“They then chuckle together in a self-congratulatory academic manner”

by Henry on June 6, 2013

oh dear (background here ).

{ 134 comments }

1

bill benzon 06.06.13 at 7:10 pm

In response I’d really like to do something with “pedicure” but I can’t quite make it work.

2

js. 06.06.13 at 7:14 pm

What is it with philosophers losing their grip on the English language? “I had a job performed on my hand yesterday”? Seriously?

3

Ronan(rf) 06.06.13 at 7:20 pm

But the joke doesn’t make any sense, even on its own terms

4

Rich Puchalsky 06.06.13 at 7:44 pm

Not sure of whether it’s appropriate to link to the non-paywalled version of the CHE article, but eh, here it is.

What gets me about his self-justification is this kind of thing:
“Similarly, a professional glass blower might remark to his co-worker with a lopsided grin: “Will you do a blow job for me while I eat this sandwich?” “

Even assuming that his description of what happened is 100% correct, this sounds like plain old workplace sexual harassment to me. OK, you’re a woman working as a glassblower, and every day your boss comes up to you and says “How about you do a blow job for me? Get it? A blow job?” There’s no misinterpretation of language going on at all.

5

Dallas 06.06.13 at 7:54 pm

Christ, what an asshole.

6

OCS 06.06.13 at 7:54 pm

But it’s the astute, linguistically primed graduate student (not the naive eavesdropper) who’s complaining.

7

bork 06.06.13 at 7:55 pm

Quite the defence:

“It wasn’t sexual harassment, because I was just making sexual double-entendres to a student, and sexual harassment is presumably something that only occurs if I explicitly ask for sex.

Secondly, it was a speech act, and you have to understand its context and be really sophisticated to get my sex jokes. Please ignore the fact that this defence pertains to an imagined verbal conversation when I’m in trouble for dirty texts and emails.

Thirdly, aren’t grad students utterly terrible? Aren’t they the worst? Isn’t my grad student so lacking in sophistication because she didn’t get my sex pun? What a bitch! The interpretation of speech acts, not her! Of course!”

What would it have taken for him just to accept a little humility and apologize like a regular human being? “I made a bunch of sexual puns to a grad student. I didn’t mean them to be taken as come-ons, but they were, and I made her feel uncomfortable. It wasn’t appropriate, particularly given the power difference in a student-advisor relationship. I’m very sorry for my actions.”

8

P O'Neill 06.06.13 at 7:56 pm

Seinfeld, Pez Dispenser episode –

NOEL: That laugh. That’s the laugh. That’s it. You’re the one.
ELAINE: No, no. It was an accident. It really wasn’t my fault. It was Jerry.
Jerry put a Pez dispenser on my leg.
NOEL: You put a Pez dispenser on her leg during my recital?.
JERRY: I didn’t know she would laugh.
NOEL: You lied to me George, you lied to me.
GEORGE: No, I, uh, um, wa, wa, What did I do? … Where are you going?
NOEL: I … am breaking up … with you!
GEORGE: You can’t break up with me. I’ve got hand.
NOEL: And you’re going to need it.

9

OCS 06.06.13 at 7:57 pm

Oh, and let’s face it — the “jokes” he gives as examples are about as linguistically and philosophically sophisticated as an old Beavis and Butthead episode — “Heh, heh. He said ‘dick’.”

10

Jerry Vinokurov 06.06.13 at 8:01 pm

This might well be one of the most bizarre things I’ve read on the Internet in a long time, and I spend a lot of time reading bizarre things on the Internet.

11

t e whalen 06.06.13 at 8:12 pm

It’s fortunate that Professor McGinn’s teaching load has been recently lightened, as he now has the opportunity to expand his blog post into an article or book. I think he’s breaking some new ground in the intersection between Gricean implicature and moral philosophy. For instance, he seems to consider it obvious that a non-cooperating conversationalist who intentionally flouts Gricean maxims in such a way as to make the “timeless” meaning of his utterance a social or moral violation does not actually commit a wrong. Or, alternatively working backwards, if the speaker can make an argument that the utterer’s meaning of an utterance with a morally objectionable timeless meaning could have been innocuous, he can thereby avoid moral criticism. He goes even further, suggesting if an interpreter interprets an intentionally maxim-flouting utterance according to its timeless meaning, and acts upon that interpretation, the interpreter, not the speaker, commits a moral wrong.

Would it matter in these situations whether the statement embedded in the utterer’s preferred meaning was factually true? Can the speaker avoid interrogation of his intent in making a non-cooperative utterance?

There are so many interesting philosophical and linguistic avenues to explore here, and I wish Professor McGinn the best of luck in pursuing them in his well-deserved and copious new leisure time.

12

LFC 06.06.13 at 8:22 pm

I read the non-paywalled version of the CHE article (thanks, Rich).

Toward the end of the article, a male graduate student is quoted as complaining that McGinn has been removed from his dissertation committee. I think that student probably does have some reason to feel aggrieved, inasmuch as he has nothing to do with the case.

13

Tom Slee 06.06.13 at 8:24 pm

Is he arguing that “hand job” is not a rigid designator?

14

Henry 06.06.13 at 8:25 pm

Link changed to non-paywalled version (I had actually found the CHE piece through Google News which apparently gives free access to this and likely other CHE articles- useful to know perhaps).

15

Collin Street 06.06.13 at 8:35 pm

It’s actually hard to see when you’ve fucked up, because you chose all your actions in a good-faith effort and if you were to run through it again you’ll just get the same results. I mean, errors-of-fact you can see when you learn more facts, but errors-of-judgement are judged using the same brain that made the judgement in the first place.

But most of what gets called “intelligence” is learned skill, and can be learned badly.

[if you're making habitual errors of judgement, self-respect, respect for your own cognitive processes, is pretty much the root of the problem. If you fuck up you need to start distrusting yourself, and getting people to start distrusting themselves is not often a pretty process.]

16

The Modesto Kid 06.06.13 at 8:47 pm

Kind of fucked up to not print her name out of respect for her employment prospects, and then print her “long-term boyfriend”‘s name — isn’t it?

17

xaaronx 06.06.13 at 9:00 pm

Does it bother anyone else that McGinn thinks a handjob means masturbating? I’ve certainly never heard it referred to that way.

18

AcademicLurker 06.06.13 at 9:01 pm

Kind of fucked up to not print her name out of respect for her employment prospects, and then print her “long-term boyfriend”‘s name — isn’t it?

I think the point is that they don’t want this story to be the first thing that comes up if a potential employer googles her name. Naming the boyfriend won’t change that.

19

In the sky 06.06.13 at 9:03 pm

“graduate students are not what they used to be”
Indeed.

Neither are women in general. Used to be able to sneer at them and pass innuendo without any consequences. Now the bitches (female dogs —be careful how you paraphrase me!) think they should be treated well. Should have elected Romney.

20

phosphorious 06.06.13 at 9:09 pm

One thing speech act theory tells us is that when a joke fails, it’s not automatically the audience’s fault. Failure of uptake might be due to the fact that the joke isn’t funny and the joker is being a dick.

