Why we should sign the Thomas Pogge Open Letter

by Ingrid Robeyns on June 22, 2016

In some circles, there have been rumours going around for a while that Thomas Pogge, the hugely influential global justice philosopher, has been having sexual affairs with several students, and has been engaging in inappropriate sexual behaviour towards other female students. Earlier this week, the academic community seems to have lost its faith in the formal institutions being able to adequately deal with the complaints by the accusers, and more than 160 (mainly philosophy) professors have signed an Open Letter “to express [their] opposition to sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in higher education” and condemning Pogge’s “harmful actions against women”. (Anyone not knowing enough about the Pogge case can find the relevant background information via the links in the Open Letter). In the meantime several hundreds have added their signature to the Open Letter, and many others have been invited to do so.

There are many academic philosophers who hold the view that as a scholar Pogge has made important contributions to the literatures on theories of justice, and global justice in particular. And for decades Pogge has generously supported scholars, without regard of institutional affiliation or their fame or seniority – often opening opportunities that helped these people pursue their careers. Many of these collaborators or mentees of Pogge (including young women) never had unpleasant encounters with him, and in fact have regarded him as a highly valued colleague. So naturally they feel this is all very painful and tragic – an unfolding of events that is harming not just the victims, but everyone. Pogge’s reputation is deeply damaged, but also the reputation of the fields to which he has been a major contributor has been damaged, and perhaps even the activist causes he has been trying to advance.

The letter has been circulating widely, and many individuals have been invited to sign. It will increasingly be difficult for people to not have heard about the Open Letter at all. This has led many to ask themselves: should we sign this letter?

Some people have a strong gut feeling against signing such letters. And they have reasons that are prima facie valid and which would, in many contexts, be strong pivotal reasons not to sign such a letter. First, no trial by the internet (also known as: “no witch hunt”, “no character assassination”) and, second, no accusations until one has seen all the facts.

Of course, not everyone should feel that they have to take a stance. The question is whether one regards oneself to be a member of the relevant academic community. In Pogge’s case, the relevant academic overlapping communities are (at least): academic philosophy/political theory; the community of people working on global justice; and the universities where Pogge works or has worked, and organisations to which he is affiliated. If one is a member of any of those overlapping communities, then knowing about the Open Letter yet not signing can reasonable be seen as a statement that one believes that this is none of one’s business since (i) this is merely a matter of a person’s sexual preferences, which is a private matter; and/or (ii) the legal institutions will do their work, and we must let them do their work; and/or (iii) we don’t have all the relevant information and hence shouldn’t judge. (Some people who are long-time friends of Pogge may feel that they should not sign because of the friendship, but then for them the question is: should they talk to him about what is happening?)

Let’s first look at reason (i), the view that this is about sexual preference and hence a private matter. Albeit this reason may sound astonishing to many, I have heard it once and have also been told that it is the dominant view in some circles. Yet independent of the question how widespread this view is, I think we should be clear: this case should not be framed as a matter of a man having sexual affairs. This is a matter of abusing one’s hierarchical position as a professor. There are clear (and fully justified) social norms that positions of authority come with codes of conducts regarding not creating situations in which one could abuse that authority. If the information that has become publicly available is correct, then that’s what this case is about. This is not about non-mainstream sexual preferences that are a person’s own private business and hence that in a pluralist world should not be the concern of others; phrasing it like that is rather an attempt at legitimising behaviour that is morally wrong.

What about those who believe that we shouldn’t sign because of the second or third reason? It is certainly true that in the case of the accusations against Pogge very few of us have seen all the facts. In such cases, the default position should indeed be to refrain from condemning and merely counting on justice being done via the formal institutions.

But alas, it is clear that in the Pogge case the institutions that should protect the vulnerable have failed. (In this case the vulnerable are young female students, and allegedly a disproportionate share of them coming from developing countries and hence perhaps less sure about local social norms, which made them more vulnerable for abuse).

So we should answer the question whether we should sign this Open Letter in this radically non-ideal world, where the formal institutions that should protect female students have failed. In that non-ideal world, we gather the information we have. And given the amount of information that is by now out on the web, and given the trustworthiness of some of the witnesses who have made statements in courts already two years ago, it would be cowardly and irresponsible to say: We do not have all the facts for the full 100% and hence cannot judge. Imagine, just for a second, that we would have put up such a high standard of evidence in some vicious periods in our political history? A reasonable amount of evidence need not in all contexts be 100% complete and objectively documented evidence. Let’s call this view that in some contexts, we have good reason to regard the evidence to be trustworthy enough and solid enough to allow us to make our judgements, the reasonable evidence view

Pogge should agree with this ‘reasonable evidence view’, since in his work on global justice he reports on facts that he gathers from other sources; he does not tell his readers to go and check for themselves these facts about global harms being done, and the existence of unjust global structures. Rather, he wants us to trust his reputation as an expert in the area of global justice, and to endorse the claims on global injustice which are, in part, also based on empirical evidence. The same for evidence-based activism in which Pogge has been involved: for sure not everyone who has donated or who has joined Academics Stand Against Poverty, has checked whether all the facts they report are true: that is simply setting the standards of gathering the relevant evidence too high. There are too many (alleged) injustices in the world for us to be able to gather all the evidence in all details ourselves. We would not be able to say anything about almost any alleged case of harm or injustice if we couldn’t work on the assumption that some reputable party has checked the evidence for the rest of us.

So I believe that professional academics now have enough reputable evidence to accept that even if we don’t know all the details about Pogge’s misconduct, he did abuse his position as a professor for many years, and exploited the vulnerability of female students.

In sum, those three reasons for not signing the Open Letter should be rejected. There may be other reasons for not signing the Open Letter, but those probably only apply to an extremely small number of people (e.g. his close friends who may feel that the virtue of being a good friend implies that one does not sign an Open Letter. But it doesn’t follow that friends of someone accused of severe misconduct can simply shrug their shoulders).

But is there a reason why members of the relevant overlapping communities should speak up?

Yes, there is a reason why members of the relevant communities should now speak up. The reason is that the poor manner in which Columbia University and Yale University have handled those cases, has contributed to an institutionally-supported social norm that powerful and successful men can get away with morally unacceptable behaviour. (And perhaps this also applies to other universities where Pogge has had or has been having an affiliation; I cannot tell).

As the research by Christina Bicchieri and others on changing harmful social norms shows, a dominant social norm changes if a debate about the need for that norm-change goes hand in hand with a public declaration (e.g. an oath) by the relevant parties, especially the most powerful relevant parties, that they will no longer themselves contribute to the upholding of that social norm.

So this Open Letter does at least two things. First, to tell Yale that we, members of the relevant communities, strongly disapprove of what has happened, and that Yale should quickly and fairly proceed with the complaints against Pogge. Second, to tell ourselves, as members of those communities, that we do not tolerate such behaviour in our communities, and that we commit to each other to speak up about other (and future) incidents that we may get to know about.

Many have said that the Pogge case illustrates that there has been a culture of silence, or a culture of brushing sexually offensive behaviour under the carpet. This petition is about Pogge, but not only about Pogge. Let’s gather the courage to speak up about other cases of sexual harassment that we know about. Let’s strengthen the social norms that it is not OK to abuse your hierarchical position to receive sexual favours. Let’s demolish the social norms that if everyone else is turning a blind eye, it is fine for us to also turn a blind eye. Let’s address these problems by both institutional change and a change in culture and social norms in the profession.

And what to say to Pogge himself? In my view, there is nothing to add to what Melissa Williams wrote in the letter she sent to Pogge, and which she published on her FB-wall.

{ 139 comments }

1

Ingrid Robeyns 06.22.16 at 7:49 pm

I think it is good to have a reasonable and rational discussion about the structural issues that we have to deal with, and the arguments I’m making in the post. But please keep the comments civilised. I will delete comments that do not add anything to the discussion – I have seen too many unreflected, gut reactions on this case that may have a place somewhere else, but not here. Please keep it civilised.

2

Monique Deveaux 06.22.16 at 8:46 pm

Thanks for this insightful post, Ingrid. You are so right that the open letter is not only about Pogge and his damaging actions; it is also about speaking to each other as peers, to say that we won’t tolerate the ‘culture of silence’ around sexual harassment and quid pro quo etc. any longer. You lay out all of the reasons why we urgently need to do so.

3

The Temporary Name 06.22.16 at 9:55 pm

it is also about speaking to each other as peers

Regarding the “trial by internet” argument, what reliable way is there to both summon support and apprise the community of the issue?

