can fire people more easily and someone must be to blame for whatever ails us. Again, I don’t think they’ve thought very hard about what they want to be different or how they want to get there.Report

  4. Avatar Steve S.
    Ignored
    says:

    “half the people you discuss it with want to hear that there is a smaller percentage of conservatives in academia than elsewhere because they’re just not cut out for the profession, while the other half wants to hear that conservatives are either persecuted and ostracized”

    Since I didn’t contend either of these things which half am I in?

    “Nevertheless, the problem will only ever be solved if scholars in the profession, whatever their political orientation, work together with conservatives outside to address the situation.”

    I guess that since our last discussion you have decided that

    1. there is in fact a problem,
    2. the problem does indeed require a remedy,
    3. the remedy is Affirmative Action for conservatives.

    Just so we’re straight about this.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Steve S.
      Ignored
      says:

      Since I didn’t contend either of these things which half am I in?

      The half I forgot. What was your argument again?Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F.
        Ignored
        says:

        Okay, I’ve now reread that discussion.

        “I guess that since our last discussion you have decided that

        1. there is in fact a problem,
        2. the problem does indeed require a remedy,
        3. the remedy is Affirmative Action for conservatives.

        Just so we’re straight about this.”

        The implication is that I was lying then or now, right?

        Let’s go through your points:
        1. Then we agreed that there likely isn’t a “problem” of systemic discrimination to explain the underrepresentation of conservatives in academia. I still don’t see that as a problem. And I suppose the underrepresentation itself is not a problem per se. What I said, in the second paragraph of this post and elsewhere, is that I see the overall effects of that underrepresentation on the intellectual atmosphere and discourse in certain fields as constituting a problem- or at least a weak spot.

        2. I proposed a remedy. I haven’t the slightest belief it will ever be carried out, and I assume the Academy will function just fine nevertheless. So, no, I guess it doesn’t “require” a solution.

        3. My proposed remedy is arguably Affirmative Action. What I said over there was that we don’t practice affirmative action for conservatives in our department. We still don’t.Report

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Rufus F.
          Ignored
          says:

          I know a number of real ‘conservatives’ who work in academia. I dunno, maybe the universities hired them on as tokencons but all of them have written numerous well recv’d books and their classes are always filled, though I’m sure your classes are filled as well Dr. R!
          Did you read Dr. Livingston’s essay on the federated/unitary gummint?Report

        • Avatar Steve S. in reply to Rufus F.
          Ignored
          says:

          “The implication is that I was lying then or now, right?”

          I have neither called anybody a liar nor implied it. What I perceive to be the case is that you were quite coy about the supposed problem and what to do about it in previous discussions. Here is the entire paragraph I quoted from:

          “Nevertheless, the problem will only ever be solved if scholars in the profession, whatever their political orientation, work together with conservatives outside to address the situation. On the one side, academia should not only recognize and acknowledge that the profession has a weak spot, but work to increase support for aspiring conservative academics- scholarships for research into areas of interest for conservatism, conferences, or even interdisciplinary departments to study the history of conservative thought, and public roundtables to discuss topics of interest would help- the things we would do for any other underrepresented group in academia. A kind word of encouragement for our colleagues, regardless of their personal opinions, is always welcome in a profession that is often monastic and isolating.”

          “The problem” is a “weak spot” that can be “solved” by appropriate action. Now for your further points:
          1. I’m afraid I don’t understand the distinction you think you’re making.
          2. This is another instance, as I described above, of you being coy about this, or so it appears to me. My personal feeling is that before one goes about solving problems one first decides that there is a problem, then defines the problem with some precision, then decides if a remedy is possible, then devises potential remedies.
          3. The paragraph I quoted is virtually a definition of Affirmative Action.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Steve S.
            Ignored
            says:

            I’m not trying to be coy. I suspect part of the reason it comes across that way is that I’m treating this as a purely intellectual exercise- I don’t have the slightest thought that any of the measures I’ve suggested will ever be carried out. You’d have to get too many different and antagonistic groups on board together and that won’t happen. And they’d have to agree that underrepresentation-in-itself poses a problem, which I’m not convinced it does. So, could my program “solve” the problem? I’d like to think so- if it wasn’t impossible to carry out. The closest I could see happening in reality is a university calling the bluff of their critics by offering to work together on these things and then being left hanging. But I don’t see them happening in the real world. I know it’s a frustrating distinction between the real and the hypothetical, but it’s underlying what I’ve written in all the posts.

            So:
            1. I meant that before I thought we were asking if the underrepresentation is proof of an underlying “problem” (as opposed to self-selection) or a “problem” in itself versus saying the effects that underrepresentation has on academic discourse are problematic. Maybe it’s a chicken or egg question, or just hair-splitting.

            2. Fair enough. I was trying to propose a hypothetical remedy without taking any of those steps.

            3. In terms of Affirmative Action, I agree that I have in this post detailed a hypothetical Affirmative Action program for conservatives. All I was saying in the previous discussion was that, in real life academia, we don’t have any Affirmative Action programs for conservatives that I know of.Report

      • Avatar Steve S. in reply to Rufus F.
        Ignored
        says:

        Not sure I would call it an argument since, like your posts on the subject, it was more akin to brainstorming, speculation, and sharing of anecdotes, but it was that conservatives are self-selecting out of some parts of academia.

        For the sake of argument let’s say you did a survey of high school seniors and asked them about political affiliation and academic inclination. Let’s say you ask them whether they find different disciplines to be potentially interesting areas of study. Let’s say that for some of the “liberal arts” you get very low numbers of self-described conservatives saying that they are interested, while among self-described liberal students the interest level is much higher. What is the obligation of academicians to seek out the miniscule demographic of people of a given political ideology interested in their discipline? How much time should they spend on this task?

        Since we’re telling anecdotes, here’s another one of mine. After college I worked for a private business for a number of years, interacting with people of all political stripes. When it came up in conversation I would tell people what I studied in school. My experience with the conservatives was not their sighs of exasperation at having not been given the opportunity to study these things, but rather a contempt, thinly veiled by common courtesy, for the idea that these were things that deserved to be studied at all.

        As I said at the top, we’re talking in vague terms about the supposed problem and what to do about it. My feeling is that a vanishingly small proportion of conservatives are interested in, indeed, non-contemptuous of, liberal arts X, Y, and Z in the first place, so we shouldn’t be terribly surprised by the demographics.Report

        • Avatar stillwater in reply to Steve S.
          Ignored
          says:

          Often, when conservatives I know find out I have an advanced degree, they snicker derisively and smirk amongst themselves. I look at them with confusion, since I can’t begin to understand the value scheme of a person who would think the desire for advanced learning is a ripe subject of ridicule.Report

  5. Avatar stillwater
    Ignored
    says:

    the problem will only ever be solved if scholars in the profession, whatever their political orientation, work together with conservatives outside to address the situation.

    Lots going on in this very good post. You sorta untangle the complex web of resentments that motivate much of the ‘anti-conservative’ arguments, exposing them as being ridiculous, then conclude – in the comment above – that there is in fact a problem. It seems your argument at this point simply reduces accepting polling data that indicates very few conservatives in certain disciplines.

    Now, that may be true, but why is it a problem? Is there something intrinsically valuable about the conservative approach to population genetics such that the academy is substantively worse-off for not realizing this ‘blind spot’? Is the conservative approach to particle physics so unique and revolutionary that the academy rejects incorporating it only at its peril?

    Furthermore, what you’re saying in the quoted passage is that the academy ought to take this issue seriously simply because conservatives think its an important issue. Again, the evidence for this simply reduces to a disproportionate lack of self-identified conservatives in the academy. But simply pointing at polling data begs all sorts of questions, which an academic or a liberal or anyone else for that matter, need not take seriously until presented with a compelling argument accounting for this evidence (arguments which you’ve very succinctly demolished in the above post).

    But let me rephrase the above questions more generally: What valuable contributions can a person make to the advancement of knowledge in a given field, all other things being equal, simply by virtue of their being a self-identified conservative?Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to stillwater
      Ignored
      says:

      “It seems your argument at this point simply reduces accepting polling data that indicates very few conservatives in certain disciplines.

      Now, that may be true, but why is it a problem?”

      It’s a problem for the exact same reason that “there are very few female executives in certain industries” is a problem.Report

      • Avatar stillwater in reply to DensityDuck
        Ignored
        says:

        But AA wrt women in the workforce isn’t predicated on giving voice to the views of women. It’s predicated on the principle that women are just as capable as men at performing the relevant tasks.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to stillwater
          Ignored
          says:

          Okay, but academia has, in the past, created departments in order to give room to explore different viewpoints that couldn’t be developed elsewhere. It’s not unheard of- although this does stretch the meaning of affirmative action quite a bit.Report

          • Avatar stillwater in reply to Rufus F.
            Ignored
            says:

            I think that’s a good point. And insofar as a department of ‘conservative thought’ is analogous to ‘womens studies’, then certainly academic institutions have no principled reason for denying the creation of the department.

            One thing about this is that it’s not an argument for a wider conservative presence in biology, or anthropology, or English departments. Another is whether ‘conservative thought’ represents a new field of inquiry, along the lines of examining history, social constructs, gender identity, from women’s perspective. Or looking at issues specifically concerning African Americans, because those issues represent a new field of inquiry.

            Is ‘conservative thought’ really a new form of inquiry? Does it present perspectives and theories that people are unfamiliar with and enrich their perspective of the world?

            My own contention would be no, such a discipline wouldn’t perform any of these functions, since we all – by default – understand conservative principles (such as they are) and conservative views. Others, obviously, may disagree.Report

        • Avatar Barry in reply to stillwater
          Ignored
          says:

          *and* that it’s undeniable that massive historical (and still large ongoing) discrimination was practiced.Report

          • Avatar Barry in reply to Barry
            Ignored
            says:

            (sorry, my reply was to the idea of creating Women’s Studies and AA studies).Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Barry
            Ignored
            says:

            It is undeniable. But that wasn’t exactly the academic justification. It was that those points of view had something to add to the scholarly discourse and were being shut out- with the more important point being that they absolutely did have a lot to add to the discourse.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to stillwater
      Ignored
      says:

      I can see that my use of the word ‘problem’ is causing all sorts of problems here. I’m not trying to say that the numbers in themselves constitute a problem; just that the underrepresentation causes a problem in the academic discourse- it’s a bit boring and cliche and can be weirdly skewed. These are observations I’ve made in the last decade or so in higher ed. I suppose it’s inaccurate to call this a problem- maybe it’s more of an annoyance.Report

  6. Avatar stillwater
    Ignored
    says:

    At the very least, academics should consider the simple fact that if there were more conservatives invested in academia, it would be harder for Republicans to run for office promising to defund academia.