(That is, a penis. Be careful how you paraphrase me!)

21

anonYmous 06.06.13 at 9:28 pm

Scene: search committee meeting, after a discussion of the unusually low percentage of of women on our faculty relative to any of our peers and whether we should try to do something about it.

Male colleague, voice dripping with sarcasm: “oh, that’s right: we can’t hire him, he has a penis.”
Me: “yes, because God knows there are enough dicks in the room already.”

OK, so I didn’t really say it. But I thought it. If I had known that “you aren’t sophisticated enough to understand that I meant dick as a synonym for penis” was a valid defense, I might have said it. (But probably not. No balls?)

22

Substance McGravitas 06.06.13 at 9:33 pm

I think the point is that they don’t want this story to be the first thing that comes up if a potential employer googles her name. Naming the boyfriend won’t change that.

It will if someone has a grudge (not just in this situation but against women in general).

23

ezra abrams 06.06.13 at 10:02 pm

i the only one thinks it is wierd, hundreds of web posts without *any* data (the text messages) ?
i mean, without reading the offending text, we really don’t know what is going on, do we ?
am i missing something here ?

24

JanieM 06.06.13 at 10:03 pm

And one should also not underestimate the sophistication of the speaker.

Apparently one should also not overestimate it.

25

Alan 06.06.13 at 10:03 pm

McGinn’s “response” appears to me to be yet another extension of a pathetic tendency to satisfy only himself.

26

speranza 06.06.13 at 10:11 pm

Does it bother anyone else that McGinn thinks a handjob means masturbating? I’ve certainly never heard it referred to that way.

Money, by Martin Amis (who happens to be more or less the same age as McGinn), is full of this usage — to the contemporary American ear it sounds odd, but it may have been in vogue for a hot British second some decades ago.

27

Sandwichman 06.06.13 at 10:24 pm

Wanker.

28

Bill Benzon 06.06.13 at 11:05 pm

OTOH, if McGinn really believes that that blog post is a reasonable account of the situation and one that puts an innocent face on his actions, then it’s not too difficult to see how there’d be considerable difference between the meanings he intended in his communications and the meanings his student read out of them.

29

john c. halasz 06.06.13 at 11:27 pm

I find this affair to be very mysterian: what is it like to be Colin McGinn?

30

Tony Lynch 06.06.13 at 11:44 pm

Well, well, the pleasures of righteousness. That, I think, is the really worrying thing in this thread. Here we have our “progressives” going neo-con on things moral.

31

LFC 06.06.13 at 11:44 pm

@28
clever, jch, but not everyone here may know that McGinn favors a ‘mysterian’ view of consciousness/mind/whatever.

32

Brandon 06.07.13 at 12:29 am

who is supposed to be the unsophisticated eavesdropper here?

33

MPAVictoria 06.07.13 at 12:31 am

“That, I think, is the really worrying thing in this thread. Here we have our “progressives” going neo-con on things moral.”
I am not sure what this means. Care to expand on this for the slower people here?

34

js. 06.07.13 at 1:00 am

Here we have our “progressives” going neo-con on things moral.

How exactly is anyone “going neo-con”? People are pointing out that (a) the jokes are at best juvenile and unfunny (undeniable [though what's that they say about taste?]), and (b) that it’s, umm, not exactly appropriate for a professor to be texting sexual double-entendres to his student/RA—and note that the post turns on McGinn acknowledging that the utterances function as such. (b) seems to me pretty undeniable as well (and not a matter of taste).

And this turns us into Paul fuckin’ Wolfowitz!?

35

Henry 06.07.13 at 1:05 am

PDNFTT

36

js. 06.07.13 at 1:08 am

Noted. Sorry.

37

xaaronx 06.07.13 at 2:01 am

@speranza

Good to know. Thanks.

38

Atticus Dogsbody 06.07.13 at 2:13 am

Is philosophy a head job?

39

js. 06.07.13 at 2:29 am

We’ve been giving students head since the days of Socrates.

40

gadfly 06.07.13 at 2:37 am

When McGuinn’s first novel received a bad review, he wrote to the reviewer to tell him that he’d got it all wrong. This is a man who not only believes that the mechanism of mind is beyond us, but who manifests this belief as a broad joke by being utterly blind to minds outside of his own.

41

Ben Alpers 06.07.13 at 3:06 am

Sure, js….but, back then, nobody ever objected to what Socrates did to his students! ;-)

42

PatrickinIowa 06.07.13 at 3:15 am

But Ben, Alcibiades objected to what Socrates didn’t do.

Anyone think AEI might soon have a “philosopher” charting the decline of academia into politically correct mediocrity?

43

Belle Waring 06.07.13 at 6:18 am

CHRIST, WHAT AN ASSHOLE.
28,9; 30: slight further consideration leads me to wonder about a song I had been thinking of just the other day, by “? and the Mysterians” (pronounced “Question Mark”), “96 Tears.” I imagine all those jokes got made some time ago, however, it being so tempting, and the song being from 1966.
39: really, rather a lot the other way around.

44

adam.smith 06.07.13 at 7:04 am

admittedly, though – digging his own ditch with intellectual wankery is a good example of a hand job in its various metaphorical meanings…

45

Rob 06.07.13 at 9:05 am

This looks like a fairly obvious case of someone saying something that you just Should Not Say. One can dispute whether or not it’s ever acceptable to engage in sexual innuendo, but as a general rule it’s not worth the risk. It’s amazing that people still do it.

46

Hidari 06.07.13 at 9:09 am

This confirms what many of us feel about Analytic Philosophers, especially those who specialise in the ‘philosophy of language’ and the ‘philosophy of mind’ , which is that, in reality, many of them have only the most tenuous grasp of how language or (other peoples’) minds actually work.

47

Torquil Macneil 06.07.13 at 9:52 am

“Does it bother anyone else that McGinn thinks a handjob means masturbating? I’ve certainly never heard it referred to that way … “

What else can it mean?

Slightly off topic but there is a popular range of hand lotion in the UK called ‘Hand Relief’ and I seem to be the only person who finds that funny.

48

SusanC 06.07.13 at 9:53 am

@46. I sometimes work with analytical philosophers, and I am often astonished at how poorly they understand how other people think. And I say this as someone who works on an autism research project, and gets to see what people who have an official autism diagnosis are like.

(I’m not expressing an opinion on this particular case. But there might be some serious mileage in the idea that philosophy departments are a good place to recruit experimental subjects with Asperger Sydrome[*], instead of the mathematics/computer science departments used by Simon Baron Cohen et al)

[*] Yes, I know about the changes tot he criteria in DSM-V.

49

Niall McAuley 06.07.13 at 10:16 am

THIS IS THE VOICE OF THE MYSTERIANS. WE KNOW YOU CAN HEAR US, EARTHMEN. YOUR UNPROVOKED ATTACK ON AGENT MCGINN HAS BEEN NOTED. OUR WAR OF NERVES BEGINS.