4

djw 06.22.16 at 10:59 pm

Well said. I added my name despite some mild, vague trepidation about doing so along the lines you discuss here; this helps me be more confident I made the right call.

5

M Sengupta 06.22.16 at 11:16 pm

Ingrid, this is a very thoughtful post: thank you, in particular, for the second paragraph. I have one question and two comments, even though I’ve been advised by my nearest and dearest, including mom, not to post or say anything. My first comment: I’m distressed that the initiators of the open letter made no attempt whatsoever to reach out to me or, to my knowledge, any other “woman of colour” who currently has professional ties with Thomas Pogge, especially in relation to ASAP. After all, I have spoken to at least one of the initiators at some length about the issue in the past. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much, perhaps just something to the effect of: “we’re in the process of writing a letter that we know will have an impact on you. Would you like to sign it? Would you like to speak with us if you feel you cannot sign it presently, or at all?” A little kindness would really have been nice – from those who are publicly expressing great concern for women of colour, especially those who have worked with Pogge – because over the last couple of days I’ve been terrified to open my emails and Facebook messages because of the demands for explanation (and confession?) that lie waiting for me. At this point, I’m really glad I’m not a professional philosopher, because your community no longer feels like a safe space to me. This brings me to my second comment: I find all your arguments persuasive, but I’m very worried by the notion, also hinted at in Melissa Williams’ Facebook post (which I otherwise thought very highly of), that if one doesn’t sign the letter or agree to publicly shame Thomas in some other way, one is condoning his behaviour. I find this “either you are with us or against us” mentality deeply disturbing and already see an emerging divide between those who have signed and those who haven’t. I hope that people will refrain from judging or badgering those who have not signed the letter because, in the end, you really don’t know why they have not signed. Also, I’m sure you wouldn’t want people to sign just because they wish to avoid the charge of complicity or be seen as going against the great giants of philosophy, the Nussbaums and Frasers, who have signed on. Even if every word that’s being said about Thomas is true, that doesn’t seem like justice to me. Furthermore, it is precisely that kind of environment (concern about being on the right page with important people) that allows sexual predators to proliferate in the first place. This brings me to my question: I agree with you that many of us in fields such as global justice and development operate with less-than-complete evidence while making our claims about global structures and institutions. As you suggest, it would be exhausting to do otherwise. But isn’t there a difference between making claims against structures and institutions and making claims against an individual (based on incomplete evidence, that is)? I recognize that we live in a non-ideal world where evidence is never ‘complete,’ but shouldn’t we strive for the highest possible standard when it comes to condemning another human being? This is a genuine question on my part, Ingrid, and as a non-philosopher, I feel rather ill-equipped to answer it competently (my intuition suggests that there’s indeed a huge difference). It is the last line of the open letter that I really struggle with, the one that denounces Thomas for “his harmful actions toward women, most notably women of color, and the entire academic community.” The entire academic community. In a trial, where the rights of the accused would be protected, including his right not to incriminate himself, it would likely take a jury many hours if not days of deliberation to arrive at such a biting and blanket indictment of a person. I realize that this isn’t a trial, and that Pogge’s peers have every right to express their views, but still… I think I’ll leave it at that for now: sorry about the stream-of-consciousnessy formulation of this comment. Just had to get it out before I changed my mind!

6

merian 06.23.16 at 2:55 am

Thank you for taking this topic by the horns in such a thoughtful manner. Some small remarks:

1. Personal — I’m in academia, currently a full-time grad student/PhD candidate, though age-wise and in terms of general professional maturity progressed far enough that I should not like to hide behind my current juniority. However, I’m not a member of any of the relevant communities that you list. Were I, I should hope I would sign.

2. My gut feeling tells me not to sign at this stage, because, to formulate what it tells me, “this is something the relevant communities have to sort out”. In other circumstances I might sign nonetheless (maybe not THIS one, but a similar one, depending on who’s invited), but the current climate makes very little distinction between outrage-driven pillorying by internet on the one hand and thoughtful taking-of-positions on the other. I support the latter but believe the former is currently not in a place I want to join.

3. Re: a point made by M Sengupta @5 . A topic much closer to my experience is code of conducts and sexual harassment at tech/geek conferences. The current state of my thinking is that a community or organisation that ejects an abuser or harasser should give an extremely wide berth to the idea to model their procedures on a trial. There is a reason why the judicial system (and in international contexts, there isn’t only one to consider…) is so complex, requires nearly all actions to be driven by highly educated specialists (lawyers), and proceeds with scrupulous checks and at a snail’s pace. This is not something an organisation or community can or should aspire to ape. (A jurist who wrote about this — can’t just find the link — called it “cargo cult due process” or something to this effect.) My view is: What a community or organisation can do is, either literally or resembles very closely, an administrative procedure. Fact-finding (on simple standards) and the protection of community members should be the goal. If laws were broken, any judicial process that needs to be initiated can run in parallel. Neither procedure needs to be much beholden to the other (beyond statements made by community members or administrators becoming evidence, potentially).

7

RNB 06.23.16 at 3:01 am

I just want to speak to this question of these sexual relations are a private matter.

Now perhaps the focus is rightly on students or post-docs or even assistant professors who could find their vulnerability to being shut off from funds, grades letters and promotions being exploited by a sexual predator.

But I am wondering whether we should be concerned about these private relations or dyadic relations having negative externalities. Those who are not interested in sexual relations with professors or in whom they professors are not interested sexually may feel that they have been disadvantaged vis-v-vis others with whom they are in actual competition for grades, grants, contract renewals and promotions.

That is, these sexual relations need not be judged coercive or abusive for them to have negative externalities on others and for them to do damage to the mission of the institution. I would guess however that there are former graduate students or postdocs or assistant professors who would insist that their sexual relations with senior professors were completely voluntary and brought them happiness and intellectual enrichment. But I don’t think this necessarily means the institution should tolerate them.

It would seem to me that the institution has a plausible interest in strong prohibitions on sexual relations among people of unequal rank within the institution due in part but not due only to the negative externalities these relations are likely to have.

This may be an obviously wrong point (it would infringe on people having private, voluntary relations and put the Institution in a position of prohibiting or discouraging private behavior) or an obviously correct one that has long been recognized.

I don’t know. And I don’t want to sidetrack the discussion.

8

Anarcissie 06.23.16 at 4:45 am

This may be an obviously wrong point (it would infringe on people having private, voluntary relations and put the Institution in a position of prohibiting or discouraging private behavior) or an obviously correct one that has long been recognized.

Class is a function of the social order; the social order is produced by the community as a whole, collectively. Insofar as relations and behavior are significantly affected by class, as apparently in this case, they are not private.

Speaking as a total outsider — neither an academic nor a philosopher — I found the indifference of two highly prestigious institutions to the complaints of those who thought they had been abused more disturbing then the alleged individual misbehavior of Thomas Pogge, who after all may be a very charming fellow and far more clever than those who were supposed to check up on him. What else are they looking away from?

On the other hand, the relation between the fame and professional works of this ‘hugely influential global justice philosopher’ and his personal behavior might be very interesting. Surely there is one.

9

J-D 06.23.16 at 6:46 am

RNB @7

In one of the sources cited in the open letter, you can read the following:

‘Some universities have tried to get ahead of the problem by enacting blanket bans on romantic or sexual relationships between teachers and students. In 2010, Yale banned professors from pursuing “amorous relationships” with undergraduates, noting they are “particularly vulnerable to the unequal institutional power inherent in the teacher-student relationship and the potential for coercion.” …’

10

Ingrid Robeyns 06.23.16 at 6:59 am

Thanks for all the comments. I also received a bunch of privately sent messages and in response need to make one addition and a few clarifications.

First, there is a strong and overriding reason not to sign for one group – and that is young untenured scholars who feel it may harm their career. I should have made that clear: given the hierarchical nature of academia, it is obvious that they have all reason not to sign. Sorry for leaving that out.

Second, the post leaves open the possibility that there may be other good reasons why people don’t sign. I could only think of one, but there may be more. E.g. in some persons, it may provoke so much stress and anxiety to speak up about such matters, that this amounts to a valid reason for them not to sign.

Third, one can quarrel about whether we have now passed the threshold of reasonable evidence. This is a matter of judgement that each of us needs to make. And people may put the threshold at different levels. My point is in the first place that in the non-ideal world in which we live, in which justice in this area doesn’t seem to be done by the formal institutions, that threshold is not at the ceiling, as it would be in a well-functioning court case. And clearly, different people have different amounts of reputable information. So some may feel that they lack the relevant information and hence feel that therefore they cannot sign, despite that they agree with the positive reason there is for signing (the change in social norms, and the pressure it will put on the formal institutions to do justice). I think that should be respected. People have to make up their own minds.