    Btw, this argument is very similar to McArdle’s argument after the Tiller murder: that if liberals had only stopped performing abortions, Dr. Tiller would never have been murdered.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to stillwater
      Ignored
      says:

      No, it absolutely is not.Report

      • Avatar stillwater in reply to Rufus F.
        Ignored
        says:

        Well, I think it is (obv.), but will let it go. I would like to hear your thoughts on the above comment, tho.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to stillwater
          Ignored
          says:

          The difference between the two is that one statement describes a murder after the fact and the other describes the democratic process in the future. When I say that getting more conservatives invested in academia will drain support for defunding academia in the GOP platform, the logic is more akin, in my opinion, to saying that “If we could convince more conservatives that gay marriage is a conservative cause, the GOP would find it harder to run on banning same sex marriage”.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Rufus F.
            Ignored
            says:

            We won’t inoculate the Academy against attack from Conservatives by putting a few of them in the Ivory Tower. The Conservatives are no longer interested in talking to anyone who doesn’t espouse their positions and pass their litmus tests. Maybe you can point out where I’m wrong here, but the Academy has proven a mighty fine Straw Man to bash from the campaign stump.

            This goes to my point about Education becoming a political football. The Conservative goes into a paranoid fugue (or an excellent simulation of one) every time someone tries to say anything in contradiction of his cherished conclusions.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Rufus F.
            Ignored
            says:

            Or, to put it another way, if there are more conservative academics, then it will be less common for liberal academics to assume that a conservative person’s disagreeable positions are the result of ill-education or unintelligence.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to DensityDuck
              Ignored
              says:

              It would be a very fine thing to have more Conservatives in academia. They’d have to write some papers and be critiqued. Alas that so few of them are writers and none of them tolerate criticism.Report

          • Avatar stillwater in reply to Rufus F.
            Ignored
            says:

            OK. I see that. Here’s what I was getting at. I understood the argument you provided as an instance of the following: If liberals would only give in to conservatives demands, conservatives wouldn’t have to keep attacking liberals.

            For the SSM analogy to hold wrt the academy, conservatives would have to adopt beliefs about academia on the model of beliefs about same sex marriage. If they did this, (I posit) they wouldn’t be conservatives anymore, they’d be liberals. (Or I should say, they wouldn’t be Contemporary Conservatives anymore.)Report

  7. Avatar tom van dyke
    Ignored
    says:

    Well, it could have been a productive discussion. Nice try, Rufus. Your first premise seems simple enough, that the academy could start [or even end] with recognizing it MIGHT have a bias.

    But even this modest proposal was shouted down. Welcome to the club, mate.

    Now, as for your notion that conservatives might support gay marriage if “enlightened” by exposure to the academy, you of course preclude that the door could ever swing the other way.

    Indeed, you have lumped conservatism in with gender/race/sexual preference/physical infirmity studies, and the sum of your argument is that conservatism can have its own ghetto, one among many.

    Thx for that, though.

    The core dynamic here, IMO, is that the university strives to be “cutting edge”; the new tends to be synonymous with the good, and truer to the purpose of “free-thinking,” etc. What is there to say about Aristotle that hasn’t already been said, and who cares anyway?

    The result is that the university sheds its most important function, that of a conservatory. Hence its graduates tend to know more about Marx than Madison, more about Quine than Socrates, more about Rawls than Locke.

    And this, sir, is the conservative complaint.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to tom van dyke
      Ignored
      says:

      “Now, as for your notion that conservatives might support gay marriage if “enlightened” by exposure to the academy, you of course preclude that the door could ever swing the other way.”

      Jeez, where did I say that? I’m tired right now, but all I was trying to say was that support for gay marriage has gradually increased among the conservative population and that support for academia could do the same- or, at least, it’s not impossible. But I wasn’t trying to say the two are connected.

      I think the conservatory thing is another complaint- it’s the “publish or perish” mindset that pushes people out of the profession who would rather serve as stewards of culture in the classroom for the rest of their lives in preference of those who would rather churn out cutting edge journal articles for 23 people to read. If you reward teaching over publishing, you’ll get more of the people you’re talking about in the profession.Report

      • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Rufus F.
        Ignored
        says:

        Thank you, Rufus. The “conservatory” vs. “publish or perish” is at the heart of the matter, I think.

        The dynamic scenario you outline does indeed consign the university’s conservatory function to “a department of conservative” studies” alongside all the other latest fashions.

        However, Socrates, Madison and Locke are not mere fashion, nor are they necessarily “conservative” except in the “conservatory” sense.Report

    • Avatar stillwater in reply to tom van dyke
      Ignored
      says:

      Well, it could have been a productive discussion.

      It has been – continues to be – a productive discussion. You seem to think that a discussion about whether or not there is academic bias is uninteresting simply because you think it’s a settled issue. But that’s the problem with conservative thought in a nutshell: evidence means nothing in belief formation. You have your view, your sticking to it.

      And then you will follow this up by non-ironically asking if there isn’t a bias, why aren’t there aren’t more conservatives in the Academy. Report

      • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        Pls read my remarks in full, Mr. Stillwater. That there MIGHT be a bias against conservatives is sufficient enough an admission for me.

        Further, I examined what “conservative” might really mean, per Socrates and Locke, not Bush and Obama.

        And yes, I think Rufus was more shouted down than engaged. And we didn’t even get to where the academy wields its REAL power, through its social science research and pronouncements.

        Think of Jonathan Haidt

        http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2011/03/two_bombshells_for_social_psyc.html

        next time you read one of the “studies” that proves conservatives are stupid and close-minded and abortion is good for you.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to tom van dyke
          Ignored
          says:

          next time you read one of the “studies” that proves conservatives are stupid and close-minded

          Next time I read one of those I will recall this discussion, though probably not in the way you intended.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        Okay, but leaving aside Tom for a second, let’s flip this around:
        “But that’s the problem with conservative thought in a nutshell: evidence means nothing in belief formation. You have your view, your sticking to it.”
        Isn’t it also problematic that so many non-conservatives here understand conservative thought in this way? I’m not saying it’s a problem that originates solely with liberals or conservatives, but it seems like it would pose problems going the other way when you’re trying to discuss things with conservatives.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F.
          Ignored
          says:

          I ask this because I’ve read about this ‘liberal academia’ topic on another site in which the writers will say, “No, McArdle’s making this crap up! We don’t have any bias against conservatives in academia!” two posts over from something about how conservatives are anti-reason or solely guided by their feelings and irrational notions. Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Rufus F.
            Ignored
            says:

            Everyone’s irrational. It’s provable. Anyone can get up on your soapbox and as long as everyone can hear the rant, they can bash away at the speaker’s position and scoff at him and he has to either defend his position or jump off the soapbox and storm off in a huff, in which case everyone’s gonna laff at him and call him a crank.

            And the sad thing is, often as not, nobody standing there on Speaker’s Corner has a single fact at their disposal, speaker or audience.

            That’s why we do research and write papers and defend theses and that’s the province of the Academy, not Speaker’s Corner. We’re not talking about some pimply little Junior in college, fresh into his major and possessed of a mighty freight of uninformed opinion, or a step up from that, into some blog like this, where a great many obviously intelligent people can, but don’t always, raise up rebuttals to points made. At some point, the Conservative has to step into the arena, not hide out on bastions of jackassery like Redstate and Weakly Standard, engaged in acts of mutual masturbation, brooking no contradiction.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Rufus F.
            Ignored
            says:

            What you’re seeing is “conservative” used in two different ways:

            1. If I hear someone making intelligent arguments that point toward conservative conclusions, I don’t assume he’s stupid or dishonest. (Conservative academic)

            2. When I hear someone repeating Rush Limbaugh’s talking points, I assume he’s stupid, dishonest, or both. (Conservative blog commenter)

            I flatter myself that 1 applies, though I’m quite likely not as open-minded as I like to think. As for 2, I have a difficult time reading a Red State comment thread and truly believing that its authors and I belong to the same species.Report

            • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Mike Schilling
              Ignored
              says:

              Oh, I get feeling 2 all the time here lately, Mr. Schilling, with the colors reversed. In fact, lately I would call it a “hostile environment” for any dissonant voice in the echo chamber [including the mainpage bloggers themselves!].

              And RedState has nothing on say, Balloon Juice. It’s the nature of the beast. It’s just a pity this blog is no longer an oasis from such stuff. There used to be more commentary from the right here, but it’s just not worth the effort anymore to penetrate the noise.

              As for the inability to “understand” conservatives, it may be a shortcoming on behalf of the reader. We conservatives, what with the mass media and the schools being what they are, are fully bilingual. We understand y’all just fine, and all too well.Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Tom, I hope you see how you’re anti-intellectual assessment here only reinforces the view you’re trying to refute. I certainly don’t expect anyone (including me!) to be right all the time, or to know more about a topic than seems reasonable when forming a view. But I think dismissing the criticism out of hand only plays into the theme being discussed.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                you’re anti-intellectual assessment

                Ain’t it always the case that this stuff happens in the discussions of anti-intellectualism?Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                And all those complaints about using BIG words when litl’uns would do…Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m not usually impressed with ‘intellectuals,’ just sayin’.Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to Robert Cheeks
                Ignored
                says:

                Not even when they give you a better toaster?Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Robert Cheeks
                Ignored
                says:

                Savant Robert, am I nuts? I hold very deeply my Ph. D. earned at the Rush Limbaugh Institute od Conservative Studies. I already solved the deficit problem by sending the U.S. budget of 1804 to Geitner to be implemented immediately. And I even had time to solve the “global warming” hoax by proving we need MORE CO2 in our atmosphere not less. We might even bring back the dinosaurs and woolly mammoths. I was having this discussion with Jason earlier.
                I’ll be happy to share the Nobel winnings with all the people on this sight!

                (Note: What originally followed was a somewhat longer version of this comment: https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2011/03/11/state-dept-spokesman-bradley-mannings-treatment-ridiculous-and-counterproductive-and-stupid/#comment-116318 )Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Robert Cheeks
                Ignored
                says:

                Heidegger, you must have meant for this to go in Jason’s thread about Bradley Manning right? Because it has absolutely nothing to do with anything anyone’s talking about over here. So, how about you cut & paste it over to that thread? It seems like you might actually get a response that way.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Mr. Stillwater, dismiss Limbaugh out of hand if you must. Jonathan Haidt is who’s relevant here.

                Some of course dismiss Haidt out of hand as well, as this is the tactic with anyone who says what they don’t want to hear.