BE CAREFUL HOW YOU PARAPHRASE US!

50

floopmeister 06.07.13 at 10:26 am

Gosh, if he’d made an off-colour joke about cunnilingus would he have claimed it was just a slip of the tongue?

A wanker indeed.

51

harry b 06.07.13 at 11:36 am

Ezra — we know a lot. He voluntarily stepped down from his job, despite denying he had done wrong, and despite being represented by a lawyer. Getting someone to do this without having pretty good reasons to fire them is virtually impossible (ask any university administrator). We also have his remarkably unfortunate self-justification — note that Henry could have posted this on Monday, but refrained until McGinn made his response.

Susan C — well, someone might argue that, since philosophy depends almost entirely on laundering intuitions, some diversity of personality types is a plus! (Just as someone, more sensibly, might argue that some diversity along the lines of race, gender, social class background, cultural background, etc, is essential).

52

LFC 06.07.13 at 1:35 pm

Ben Alpers @41
Sure, js….but, back then, nobody ever objected to what Socrates did to his students!

I don’t think Socrates “did” much of anything to his students. In Plato’s/Socrates’ view, of course, the highest love is non-physical. (Socrates was turned on, no doubt, by some of his students but I don’t think he touched them, or if he did it was not often.)

53

Ben Alpers 06.07.13 at 2:24 pm

LFC@52:

I don’t think Socrates ‘did’ much of anything to his students..

At the risk of spoiling my not very good joke, that was my point. Socrates was executed for, among other things, corrupting the minds of the youth. My comment relied on the ambiguity of the word “do” (much as McGinn’s played off the supposed ambiguity of “hand job”…except in the case of my comment, the ambiguity wasn’t just something I made up, nor did it involve sexually harrassing anyone).

54

LFC 06.07.13 at 2:44 pm

@Ben A.
Ok, I get it. (I shd have paid more attention to the wink emoticon.)

55

Bloix 06.07.13 at 3:50 pm

#48 – on aspies/autism/”on the spectrum” and sexual harassment, there have been some very good posts at feministe, e.g., “How Not To Be A Creep”
http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2013/01/09/how-not-to-be-a-creep/

56

Scott A. Anderson 06.07.13 at 3:51 pm

Another gap between McGinn’s statement and the allegations detailed in the CHE article (which constitute what I know about his alleged conduct) is a lack of acknowledgement that the complaint was not about one joke or statement, but rather about a pattern of behavior, across a series of messages that occurred over several months. It is easily possible to say something stupid, offensive, and harmful on a single occasion. This is not laudable, but if one deals with such a statement appropriately, apologizing, adjusting future behavior, etc., then usually everyone can go on in a productive way. What the CHE makes plain is that the conduct alleged occurred over a span of time, and that it seems to be the cumulative effect of these messages that made the situation unbearable to the complainant. Although we lack a lot of detail here, it’s more plausible that someone could be taking a single statement out of context than that a whole series of communications over a number of months is misunderstood. Similarly, it would be rare for any single communication to constitute sexual harassment so severe and disruptive that it requires removing someone from employment. But if there is a pattern of practice over time that gives rise to a hostile environment, and shows the harasser is incorrigible, then terminating employment is a much more reasonable resolution, I think.

57

hix 06.07.13 at 5:18 pm

A post titled “how not to be a creep” sure must be very good on the issue and very sensitive towards those with mental disorders.
(I did read the first 4 sentences and they were even worse than expected)

58

xaaronx 06.07.13 at 5:35 pm

@47

As was pointed out to me above–and at the risk of derailing the discussion a bit–it may make a difference here that I am American but in my experience with the phrase, a “hand job” is always something one gets from or gives to someone else and thus not masturbation, which is what one does to (with?) oneself. While the meaning is clear enough in most contexts, that usage is apparently just a Britishism with which I was unfamiliar. If someone said they gave themselves a hand job, I would be amused at the odd phrasing but would have no trouble parsing what they meant. No real bearing that I can see on McGinn’s alleged behavior.

59

bianca steele 06.07.13 at 5:42 pm

On Susan C.’s comment: I hate to say it, but I wonder if part of the problem is e-mail. In 1990 we used e-mail very little. Even to schedule a group meeting through e-mail could result in complaints, from those who styled themselves more humanistically oriented, usually, (which obviously doesn’t mean they were 100% socialized into “normal” social norms, in fact they were often eccentric, and sometimes hid that eccentricity somewhat by explaining it as their being the only “people person” in a crowd of techies) that it was impersonal and inappropriate.

Now people in all departments spend entire days writing, and many of them were not people who ever thought their lives were going to depend on their writing ability. Much less on near-constant direct personal communication with a large number of others.

60

MPAVictoria 06.07.13 at 6:07 pm

“I hate to say it, but I wonder if part of the problem is e-mail.”

This is a very interesting idea. You are right that now people spend way more time than used to be the case communicating through writing and it is much harder to get across meaning through text. I think most people have accidentally hurt the feelings of others due to some sort of miscommunication over email.
/These comments are not meant to excuse the actions described in the linked article which seem to go way beyond “miscommunication.”

61

Bloix 06.07.13 at 7:01 pm

#56 – it’s unfortunate that you stopped at sentence 4. Go back and read the block-quoted material, which is the point of the post.

#58 – Maybe email is perhaps part of the problem. I recall the time I sent an “amusing” email to a female junior colleague – entirely non-sexual – and found out months later (to my astonishment and chagrin) that it was taken as being angry and hostile.

But it’s not the whole problem. McGinn’s defense is that he was joking around with double entendres. The very best possible light to put on it is that he thought he was just flirting and he thought she didn’t mind.

But a guy who goes on flirting with a woman who doesn’t respond in a way that communicates that she likes it with is a creep. Touching, double entendres, overly familiar compliments, intrusive questions, and other “innocent” encroachments are creepy. (Remember Angela Merkel’s reaction to George Bush’s shoulder rub?)

And an older man with authority over a younger woman who behaves creepily toward her is a scary creep. She can’t ignore him or tell him to go to hell, because he’s got the power to be dangerous to her. She tries to accommodate him without encouraging him and he concludes that she’s not rejecting him, but maybe she’s teasing him. And that makes him scarier than ever. This is not news to anyone, is it?

Now, you can argue that it’s not fair to him or she didn’t let him know or maybe he’s just bad at picking up on social cues or whatever, but I don’t think you can argue that a woman in school or the workplace does not have the right to be free from creeps. It’s not her job to deal with his social incompetence, even if that’s all it is.

I read McGinn’s defense, with its ridiculous analogies about glass blowers and manicures, and I said to myself, this man is a creep. He probably is not an utterly bad person, and he could probably learn not be a creep, but the most important thing is that his students have a right to be free from his creepiness.

62

PatrickinIowa 06.07.13 at 7:06 pm

“You are right that now people spend way more time than used to be the case communicating through writing and it is much harder to get across meaning through text.”

Sigh. Where is Derrida when we need him?