I think what is important to stress is that many of those who signed, did so with a heavy heart, and after much hesitations, and going through a train of deliberations as sketched in the post. Many of those who signed, didn’t do so lightly, and felt they did it as a matter of last resort (in fact, some supporters of the victims have been saying that it is too little too late in supporting those who filed the complaints against Pogge already a while ago). The nature of the post was to go through a train of reasoning, since I want to highlight that people should not sign such Open Letters lightly, but on the other hand they also shouldn’t run away from their responsibilities if they feel they belong to the relevant community. This inevitably will lead to many people feeling ambitious with their ultimate decision, whatever that decision is. For those who signed, the worry that will remain is to have contributed to ‘trial by internet’. Many of those who signed, including myself, are worried about this, and for a long time this was an overriding reason not to speak out, assuming/hoping that the formal institutions would do their work. In one sense, the Open Letter is meant to put pressure on the formal institutions to do their work. Procedural fairness is hugely important, and while this may seem paradoxical, those who sign the Open Letter (should) do so because they believe fairness will be increased, rather than diminished.

11

Faustusnotes 06.23.16 at 7:23 am

I agree with rnb. Even properly consenting relationships are toxic for student relations. It disadvantages people with partners, conservative sexual mores, the wrong gender or just people the professor isn’t attracted to. Allowing this kind of “private” thing basically opens up the classroom to the worst kind of cronyism. It’s unprofessional even where consent is not an issue (it usually is imho).

Also for young women this kind of thing creates a permanent cloud over their future – got a leg up the old fashioned way, bet he writes her papers for her too, etc.

There are strong reasons why even consensual relationships need to be discouraged.

12

Mitu Sengupta 06.23.16 at 7:52 am

Ingrid, the last sentence of your last paragraph is excellent. As I’ve said, I have really struggled with the last sentence of the current formulation (which I find clumsy, if nothing else). I wish you’d been summoned to author the letter!

I’m not sure that people have procedural fairness in mind at all when they sign the letter, or that they’re doing so with a heavy heart. I’ve read through the comments on post after post on the Facebook pages of people we both we know, and then of course, the comments on Jezebel, Huff Post, BuzzFeed, etc. The dominant sentiment, from what I can see is: destroy the old creep, destroy him now! The total absence of dissent, of *any kind whatsoever* (not necessarily supporting Pogge), is chilling, in my view. This really is the modern day version of tarring and feathering, the lynch mob! I’m not convinced that the 700+ people who’ve added their names have taken the time to wade through the “information now in the public domain,” which is what the open letter rests upon. I know for sure in at least 4 instances that they have not, because I’ve spoken to them personally about the matter. Don’t you think that’s disturbing? Indeed, I wonder if should have been an open letter at all, and which arguments were used to support the decision to make it one. Couldn’t it have been left at a letter signed by the initial group of 150-160 philosophers, including all the ‘giants of philosophy,’ who were (presumably) asked to sign it via some sort of introductory email? Wouldn’t that have been equally (if not more?) effective? If we’re concerned about procedural fairness, answers to such questions should also be out in the public domain.

13

J-D 06.23.16 at 10:08 am

Ze K @13

If you don’t see any difference between having sex together and having lunch together, please never invite me to lunch.

14

Sam Dodsworth 06.23.16 at 10:37 am

@Ze K

Because non-consensual sex is a pervasive and damaging problem that is (still) widely excused and dismissed, while non-consensual lunch is not.

15

Soullite 06.23.16 at 11:06 am

Yes, I’m sure the links found on an open letter written by a man’s detractors will give a completely impartial view of the matter.

16

Melissa Williams 06.23.16 at 11:13 am

Thanks to Ingrid for this thoughtful post.

I wanted to respond to M Sengupta’s worries about the bandwagon “with us or against us” mentality, in part because she read it into my decision to publicly post my letter to Pogge. I actually share her worries, and for that reason really wrestled with the decision whether or not to post my letter — just as I struggled over the decision whether to sign the open letter. I must acknowledge a sort of performative contradiction in the act of publicly posting a letter that is critical of Pogge’s conduct while deciding not to sign the open letter. In fact, I think that there are good reasons both for and against signing, and am concerned if people for whom the balance of reasons weighed against signing are feeling any sort of social backlash. I posted the letter notwithstanding the performative contradiction because I thought it might suggest an alternative way of approaching these problems — a way I wish I had pursued more than a year ago, when the pattern of Pogge’s conduct first became visible to me. If each of us expressed concerns directly to colleagues whose conduct violates appropriate norms of professional conduct, there is at least some chance that the conduct would change before things got bad enough to generate a movement for public condemnation.

17

Kiwanda 06.23.16 at 11:28 am

I wonder how many such ostracisms will be coming, and for whom.

18

Faustusnotes 06.23.16 at 11:52 am

You just parodied yourself Ze K. How does it feel?

19

krippendorf 06.23.16 at 12:09 pm

At the risk of derailing the thread, as an academic leader of sorts (chair — is that a leader, or just someone too stupid to say “no” to the dean?), I wrestle with questions about the extent to which (a) institutional leaders have a moral obligation to disclose reprimands about sexual harassment to other potentially hiring institutions, (b) search committees at the potential hiring institution have a moral obligation to give some amount of weight (how much?) to information of past reprimands, and (c) search committees have an obligation to seek such information if there are rumors. And, of course, the moral obligations may or may not align with legal considerations, especially from the perspective of the “sending” institution.

I confess that I’m of two minds about it, which is why I ask. On one hand, there have been many prominent cases recently of men who have been reprimanded for sexual misconduct or resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct, only to pop up at another university where the pattern of behavior is repeated. Pogge is just one example. (This circulation seems to happen, in particular, among elite universities, but it could just be because these are the cases we hear about, or because these are the universities that can afford to build departments by poaching superstars at the senior level.)

On the other hand, false allegations can occur, and due process can be violated. And, on the other other hand, I do know of one case in my own field of a scholar who was, in effect, pushed out of one institution for having an affair with an undergraduate (to which he admitted), went to another institution, and has been a model citizen for the past 20 years, with not even a whisper of impropriety. If Institution B (and C, and D…) had refused to hire him, my discipline would have lost a very fine scholar and teacher.

20

Monique Deveaux 06.23.16 at 12:40 pm

@Sengupta 5, 12

Mitu, we made a strategic decision not to contact anyone for signing unless we could be reasonably sure that they would not pass this information along to Pogge or those close to him because we did not want the letter stopped before it was published (through threat of legal action by TP). I reviewed my past correspondence with you before deciding not to alert you to the letter or to ask you to sign, though I did contact you afterwards to check in. No one on the board of ASAP was contacted because we didn’t want the lid blown. May I ask, since you are on the Board of ASAP, why has the Board not made a public statement? Did you, individually or in your role at ASAP, take steps to contact the women who’ve made claims against TP, including those women who filed the civil rights complaint last year? I am wondering what steps you have – individually, and collectively with ASAP – taken to support the women of colour who say that they have been directly harmed by TP.

21

LFC 06.23.16 at 12:58 pm

I’m not a member of “the relevant academic communities” as defined by the OP, but I’m familiar with some of Pogge’s work. I take exception to anarcissie’s comment @8 that “surely” there is some relation between Pogge’s alleged misconduct and his writing. How does anarcissie know that? Has anarcissie read so much as a single word Pogge has written?

Also, anarcissie @8 begins with a variant of her standard dogmatic vulgar-Marxist lecture, in this case informing us that “[i]nsofar as relations and behavior are significantly affected by class, as apparently in this case, they are not private.” Under this view virtually no behavior is private.

—-

Btw, in Feb. 2015 Harvard’s Faculty of Arts & Sciences prohibited romantic/sexual relations between faculty and undergraduates:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-05/harvard-bans-professors-from-having-sex-with-undergraduates

No such blanket prohibition was passed w.r.t. grad students and profs, though apparently there is a policy that profs can’t have relationships w students whom they are directly supervising.

22

LFC 06.23.16 at 1:01 pm

addendum:
last phrase shd read: “with graduate students whom they are directly supervising”

23

LFC 06.23.16 at 1:17 pm

p.s. Just to be clear, I am *not* saying that Pogge’s “pattern of conduct” (M. Williams’s phrase @18) should be treated as private. Rather, I was reacting to anarcissie’s statement that *any* relations between anyone in any setting that “are significantly affected by class” should not be treated as private.