                But there were several academics quoted in the article who were not as dismissive. These gentlemen would also find RufusF’s post of interest, I think.

                As for “anti-intellectualism,” there are plenty of thoughtless liberals, sir. Many of them write in the comments of this blog. 😉Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                > There are plenty of thoughtless liberals, sir.
                > Many of them write in the comments of
                > this blog. 😉

                You have here a list, perchance?Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Pat Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                The guilty accuse themselves, Mr. Cahalan.

                The latest deluge of leftist rant buried our previous attempt at principled discussion [I use the “Gift of Gab” box to stay current, but staying current is getting difficult], so I didn’t pick up after wading through 5 pages of nonsense and pathology.

                But I did think of you when I ran across this today:

                ” Reason Foundation, my employer, found that in 2009, state and local government employees earned 44 percent more total compensation than private industry workers. What’s more, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that private workers have a 20 percent chance of losing their job in a given year compared to 6 percent for government workers.”

                http://reason.com/archives/2011/03/08/the-real-lesson-from-wisconsin

                This is the current crisis in a nutshell, no matter how you slice it. I used to use Reason Foundation as the “honest broker” in discussions with gentlepersons of the left, but I fear the current epistemological crisis might even preclude that.

                [A charitable reading of my use of “salary” would have acknowledged “total compensation” instead, since that’s the issue in Wisconsin. Hence, my lack of diligence in getting back to the tooth-and-nail with an uncooperative interlocutor. I have no time or interest in debate-as-sport, Pat. Gettin’ too old for that shit.]Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Pat Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                > The latest deluge of leftist rant
                > buried our previous attempt at
                > principled discussion

                The way I read it, Tom, you quit right after I granted everything you were saying and then asked you where you wanted to go from there. Which was sort of the hard part of the question, after all.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Pat Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Thx, Pat. Now I’ll really have to dig it out. 😉

                Make Mine Marvel!Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Pat Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                By the way, if I ever get too pedantic, chalk it up to the fact that I’m occasionally (?) too pedantic and just ask me to cut to the chase.

                Sometimes, I can keep digging down into a discussion when the other guy just wants to stop quibbling over details and move back into the big picture.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Pat Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Thx, Pat. My problem with the technocrat [or social scientist, or MBA] is that he studies only what he can measure and measures only what he’s already looking for. This often leaves him with a pool of data rife with selection bias.

                That said, I’m certainly open to the data, esp because it can show counterintuitive results that the Big Picture Philosopher might not derive a priori, and might elude even “common sense.”

                For in the end, all we have to work with is human nature itself, which can be discerned only by observation, i.e., a posteriori. [My friend Aquinas, of all people, was quite aware of this.]

                For example, if men were more like sheep, a better life for all might come about through communism. Per Plato’s “noble lie,” each man has his place in the order of things, some made of gold, some of silver, others of iron or bronze. Alphas, betas, gammas.

                Gammas in particular would be Aristotle’s “natural slaves,” who prefer to not steer their own ship of life, but be told what to do. And we all know that it’s the gammas who keep the machine running.

                But as it turns out, contra the Greeks and the communist state, each man has a bit of gold and a bit of iron and bronze in him too, and we all have feet of clay.

                So I digress, too. However, that li’l riff didn’t occur to me until just now, so thx very much for the discussion, Pat.

                I’m very much one of those “all men are created equal” types, and this rather illustrates that point.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                And RedState has nothing on say, Balloon Juice.

                In intellectual content, no. But the Red Staters seem angry and self-righteous where the Balloon Juicers seem merrily half-crocked.

                We understand y’all just fine, and all too well.

                That’s reflexive disapproval. That you’d confuse it with understanding is one of the things wrong with conservatives.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Mike Schilling
                Ignored
                says:

                Mr. Stillwater, you are arguing from low to high; you can always find someone dumber that you on the other side.

                As my taste is not for polemics, I don’t troll the depths of either side and so this tit-for-tat leaves me disinterested and frankly unarmed.

                Jonathan Haidt is relevant to this discussion; Limbaugh and RedState are not. As for Balloon Juice, I got my fill when I obliged Jason Kuznicki’s request to defend him from being accused of being a conservative. [For which he’s yet to thank me.]Report

            • Avatar stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling
              Ignored
              says:

              I think this goes to the point I was making below: there is (I suppose, I’ve never really looked into it) a conservative ideology that is both internally coherent and empirically adequate, but Rush’s isn’t that brand of conservative. He’s a raving lunatic, and does more to reinforce the view that conservatives are stupid than anything else.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                That is, he *plays* a raving lunatic. He’s awfully good at what he does: witness his being able to keep the game up for decades, where the less savvy Beck is burning out in just a few years.Report

        • Avatar stillwater in reply to Rufus F.
          Ignored
          says:

          Isn’t it also problematic that so many non-conservatives here understand conservative thought in this way?

          Yes. I admit that it is a problem. And I admit that it is certainly my default understanding of conservatism. But here’s my defense!

          I can’t make head or tails out of what a ‘conservative’ actually is, or what constitute ‘conservatism’. Liberals all over wonder about this, and conservatives don’t seem to help in answering it.

          Usually, a conservative will define their ideology by claiming they believe in some list of principles including the following: small, non-intrusive government; respect for rights; traditional values; strength thru peace; promotion of liberty; strong national defense; the value of free markets; etc. And I think, well, I believe in all that as well, so that can’t be the difference between us.

          Then I go to the policies that are explicitly supported: pro-life and pro-death penalty; small government but keep the government out of my medicare; tax cuts always lead to increased revenues; separation of church and state but lets’ teach creationism in grade school; hostility to education, education funding, and intellectuals in general but let’s make sure that conservatives are represented in the academy; the promotion of civil rights but not for gays; hostility to unions and public sector pensions but don’t touch my social security; etc. etc. That’s not to mention the thinly veiled racism, the endorsement of force to achieve personal or political ends, the hostility to the institution of democracy itself, and a whole host of other social issues.

          The conclusion I come to is that conservatives aren’t determining their policy beliefs as logical consequences of a (static) set of first principles, nor are they shaping their policy views by looking at the evidence, nor are they constrained in their beliefs by a minimal standard of rational consistency. They make up their beliefs as they go, without any rational constraints whatsoever. And they stick to em.

          The best explanation for the collection of views that constitutes Contemporary Conservatives (in my view) is that they form beliefs according to an algorithm that identifies what liberals support or advocate, then support the opposite. That’s about all the intellectual rigor I see on Contemporary conservatism. (Tho I admit there are other forms of conservatism.)Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to stillwater
            Ignored
            says:

            “The conclusion I come to is that conservatives aren’t determining their policy beliefs as logical consequences of a (static) set of first principles, nor are they shaping their policy views by looking at the evidence, nor are they constrained in their beliefs by a minimal standard of rational consistency. They make up their beliefs as they go, without any rational constraints whatsoever. And they stick to em.”

            This isn’t a joke, right? This is supposed to be serious, right? The irony is too thick for me to believe that you aren’t taking the piss here.Report

            • Avatar stillwater in reply to DensityDuck
              Ignored
              says:

              It’s easy to prove me wrong: just state the set of principles that determine the specific set of consistent policy positions a conservative supports. If you do this, I’ll admit I was wrong.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to stillwater
            Ignored
            says:

            At the risk of condescending, wouldn’t it be fair to say what passes for modern Conservatism is already deeply conflicted about its own true nature? Sure, we can point to all these wedge issues, cases in point where these maniacs have just been stirring the shit to no good end?

            I just can’t square the idea of a Conservative being a bigot. I think he’s fallen off the wagon of righteousness and has abandoned the most fundamental of all Conservative positions, that of the rights of the individual. We as not-Conservatives should be charitable enough (and here the wheels of my argument are rolling along the cliff edge of condescending, and I goddamn well know it) to prune the bigot away from Conservativism entirely. The Log Cabin Republicans are proof it’s possible, despite the manifest bigots among the GOP, to be both Conservative and gay.

            There are many other points of contention on all these Wedge Issues I’d like to dismiss at the same time in this Voir Dire. The list is very long, but you’ve enumerated enough of them to provide a running start.

            What is a Conservative anymore? Maybe Rufus is right, we ought to grab a few of the clever ones, grant them a fellowship or something, and study them. Clearly, the Conservatives are not expressing themselves very well from within their own camp. Be sorta interesting, and well worth the cost of a fellowship, to explicate what they believe to our own satisfaction.Report

            • Avatar stillwater in reply to BlaiseP
              Ignored
              says:

              I appreciate that post BlaiseP. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.Report

            • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to BlaiseP
              Ignored
              says:

              Conservatism also recognizes an organic entity called “society,” and is in fact is opposed to “radical individualism” as well as politics and government when they work against the cohesion of the underlying society.

              BlaiseP is therefore excused, voir dire. He is speaking of something else besides conservatism. Ayn Rand or something.

              Jaybird does indeed point out the irony that conservatism defends what once was considered radical, but this isn’t as pithy an observation as it might appear. Conservatism, facilely defined as a blanket defense of the status quo and opposition to all change, is a bit of a straw man.

              Conservatism does not want us to return to caves and spears. We like our ranch-type style tract houses, and especially our guns. 😉Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                You say Conservative definitions of Society oppose Radical Individualism. Having been expelled from the Eden of Conservative Evangelical thought, I can confirm that observation from personal experience.

                Conservative views on the Family have changed over time, as a case in point. As divorce mowed down marriages, the Conservatives were obliged to back off their fierce opposition to it, else their churches would have emptied out completely. I chuckle every time this Defense of Marriage Act comes up for discussion: I have lived long enough to have seen people shunned for divorce and endured no end of slagging for marrying a divorced woman from within my own family.

                I will give you this: Conservatism is no defense of the status quo and never was. Its goals were simpler and far more direct, to build Augustine’s City of God atop the ruins of the status quo. The Conservatives are the intellectual heirs of zealots whose goal was exactly that, to build the world anew in their image.Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Tom,

                Conservatism also recognizes an organic entity called “society,” and is in fact is opposed to “radical individualism” as well as politics and government when they work against the cohesion of the underlying society.

                This view isn’t exclusive to conservatives. As a liberal I can say without hesitation that I also believe this. What I see now, however, is the Teaparty using ‘politics and government’ to undermine the cohesion of underlying society. The question is, what conception of ‘cohesion underlying society’ are we talking about here?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to stillwater
            Ignored
            says:

            “Conservative” strikes me as an inclination rather than a philosophy qua philosophy.

            When faced with any given problem, the inclination to say “what has worked in the past? We should do what worked in the past” is a conservative response. It’s fairly unsentimental… compared to the more progressive response of “the sky is the limit with the possibilities of solutions we could apply!”