1. The guy’s a professional academic. He writes for a living. Surely we can expect clarity.
2. The problem is not that what he wrote was unclear. It was (I imagine) perfectly clear to both sender and audience. Offensive too. It’s only now he’s facing consequences that he’s claiming what he wrote meant something different, and pretending that the reading capacity of a female grad student in his department is deficient. It’s not medium of communication; it’s power. As it turns out, he mistook the amount of power he had, not the meaning of what he wrote.
3. This ignores all the people who get busted for crude jokes and verbal intimidation in the workplace. Again, judging by the results of the inquiry (his resignation), he knew what he was saying, the initial audience knew, and an outside audience knew, even with lawyers on the scene.

As a writing teacher, I’m provisionally certain, on qualitative grounds, that people who spend a lot of time writing online are more audience aware than they used to be. There is nothing inherent in textual performance that makes clarity more difficult.

63

MPAVictoria 06.07.13 at 8:00 pm

“Sigh. Where is Derrida when we need him?

1. The guy’s a professional academic. He writes for a living. Surely we can expect clarity.
2. The problem is not that what he wrote was unclear. It was (I imagine) perfectly clear to both sender and audience. Offensive too. It’s only now he’s facing consequences that he’s claiming what he wrote meant something different, and pretending that the reading capacity of a female grad student in his department is deficient. It’s not medium of communication; it’s power. As it turns out, he mistook the amount of power he had, not the meaning of what he wrote.
3. This ignores all the people who get busted for crude jokes and verbal intimidation in the workplace. Again, judging by the results of the inquiry (his resignation), he knew what he was saying, the initial audience knew, and an outside audience knew, even with lawyers on the scene.

As a writing teacher, I’m provisionally certain, on qualitative grounds, that people who spend a lot of time writing online are more audience aware than they used to be. There is nothing inherent in textual performance that makes clarity more difficult.”

All true Patrick. Which is why my comment ended with “These comments are not meant to excuse the actions described in the linked article which seem to go way beyond “miscommunication.””

64

ezra abrams 06.07.13 at 9:49 pm

harry b @ 51 – cut to the chase, I am correct: no one knows what is in the actual emails, so every person on this thread is guessing or bluffing (eg, @63, )

if we don’t have THE TEXT, how can we say anything intelligent ?
surely the first thing is to look at the text, rather then to infer from the teal leaves
we can infer whatever we want from the job loss – we all know that kicking a tenured prof out , if he wants to fight – is hard -
but we don’t actually know.

I find highly offensive all the posts on what he did or didn’t do.
IF you don’t have THE TEXT, how on earth do you know what you are talking about ?

It is quite possible, if all of the offending emails were posted here, most people here would side with the prof, if we actually saw the words that were written as opposed to 2nd 3rd and 4th hand accounts

65

Substance McGravitas 06.07.13 at 9:55 pm

It is quite possible, if all of the offending emails were posted here, most people here would side with the prof, if we actually saw the words that were written as opposed to 2nd 3rd and 4th hand accounts

That is why Colin McGinn posted a very strange and roundabout excuse for saying “handjob” and “blowjob” a lot.

66

PatrickfromIowa 06.07.13 at 10:22 pm

@63 Yes. You were clear. If it sounded to you like I thought differently, I miswrote, and I’m sorry.

67

leederick 06.07.13 at 11:16 pm

“She can’t ignore him or tell him to go to hell, because he’s got the power to be dangerous to her.”

Yeah she can. In this instance she got him sacked (or put him in a position where he was compelled to resign). I have trouble seeing him as some of mastermind harrasser, if only because if you wish to do that then doing it via an auditable email trail isn’t a the best of plans. I thinks he’s probably stupid and this was inadvertent – in which case it makes me wish there was some other solution.

This harms her via her discomfort, but his other students are harmed by losing a supervisor they want to have, he is harmed by the loss of his job, and the research community is harmed by his withdrawal from research. That seems like inflicting disproportionate harm in response to something relatively mild. There must be some way of protecting her interests while not inflicting such damage on the interests of everyone else.

68

John Mark Ockerbloom 06.07.13 at 11:44 pm

“There must be some way of protecting her interests while not inflicting such damage on the interests of everyone else.”

There was. He could have stopped acting like a creep, apologized, and tried to reform his behavior. Judging from his own words linked above, though, he doesn’t seem to be interested in doing that even now.

69

Ben Alpers 06.07.13 at 11:45 pm

Explanation 2.0 is up: “The Genius Project” Some interesting passive voice sentences in this one (“Part of this project involved techniques for encouraging unconventional thinking, and the concept of ‘taboo-busting’ was deemed helpful towards this end.”), all the better to muddy questions of consent.

70

Substance McGravitas 06.07.13 at 11:57 pm

Yikes. The comment thread is full of detectives.

71

Dr. Hilarius 06.08.13 at 12:23 am

leederick@67: A graduate student who makes an accusation of serious misconduct against a faculty member, particularly one regarded as the departmental star, is risking her future even if the complain is valid and termination of the offender appropriate. I doubt that she did this thinking that she was in a position of power. McGinn’s own writing makes him out to be a jackass with an inflated sense of self-worth. I applaud the student for having the courage not to suffer in silence.

BTW, I saw this sort of misconduct during my graduate education. Some of it was sexual harassment but in one case a very prominent professor put his student on the hook for mis-using state grant money (the prof had been shifting grant resources to other projects). The student wasn’t prosecuted but that hardly excused his advisor’s conduct. The student was very much aware that a falling out with his advisor would likely be damaging to his degree and his future employment so he didn’t explain the true situation.

72

Henry 06.08.13 at 12:45 am

Yeah she can. In this instance she got him sacked (or put him in a position where he was compelled to resign). I have trouble seeing him as some of mastermind harrasser, if only because if you wish to do that then doing it via an auditable email trail isn’t a the best of plans. I thinks he’s probably stupid and this was inadvertent – in which case it makes me wish there was some other solution.

bq. This harms her via her discomfort, but his other students are harmed by losing a supervisor they want to have, he is harmed by the loss of his job, and the research community is harmed by his withdrawal from research. That seems like inflicting disproportionate harm in response to something relatively mild. There must be some way of protecting her interests while not inflicting such damage on the interests of everyone else.

This is rather amazing. So if your mentor and boss starts laying on the suggestive I-was-thinking-of-you-while-giving-myself-a-handjob shtick in email (which, from the CHE, is what appears to have happened), you’re supposed to just take it for the team, because your piffling ‘discomfort’ is outweighed by the interests of the research community? And if you don’t shut up, it’s your fault that he got the boot? It’s a bit shocking to see this kind of blame-the-victim going on in CT’s comments section. I can’t imagine that this was at all an easy thing for the student to do. Even if her name has not been published, she is in a small community – everyone will know who she is, and likely, given how the academic discipline of philosophy is, it will hurt her chances of getting an academic job.