24

Rich Puchalsky 06.23.16 at 1:29 pm

Monique Devenus: “Mitu, we made a strategic decision not to contact anyone for signing unless we could be reasonably sure that they would not pass this information along to Pogge or those close to him because we did not want the letter stopped before it was published (through threat of legal action by TP). […] May I ask, since you are on the Board of ASAP, why has the Board not made a public statement?”

This was one of the obvious consequences not mentioned in the OP. Clearly ASAP is going to be deemed to be inextricably linked to Pogge, as it already pretty much is in the comment above, and the people involved in it challenged to respond as if they have a particular responsibility to either denounce or defend. M.Sengupta’s mom was probably right to advise her not to post or say anything.

The “will you denounce” tactic was especially prominent during the Iraq War in the U.S., in which people speaking for peace were presented with very real atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein and asked whether they would denounce these atrocities, and whether they favored “doing nothing” about them. Is there any particular reason why ASAP should be held responsible to make a public statement or to contact women who say they have been harmed? How would this contact work, exactly, so that the women contacted would not think that this was an indirect legal approach from Pogge’s defenders? (Given that that is the assumption made above.)

25

Rich Puchalsky 06.23.16 at 1:30 pm

Spellcheck auto-“corrected” Monique Deveaux’ name above: it wasn’t something I did on purpose.

26

Kate Norlock 06.23.16 at 1:44 pm

M Sengupta writes, “I’m not sure that people have procedural fairness in mind at all when they sign the letter, or that they’re doing so with a heavy heart.”

I had a heavy heart and procedural fairness in mind when I signed the Open Letter. So, there’s one. I hope it also contributes to surety that most of the philosophers at Yale signed as well, and it is reasonable to assume that they did not do so light-heartedly.

I write this while hoping that it does not give the impression to other signatories that they must give further accounts of themselves, since the Open Letter serves the function of accounting for one’s reasons for signing. But I am concerned that what M Sengupta describes as the dominant sentiment seems dominant because “to hell with him” is the kind of sentiment one will find on a site like Jezebel, and “I worry about how this Open Letter serves victims, affects perpetrators, and adds to our fraught history of online interactions and disagreements between philosophers” is not. It is safe to assume that the sentiments of signatories are manifold.

I am grateful to Ingrid for writing so well about the reasoning processes that go into signing. And for the reasons she states above, I signed. Not everyone does or should. (I have never liked the view that ‘silence speaks volumes,’ when it comes to online participation, a view that seems as uncharitable as the view that signers are singly motivated by ill will.)

27

David 06.23.16 at 1:59 pm

I’m often disturbed in this kind of discussion by the liberal use of the vocabulary of power, subordination and vulnerability. In any hierarchically structured organisation, where following orders or demands is how the organisation works, there are obvious risks for all parties in confusing the public and the private. In most cases there are strict rules against it. But I have never really understood why this model is applied to the university, where adults teach adults who have chosen to enter and may choose to leave. My experience may be atypical, but does anyone here, including the author of the OP, actually feel themselves in a position of “power” over their students? What does that feel like? How do you exercise that power, or refrain from doing so? What have you been tempted to do that you didn’t (or did)? It’s sometimes argued that students depend on teachers for grades and so academic success. This is true to an extent, but it’s also true in my experience that today’s students have a very powerful opinion of themselves, and will instantly and vocally challenge any grade they disagree with, as well as demanding more time, special consideration etc for assignments. One university I am associated with receives a never-ending stream of demands from students that grades be improved, failures be converted to passes etc. and it’s often the teacher who has to justify him or herself. In real life, most lecturers, far from feeling powerful, feel happy if their students turn up on time, listen to the lectures, stop doing Facebook and hand in their assignments on time. The same applies to notions of vulnerability – unless you are going to argue that certain categories of people, whilst adults, are inherently “vulnerable” by their nature, then you have to accept that today’s students on the whole, are no more vulnerable than you and I were, and probably less so. Does anyone here remember feeling “vulnerable” at university? It’s not something I recall anyone I knew feeling. Without presuming to comment on the specific case, which I know nothing about, I can’t escape the feeling that what we have here is a vocabulary and a set of concepts imported from other areas, and looking for an application.

28

Melissa Williams 06.23.16 at 2:06 pm

@Monique Deveaux 22; M Sengupta 5, 12; Rich Puchalsky 27

I wonder whether we might use this forum as a way of thinking through how those of us who respect and have supported ASAP’s work might continue to support it. Rather than simply conceding that “ASAP is going to be deemed to be inextricably linked to Pogge”, perhaps we can help ASAP members figure out how to navigate its future given that it will now be difficult to recruit the participation of many of the most important scholars working on global justice to any event or project in which Pogge plays a role. The harm to ASAP and other good projects in which Pogge has been involved is, to my mind, among the key reasons for viewing the situation as tragic.

29

Anarcissie 06.23.16 at 2:12 pm

LFC 06.23.16 at 1:17 pm @ 26:
‘… any significant relations….’ Yeah, I think class pervades. Certainly in this case.

Usually I’m characterized as an infantile left-deviationist, but I’ll add dogmatic vulgar Marxist to the list, if it’s not there already.

I’d like to expand on my views of the relation between the public and private lives of the subject personage, but I think it would go well off-topic, so I’ll forbear.

30

Ingrid Robeyns 06.23.16 at 2:26 pm

One more clarification is needed. The OP can be reasonably be read as saying that anyone who is a member of one of the relevant communities mentioned, and who doesn’t have a strong reason to not sign the letter, should sign it. I want to qualify that as follows. The issue is not ‘signing the letter’ or ‘not signing the letter’. The issue is to contribute to an effort to (a) make sure that justice is done in this particular case by pressuring the institutions that should make sure that justice is done to do their work, and/or (b) change the climate in academia that makes future similar cases less likely, so that academia becomes more of safe space for young women to study and work.

Now for some people, the most effective way to reach these goals, will not be to sign this letter. Sometimes people may prefer to keep less of a visible profile but will do work behind the scenes, or will use their knowledge or influence in other ways to advance the causes of justice for all and a women-friendly climate in academia. Also, sometimes it is better to not have the stamp of being outspoken or an activist, since not having that stamp opens doors that are not (equally) open to activists.

Hence, Monique @22, I don’t think Mitt should answer your question. I am sure she and others in ASAP are thinking hard about this, but that may, for good reasons, not be visible. I think the points raised by Rich (@27) are important.

Hence, it is not the case that those who do not sign, should be seen as not caring (I didn’t mean to suggest this, but I can see how the OP could be read as such). We can’t know what people who don’t sign believe and care about, since they could either have an overriding reason not to sign (e.g. being untenured, being exhausted and hence unable to think about these matters, … ), or they could believe that there is another, for them more suitable way, to contribute to a change in the harmful social norms.
Of course, I know there are also people who don’t sign not because they don’t care, but because they disagree with my arguments that an Open Letter is a legitimate means to advance those goals. I do really sympathise with those views, but as I tried to explain, I think the world is too radically non-ideal for this to be the case. Yet those who signed should all very much feel sad that, as a matter of last resort, that this Open Letter was published. It would have been much better for everyone had the relevant institutions handled the complaints properly.

31

T 06.23.16 at 2:33 pm

It is laudable to “to express [their] opposition to sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in higher education.” However, each person must decide the level of evidence necessary to accuse an individual or group of individuals of specific acts or a pattern of behavior as well as the consequences of both speaking out and remaining silent.

I wonder if David Wong, the philosopher, will sign the letter. He was a signatory to the Duke lacrosse “Group of 88” letter.

32

Ingrid Robeyns 06.23.16 at 2:59 pm

An important set of valid criticisms by a woman of colour on my Post over at Feminist Philosophers: https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2016/06/23/guest-post-a-woman-of-colour-on-pogge-letter/

33

Kate Norlock 06.23.16 at 3:30 pm

David (#30), you’re so right that there are dimensions on which university employees are vulnerable to students. But I would think that how a professor with international prestige could exercise that power is clear: A professor could lend their prestige to students, or use their international repute to damage the student’s prospects via recommendation letters or interpersonal conversations, or withhold their prestige-power at the juncture at which a professor might otherwise write a letter or recommend a student. Is this not obvious?

My advisor was not a global figure, but she had “power over” me to the extent that she could do me benefit or harm when I went on the job market. She lent her credibility to me to my benefit, so hooray, I’m okay, but it remains the case that this was power she had.