            But what was “progressive” yesterday is “conservative” tomorrow. It’s not a philosophy as much as a time-dependent inclination when it comes to addressing issues.

            Conservative positions today would have been seen as radical 100 years ago. In 100 years, progressive positions today will be seen as hubristic, or limited in scope, or excused as ignorant, the poor dears, because of how little they knew compared to what we know today.Report

            • Avatar stillwater in reply to Jaybird
              Ignored
              says:

              “Conservative” strikes me as an inclination rather than a philosophy qua philosophy.

              Completely agree. As I’ve said in various other forums, conservatism is a collection of closely held emotions that a self-justifying (by being held) and immutable (that;s why conservatism cannot fail, only be failed).

              When faced with any given problem, the inclination to say “what has worked in the past?

              I object. No. I strenuously object. Conservatism ought to be centrally focused around using past experience as a guide for future actions. Conservatives, however, abandoned that principle long ago on economic and foreign policy matters, and only embrace it wrt regressive social issues.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Jeebus, I got into it with Rufus about putting words in people’s mouths upstream. I just gotta state for the record, however true it might be that Conservatives have abandoned their once-august principles, those principles might actually have some validity in our times. We just can’t talk like this, forever condemning the Conservative on the basis of what some venal, shortsighted politician did way back when.

                Let’s face it, Liberals and Conservatives are the obverse and reverse of the same coin. That which we despise in others, they despise in us. Both viewpoints are needed: if only we might both sides come up from the filthy trenches and out from behind our ill-constructed little shit-flingers and talk to each other as honest men, freed from the constraints of what these politicians might be doing, we might both sides learn a thing or three.

                I’m utterly convinced of the necessity of this viewpoint.Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                those principles might actually have some validity in our times.

                Completely agree. I just don’t see conservatives as advocating those principles anymore. Centrist liberals have picked up that torch.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
              Ignored
              says:

              “Conservative” strikes me as an inclination rather than a philosophy qua philosophy.

              A clique, I’d say. Neither philosophy nor inclination requires one to believe that the president is an illegal alien Muslim, that anthropogenic global warming is a complete falsehood, or that being waterboarded is good and wholesome exercise, but one can be read out of the conservative movement for denying any of them.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
                Ignored
                says:

                I do not see a 1:1 overlap between “Team Red” and “Conservative”.

                I am fairly conservative. I am not Team Red.

                If you go to Redstate, you will find a great deal of Team Red sentiment… you’ll also find arguments for big government conservativism, neoconservative foreign policy, and an intermittent attitude that “deficits don’t matter”.

                Now, if you want to argue that Conservativism (much like Marxism) ought be defined by self-defined conservatives IN PRACTICE, there’s a lot of merit to that particular argument… it does leave some stuff out, though.Report

  8. Avatar Thurman Hart
    Ignored
    says:

    I agree that everyone benefits from a wide variety of approaches and ideas. But I had to laugh when I saw this: “Why isn’t there a foundation for research into topics of interest to conservatives that he can apply to for funding?”

    Uh – the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Hoover Institute, the Manhattan Institute, the American Enterprise Institute…there are a TON of conservative funding groups. Whether or not they choose to fund this project, or if he knows where to apply, are different issues entirely. But I can tell you that, in my experience, conservative intellectuals have a much better opportunity of getting introduced and welcomed into a career path than do liberal academics. This may simply be a product of raw numbers, I’m not sure.

    Liberal academics regularly call out conservative misrepresentation of academia and their efforts to destroy it. In return, they often are targeted for personal attacks – Francis Fox Piven received death threats after being targeted by Glenn Beck (who is neither conservative nor intellectual in any sense, but he is a front-line conservative mouthpiece). This prompted the American Political Science Association to take the unheard of action of publicly defending a highly esteemed professional educator.

    I would also say that I probably have more conservative ideological tomes on my bookshelves than anyone who doesn’t actually specialize in that field. I’ve learned a lot from it, even though I rarely agree with much of it. But it made me question my own beliefs and displayed more than one weakness that had to be addressed.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Thurman Hart
      Ignored
      says:

      I just had no idea that those groups offered academic research grants. I thought if they funded your research, you had to either be employed by them or let them publish it. I was thinking of something like the AHA research grants where you apply, use the funding towards your research, and write a brief report for them on how you spent it. Now, if those groups offer dissertation-related research grants, my next question would be for Jason Kuznicki…Report

  9. Avatar Robert Cheeks
    Ignored
    says:

    Wow, ‘conservatism’ is dying, in decline, finished, the target of mockery from my fustian friends and yet via the TPers those strange visitors from the outer regions its gained a significant hold on the GOP and consequently on Wisconsin, Ohio, etc. and is about to threaten the very life’s blood of the C-D’s, the ‘public’ unions. Kill them, you know, and you kill the beast.
    The play may go afoul, there may be blood in the street, but somehow I think ‘conservatism’ survives. Simply put there is no other contemporary answer to the derailed, and psychopathological ‘progressivism’ best illustrated in the Kenyan’s aspernatio rationis.Report

    • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Robert Cheeks
      Ignored
      says:

      Bob, do you know what happened to inestimable D.A.R.? As in, D.A. Ridgely? A very credible source told me he’s being held in a Canadian jail awaiting charges of trying to smuggle Prussian aristocrats over the border. Isn’t life just amazing?!Report

  10. Avatar Pierre Corneille
    Ignored
    says:

    I know I’ve come in late to the game on this thread. I just want to say, thank you for writing these posts. For what it’s worth, as a history grad student, I can attest that much of what you’ve said in these posts resonates with my own experience. (I’m also about your age–I’m 37–I don’t know if that’s important.)

    Again, thanks for writing these posts.Report

  11. Avatar Megan McArdle
    Ignored
    says:

    I was a little surprised to see this, since I couldn’t remember calling for a “public apology” by academia. So I searched our site, and Google doesn’t remember me saying this either. I assume you’re referring to this paragraph:

    On the other hand, I don’t actually know many conservatives who want quotas for conservatives, either–I’m sure they’re out there, but even David Horowitz didn’t go that far. Most of the people I talk to think, like James Joyner, that this may be a problem without a solution. It is just my impression, but I think what conservatives want most of all is simply recognition that they are being shut out. It is a double indignity to be discriminated against, and then be told unctuously that your group’s underrepresentation is proof that almost none of you are as good as “us”.

    That’s not a normative call for an apology; it’s a positive argument about what (I think) conservatives want. Though I will say that I don’t think it’s a crazy thing to want–not an apology, but less recourse to “Conservative are teh suck” explanations, more to what’s usually a fairly sophisticated understanding of unconscious and institutional bias–when we’re not talking about conservatives.

    Obviously that’s not going to mean all conservatives suddenly love academia and stop complaining. But I think it’s a reasonable request, and it would help. More importantly, it would, as you argue, be good for academia to make efforts not to exclude potentially valuable opposing viewpoints.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Megan McArdle
      Ignored
      says:

      Yes, that was the paragraph I was thinking of- I suppose I misrepresented it in my summary and will change this post in a minute to correct that.

      I think where we differ on this issue is that you seem to see it as all going in one direction- institutional bias against conservatives. So, that even if 50% of the applicants to grad school in lit crit were conservatives- which they’re certainly not- the system would slowly push them out. Or perhaps it discourages them as undergrads and that explains the disparity.

      Now I am absolutely not saying that conservatives are not going into grad school because they’re stupid or hate rational thought or any of the other variations on “conservatives are teh suck” that you seem to have heard in your responses and I’ve heard here. What I am saying is that, if you poll them, I’m fairly certain you’ll find a pretty good percentage of conservatives who believe that “academia is teh suck”, especially the humanities. Is that opinion justified? Sometimes, sure. Sometimes it’s based on real experiences and other times it’s based on utter nonsense they’ve heard about how we’ll fire them if they study Plato. Either way, it’s a view that goes relatively unquestioned on the right. Of course, academics are teh suck- we all know that. Just like plenty of liberals on message boards know that conservatives are teh suck.

      So, basically, I see a problem that cuts both ways. As far as I can tell, and feel free to correct me if this is wrong, you seem to think that, if academia addresses things on that side, the critics will be relatively fair and just and their criticisms will lessen. Is that it? Of course, we could say the opposite- if the critics stopped with the let’s nicely say “rhetorical excesses” of their criticisms, academia would respond rationally and welcome conservatives with open arms, maybe. But I don’t see either option as making a difference until both sides of the culture war question their most cherished assumptions. Academics (of a certain age I’d note) and critics of academia are entirely too invested in their respective identities at this point as the beleaguered and the underdog. That’s what would have to change first.

      I’ve tried to take this question seriously in these posts. As the conservatives here have pointed out, plenty of liberals have responded by denying that any sort of bias, conscious or unconscious, could exist in academia. A few have though suggested it’s an interesting question worth considering. I don’t think I’ve heard any conservatives question any of their assumptions about the humanities, even the more grandiose ones about how we reject the Enlightenment and no longer study Aristotle and so forth. And they know me– someone who is in academia studying all of the things they think academia has no room for!

      So, yes, I summarized that paragraph too glibly. However, I also took your original post seriously enough to write 5,000+ words and counting on it. I think it would be helpful for academics to question their underlying assumptions. I also think it would be helpful for the critics and conservatives outside of academia to question their underlying assumptions. That is what I see as a serious response.Report

      • Avatar Megan McArdle in reply to Rufus F.
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        says:

        I think these things are always dynamic. There was a not-very-good series on race called “black/white” where they took two families, and with makeup/wigs etc, had members of the black family masquerade as white, and vice versa. In one scene, the black father takes the white father to buy a car (in blackface), and the white father doesn’t experience the kind of racism that the black father is trying to “teach” him about–in part, because he’s obtuse, and in part, because he gets better treatment than the black father is expecting. This seemed like a pretty important point–that racial experience is a dynamic, not a simple question of who’s “racist” and who’s not–but they didn’t really do anything with it.

        So why not focus on the dynamic? To me, the conversation has to start with the in-group, because they’re the ones with the power. They can unilaterally try to make their environment less hostile to conservatives, and they will get more conservatives. If the conservatives act without the academics, there’s not really much change (though it would be good for the movement, and I’ve written in other places about my dislike of the anti-intellectualism of Sarah Palin–I’m afraid I can’t bring myself to watch Glenn Beck even to criticize him.)