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leederick 06.08.13 at 1:20 am

Hilarius@71. Sure, but the proposition was that the professor has power. It quite clear that he didn’t. It is just a fact that if you have an auditable email trail proving harassment, you are in a very strong position. If you can show victimisation after making a complaint you are in an even stronger position.

Now, you are right that academia is nepotistic and there are informal ways in which people can be disadvantaged. That sucks. But that’s not a direct power the claim was the professor had. It is more an indirect influence exercised by third parties through informal social networks and the community. And it isn’t as if summary sacking of direct harassers does anything to lessen this.

I also have to say that people don’t complain when they benefit, before things turned ugly, it must have been great to be with the in crowd being invited to the guys house to play tennis and have bbqs and co-author. But there were no objections then. But if people take a social dislike to you that is terrible. I think it is merely the flip side and you can not complain about the minuses while taking advantage of the pluses. The solution is more professionalism in academia and disassociating the personal and work environments, and not trying to be mates with people.

Henry@72. The solution isn’t do nothing and take one for the team. It is to have administrators enforce professionalism, rather then having your mate the mentor involved on a social level. Formal memo responses passed to third parties. Formal minuted meetings with third parties present. That will stamp out all but the most vile harassment.

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Colin Danby 06.08.13 at 1:23 am

” research community is harmed by his withdrawal from research”

Nonsense! As t.e.w points out so cogently @11, Professor M has already been spurred to bold new philosophical insights on the meanings of “hand job.” Plus he has suddenly found a much larger audience for his work.

I see leederick can still be trusted to uphold belligerent misogyny whenever the opportunity arises.

75

Bruce Baugh 06.08.13 at 1:42 am

I’m reminded of an observation a counselor made to a friend of mine who’d been the victim of domestic violence. Like a lot of victims was in shock about the whole thing, and had internalized the “he just couldn’t control himself” explanation. The counselor pointed out that of course her abuser could. He never, ever lashed at out at his boss that way, or at cops, or clerks in stores, or friends, or indeed anyone but her and past girlfriends of his. It’s just that he felt no obligation to exert any self-control around her and his other targets, not that he couldn’t.

Guys like McGinn are like that when it comes to e-mail, texting, and so on. They could put forth the effort they’d put into a written memo or phone call. But they feel at liberty to be contemptuous and careless, so they are. Plenty of people much older than them, and some with substantially more authority, do just fine with it…because they care.

76

LFC 06.08.13 at 3:33 am

Bloix:
Remember Angela Merkel’s reaction to George Bush’s shoulder rub?
can’t say i do, no — i remember neither the shoulder rub nor the reaction

77

MPAVictoria 06.08.13 at 3:57 am

“@63 Yes. You were clear. If it sounded to you like I thought differently, I miswrote, and I’m sorry.”

No apology needed. Just wanted to make sure I was clear.

78

Tom Slee 06.08.13 at 4:01 am

LFC: here.

79

mark 06.08.13 at 4:45 am

Henry @63 So if your mentor and boss starts laying on the suggestive I-was-thinking-of-you-while-giving-myself-a-handjob shtick in email (which, from the CHE, is what appears to have happened)

Not just from CHE. Is there any disagreement between McGinn (at least in explanation 1.0) and the accusers on the raw facts? They both are saying that he was sending texts about hand-jobs intended to be interpreted sexually. His defense is simply that the sexual part is what made it funny, but she’s too dumb to laugh.

80

LFC 06.08.13 at 4:51 am

@ T Slee — thanks

Btw McGinn, in his recent posts, claims the student complained about the e-mails in question only after the two of them had a dispute about research she was paid for but (allegedly) failed to perform. Of course we don’t really have the student’s version of what happened — we only have it as filtered through other people. If McGinn’s version is factually correct he still overstepped some boundaries but it’s hard to say much more than that right now, or so one could reasonably conclude, ISTM. (His version is in his posts “Resignation” and “Some basic facts.”)

81

js. 06.08.13 at 5:00 am

I have trouble seeing him as some of mastermind harrasser

Yeah, that’s because he’s not a mastermind, not because he’s not a harasser.

The solution … is to have administrators enforce professionalism

Umm, that’s what happened.

82

leederick 06.08.13 at 11:12 am

“Umm, that’s what happened.”

No is isn’t. This wouldn’t have happened if there was basic professionalism. Corporate culture helps prevent harassment because they’ve designed a culture which works against it – through things like formal meetings in glass offices, and only doing work on corporate systems, and basic things like it it being thought inappropriate to do work at a bbq round your bosses house. The harassment occurred because of a mixing of personal and professional boundaries academia encourages, both of them were behaving extremely unprofessionally and inappropriately before the harassment happened.

People are worried about nepotism and the informal culture of philosophy effecting her job prospects even though he has been sacked. The solution is simple, greater HR involvement in recruitment and greater control of departments by administrators. Run philosophy departments the way, say, accounting departments are run within large corporates. But Timberites would be up in arms if anyone tried this.

Extreme punishment where there is a paper trail is the flip side of the incredible autonomy and unprofessional culture of academia. It happens exactly because there is a resistance to changing that culture.

83

Z 06.08.13 at 12:43 pm

It is to have administrators enforce professionalism, rather then having your mate the mentor involved on a social level.

And when administrators fail to enforce professionalism, it is up to the mentor to draw the boundary. If he doesn’t, he pays the price for the lack of professionalism, even if the student had implicitly or explicitly consented up to that. Simple as that.

They then chuckle together in a self-congratulatory academic manner

For what it’s worth, one of my guests pointed out that my PhD defense contained the words “Parce que le Q-accouplement est parfait, il reste parfait sur tout corps et le système de Kolyvagin s’étend donc à tous les corps que nous avons considérés” but only my non-mathematician guests chuckled (in French, this sentence seems to literally mean “Because the ass coitus is perfect, it stays so on every body and the system of vagina parcel service can reach all the bodies that we have examined”). I think there is a Friends joke along these lines somewhere (Ross: and the Homo Erectus… (Rachel chuckles) Joey: Erectus? Rachel: Homo!) too.

84

Slocum 06.08.13 at 12:43 pm

I wonder if McGinn thinks Moore’s argument against skepticism is a handjob?

85

bill benzon 06.08.13 at 1:27 pm

From McGinn’s post on The Genius Project:

The student (hereafter NN) and I were engaged on what we called “the Genius Project”. The purpose of the genius project was to make NN into a truly original and outstanding young philosopher (one who could expect to find an attractive job later). Part of this project involved techniques for encouraging unconventional thinking, and the concept of “taboo-busting” was deemed helpful towards this end.

Toward the end:

Most of the genius project took a more conventional form, but it is within this context that they [two email messages] should be interpreted. They were not just gratuitous snippets of risque prose, sent out of the blue. I believe that had the genius project continued it would have borne significant fruit; and indeed a colleague has remarked to me that NN’s philosophical abilities went from “good” to “superb” following the several months during which I was attempting to make her into a “genius”.

Hmmmmm…..Pygmalion?