34

Verbasequentur 06.23.16 at 3:50 pm

Why I did not sign the letter: reasonable dissent
[PS: I do not know Pogge personally; I do not care much for his work – in my view, it betrays a great deal of shallow argumentation]

Thanks to Ingrid for the opportunity to engage in a civil way and set out some reasoning that is not covered in the points above. I believe there is a case for reasonable disagreement with your conclusions and I want to set it out. I apologise for length.

1. I do not like joining lynch mobs. In this case, the call is for the whole relevant academic community to take part in ostracising a particular person, yet no due process for judging that call and the action it calls for has taken place. No indication is given of the point and consequences, intended or otherwise, of this action, its proportionality, and no opportunity for a proper defence and careful examination of the evidence (some of which has been provided by newspapers, but not all), in relation to the kind of punishment that this letter represents: public collective ostracism. The letter uses the word “condemn” but what is a direct public collective (mass even) condemnation of a named individual, other than a public ostracism?

2. Now the claim seems to be that due process has failed and so we must take matters into our own hands. As I explain below, it is unclear in the letter itself what particular failing we are being asked to compensate for and how we are aiming to compensate for it. The letter is in fact quite purposefully blurry on such matters (see 5 below). There is an important distinction between declaring one’s belief there has been a failing of due process or justice and declaring one’s participation in collective punishment of an individual person. I personally thought OJ Simpson was obviously guilty, more than obviously, guilty as heck of the murder of Nicole; I think that the institutions we entrust to carry out due process are imperfect and this was part of the reason he won his case. However, it does not follow that I will get together a group of people to engage in collective punishment against him. Whilst existing institutional and legal processes might be improved, and I work and argue for them to do so – legitimising direct collective punishment would require a much more wholesale level of breakdown of institutions. Yet this is what we are being asked to do through this letter – engage in a collective punishment against an individual becuase we are not happy with how their case has progressed.

3. The only point of the letter seems to be to collectively shame/ostracise someone in addition to the institutional and legal actions already taken against him, and so it seems to be asking that everyone takes part in a direct collective punishment. Yet, I do not subscribe to the view that collective and non-democratically-legislated punishments that fail to conform to basic legality (rule of law) on any reasonable reading are legitimate. For sure, write about why the individual is guilty of actions that institutions refuse to punish (although the letter does not actually say that explicitly – see below), so long as you can back it up, but the collective letter goes beyond that into punishment by ostracism, and I am not aware of an argument for why failure to take part in collective punishments in constitutional democracy amounts to a moral wrong. This is especially true when the purpose of that collective punishment, its proportionality, and its focus, etc., are unclear in the very text we are being asked to sign.

5. The letter is itself fundamentally unclear. It implies fault with institutions (Yale and Columbia) but does not go into any detail or depth about this, and focuses its moral ostracism on Pogge as a person. It is in my opinion carefully worded to be unclear in fact.

The Buzzfeed article to which the letter refers says the Yale panel found “substantial evidence” that Pogge had acted unprofessionally and irresponsibly, noting “numerous incidents” where he “failed to uphold the standards of ethical behavior” expected of him. But the panel voted that there was “insufficient evidence to charge him with sexual harassment,” So is the position of the letter that Pogge should be so charged? If it is, then it should say so—it does not say so. If it is not, then what is it saying? Is it concentrating only on the “unprofessional” behaviour part, which in the panel finding falls short of sexual harassment? If it is then the letter we are asked to sign is just underlining that finding. It is then saying that

The letter says: “According to those who have reviewed the complaint, it includes dozens of pages of supporting documents alleging that Pogge has engaged in a long-term pattern of discriminatory conduct, including unwanted sexual advances, quid pro quo offers of letters of recommendation and other perks, employment retaliation in response to charges of sexual misconduct, and sexual assault. Included in the complaint are affidavits from former colleagues at Columbia University”

That is mealy-mouthed: “According to those who have reviewed the complaint”. If the letter had the courage of its convictions (which it claims to demand of potential signers), then it would say “We (insert names here) have reviewed the complaint and we find that the following specific allegations are true (insert list here)”. It cannot do that because that would make any of the named people subject to legal actions for defamation if they could not substantiate their claims. Which prompts a question about signing up to insinuations rather than clear claims. Instead, the letter moves from this section insinuating support for allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination to a section condemning “unprofessionalism” as the breach.

Note that the above-quoted para says clearly “supporting documents alleging”. So the letter cannot bring itself to even make the allegations itself – which makes them insinuations in context – or to stand by them as explicit accusations. But on the basis of this, all right minded academics are asked to engage in the collective punishment.

So what, explicitly, are we being asked to sign up to: is it the “unprofessionalism” allegations as harmful (the only one’s the letter explicitly stands behind rather than insinuating – and the ones that Yale has itself found), or is it the sexual harassment allegations at Yale (or beyond)? If it is only the ones it explicitly makes, then what is this letter adding to anything. If it is the ones it only insinuates but does not bring itself to make, then how do I know exactly what those are and what exactly I should condemn, beyond the existing findings against Pogge by Yale and Columbia, and why is condemnation an appropriate public requirement when someone has been found guilty of those actions? I condemn all such actions as found by such panels, so why am I asked to single out Pogge?

It continues “We write, then, to express our belief that the information now in the public domain — including that provided by Pogge himself in the aforementioned email correspondence — suffices to demonstrate that Pogge has engaged in behavior that violates the norms of appropriate professional conduct.” This is mealy-mouthed because it is not explicit on which norms it wants us to sign up to agree have been violated. That some norms of professionalism have been breached has already been institutionally established anyway – by Yale, by Columbia which disciplined him according to the letter itself. So what are we making up for? We are not told in the slide from “look at all this paperwork that alleges…” to “ we condemn”, whether we are condemning some additional actions to the indicted unprofessional ones.

Finally: “Based on the information that has been made public, we strongly condemn his harmful actions toward women, most notably women of color, and the entire academic community.” But again, are we being asked to sign a letter that condemns someone for actions that have already been found wrongful by Yale and Columbia? (non-professionalism, and harassment at Columbia). In which case why don’t we just put together all the professors who have been found to be in breach of professionalism standards in this way and write a letter about them – why participate in collectively punishing one person via public ostracism and not all, and what is a proportionate punishment in each case? The letter does not talk about proportionate punishments, and consequences, so what is it adding? All those kinds of questions, which are questions of due process are ignored by the assertion that people have a moral obligation to sign the letter.

Note too that the letter does not say what we should do other than collectively publicly ostracise. It does not even call on the institutions involved to take actions that they have failed to take (the most it stretches to is saying it “hopes” the current legal processes will be speedy). So it personalises the matter without saying why and how the existing actions against Pogge run so short that it behoves a crowd of academics to engage in a public collective punishment.

6. The only conclusions I can draw is that the letter is asking people to engage in the worst kind of “virtue-signalling”. I understand that people who supported Pogge’s ideas, and his career, almost unconditionally because they echoed personal convictions, may feel betrayed, and is could be a form of catharsis. But I was not one of those, and I don’t think even his supporters need to feel guilt for the transgressions on which he is already indicted (they are his own). I also don’t think that virtue signalling is harmless when it turns into this kind of collective punishment (albeit a vaguely stated, and vaguely defended one). I also think that demanding that your fellows engage in direct collective punishment (mass ostracism) is a very worrying instinct, and condemning them for not joining you in participating in that verges on making very large and unwarranted assumptions about their motivations and is also a form of undue group pressure.

In conclusion: I believe there is not only a reasonable case for dissent, I believe it is the principled position on letters of this kind. Show me a letter saying “Yale, Columbia, get your act together!” and I’d be more sympathetic. But I’ve always hated lynch mobs, real or digital.

35

Monique Deveaux 06.23.16 at 4:08 pm

As the OP argues, those of us in the relevant communities should speak up about sexual harassment (in general but also in specific cases like this) — *if* we feel this is the best way to contribute, and *if* we are in a position to do so (see the excellent FP post that Ingrid links to ^). Everyone has to answer this question for themselves. Some of my longest-standing colleagues and friends declined to sign when I contacted them last week, and I will continue to respect and admire them, even if I don’t agree with all of their reasons for not signing. Those involved with ASAP are certainly part of the relevant community, and Pogge is the Board President. But they are not uniquely responsive for responding. Some of the philosophy journal boards that TP serves on are deciding in the coming days whether to ask him to step down; I see he is no longer listed as on the editorial board of Ethics. TP has recently agreed to resign as Chair of the US Committee of the China Philosophy Summer School, and last month he stepped down from the Scientific Committee of PluriCourts. In nudging (asking?) TP to step aside, peers within these organizations are making clear that they take seriously the allegations that have been made regarding his unethical and unprofessional behavior and pattern of sexual harassment, and that they won’t ignore these. ^ Melissa @31 is absolutely right that it would be a shame if the great work that ASAP does were to be negatively impacted by TP’s actions; but it is his actions, not our shining a light on them, that has jeopardized its good work. That is why I think it is important to make clear our reasons for not participating in organizations of which TP is a key member. I have told ASAP (the Global Colleagues program in particular) that I would be only too happy to accept their invitation to participate in their programs once Pogge is no longer on their masthead. FWIW, I think if Pogge steps down, it will as a result of insiders like Mitu who are genuinely distressed about his behavior, but who are also understandably conflicted because they have had a different — i.e., positive — experience of him as a colleague and collaborator.