        And because while it is a dynamic, I tend to think that the group in power has the responsibility to act first, and not just because their action will be more effective. Not act alone–but act first. I sense that a lot of academics think this will simply make them look weak, and cause conservatives to redouble the angry attacks. Maybe it will–that’s ultimately what happened with blacks in the late civil rights era, when the radical movement found that simple legal equality wasn’t nearly enough to solve their problems, and yes, perceived weakness. You may well get the same reaction from conservatives who will not be happy just knocking down a few barriers. But I don’t think that’s a good reason to avoid “giving in”.

        But that’s rambling rather far afield. I agree it’s a dynamic–indeed, I wrote about it in the follow-up posts. But part of what I was trying to do in those follow-up posts (which no one except a few of my conservative commenters seems to have picked up on) was actually seriously compare this to the American racial experience–to challenge the conservative double-standard on this as much as the academic double standard. I was extremely gratified that more than one conservative either commented or wrote to say “You know what? For the first time, I understand why people favor affirmative action–I’m really rethinking how I felt about it.” Sadly, I did not get a similar reaction from academics, perhaps because conservatives are stupider and didn’t recognize all the problems with my arguments ;-).

        Adding in all the ways in which out-groups participate in their marginalization–which they do!–would have muddied that message. I thought it was most important to point out the ways the dominant groups were systematically excluding out-groups, and building a narrative to justify this, not to attempt to say every possible true thing about the situation.

        Think of it this way: if I’d made race the major frame, and academia the minor one, would you be complaining that I hadn’t gone over “acting white”, etc? These things all contribute to the racial dynamic in America–but still, sometimes you just need to say “Hey guys, racism didn’t end in 1968!” One of the things that drives me apeshit about conservatives is when some discussion of racism comes up, and they immediately launch into long discussions of acting white, as if the only remaining racial issue in America is how black kids don’t work hard enough in school. Yes, these things are important–but it is not necessary to include them in every single discussion of race in America. Adding them would have exhausted the already much-fatigued patience of my readers, and also given the in-groups (both whites oblivious to racism, and academics) an easy out: “See, it’s not all our fault and we can’t do anything about it anyway.” I’m not saying you’re doing that–I’ve been following your series with interest, and think it’s terrific. But the experience we’ve both had with commenters and correspondents indicates just how many people are looking for ways to focus only on the mote in the other guy’s eye.

        Of course, focusing only on one side means that many people I’m arguing with thought I was being unfair. Maybe the reason I was more persuasive to conservatives on AA than academics on conservatives was simply that I’m a white libertarian, so my readers reasonably assumed that I know they’re not horrible bigoted people who do everything wrong. But though I was probably too sarcastic about the more bigoted commentary I saw, I was actually trying pretty hard to show that this is something that happens when people are in groups, not something that happens when bad people are allowed to exercise their ill-will. It wasn’t about how academics are doing something especially wrong. It was about how academics–like Soylent Green–are just people.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Megan McArdle
          Ignored
          says:

          The racial comparison is more useful for me in looking at how the out-group is treated or could be treated differently than it is than as an overall frame of analysis. I think the first is how you mean it to be used anyway.

          First off, it doesn’t work as well in understanding the conservative out-group because not many people become blacker or whiter as they get older; but (as those of us who know and love E.D. Kain can attest!) people’s political convictions do change, sometimes frequently.

          Secondly, a whole lot of us are political Mulattoes anyway- when it comes to teaching the Iliad or most material, I’m a hardline conservative; when it comes to the war on drugs, I’m a flaming liberal. One problem I have when the political leanings of academics comes up in discussion is that I worry that there’s no space being made for academics who are either politically moderate or relatively apolitical. I encounter quite a good number of those types- the egghead who isn’t entirely sure who their Senator is- especially among the grad students, and I think they have a need to stake their ground and hang back from the manias of the day. I’d much rather see an Academy that hangs back than one that enlists on either side of the culture war. Ultimately, the culture always loses those wars. Academics have a right to be irrelevant. 🙂

          Finally, there’s the tough issue of explaining what it means to discriminate against a viewpoint to people whose job is to critique each other’s thoughts and ideas. For me, I think the distinction to make is that you critically analyze the ways that people came to their conclusions, instead of accepting or rejecting the conclusions out of hand. I feel that, if a student can show me in their essay how they came to their conclusions and it’s solid, it sort of makes no difference if I agree with the conclusions or not.

          So, I think that’s the approach to take. And, as I think you mean to suggest, it’s the approach that we’d take with any group in the university. To the best of my ability, I asses my students and colleagues by the quality of their thought and not by whether or not I agree with all of their conclusions, or by irrelevant things like their sexual identity or who they voted for in the last election. Academics never agree with each other’s conclusions anyway! When I have bright students who are conservative-leaning, I recommend grad school and Burke. When I get bright students who are liberal-leaning, I recommend grad school and Constant. As people are fond of saying here, we need to be the change we want to see.

          I just wish there was some sort of partner program: I’m one person in academia and I can easily vow to encourage the bright students I have as best as I can, regardless of their political views, in all of their academic aspirations. In exchange, it would be nice to have a partner conservative on the outside who would vow to encourage those kids too as best they can too in all of their academic aspirations, even if they dream of becoming an English professor!

          Finally, on a related note, ever since this discussion began, I’ve had the Sly and the Family Stone song “Underdog” in my head:

          Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Megan McArdle
          Ignored
          says:

          “You know what? For the first time, I understand why people favor affirmative action–I’m really rethinking how I felt about it.”

          “Hey, man, I know just how you feel. Really? Like at your job interview when they told you the position was filled, even though there were three white people still waiting to apply? Or when that cop stopped and frisked you for walking though that ritzy neighborhood? It’s exactly like when I said that Tom Buchanan was an unfair stereotype of successful businessmen and my lit professor said ‘That’s an interesting point of view’ in a really sarcastic voice.”Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Megan McArdle
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      says:

      It might be useful, under these circumstances, to be able to point to anyone who was shut out, which school shut him out and present a reason for it congruent with his conservative viewpoint. It is the height of folly to claim bias without a test case.

      As I have said upstream, the Conservative has made and said much of Liberal Academic Bias. Those who live by the Litmus Test shall die of the Litmus Test. Henry Kissinger observed academic quarrels are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.Report

  12. Avatar stillwater
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    says:

    Megan, I will limit my comments (for the time being) to a discussion of only one view you expressed, which I think reduces your entire argument to unseriousness. In the above post, you say wrt some further posts you wrote on academic bias:

    Adding in all the ways in which out-groups participate in their marginalization–which they do!–would have muddied that message.

    But isn’t that the crux of the matter entirely? Haven’t you begged all the important questions with this one simple evasion?

    Look, let’s stipulate the data: that there are fewer (to whatever degree) self-identified conservatives in various branches of the humanities, or the academy generally. A rational person interested in arriving at answers here (rather than engaging in advocacy) would ask the following question: what possible theories account for this phenomenon? And two theories jump right out: non-conservative bias against conservatives within the academy, and self-selecting avoidance of the academy on the part of the conservative outgroup.

    Your evidence for the first is an obsequious appeal to subtle and unconscious selection bias of dominant groups, asserted as if it were a truism, and unargued since apparently the cohesion of the non-conservative groups is so tight and homogenous that an argument isn’t needed. I, for one, would like to know the group-identifying properties in questions here and other relevant evidence, since all that’s been suggested here is that this group is comprised of ‘non-conservatives’, which entirely begs the question. The following question needs an answer: What specific practices engaged in by the dominant group systematically prevent conservatives from entering the academy?

    Regarding the second, you merely deny it’s relevance, even tho this is precisely the point that a neutral, objective researcher would focus their attention. But you deny it as providing a causal explanation for the data in question. By doing so, beg the fundamental question at hand, and appear to conclude (via unstated premises) that self-selecting avoidance of the academy by conservatives is (circularly) justified as a rational response to dominant group selection bias!

    Additionally, you say that

    To me, the conversation has to start with the in-group, because they’re the ones with the power.

    But this presupposes that a) the case against non-conservative bias has been made (it hasn’t), b) that the data in question cannot be accounted for by factors restricted to the out-group itself (which you haven’t refuted), and c) circularly uses the unexplained raw data as proof that ‘there is a problem’, even tho ‘the problem’ hasn’t been explicated. Apparently, this is a serious issue simply because conservatives say it is, and as a result, non-conservatives in the academy must address it. All this without so much as a coherent argument yet made.

    In response to these types of criticisms, you say that

    Of course, focusing only on one side means that many people I’m arguing with thought I was being unfair.

    I’m not sure unfair is the right word. I think begging all the important questions by circular reasoning would be the better criticism. And when you conclude, after considering the likelihood of some negative consequences similar to civil rights AA and other laws, that

    I don’t think that’s a good reason to avoid “giving in”

    you’ve elevated an unproven systematic bias to the level of racial inequality, without argument or evidence, relying only on obfuscation and assertion. All based on the primary data, which hasn’t been accounted for in a non-question-begging manner.

    And finally, the ‘giving in’ phrase is eerily reminiscent of a similar argument you made about the Tiller murder, to the effect that if liberals (or in this case, that monolithic cultural force known as ‘non-conservatives’) would only ‘give in’ to conservative demands, then conservatives wouldn’t have to keep attacking liberals/keep pounding on systematic bias. The analogy between the two is striking, and the unseriousness apparent.Report

    • Avatar stillwater in reply to stillwater
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      says:

      I also want to add that the claim that the dominant group exhibits selection bias in favor of properties conducive to group cohesion and identity (insofar as it exists) also applies to the outgroup. They have their own group-based affinities and biases and whatnot. So, insofar as this is postulated to account for the base data, it fails to do so even on its own terms. (Does everyone see that?)Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to stillwater
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      says:

      The racial argument is entirely relevant to this discussion, because when you change “academia” to “workplace”, and “conservative ideology” to “black”, you get exactly the same arguments. For both sides. “cultural attitudes” and “irreconcilable philosophical differences” and “it doesn’t really exist” and “just work harder you lazy scuts”, versus “unconscious privilege” and “in-group versus out-group” and “gatekeepers”.

      Indeed, when you say…
      “But this presupposes that a) the case against non-conservative bias has been made (it hasn’t), b) that the data in question cannot be accounted for by factors restricted to the out-group itself (which you haven’t refuted), and c) circularly uses the unexplained raw data as proof that ‘there is a problem’, even tho ‘the problem’ hasn’t been explicated. Apparently, this is a serious issue simply because conservatives say it is, and as a result, non-conservatives in the academy must address it. All this without so much as a coherent argument yet made.”