86

LFC 06.08.13 at 2:43 pm

Leederick
even though he has been sacked
He was not sacked. It’s fairly clear that he and/or his lawyer thought that the pres. of the university, Donna Shalala, wd eventually rule vs against him and presumably require him to go, but he was not fired. He resigned.

Leederick on ‘professionalism’ vs ‘friendship’: This whole line is absurd. It sets up a false dichotomy betw two things that are not incompatible. The problem here is not that they were friends, not that they didn’t meet in a glass-walled office blah blah blah. The problem is that McGinn appears to have crossed some fairly obvious boundaries. Nothing to do w professionalism, friendship, etc etc. Anyone who has spent two minutes in academia knows that professors and graduate students are sometimes collaborators on projects and sometimes become friends (not always, but sometimes). If one’s mentor is also a friend it can be helpful to one’s career — nothing wrong w that. I don’t have a big personal stake in all this since I’m not a professor (nor am I any longer a student), but the idea that profs and grad students should not be friends, shd not see each other socially, is idiotic.

Re Leederick’s contention that they were behaving “inappropriately” before the objectionable e-mails were sent: The ‘genius project’ sounds somewhat weird but there is nothing I’ve read that clearly suggests inappropriate behavior apart from the objectionable e-mail communications. The notion that he shouldn’t have played tennis with her b/c it’s “unprofessional” is just ludicrous.

87

Salient 06.08.13 at 3:01 pm

What do you mean, “oh dear”? Why in the hell do you think he just spent all that time on a mentorship? The whole purpose of accepting an apprentice in the first place was to get the ladies nice and dependent as new grad students, so he could lead her to a nice comfortable position of subordination and have a little fun with playful banter, and she can’t refuse, because of the implication.

Well dude, dude–think about it. She’s out there in the midst of original research with an advisor-supervisor she barely knows, you know? She looks around her, and what does she see? Nothing but an oceanic span of professors whose work doesn’t mesh with hers. Ahhh, there’s no one for me to run to for recommendation or thesis supervision! What am I going to do, demand he stop talking to me like this?

No, that’s not dark; you’re misunderstanding me, bro. Yeah, you are. Because if the girl said “no more of this” to him, then the answer is obviously is no more. But the thing is is she’s not gonna to say that, she’s never going to say that, because of the implication.

The implication that he might use his leverage as the senior party and something might go wrong with her progress toward a degree if she refuses to put up with how he jokes with her. Now, not that things are going to go wrong for her, but she’s thinking that they will.

Why aren’t you understanding this? She–she doesn’t know whether she can stomach this kind of puerile banter from him. That’s not the issue. McGill’s not out to hurt his students! Why would he ever hurt his students?

I feel like you’re not getting this at all.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.08.13 at 3:10 pm

“Hmmmmm…..Pygmalion?”

_My Fair Lady_. “All right, Eliza, now sing ‘The rain in Spain is mainly on the plain.’ I mean — give me a blow job.”

89

Henry 06.08.13 at 3:26 pm

Tennis matches – usually OK. Emails ‘joking’ about how the mentor has been thinking about you while masturbating. Profoundly not OK. This is so blindingly, profoundly obvious that anyone who doesn’t get it is surely either trolling or socially inept on a disturbingly deep level.

And the seedy Svengali wannabe stuff in McGinn’s follow up- “I was attempting to make her into a “genius”” through busting her taboos – dear jesus. Does he not have any friends who can tell him that for his own sake, he really needs to shut up?

90

Tom Slee 06.08.13 at 4:30 pm

If you reach the end of Salient’s comment and, like me, find you have a puzzled furrow to your brow and are wondering why it (the comment, not your brow) seems a bit off-centre, then click the link. Your brow will be unfurrowed.

91

Rakesh Bhandari 06.08.13 at 4:31 pm

So McGinn took the invitation to break taboos as an invitation to break any and all taboos, even if that resulted in a student no longer being confident that her path to success ran through the development of her philosophical powers rather than sexual behavior meant to satisfy her intellectual supervisor?

Could McGinn think of no other taboos to break in conversation? How about the effect of the Cold War on American philosophy? George Reisch? John McCumber? Those philosophers who are willing to take philosophical work of Marxist scientists such as Haldane and Lewontin/Levins seriously are few and far between–perhaps Philip Kitcher or Peter Godfrey-Smith. Or what about breaking the taboo on the topic of the masculinization of reason as analyzed by Genevieve Lloyd? Or the unacknowledged effects of Eastern philosophies on important 19th and 20th century continental thinkers as analyzed by Graham Parkes and David E. Cooper?

92

Bruce Baugh 06.08.13 at 4:33 pm

Oh God, “taboo busting”. Uh huh. And what taboos did McGinn ever consider busting of his own? Clearly he’s got one against restraining himself from saying terribly stupid shit, so maybe that’d be a good start.

93

Niall McAuley 06.08.13 at 5:37 pm

THIS IS THE VOICE OF THE MYSTERIANS. WE KNOW YOU CAN HEAR US, EARTHMEN. IN VIEW OF WHAT AGENT MCGINN HAS REVEALED ABOUT THE NATURE OF ‘THE GENIUS PROJECT’, OUR WAR OF NERVES WITH EARTH IS ON TEMPORARY HIATUS WHILE WE INVESTIGATE.

SUBJECT TO THE OUTCOME OF THIS INVESTIGATION, WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO STRIKE WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT. IN THE INTERIM, WE HAVE ADVISED AGENT MCGINN TO SHUT HIS CAKE-HOLE.

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leederick 06.08.13 at 6:58 pm

“_My Fair Lady_. “All right, Eliza, now sing ‘The rain in Spain is mainly on the plain.’ I mean — give me a blow job.”

Not coincidently, there is whole subplot to MFL about how Eliza isn’t a prostitute and the relationship is in breach of proprietary. Strange how people aren’t seeing that with the genius project.

95

LFC 06.08.13 at 7:26 pm

Henry:

Tennis matches – usually OK. Emails ‘joking’ about how the mentor has been thinking about you while masturbating. Profoundly not OK. This is so blindingly, profoundly obvious that anyone who doesn’t get it is surely either trolling or socially inept on a disturbingly deep level.

Of course emails about how the mentor has been thinking of etc are profoundly not OK. I never said anything to the contrary. My point was that Leederick’s suggestion to import a ‘corporate’ solution to the problem, to forbid all social interaction of whatever kind between professors/mentors and their students, is patently foolish. I spent a fair chunk of my life as a student and although I myself was not really friends with any of my professors when I was a grad student, I know of one or two people who did have friendly relations with their professors/mentors. The notion — which I read Leederick to be endorsing — that mentors should never be friends with their students is ridiculous. And anyone who is incapable of distinguishing between “having friendly relations with X” and “sending X emails suggesting you are thinking of them in a sexual context” is, in my opinion, “socially inept on a disturbingly deep level.”

96

Substance McGravitas 06.08.13 at 7:34 pm

Corporate culture helps prevent harassment

No it does not. There is a reason laws are passed regarding this.