36

PatinIowa 06.23.16 at 4:16 pm

@David at 30

I suspect that each of us has had a mentor or mentors in the past who had a profound influence on our development as scholars and as people. I’m very lucky in the ones I had. I cannot think of any way in which they unduly harmed me, and I’m grateful for what they’ve done for me.

But I can also think of times that I agreed with something that was said in a conversation in the office and later rethought, or considered an action that later struck me as misguided, because I was young, inexperienced and admiring. And I know that the teacher, scholar and person I am is heavily conditioned by my desire to be like the men and women who mentored me.

I have had brilliant, self-assured students from my classes tell me that I scared them, until they got to know me. And I can remember standing in front of people’s office doors terrified that I’d say something stupid and that I wouldn’t look and behave like a member of the community I desparately wanted to join.

The power we carry goes far beyond the brute institutional hierarchies. Those things are real, and have been roundly abused by people who, as it happens look a lot like me (older white guy).

But the real damage we are capable of, and too often cause, comes from betraying the trust that young people put in us. This is why the actions of teachers and mentors cause such terrible damage to both the individuals and the community of learning we’re trying to create, as well as any activism we’re engaged in. If we advocate for collegiality and behave in a predatory manner or if we advocate for justice and behave unjustly, we damage far more than the individuals involved.

Students can do this to us as well. Sometimes their disengagement or impatience or intolerance damages us all. But we’re supposed to be the adults in the room, even if it’s the case that one of us is a 45 year old associate professor and the other a 35 year old post doc.

Notice that this says nothing about the facts of the matter or the appropriateness of signing the letter. That’s up to each of us individually, I think. I’ve signed it. And I think the OP makes a good case. But I could be wrong.

37

David 06.23.16 at 5:16 pm

Kate and PatinIowa, thank you for responding helpfully. My point was not to deny the reality of academic politics or academic patronage, since obviously both exist, and can be badly misused. My discomfort is related to assimilating such situations as described in the OP to ideas about “power”. I regularly write references for former students for different purposes, but I don’t think of myself as exercising “power”. Do you? I could theoretically withhold such references, and in fact, like most people I suspect, I have occasionally declined to be a referee where I think the person is entirely unsuited to the job, or where I simply don’t have enough information. But that’s not “power” either, at least in any sense which means something to me. And of course I would not suggest that the balance of “power” is in general towards students, either. I have also had one or two students say that they were initially frightened of me.
What I’m really querying is the assimilation of the kind of incident described above into a simple model of power, without nuance. To talk of “hierarchical” relations, or the “power” of teachers over students who are necessarily “vulnerable” just seems to me unhelpful and to obstruct discussion. It’s a discourse imported from thinking about other issues. There are obviously cases where well-known and prestigious academics have abused their positions for different reasons, and some of those include personal misbehavior. But I don’t think we should construct a general theory of academia on that basis, or fall too easily into these power-related stereotypes.

38

Ale 06.23.16 at 6:29 pm

Even if I am a member of two of the groups of people who should sign the open letter, I have not done it and do not plan to do it, but that does not mean that I want to minimize the allegations against him or condone his behavior. It is just that (1) I consider the content and the tone of the letter to be quite unfortunate, and that (2) I am quite appalled by the proposals, advanced by some colleagues in the articles linked in the letters, regarding the necessity of banning TP’s writings from curricula.
With regard to point (1): What did the authors aimed at? It is still not clear to me. Of course, they want to condemn sexual harassment in general. Then, why mention this specific case and not write a manifesto against improper behavior of professors (and students)?
If a legal case is running, what is the sense of this letter? Demanding that Yale fires TP before the case is closed? What happened to the presumption of innocence and the right to due process?
Did the authors want to criticize Yale for not acting legally in this case? Well, it appears that Yale did in fact act: there have been an inquiry, which came to the conclusion that it was not possible to prove that sexual harassment has taken place. Do the authors have pieces of evidence that Yale did not have? Then they should present them. Or do they think that Yale is not interested in finding out the truth and prefer to cover up the story (which might be quite plausible)? Then they should call for a boycott of Yale, since it has proved to be at least uninterested in punishing a case of sexual harassment.
If they want that Yale fires TP out of moral reasons, then – again – they should direct their anger against Yale for being condescending with the improper behavior of its star professor.
If their letter is aimed at TP, what do they expect? Do they want TP to repent? To atone? To quit his job? In its present form, the letter aims rather at pillorying him than at asking him to assume his responsibility. I would have signed a letter asking him to leave his position, but I am not sure whether I want to sign a letter in which “we”, the good, healthy academic world, condemn the monster who brought shame of our category, like the last paragraph seems to suggest.
I have worked in academy in four major countries and I do not think that the members of our world have the right to cultivate such a high moral self-esteem as a category. Sexual harassment is certainly on top of the list of unacceptable behavior (and as such it deserves to be legally punished without any exceptions), but in academy you can experience everyday many forms of ethically reproachable attitudes and I shall never feel comfortable in signing a document that tries to give the impression that “our philosophical community” is a haven of mutual trust, respect and morality, because this is not the case, unfortunately.
As to point (2): While discussing TP’s case with a colleague I observed that most of the signers of the open letter were well capable to distinguish one philosopher’s ideas from his personal life in the case of Heidegger or Carl Schmitt; he objected that neither Heidegger nor Schmitt had personally harmed anyone. Even if there are reasons to doubt this (apparently Heidegger was actively involved in the removal of Jewish colleagues and Schmitt acted as a legal advisor for the Nazi government), let us accept for the argument’s sake that this is true. However, it is an object of discussion whether or to which point Heidegger and Schmitt’s ideas might have justified the Nazi regime or prepared the path that led to it. On the other side, in none of his writings did TP ever justify sexual harassment or power abuse, so that it is not understandable why these writings should be banned from academic curricula, while this should not be the case of Heidegger’s Lectures on Metaphysics with their notorious footnote in which the German philosopher speaks of the “internal greatness of the movement” (the “movement” being National-Socialism). Nor it is clear why we should accept that Wagner’s music is still performed despite his rabid anti-Semitic writings (and as a matter of fact, this is still a point of discussion in Israel). But apparently, it is OK to ask for a complete damnatio memoriae of TP. Some of the people who signed the letter may claim that they do not share this appeal, but then – again – why sign this letter? Is it really better to sign a bad letter that put “us”, the good philosophical community, on the pedestal and calls for bashing a person and his lifework than signing no letter? Should we not take courage and write a different letter, starting from some of the remarks made in the OP?

39

Stephen 06.23.16 at 7:07 pm

Query whether if Pogge were a known supporter of the Republican party, or worse (makes sign to avert the Evil Eye) Trump, there would have been the slightest doubt on CT about everyone denouncing him for his (allegedly) evil ways?

Qualification: of course no Republican could ever have risen to a position like Pogge’s.

Second qualification: I don’t like the US Republicans, and regard Trump with a mixture of abhorrence and disbelief. Me, I’d have voted for Sanders.

40

JohnP 06.23.16 at 9:21 pm

Pogge is being persecuted for being a beta male. Were he an alpha like, say, Nozick, there would be no accusations, yet still a string of romances. Ditto if he were gay.

41

merian 06.23.16 at 10:02 pm

David @40:

OP to ideas about “power”. I regularly write references for former students for different purposes, but I don’t think of myself as exercising “power”. Do you?

Well, you should. Professors can make it impossible, or very hard, or (especially in the US and other countries with high tuition costs) very onerous for a student to finish their degree. Or impact their chances of getting the kind of job they desire and are most suited for (though that varies by occupation). I actually was as least equally incensed about the job-offer shenanigans, and can’t for the life of me understand why he wasn’t disciplined for it.

42

merian 06.23.16 at 10:03 pm

[Quote was truncated by my inept copy-and-pasting, but you can find out how it should have started.]