      …this sounds exactly like the arguments people make in every ‘White Privilege’ discussion. Bias doesn’t exist, you haven’t proven that bias exists, it’s only an issue because you’re acting like there is one, and even if there *is* a problem then it’s your own fault.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to DensityDuck
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        says:

        So, is there any way a person from the in-group could respond to this question, other than saying what the critics want to hear- ‘yes, there is a deeply ingrained bias against conservatives that fully explains the disparity’- that would not qualify as a member of a powerful group making excuses to justify their own privilege?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F.
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          says:

          So, is there any way a person from the in-group could respond to this question, other than saying what the critics want to hear- ‘yes, there is a deeply ingrained bias against (group) that fully explains the disparity’- that would not qualify as a member of a powerful group making excuses to justify their own privilege?

          When I read this question, I remember the last X times it has been asked… and, also, the last X times it has been answered.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            So how was it answered?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F.
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              says:

              When I asked it? Some variant of “to ask the question is to know the answer!”

              We’re probably in a situation where Conservatives get to use this cudgel, finally! And they get to see what it’s like when someone else uses the answers that they used for, like, decades.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Hard to say how useful that cudgel ever was. Since Bakke, it’s been difficult to swing it with any effectiveness. Since Gratz v. Bollinger that cudgel has been shaved down to a conductor’s wand waved before the Orchestra of the Autistic: nobody pays any attention to it.

                Look, the answers to this problem are fairly obvious. It’s hard enough getting into a postgrad environment: the sacrifices are enormous. If Conservatives want to climb the long stairway up the Ivory Tower, they’ll be welcomed with considerable curiosity, perhaps even a certain admiration.

                When I emerged from the military, a seriously wacked out individual, still voting Republican, I was just such a Conservative. Maybe Jesus College, Oxford wasn’t Liberal Academia here in the States, but I spent six terms there reading Linguistics.

                You should know I got into Oxford on a sort of Affirmative Action, a leftover program from WW2, an obscure program where an American soldier demobbing out of Europe could apply to Oxford or Cambridge. I felt very much out of place and horribly defensive about being an American veteran.

                I was an object of very considerable curiosity, but I’ve been an outsider all my life, so this was nothing new. I met up with specimens of the Americans Are Imperialist Bastards crowd, who as soon as they had unburdened themselves of their obligatory rant, were obscenely keen to be hear stories of combat, stories they were not told.

                I curled inward, concentrating on my creoles and compiler design, making a few friends. I returned to the USA, drifted around a while, got a cab driver’s license in Chicago and submerged myself in the rich stew of languages at the Checker Cab Elston Avenue cab shack, taking a few more computer courses when I could. I met a man in a restaurant who changed my life forever. I wrote him a computer program for five dollars a day and room and board. We made a lot of money. I became a consultant and never looked back.

                If Conservatives want to enter academia, perhaps they have not come to terms with that Ivory Tower. They might find, as I did, they will be lumped in with the sins of their tribe by facile and clueless persons. But in that ferment of minds and issues, they may find themselves to be the necessary pinch of salt in the loaf of bread.Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Jaybird, this is really dishonest. I gave you the answer repeatedly. That you failed to see it as an answer is something I can’t account for.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to stillwater
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                says:

                I asked for specifics. Again and again.

                Do you want me to start quoting the generalities you gave in response to my questions asking for specifics?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                The thread starts here, by the way.

                https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2011/03/04/incoherent-democracy-again/#comment-112850

                You can see my questions and my responses feeling like my questions weren’t answered and you can see stillwater explain that he has, in fact, answered my questions.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                OH! And I didn’t see you write back to my essay!

                I’ll respond tomorrow. I have a positive obligation to my houseguest that I am neglecting.Report

        • Avatar stillwater in reply to Rufus F.
          Ignored
          says:

          Rufus, the answer to the question isn’t to simply assert that there’s a disparity of different types of people within a certain occupation or field. If that’s all it took, I could simply assert that short people are discriminated against in the NBA, since it’s obvious that only a few short folks get those jobs.

          In order to demonstrate discrimination, you have to show that there is a systematic bias against people who are otherwise perfectly capable of performing the job/filling the role, but who fail to get those jobs/positions due to a systematic effort by management or administrators to exclude them. You, Megan, everyone else whose commented on the topic admits that there isn’t a systematic effort to exclude conservatives. At best, the claim is a subtle form of social affinity amongst non-conservatives that excludes conservatives. But even this doesn’t suffice, since conservatives as a group are subject to the same in-group social affinities as other groups, but also because non-conservatives – on any serious, non-question-begging understanding – don’t comprise an affinity group. Furthermore, this group is defined, from the pov of the ‘academic bias’ supporters, as the outgroup , ie., as ‘non-conservatives’.

          I mean, you in the post above, and Megan in the comment she made, admit that there isn’t any actual bias, except data of disparate representation. And my argument all along has been that this data means nothing on its own, but is instead evidence of something else, something that you and Megan admit can’t be proven. So then you both resort to simply stipulating that the evidence constitutes a problem that needs rectifying, without any effort to identify what the problem is.

          I think the whole argument presented by both of you, as well as others, is simply a poorly disguised form of conservative advocacy. Which is fine, if it was called that. Instead, the advocacy is concealed and legitimized by an appeal to discrimination that everyone admits doesn’t exist.

          Now I await Jaybird arrival to say that, see, he didn’t answer the question.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to stillwater
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            says:

            That was seriously in response to, “So how was it answered?”? Really? I was trying to figure out what Jaybird was talking about, to be honet. I thought his comment was a bit confusing.Report

            • Avatar stillwater in reply to Rufus F.
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              says:

              No. Maybe I replied in the wrong spot. It was a general response to your response to DD’s response to my comment.Report

            • Avatar stillwater in reply to Rufus F.
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              says:

              The Jaybird comment was directed a long discussion we had on affirmative obligations, one where Jaybird kept asking me what they were, I would answer, then he would say why won’t you just answer the question. He was playing a little game there. And apparently still is.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to stillwater
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                says:

                Sigh. It’s Friday night and I can’t talk. But, dude.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to stillwater
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                says:

                For the record “only you can know what you need to do” is not really a good answer when I’m asking, specifically, what obligations I am not happening to meet because, and this is important, it seems to me that I am, in fact, *MEETING* them.Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Cmon, Jay. You know full well I gave you a veritable list, a compilation, an encyclopedic resource of types of affirmative obligations you may currently have. So don’t pretend that I didn’t.

                And if you can’t understand what ‘only you can know’ means, I’ll spell it out for you. Again. Since moral principles aren’t (necessarily) enforced by law, it’s up the agent to freely act on them. And freely acting on them requires understanding and accepting them. Hence, only you can determine your own moral actions!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to stillwater
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                says:

                (Taking a break)

                And, again, I have this to say: We have a disconnect when it seems to me that *ALL* of my obligations are met and you say that, no, not all of them are.

                At that point I have to ask “which ones am I not meeting?”

                Because it seems to me that the answer ceases to be “only you can know” quite quickly. Indeed, if it stayed “only you can know”, we wouldn’t be having any disagreement whatsoever.Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Do you think you have an obligation to buy products from businesses acting environmentally responsibly, that pay workers better wages, that promote unions and domestic labor, that profit share with employess?; do you think you have on obligation to give to local charities, to disaster relief organizations, to the boys club of America, to AIDS awareness, to cancer research?; do you think you have an obligation to donate time to youth groups, to church activities, to helping deliver food to poor people in your community, to helping the elderly or the homeless or the disabled?

                An obligation to recycle, or not waste energy and other resources, to give blood, to designate yourself an organ donor?

                I mean, the list goes on and on.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Out of all of those that I agree are positive obligations on my part, I am meeting them.

                To the extent that you and I disagree about my obligations, are you allowed to resent me for not meeting what you feel are my obligations?

                When it comes to others, am I allowed to resent them for not meeting what I feel are their obligations?Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                a) I don’t believe it, even on your terms, but ok.

                b) no

                c) noReport

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Hey, b and c totally make my answer to a irrelevant.

                Good enough for me.

                Whew.Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Jaybird, I still think there’s a fundamental confusion about what a positive obligation is. It’s not something you’re coerced into accepting. It’s not leverage to gain advantage for something else. It’s not part of a calculus in which the nexus of obligations equals out for any individual involved. If you have an obligation to a poor person to help them, and you do, it doesn’t follow that that person has an obligation to you because of that action. They may have obligations to you wrt other things. And certainly, the failure of you to act on an affirmative obligation doesn’t justify anyone in resenting you for not acting. The drowning guy in the pool might be pissed at you for ignoring him, and be pissed that you waited for someone else to do the saving. But that’s an emotional response not entailed or justified by obligations going met or unmet.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                I still think there’s a fundamental confusion about what a positive obligation is.

                This is why I have been asking for examples.

                Apparently, I have to purchase certain products, give to certain charities, volunteer for certain social functions, and recycle (bottles, blood, and organs).

                I can appreciate that this list may not be exhaustive… and that, oddly enough, much of it does not look perfectly analogous to helping a drowning person at little to no cost to me (except for the organ donor thing… hey, if I’m dead, I certainly don’t need them anymore, right?).Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Jaybird,

                Apparently, I HAVE to ….

                No. You’re not getting it all. I think we ought to just give up.Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I think we ought to just give up.

                Actually, I’ll try one more time.

                Suppose you were teaching someone addition by going thru examples: ‘2+2= 4’, ‘3+2=5′, etc. And that person kept getting the wrong answers when asked to perform a new function on their own. So you go again to examples, including the one they got wrong, and you even bring out marbles and put them into sets, and showed them that combining the sets is basically what the addition function means. And they still don’t get it.

                Suppose that they then reply: I keep hearing about this addition function, and that you can add things, but look, all my number needs are met, and so what you’re talking about is jibberish.’

                Compare this to the moment just after you’ve gone through all the examples, and the lack of understanding, when the person goes ‘aha!, I get it!’.

                That’s what we’re talking about here. You either get it, or you don’t.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                If “I have an obligation to do X” does not, in fact, mean “I have to do X”, then we are using words very, very differently.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Look, Jaybird, what exactly is an Obligation in your book. Must is a modal verb: I must [verb], you must [verb], he must [verb].

                Here, the modal verb must is deontic. The speaker believes the obligation exists. You cannot have it both ways: either you accept the validity of the obligation or you don’t.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                And what, exactly, is a Positive Obligation? You as a citizen don’t have any positive obligations, unless you’re operating under color of law. As I read Positive Obligation, it’s what the state does, building schools, paving roads, sending out police officers to put up barricades and direct traffic.

                Now you might disagree how much right the state has to do these things. But that doesn’t mean it’s up to you, other than to petition the state and organize some lobbying effort to push back the Nanny State.

                You might also say a condo association has Positive Obligations to clean the pool, or your employer has positive obligations to run a safe workplace. But you? Private citizen? You don’t have any.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                So when we get to either you accept the validity of the obligation or you don’t and I say “awesome!”, how do we still have a problem?