97

adam.smith 06.08.13 at 7:56 pm

A bit of a tangent, but I’m surprised by leedrick’s claim that:
[To prevent sexual harrassment r]un philosophy departments the way, say, accounting departments are run within large corporates
Do you have any actual evidence about that?
I don’t know that much about corporate culture in the US, but e.g. in the Enron movie there was a lot of talk about meetings in strip clubs and if I recall correctly Carly Fiorina has mentioned those as well. On the less “playing tennis” level, my understanding is that golf matches are a common way of networking an making deals in corporate America – and that certainly involves junior management golfing with senior etc. So while I see the theoretical argument that more institutionalization and less informality can decrease sexual harrassment, I don’t really see much evidence that corporate America (and most certainly not corporate Europe with business meeting in brothels & sex parties) is the place to look at for that.

98

Ben Alpers 06.08.13 at 8:09 pm

So McGinn took the invitation to break taboos

At least as I read Explanation 2.0, McGinn does not claim that the student (or anyone else) invited him to break taboos, only that “the concept of ‘taboo-busting’ was deemed helpful.” My guess is that if the deeming had clearly been done by anyone other than McGinn himself, he would have said so.

And, for those playing along at home, here’s Explanation 3.0: “Eparter [sic] les [sic] bourgeois”

99

Ben Alpers 06.08.13 at 8:10 pm

Whoops…the link to Explanation 3.0 didn’t work. Here it is.

100

bianca steele 06.08.13 at 8:12 pm

It seems quite coincidental that leederick’s choice of solution is something that many male participants in corporate and presumably academic life would consider a peculiarly unwelcome and very feminine way of dealing with the problem: make more rules, and expand mostly-female personnel departments so they can better police others in different departments, who by themselves would see nothing wrong with harassing behavior.

It also seems obvious that he hasn’t actually seen My Fair Lady.

101

Tom Slee 06.08.13 at 8:20 pm

I know nothing of this McGinn character, but Explanation 3.0 immediately reminded me of The History Man. Not a good direction. As Henry says: Does he not have any friends who can tell him that for his own sake, he really needs to shut up?

102

Henry 06.08.13 at 8:26 pm

LFC – that was aimed in Leederick’s direction, not yours.

103

Henry 06.08.13 at 8:41 pm

Ben, actually it’s worse – the title gets the threefer – Eparter[sic] les[sic] bourgeios[sic].

104

phosphorious 06.08.13 at 9:05 pm

Explanation 3.0 is a bit of a head -scratcher. He presents himself as a puckish demolisher of staid convention. In this case, I take it, that staid convention is. . . the long tradition of women being accepted as equals in the discipline?

You know, it just occurred to me: Maybe he really doesn’t have any friends to tell him to shut up. He sounds pretty hard to be around.

105

P O'Neill 06.08.13 at 9:12 pm

The spelling is just another deliberate taunt at progressive moralists. Or something.

106

Rich Puchalsky 06.08.13 at 9:16 pm

I’d never heard of this guy before, but this is really one of philosophy’s leading lights? He just doesn’t seem very smart. I mean, I’m sure he’d score high on an IQ test, and I refuse to do that insulting thing where you call people “autistic” when you think they’re behaving badly, but he just doesn’t have any suggestion of brilliance in his writing. It’s not just misspelling épater le bourgeois as if he’d never written it before, it’s the whole heavy-handed and painful spelling out of what it means via a dictionary definition, as if he’d never expect his blog readers to have heard of this new and unusual concept.

My cultural heroes are: Oscar Wilde, Bertrand Russell, Vladimir Nabokov, Jean-Paul Sartre, Philip Larkin, Kingsley and Martin Amis, Peter Cook, John Lennon, and Larry David (among many others). What they all have in common is the quality captured by the French phrase “eparter les bourgeois”, which the OED defines as “shock people regarded as conventional or complacent”.

What else is in common with all of those people? I guess that some of the “many others” could be women.

107

Dr. Hilarius 06.08.13 at 9:39 pm

Shocking the bourgeois? Wasn’t this a big thing in 1917? Duchamp did it better without words.

108

LFC 06.08.13 at 9:45 pm

Henry @102: ok; my mistake.

109

Slocum 06.08.13 at 9:48 pm

Rich P.

McGinn was once a bit of an agenda-setter in philosophy of language and mind (much more the latter), and that earlier work was important to a non-trivial number of people in those fields, but I wouldn’t call him a leading light since the turn of the century, and not really even before then.

110

adam.smith 06.08.13 at 9:49 pm

I would read all his hillarious drivel as confirmation of what Patrick writes above: http://crookedtimber.org/2013/06/06/they-then-chuckle-together-in-a-self-congratulatory-academic-manner/comment-page-3/#comment-469633

Anyone think AEI might soon have a “philosopher” charting the decline of academia into politically correct mediocrity?

Not caring about French orthography may help in conservative circles and being a former lefty (he likes gay Wilde! and atheist Russell! and French/commie Sartre!) just shows how those PC lefties in academia will even turn on one of their own if he dares to break out of the bounds of academia. Maybe he can get together with David Mamet to write a book about it.

111

Rakesh Bhandari 06.08.13 at 11:32 pm

épater les bourgeois–isn’t that what Thomas Nagel has done in Mind and Cosmos with his favorable references to Intelligent Design proponents and eschewal of the use of any scientific findings to undermine the reductionist, materialist worldview? Isn’t that what Schumpeter did (and understood himself to be doing) with his sympathetic reflections on Marx? I don’t see any evidence of that kind of subversion in the exchange McGinn seems to have had with the graduate student. He seems to have just cut the ground out from her.

112

djw 06.09.13 at 12:05 am

Isn’t McGinn the guy who whined about how no other living philosophers are smart enough to have interesting conversations with him?

113

Henry 06.09.13 at 1:07 am

LFC – no worries – in retrospect it was not at all clear.

114

QS 06.09.13 at 8:22 am

No one has mentioned that Brian Leiter piped in to say that the allegations “are not particularly serious” (see second link posted by Henry). I imagine the victim in this case would find Leiter’s comments upsetting. I find them indicative of the broader problem male academics, particularly established ones, have in understanding the power dynamics within the academy and how they come to impact young female students looking to achieve success. This is the classic case of an abuse of power over someone whose options are A) say nothing and hope it stops while feeling powerless and violated or B) say something and hope it doesn’t come to hurt her future. That is quite obviously a Particularly Serious situation, regardless of whether Leiter has heard of situations that are worse.

115

David J. Littleboy 06.09.13 at 2:38 pm

Cr@p like this happens all the time. A friend was doing an MS in Comp. Sci. at a famous school under a prof. so famous everyone here would recognize the name. He, despite being married, decided to fall in love with her, and tell her. There wasn’t anything she could do but run like hell. So every time I hear about some prof. getting forced to resign, I cheer. Loudly. These schmucks deserve far worse than they ever get.

116

sbk 06.09.13 at 3:31 pm

I googled the review excerpted here years ago, and it turned out to be by Colin McGinn. Let’s just say that I’m less than shocked by this.