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RNB 06.23.16 at 10:10 pm

I get that professors can’t supervise students with whom they are having sexual relations. But say student X has to work with a professor with whom fellow graduate student Y has sexual relations. Then both X and Y go up for the same grant or job or postdoc position. And X needs support from the Prof. This puts X in a terrible position. I don’t see how the mission of the institution is not undermined by professors having sexual relations with grad students and postdocs and of course undergrads in their departments even if those relations pass strict criteria as consensual.

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RNB 06.23.16 at 10:15 pm

I agree with Merian that professors have power over undergrad and grad students in virtue of their decision to write or not a letter or a strong or weak letter. Students often struggle to get the requisite number of letters for a position or application, and very desperate students approach profs all the time write a letter. It would horrible for a prof to take advantage of this position by saying something like: “Well, I did not get to know you well in class; how about we talk about this over a drink?” Does this kind of thing happen? I fear that it does all too often.

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RNB 06.23.16 at 10:23 pm

My guess is that secretly quite a few male profs think they are so underpaid and disrespected, given how brilliant that they think they are, that having sexual access to students and postdocs should be part of their compensation. It’s for them one of the perks that led them to give up the money they could have made in the private sector. And really this traditional patriarchal culture just has to be eliminated. I am hopeful that it will die with a good push. There are also others who are aware of how very damn brilliant and influential that they are that they can’t imagine that someone may not be sexually attracted to them. And yet they are not.

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Mitu Sengupta 06.23.16 at 10:47 pm

Monique, it’s great to know that you think so poorly of me: that I would have run to Pogge and blown your lid. I suppose that fits well with the general trope of conned, manipulated, corrupted, eternally victimized ‘woman of colour.’ I have also reviewed our private correspondence and find nothing in there that would lead you conclude that I would report your letter to Thomas, especially if you had asked me not to. And I’m really not ‘close to’ him, whatever that means! Since you have self-identified as one author of the letter, I will say, IMHO, that you should have reached out to women who are currently in professional relationships with Thomas because you are publicly professing concern for the women/women of colour who have been harmed by him while he has been violating ‘the norms of appropriate professional conduct.’ I think it’s reasonable to expect that you would be worried about the women he’s currently in professional relationships with (a) because he might be harming them as you are penning your open letter, or (b) because of the effect it will have on them when it is released. I brought up ASAP only in that context: because those of us who work at ASAP have ongoing professional contact with him. On the other hand, I really don’t see why I, individually, owe you any explanation as to what I have or have not done to express support/solidarity for the women who have made allegations against TP. I most definitely do not owe you any public explanation. I’m really not sure why anyone would demand that of me. Is it because I am also a ‘woman of colour’ who has worked with TP? If I do not demonstrate solidarity in the way you deem appropriate, am I a ‘traitor’ in some way (speaking of tropes!)? In terms of why I didn’t act on behalf of ASAP, well, ASAP does not equal Thomas Pogge. That’s about as much as I’m willing to say on behalf of its rather large Board. Saying more, in my view, would be professionally inappropriate, and my allegiance, at the moment, is to my fellow Board members, all of whom I greatly respect, many of whom I count as friends. If ASAP takes steps, you will know.

Others: I would like to respond to other comments, but will do so in a separate post. I acknowledge that this current post is somewhat besides the point and a bit too “all about me,” but I did feel the need to respond to Monique’s comment. And P.S. – I really prefer the term ‘racialized’ to ‘person of colour.’

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Faustusnotes 06.23.16 at 10:50 pm

Following up on Ale (I am not a philosopher)… Whi is Heidegger still taught, if his philosophy was inextricably linked to fascism? As far as I understand it, in medicine we don’t teach any of the findings of the nazi doctors. I guess we use other technologies developed by the nazis, but we certainly don’t use their most unethical research. Shouldn’t the same apply in philosophy? If It isn’t enough to bar TP from serious discussion for self describing as a “thought leader” but sexual harassment is, shouldn’t Heidegger also be out? Also Marx, who shagged his maid (it was consensual, nudge nudge).

What are the standards in philosophy for judging that a philosophers contribution to ethics or morality are compromised by their personal actions? Do we judge them by the standard of their day? Even if that, plenty of people opposed the nazis so why is Heidegger kept? This blog often has posts about problems of sexual and power harassment in philosophical academia. Could it be that these problems are inevitable in a community that won’t ostracize icky people like Heidegger, or hypocrital idiots like Spinoza ? Or people who self describe as “thought leaders” and give tedx talks?

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Mitu Sengupta 06.23.16 at 10:51 pm

Sorry, line 8 from the bottom should read, “as a member of ASAP’s Board,” not on its behalf.

49

Rich Puchalsky 06.24.16 at 1:28 am

Monique Derveaux: “In nudging (asking?) TP to step aside, peers within these organizations are making clear that they take seriously the allegations that have been made regarding his unethical and unprofessional behavior and pattern of sexual harassment, and that they won’t ignore these. ^ Melissa @31 is absolutely right that it would be a shame if the great work that ASAP does were to be negatively impacted by TP’s actions; but it is his actions, not our shining a light on them, that has jeopardized its good work. That is why I think it is important to make clear our reasons for not participating in organizations of which TP is a key member.”

People should recognize that this goes beyond the original letter, yet it is a predictable continuation of the letter. It is of course anyone’s right to refuse to participate in an organization for whatever reason they like. But this is not a condemnation of Pogge’s actions and a declaration that his actions do not meet community standards: given the plural “our” in “our reasons” it envisions that people will refuse to work with organizations that Pogge still has a leadership role in.

I question the “it is his actions, not our shining a light on them” part of this. Surely it is the women who reported Pogge’s actions and the news media that wrote about their reports that “shone a light” on them. Is the letter really supposed to be informative in the sense that people who didn’t know what Pogge had done would now know?

50

Mitu Sengupta 06.24.16 at 1:42 am

@Monique Deveaux, I apologize for accusing you of invoking a trope of women of colour as conniving victims. Given what I know of you and your work, that wasn’t fair, and had more to do with my sense (and anger) that this trope is indeed alive and kicking in the present discussions about TP. If I read ‘poor, vulnerable woman of colour manipulated by TP’ one more time, I think I’ll puke. I don’t think the open letter denounced the trope strongly enough (while Melissa’s and Ingrid’s posts were better, I think). Monique, I do understand that this has been a difficult journey for you; one that requires a lot of personal courage, and I hope to continue our personal conversation. My objections really have to do with procedural fairness. I hope people that will believe me, and not that I’m trying to cover my own professional behind (I think the more strategic choice for me, at this point, would be to sign on the dotted line). Indeed, I believe that even if I knew for sure (i.e., 100%) that Thomas was guilty of everything as charged, I would still raise the questions I have done in my earlier posts.

51

LFC 06.24.16 at 2:11 am

Ale @41:
I am quite appalled by the proposals, advanced by some colleagues in the articles linked in the letters, regarding the necessity of banning TP’s writings from curricula.

I (a non-philosopher) would share Ale’s reaction to such proposals, though I wasn’t aware that some people are advancing them (haven’t read all the online writing about the case). In an earlier discussion at another site (Daily Nous), there were at least a couple of people who advocated avoiding citing Pogge’s work if possible, which struck me as not a very defensible position. Banning his writing from syllabi is even less defensible.

Faustusnotes may not like someone calling himself “a thought leader,” but I can’t see that that is unethical — unless perhaps the description is *completely* divorced from any connection to reality, a qualification that does not apply in Pogge’s case.

I’m not going to get into the Heidegger thing, for various reasons. But basically I wd oppose removing writers from syllabi on grounds of their objectionable politics.

W.r.t ale’s other pts on the open etter, my sense is that the drafters/signers wanted, among other things, to urge Yale, as Ingrid R. puts in the OP, to proceed “quickly and fairly” w the complaints vs TP. (Whether the letter says that in the most direct way might be debatable.) There is also a federal civil rights complaint that has been filed vs Pogge, which is a legal proceeding outside of Yale’s internal framework, and how/if that complicates matters I will leave to the practicing lawyers (or other experts on this).

52

faustusnotes 06.24.16 at 2:50 am

LFC, I just can’t take a “thought leader” seriously. I was at a meeting the other day where someone suggested “thinking outside the box.” I mean really, in the 21st century people still use this kind of meaningless jargon? It is shallow.

Regarding Heidegger, it’s not just about his “politics” if the person is a philosopher of ethics. I understand it’s possible for an objectionable person to make important points of e.g. political philosophy, physics, whatever. But when they’re working on ethics presumably their personal behavior is relevant to the material they’re teaching? I don’t know how much Heidegger’s work is relevant to ethics (I am not a philosopher), but if it is, why would it be relevant to teach it given the dude in question was an active anti-semite? The same would apply to other philosophers (what can some old greek slave owner and pederast teach us about ethical behavior?)