                It’s stillwater who doesn’t believe that I have met all of my obligations (see comment #154)… and yet, when I ask for specifics, he won’t tell me what obligations I have not met (and tells me that only I can know what my obligations are).

                Either only I can know what my obligations are or you can know what my obligations are too.

                If you can know what my obligations are to the point where you’re pretty sure that I’m not meeting them, I would hope that you’d be able to say what the ones I’m not meeting would happen to be.

                If we all have so many, so very many, obligations that it’s not likely that any given person is meeting them all, then I’d say that “obligations” is probably not the right word for what we’re talking about and we should use a different one.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Well, maybe you do have some positive obligations: a parent can be hauled into court for neglecting his children. But even then, there’s some sort of hierarchy in place: some obligation has been created wherein the parent must feed his kids.

                But the kids doesn’t have to feed himself. He doesn’t have a positive obligation.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                As I’ve said, again and again, it seems to me that all of my positive obligations have been met.

                If it is your take that they are not, in fact, being met, please tell me what I could do to meet them.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Here’s what Stillwater is trying to say, and I don’t think you’ve ever realized what he’s trying to get across, here.

                It resolves to your Drowning Man example. You’ve repeatedly said you question how much obligation you have to repeatedly save a drowning man.

                Now here’s how it works out in the real world. You go out on the ice to save a drowning man when the posted notice says “Walking on Ice is Forbidden by Ordinance”, you will get arrested. You’re making the situation worse: you could just as easily get trapped in the ice. Go meddling in a traffic accident, you can get sued. Run into a burning house, same story.

                You have no obligation to save anyone. You might have some ethical obligation to pull out your phone and call 911, but you have no positive obligation, or even affirmative obligation, to save anyone. In point of fact, your meddling may make things worse.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                In other words, it’s not up to you, this Obligation business. If you want to break the law, go out on the ice yourself and get arrested, that’s your call. You are, as Stillwater pointed out, your own moral agent.

                Again, it would really be helpful here for you to understand the difference between Morality, Ethics and Law. Morality is what you won’t do, under any circumstances, whether or not anyone’s looking or you can get away with it. Ethics is me telling you not do to something, or alternately, hectoring you because you won’t do what I think is right and proper. Law is what the politician makes a law and judge decides is law and the jury decides is a violation of that law.Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Jaybird,

                It’s stillwater who doesn’t believe that I have met all of my obligations

                Well, I disagree with BlaiseP’s formulation of positive obligations insofar as he’s saying they apply only to the state. And we’ve clearly demonstrated that we aren’t clear on the concept either (which is puzzling, since I’ve been very clear about what I think they are, and what Singer thinks they are wrt the drowning man example).

                Look, when you say that the phrase ‘affirmative obligation to do X’ simply mean ‘I must do X’, you’re confusing – as BlaiseP said – the relevant modalities. On your view, an affirmative obligation has the force of a contractual obligation, something you must do or suffer the consequences. But that misses the key point, here. That morality isn’t enforceable by law (the old line that you can’t legislate morality is relevant here) or exchanges or anything else. It simply is what it is. And it exists independently of our ability to apprehend it. That’s why the drowning man TE is helpful: it informs our knowledge of an otherwise unknown moral obligation.

                And again, it’s disingenuous of you (or an expression of your confusion about what I mean) to say that I’m suggesting that you as a matter of fact aren’t meeting all your affirmative obligations. The point here is that you determine your affirmative obligations. If you feel their all met, then great – good on ya. In my case, and everyone else’s case who takes affirmative obligations seriously, there are always obligations left unmet due to financial, time, epistemological, and other constraints. I admit that I’m not meeting all the obligations that I recognize I have. But recognizing that failure doesn’t preclude me from acting on the obligations that I can and am able to act on.

                The word ‘obligation’ is ambiguous between a purely normative reading and a legalistic one. That distinction ought to be kept in mind here.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                … I should probably add Morality is what you feel compelled to do, though everyone else tells you not to do it. Morality, Ethics and Law all have their affirmative and negative aspects: you must file your taxes, etc.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                This entire discussion brings echoes of Paul to my ears.

                It seems that my saying that I’ve met all of my positive obligations is like me saying that “I am not a sinner”. Well, we *ALL* know that anybody who says that they aren’t a sinner is probably the biggest sinner on the block!!!

                But I’m not talking about “sin”.

                I’m talking about my positive obligations that have to each of you because we all live in a society together… and, again, it seems to me that my positive obligations to each of you is met… and if it is your position that I am not, in fact, meeting my obligations I would like to know what I could do to meet them.

                And if it is the case, like with sin, that it’s not possible for anybody except for Doctor Dobson Himself to be without sin, I’d like that established too (this seems to be closer to stillwater’s position… did I get it right?).Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Let’s say that Maribou tells me to go to the store to get some grapes.

                I would say that, now, I have a positive obligation to go to the store to get some grapes (or to come back with an explanation of how they’re out of season, or sold out, or in bad shape due to freezes, or whatnot).

                This is a relatively trivial obligation, I think we all agree… or is it the general position that this is *NOT* an obligation that I have to Maribou and the fact that I think that she asking me to do something for her creates an obligation just demonstrates how little I understand what “obligations” are?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Waa..aall, to the extent some issue is merely Normative, I’m not sure we can sharpen that stick up, call it Ethics, poke someone else with it and call it an Obligation.

                No, an Obligation is created. It’s a contract. Now folks just will go on abusing that term Contract, a-la Social Contract, but I don’t hold with it. The law is the Social Contract. We might, from our moral positions, want to outlaw abortion or gay marriage or the death penalty or school prayer and Lord do people get worked up about those… but really, all these goddamn Wedge Issues are nothing but so many jumped up personal moral convictions. They’re not binding on others until they’re a matter of law.Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                and if it is your position that I am not, in fact, meeting my obligations I would like to know what I could do to meet them.

                Look, Jaybird, if you think all this reduces to pointing fingers, then you really aren’t getting it. Honoring moral obligations isn’t like a scorecard, and it doesn’t justify boasting.

                I mean, I repeat myself here, but: do you have an obligation to help the hypothetical drowning man? If yes, (do you see the principle being invoked here?) do you have think you might have (see what I did there?) an obligation to help the non-hypothetical (fill in the blank here, but as an example) starving person in Darfur ? If not, why not?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                When it comes to Maribou and the Grapes, there is a contract in place, a marriage contract I presume. They usually take “obey” out of the marriage oaths these days, for obvious reasons, but no law obliges you to get those grapes. You might say “Honey, let’s put grapes on the shopping list and make sure we get enough this time” to which she’ll respond “But I want them NOW”.

                So there are two words in Japanese, one is ON, the obligations created by a relationship, the other is GIRI, the pleasant parts of a friendship, the intimacy, the united effort which allows you to say Jaybird, walk away from that goddamn computer and talk to me, dammit. Which I’ll bet she’s done, too.

                You know you’re in trouble in a relationship when your partner stops complaining. Then, you will meet up with the law, for sure, in divorce court, where you will find yourself encumbered in obligations marriage never created.Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                BlaiseP, I’m not sure what your suggesting in these last few posts, but my understanding of the drowning man TE (I mean, just think of yourself in the situation in which you can save a drowning man at little cost to yourself) is that we have an obligation to others that goes beyond formal or stipulated agreement. It’s an example of basic sui generis, non-instrumental morality.Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                BlaiseP

                The law is the Social Contract.

                This would be a very unique conception of the social contract indeed. I’m not saying that it isn’t possible, or that it has no merits. But according to social contract theorists, the law (read: the state) arises out of the social contract.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Yeah, I admit my definition of the Social Contract is hugely different than the usual one. Consider though, the benefits of my approach. It allows me to square up both sides of your debate with Jaybird.

                He contends his obligations have been met and seems aggravated that more obligations should be heaped upon him. He’ll extend himself to Maribou and the Grapes and I’m betting he is a merciful person, as kindly as anyone. What he resents is the demand that he should care more.

                BlaiseP’s takes the Social Contract to court where it is found grossly deficient. Where is Jaybird’s signature? Why, there are no signatures, no dates, the terms are horribly vague when they aren’t outright contradictory. Completely unenforceable and certainly not binding on Jaybird, who seems perfectly willing to run out for grapes but draws the line at repeatedly saving the foolish.

                No, the Social Contract arises from centuries of petty arguments, the ruts in the road where quarrelers have been dragged by the sheikh’s constabulary into his courtyard where both are given rough justice and one or the other gets a well-deserved beating. Eventually the priests get involved, invariably when the sheikh calls the priest in and expresses his wish to periodically crucify a few of the more stupid quarrelers as an example for the others. The priest says, “nah, let me handle this, I’ll tell ’em the Sky God has his beady eye on all of ’em and keeps a list of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, and when they go to hell, the two recording angels will read out every sin they’ve committed since puberty before Malik the Keeper of Hell gets to roasting their quarrelsome and sinful asses.” They both have a secret laugh, thereby inventing the Kiraman Katibin Recording Angels and Santa Claus at the same time. And the Social Contract.Report

            • Avatar stillwater in reply to Rufus F.
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              says:

              But Rufus, does this address your question above, under DD’s comment? I think we might be talking past each other here, even tho I’m trying to address your comments head on.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to stillwater
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                says:

                Well, I don’t know if it does. As I understood it, the argument there was that there’s discrimination going on against conservatives in academia and academics say all of the things that white people say about discrimination against blacks. So, all I was asking was, if we’re going to frame the situation that way, how could any academic possibly respond to that? If you tell the person making that claim that, yes, you agree with them that there’s discrimination going on, you’re fine. But, if you say anything to contradict them, it can be taken as proof that you’re part of the privileged group making excuses for discrimination. So, you either agree with them that they’re right, or when you disagree with them, that’s taken as proof that they’re right!

                I’m still not sure what that comment has to do with conservative advocacy though. And, seriously, Megan McArdle and I are making different arguments.Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to stillwater
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                says:

                I re-read your comment to DD more closely, and yes I didn’t get that right, so my apologies there. I somehow understood what you were saying as supporting DD’s comment. So then disregard the other reply. And I agree with your response to DD there.

                I guess I’ve lost the thread, since I’m not quite sure what we’re discussing anymore. If you’re proposal is simply that benefits accrue to the academy as well as to conservatism generally by having a greater representation of conservatives, I guess I agree. How to achieve that remains unclear.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to stillwater
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            says:

            Here’s what I said:

            1. There are less conservatives in certain academic departments than you might find elsewhere in society.

            2. Conservatives claim this is because of systemic discrimination.

            3. I don’t think that’s what’s going on.

            4. But, over time, yes, having a majority in certain fields being liberal might well lead to a sort of consensus effect on the discourse, so maybe it really would enrich the academic profession to have more conservatives on board. And maybe it would be less lonely for the ones who are already there.