117

anon philosopher 06.09.13 at 3:48 pm

Re: 114

The actual quote was “the allegations, as I have heard them, are not particularly
serious, compared to other cases I’ve heard about in which nothing has happened to the faculty member.” The allegations as reported in CHE concerned sending e-mails with sexual content. Philosophers do far, far worse to their students, and usually nothing happens.

118

dsquared 06.09.13 at 4:45 pm

I have trouble seeing him as some of mastermind harrasser, if only because if you wish to do that then doing it via an auditable email trail isn’t a the best of plans. I thinks he’s probably stupid and this was inadvertent – in which case it makes me wish there was some other solution.

if I have learned nothing else from my forty years on this planet (and many people think I haven’t), it is that not only is it possible for someone to be both an idiot and an asshole, it’s actually quite common.

Similarly for all of those “equal opportunity offensive” types – it is not actually a defence against a charge of being a racist to point out that you are also a sexist and a homophobe.

119

Matt 06.09.13 at 5:49 pm

No one has mentioned that Brian Leiter piped in to say that the allegations “are not particularly serious”

I think that’s a pretty clear misreading of what Leiter said. His point was that the _reported allegations_ were “not particularly serious” compared to many others where nothing happened to the perpetrator. (I think that if you read the passage carefully at all, that’s the _obvious_ meaning.) I think that’s also both obviously true and completely compatible with thinking that What McGinn did was unacceptable, and that he should face discipline. Everything else Leiter has said about the situation fits that reading, and nothing but this misreading fits any other.

120

Chris Bertram 06.09.13 at 6:34 pm

I had forgotten that we had a post here on McGinn by Brian W., 9 years ago:

http://crookedtimber.org/2004/01/21/when-philosophers-attack/

121

Bill Benzon 06.09.13 at 8:19 pm

Once again, the irony defense:

Maxim: if you can be misunderstood you will be. My talk of “the genius project” was (of course) tongue-in-cheek. I am not a genius. I am not sure the concept makes much sense in philosophy. Nor was I trying to make the student into a genius. The idea was to try to encourage intellectual quality and originality. Irony, remember.

http://mcginn.philospot.com/index.php?story=story130609-084859

122

ckc (not kc) 06.09.13 at 10:13 pm

…like a hand-job on your wedding day

123

bianca steele 06.09.13 at 10:16 pm

it is that not only is it possible for someone to be both an idiot and an asshole, it’s actually quite common

You say that like it’s a bad thing.

124

PJW 06.09.13 at 11:31 pm

Heidegger’s Present-at-hand and Ready-to-hand come to mind. Broken tools.

125

djw 06.10.13 at 12:43 am

I can’t believe I half-accurately remembered a 9 year old blog post.

126

Alan 06.10.13 at 1:24 am

BB: defense or offense? (HT to Fem Phil for 1st pub):

Maxim: if you can be misunderstood you will be. Which makes indeterminacy of translation a minimum sub-issue, and thus puts that “problem” permanently to rest, and allows me to place another notch in the grip of my awesome critical hand-gun. My talk of “the genius project” was (of course) tongue-in-cheek. I am not a genius, though I would note that my Maxim (tongue-in-cheek: the men’s magazine?) might apply. I am not sure the concept makes much sense in philosophy, though I have tried my damnedest to make it do so. Nor was I trying to make the student into a genius (Maxim—remember? Just recall that “can” here was carefully used instead of a locution involving “may”, by which of course I meant—or did I?—that the ability (or inability) of misunderstanding stands with my readers/hearers and not with me). The idea was to try to encourage intellectual quality and originality. Irony, remember (and with the Maxim in force, well. . .). I conceived the “genius project” as an experiment: try out various ideas and see what works—so IF I mean that then my conception was the genius of trial and error. A mundane part of it was to reserve a part of each day, preferably the early morning, for thinking through one’s own ideas without reliance on texts of any kind, like clouds in my coffee, clouds in my coffee, and. . . Another part was insistently asking the question: “Is this really true?” about some contemporary canard, like–manipulation of underlings. I see nothing sinister or weird in this. But Maxim, remember?

127

Katherine 06.10.13 at 9:23 am

My talk of “the genius project” was (of course) tongue-in-cheek.

Yeah dude, it was just another “joke” that everyone else was too stupid to get. Uh-huh.

128

BigHank53 06.10.13 at 5:29 pm

Run the philosophy department more like corporate accounting?

Pray tell, which corporation have you been working for these many years? Because based on my experience, if the offender wasn’t simply fired instantly (and with plenty of inappropriate emails to read over, it doesn’t sound like there was any lack of evidence) he’d get called in to a meeting in HR, and be presented with the following options:

1. Apologize profusely, give up any oversight of the subordinate, and never ever do anything of the sort ever again, or

2. Clean out his desk.

And the company is very, very heavily biased in favor of option #2. Why? Because HR works for the company. Not the victim. Not the harasser. Because if they keep him on, and he harasses anyone ever again, the company is liable for his actions. They can be sued, and they will lose.

Allowing him to resign was one last favor to let him save face. If he wants to smear poop all over it…well, it’s his face.

129

Barry 06.10.13 at 8:25 pm

Dsquared: ” if I have learned nothing else from my forty years on this planet (and many people think I haven’t), it is that not only is it possible for someone to be both an idiot and an asshole, it’s actually quite common.”

In addition (as a few people pointed out on other blogs), the odds are extremely high that he’s been doing stuff like this for many, many years, to many, many women. And probably much worse. When a person gets away with many things many times over many years (if not decades), I imagine that their caution deteriorates.

130

Barry 06.10.13 at 8:39 pm

phosphorious

” Explanation 3.0 is a bit of a head-scratcher. He presents himself as a puckish demolisher of staid convention. In this case, I take it, that staid convention is. . . the long tradition of women being accepted as equals in the discipline?”

To paraphrase somebody on another blog, one thing that is a staid convention is tenure and a salaried job – you can’t get more bourgeois that that.

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James Conran 06.12.13 at 12:06 pm

Someone should write a book about this called the Human Stain.

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Niall McAuley 06.12.13 at 1:14 pm

<a href="http://mcginn.philospot.com/index.php?story=story130610-161946"Enough 10.06.13, 04:19 PM

I propose to say no more on the subject of recent allegations.

Of course, it turns out that he can’t stay away from it, but then, he never said he would, he only said he proposed to. Be careful how you paraphrase him!

The latest instalment again expounds on how yez are all too stupid to understand Morrissetean irony.

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Niall McAuley 06.12.13 at 1:15 pm

Dammit, I broke the link to Enough

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chris y 06.13.13 at 11:30 am

The whole Épater le bourgeois schtick is so 100 years ago. Nowadays the bourgeoisie throw vast sums of money at people who propose to try and shock them, and then sit back and watch the show. You can’t appear dangerous when the target of your attacks is consciously conspiring with you.

A true anti-establishment figure today would advocate the ethics of Gladstone and the aesthetics of Landseer.

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