            5. But, similarly, there is a consensus among conservatives and having four decades of conservatives making the case that academia is not for them must have had some effect on how many of them are entering the profession.

            And, hard as this seems to be to believe- I said that because that is the best and most honestly that I can answer that question “why are there less conservatives in academic departments than elsewhere?” given my vantage point. I wanted to take the question seriously and think about what might be going on. Seriously, I’m not here to file a brief for anyone’s political agenda.

            What I’ve gotten for that is bitched at by conservatives in the last thread for denying the “true problems” in academia, and bitched at here by liberals for secretly trying to push the conservative agenda. Seriously, if you want to argue with Megan McArdle for saying that conservatives are “shut out of academia”, feel free to. But, really, the most controversial thing I’m trying to say here is, hey, it might be good for both academia and conservatives if we had more of them around the profession. At the least, they could pull our rickshaws.Report

            • Avatar stillwater in reply to Rufus F.
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              says:

              Fair enough. I guess some of the AA talk upthread got me to thinking you were advocating something more. And I accept my part of the problem here, for bringing in a headfull of other people’s pretty preposterous arguments and letting that color my understanding of what you were saying here.Report

            • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Rufus F.
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              says:

              Tell me with a straight face that “the academy” isn’t NPR.

              “Criticisms of NPR “do have some legitimacy,” she noted, and “we must, as a starting point, take on board some of this criticism.”

              Sue Schardt, director of the Association of Independents in Radio and a member of NPR’s board, noted during the board’s Feburary 25 “public comment” period that “we unwittingly cultivated a core audience that is predominately white, liberal, highly educated, elite.”

              This is all Rufus is saying, I think, and fairly gently.

              Geez, some of you people are so obtuse.

              http://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/lachlan-markay/2011/03/11/npr-board-member-admits-it-serves-liberal-highly-educated-elite-wond#ixzz1GMxhPfNb

              http://althouse.blogspot.com/2011/03/npr-board-memeber-says-we-unwittingly.htmlReport

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to tom van dyke
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                says:

                Universities are supposed to attract an audience that’s predominately highly educated and elite. When they’ve tried to become less white, they’ve often been sued for it.

                As for liberal, do we have to pretend never to have heard of the Hoover Institution or the Chicago school of economists? If a fishbag like Victor Davis Hanson can get an academic job, a smart conservative should have no problem.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                “When they’ve tried to become less white, they’ve often been sued for it.”

                Sure they have, but they’ve still accomplished some pretty amazing things in that regard during the last century. Compare the student body makeup at most elite universities now to what it was 100 years ago, not to mention the public universities, and not to mention the gender makeup- it’s like night and day. People can complain all they want about affirmative action (the same people never complain about legacy students), but the universities radically overhauled their admissions policies in the last century and, in the process, made greater strides towards racial and gender diversity than any other American institution.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Rufus F.
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          says:

          “So, is there any way a person from the in-group could respond to this question, other than saying what the critics want to hear…”

          To go by what we see in the racism discussions, no, there isn’t any answer that the out-group’s designated representatives would consider acceptable other than “I’m a despicable bigot”.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to DensityDuck
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            says:

            Yeah, I think that’s right. This is why the conversation never goes anywhere- much less gets started- on academia. People in the profession circle the wagons because they know that, if they say “Well, that’s interesting, let’s look at this togehter”, they’ve going to get nailed on both ends. Now, if you want to compare Al Sharpton to David Horowitz, that might be interesting!Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F.
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              says:

              There is a degree of skepticism that is insurmountable.

              Is there anything that you could possibly say to someone on the other side that would demonstrate to them that you don’t have a false consciousness?

              Is there anything that you could possibly say to Descartes that would demonstrate to him that you were not in the Matrix?

              Now, when it comes to why there are fewer conservatives in academia, there are a lot of reasons behind it. There ain’t just one and, more’s the pity, the reasons combined create a positive feedback loop. To point out that both sides are happier with the way things are is to invite comparisons with the last 100 times that the in-group has said “both sides are happier with the way things are”… whether or not both sides are happier with the way things are.Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Dude, you need to re-read Desscartees. That’s the whole point of the first meditation.Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Ahh. You meant the problem of other minds. And you’re right, Descartes leaves this unanswered. Personally, I’m pretty sure that philosophical skepticism is not what grounds conflicts between in- and out-groups.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to stillwater
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                says:

                I’m pretty sure that philosophical skepticism is not what grounds conflicts between in- and out-groups.

                No, and I’m not saying it did. I’m saying that it’s a useful tool, on both sides, to explain how the other side isn’t *REALLY* this, that, or the other. The in-group hasn’t *REALLY* addressed the fundamental problems faced by the out-group… or the out-group isn’t *REALLY* interested in joining us over here anyway.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Much props for dat. It’s when we start presuming we understand the other side that we start down the road to Crazy Town. Let them explain their problems for themselves.

                I asked for, (and was not given) a single instance of a conservative who was treated unfairly. There’s always two forces at work: one urges the would-be prophet to live in the Echo Chamber of the monastery where his every sentiment will find approval, the other drives him in the wilderness, to a hermetic existence, periodically coming into town to preach on the subject of Townie Wickedness.

                Neither makes much sense. It’s only in the forum of ideas where any meaningful progress can be made.Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                It’s only in the forum of ideas where any meaningful progress can be made.

                And this requires talking the same language and agreeing on basic facts at play. Which was, I take it, Jaybirds criticism, that this doesn’t happen because of an overall skepticism.

                One way to cut away the skepticism is to agree on some central facts in play. Another is to hold yourself to a standard of evidence and argument that you expect from you interlocutor, one in which the burden isn’t unrealistically high (eg., refuting conspiracy theories) nor one that permits begging fundamental questions (is their complaint justified from their pov?). Certainly when one side isn’t arguing in good faith, everything breaks down. Without accepted standards for what constitutes good faith argument (eg., relevant evidence and valid argument at a minimum), however, disputes will forever be unsolveable.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                I raised two daughters and a very fractious son. If there was lots of love, there was lots of drama. I used to say “The way you feel will never have anything to do with the facts. It doesn’t matter what you say, what matters is what the other side hears.” …. and many another such parental nostrum.

                Look, I’ve said before I am with Quine: we reach conclusions before we have all the facts. Optical illusions and magic tricks work because evolution has compelled us to make up our minds quickly. We take sides, not because we’re right, often we know we’re not entirely in the right when we take sides. We take sides for emotional reasons. And when we do take sides, the first words out of our mouths are always “They don’t understand us.”

                And it’s all so much tendentious bullshit, and everyone knows it, even as they say it. Of course we don’t understand each other: about as soon as you think you’ve got someone figured out after living with them for three decades, they do something surprising and you realize how little you actually know about that person.

                The truth is, we don’t understand ourselves. Ever seen someone look in the mirror, that face they put on? We’re never any good at picking the best picture of ourselves out of the stack of photos. It’s only when we’re brave enough to admit other people see us all day long and understand us quite as well as we do that we can make any progress on ourselves.Report

              • Avatar stillwater in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                It’s only when we’re brave enough to admit other people see us all day long and understand us quite as well as we do that we can make any progress on ourselves.

                Point taken.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Of course there’s something you can say to convince the other side you’re serious: it can be reduced to four words:

                What do you want?

                Then you shut up, pull out your notebook and start furiously writing, for they will tell you, in exquisite detail, their entire complaint.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                Could this be done in theory?

                I mean, I suppose we’re kinda doing it now… but it doesn’t really feel like we’re doing anything but commenting on a post on a blog. Could “academia” sit down with “the conservatives” and ask what they want?

                I have no idea who would be enough of an authority to ask the question. I have less of one when it comes to who would answer it.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Sure they could. I presume it happens all the time, as it does out here in the blogosphere. Look, how can anyone seriously advocate a position without trotting it by his intellectual opposition first, as a trial run, to knock all the edges off it?

                My essay on Kojève and Strauss is still in ferment, but this I can say: the interplay of these two diametrically-opposed intellects was the making of both men. Strauss sent his students to Kojève. Another such friendship, Bertrand Russell and GK Chesterton. Chesterton sought out his intellectual opponents and they him.Report

            • Avatar stillwater in reply to Rufus F.
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              says:

              Yeah, I think that’s right. This is why the conversation never goes anywhere- much less gets started- on academia. People in the profession circle the wagons because they know that, if they say “Well, that’s interesting, let’s look at this togehter”, they’ve going to get nailed on both ends.

              I think it’s an important observation that outgroup criticisms of dominant group privilege create a ‘are you still beating your wife’ context in which further discussion can’t proceed from that starting place. But I don’t agree that such a framing entails that further discussion is impossible.

              Eg., suppose blacks confront the dominant white society with the assertion of extensive racial discrimination, and motivate that issue along the out-group/in-group lines being discussed here. The suggestion from blacks is that white systematically restrict their freedoms. The in-group response is that, no, we see no discrimination, hence we’re not gonna talk about it (otherwise we admit we’re racist bigots).

              But the evidence was overwhelming that the dominant white culture’s response was clearly false: blacks were not only under-represented in the Academy, they were also denied jobs, loans from banks, opportunities to buy houses, vote, etc.

              So here’s what I would say about the ‘conservative are discriminated against in the Academy’ assertion: there is a minimal burden – an evidential one – that needs to be met for the claim to have merit. If the argument proceeds along the lines proposed by some – that mere polling data suggests discrimination – then the argument is hopeless.

              Again, I (personally) see the polling data of evidence for something (of course I do, it needs an account and an explanation) but I refrain from coming to conclusions about what it means until a coherent theory accounting for it can be put forward. Which is to say, I don’t think any one in the academy qua academic reflexively rejects the data suggesting a disparity – or even the overt claim of discrimination based on the polling data – and thus, sustains the ‘beating your wife still’ context. Rather, I think the academic, or the academy more generally, is justified in granting the evidence, but equally justified in refraining from coming to conclusions regarding what that evidence means until it can be accounted for in a coherent, non-question begging fashion.

              Rufus, I realize that none of this directly addresses your larger argument, and the comments here are specifically addressed to the catch-22 created by outgroup accusation creating defensive ingroup responses. I don’t see that being sustained, except to the degree that the outgroup insists on (as you say) treating anything said by the ingroup, including the bare admission of it, as proof that the accusation is true.Report

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