These are genuine questions btw. In medicine we don’t cite unethical studies except as lessons in how not to be unethical. As far as I understand it we don’t allow unethical work to affect our science (perhaps there are exceptions I’m not aware of, and I’m happy to be corrected). How is it with philosophy?

53

LFC 06.24.16 at 3:23 am

@faustusnotes
I’m not a philosopher either, but will take a crack at

I don’t know how much Heidegger’s work is relevant to ethics (I am not a philosopher), but if it is, why would it be relevant to teach it given the dude in question was an active anti-semite?

Heidegger’s work is more relevant to metaphysics (and aesthetics) than ethics, I would say. Being and Time dates from the late 1920s, before the Nazis came to power. Heidegger is still an important figure for some philosophers and intellectual historians; e.g. just to take one of many poss. examples, the historian Peter Gordon wrote a fairly recent book about the debate between Heidegger and Cassirer.

Another point is that ‘ethics’ encompasses subjects other than (inter)personal or personal behavior. In some cases a person’s behavior might connect directly to his/her work in ‘ethics’, in other cases not so directly. I don’t want to get into this at length partly b.c it’s late here.

54

Sam Bradford 06.24.16 at 4:38 am

We shouldn’t ignore the contributions of people who did wrong as individuals because… being wrong about one thing doesn’t make you wrong about everything else. Someone can have fantastic ethics but terrible willpower, for instance, which leads them into doing bad things. Doesn’t mean their ethical ideas are wrong, but that they were weak as individuals.

Saying that a scholar or artist’s contributions should be forever ignored, regardless of their value, because of their poor conduct baffles me. Are we searching for truth or not? Are bad people not sometimes right about things? Should everything we ourselves say be ignored, because of those moments when we’ve done wrong? It’s horrible. It suggests forgiveness is impossible, rehabilitation is impossible. Not a world I want to live in.

(Apologies if this is too much of a derailment from the original post, just a side-topic that bothered me.)

55

J-D 06.24.16 at 7:05 am

I was turning over in my mind your question about the appropriate course of action when not having all the relevant information available, and it occurred to me to consider the possibility that in this case you do have all the relevant information; maybe there is no other relevant information. I was wondering whether you have any particular reason for supposing that there is other relevant information not available to you.

56

David 06.24.16 at 9:51 am

RNB “My guess is ….” that’s the point really. So far as I know nobody here has admitted to actually misusing power over students, or recalls being themselves the subject of such misuse. The “power” is essentially hypothetical or existential. To withhold or give references, is important but only really applies to the small percentage of students who want to go on to academic positions. And of course the writing of references is hardly confined to academia. To elevate a single issue like that to a general discourse of power and domination seems to me excessive. (And by the way, there is also the “power” to help people – something I try to do when I can, as I’m sure many of you do.)
Leaving Heidegger aside for a moment, there’s other interesting cases: what about Althusser, who was a hard-line supporter of Soviet Communism, who strangled his wife in a fit of madness and finished his days in a mental hospital? Yet his books on Marx are still read and even taught. And this is someone who actually did these things – he wasn’t just the subject of anonymous accusations. Where are the limits, if any?

57

Kate Norlock 06.24.16 at 1:17 pm

Well said, Sam Bradford (#57)! And I would add that the inconsistent or bad moral conduct of authors of moral philosophy is a reason to read their work with concerted attention to what those authors suggest constitutes a moral person; is their theory consistent with their conduct, with our own often immoral conduct, out of reach of all of us, useful, useless? These are questions worth considering.

(Apologies for adding to any thread-derailment. But I really appreciate Sam Bradford’s point.)

58

Garrulous 06.24.16 at 1:38 pm

Verbasequentur, your long post above seems to have been passed over without any comment on the thread, not sure why. I just wanted to thank you for your careful analysis, which I find absolutely convincing.

59

LFC 06.24.16 at 3:06 pm

@Garrulous
Verbasequentur, your long post above seems to have been passed over without any comment on the thread, not sure why.

The, or a, reason it was passed over w/o comment is that did not appear in sequence, i.e. when it was written, but rather, apparently, went into moderation and appeared later (which sometimes happens here.) Thks for drawing attention to it.

60

NR 06.24.16 at 4:56 pm

Pogge’s forgotten victims.

In the discussion I have seen so far of TP’s actions, the focus has been entirely on the victims whom he engaged in quid pro quo (“sex for letters of recommendation,” etc.) relations with. As it should be. But we should not forget that every for one of these victims—the women who got a job from their relationships with Pogge—there was also someone else, a woman or man, who did not get that job because it want to one of Pogge’s sexual favorites. I am not saying this to belittle his direct victims’ victimhood—as if emerging from a coercive sexual relationship with a shiny new job is adequate compensation, or that being cheated out of a job is comparable to being exploited sexually—but merely to point out that they were not the only ones harmed Pogge’s immoral practices.

Given that the drafters of this letter seem to all hail from the top of the academic totem pole, and greatly removed from the academic precariate may help explain this omission. Or are we all just inured to the pervasive cronyism of academia that it only offends us when coerced sex is part of the deal?

(I am aware that not all Pogge’s victims ended up receiving the benefits he dangled before them.)

61

PatinIowa 06.24.16 at 9:47 pm

David @40

“What I’m really querying is the assimilation of the kind of incident described above into a simple model of power, without nuance,” seems reasonable to me.

I will say, though, that even with the nuance, one can often spot a power differential that’s being used in a troubling way, and even abused. Since I’ve signed the letter, that’s the determination I’ve made. I hope I’m right, but if I’m not, I hope I have the good sense to admit it, when I’m proved wrong.

62

F. Foundling 06.24.16 at 11:27 pm

@faustusnotes 06.24.16 at 2:50 am

>… why would it be relevant to teach it given the dude in question was an active anti-semite? … what can some old greek slave owner and pederast teach us about ethical behavior? …

Ahem. You don’t study philosophers because you necessarily agree with them completely or even partly, but because they are widely considered to have said something significant, influential or innovative (currently or at the time). Even in order to disagree with an idea, you have to understand it and discuss it first (I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that this needs to be explained to someone who openly demanded the banning of opinions he didn’t like in another thread). That is in addition to what Sam Bradford said: your theory may be great and your practice may still fall far short of it.

63

J-D 06.25.16 at 12:04 am

Verbasequentur @37

‘In this case, the call is for the whole relevant academic community to take part in ostracising a particular person, yet no due process for judging that call and the action it calls for has taken place.’

No, that’s false.

Some people have examined the available evidence and concluded that they are justified in deciding for ostracism.
Some people have examined the available evidence and concluded that they are justified in deciding against ostracism.
Some people have not (yet) examined the available evidence, or have examined it but have not (yet) reached a conclusion.

That is the due process: examine the evidence, draw your conclusions.

64

D Levinson 06.25.16 at 1:34 am

I thought due process had more to do with protecting the rights of the accused. While this is not a trial and no legal rights are involved, there is still the question of fairness towards the accused. Do you think that such fairness has been maintained? I’m appalled, for instance, that Pogge’s own statements have been used against him without any apparent concern for whether this is fair. I realize that people will say that women who make sexual harassment allegations don’t get a fair hearing either, but very crudely put, two wrongs don’t make a right.

65

Marcus 06.25.16 at 2:05 am

I’m pretty sure the ones abusing power are the ones writing the letter. After all, it is the dominant ideology and self-conscious power play.

See tar and feather.
See scarlett letter

66

Marcus 06.25.16 at 2:07 am

Also, please rewind and explain actual harm rather than potential harm. Is this the future and implied crimes police?

67

David 06.25.16 at 10:13 am

PatinIowa @ 63, yes I agree. I tried to comment on this issue at more length but my comment has been in moderation purgatory since yesterday morning. Not sure what i have said to offend.

68

NR 06.25.16 at 12:06 pm

Since my initial attempt to comment here seems to have failed to receive moderator approval (I can’t fathom why) I’ll take another stab.

We focus on the women who, in the context of a patently asymmetrical relation, Pogge lured with promises (or hints) of quid pro quo. They are the primary victim, but we must not forget that they are not the only victims. For every one who got a job on the strength of his word, some other woman or man who would have otherwise got that job if there had been a level playing field did not. Given the scarcity of jobs in philosophy, we cannot be confident they went on to land on their feet elsewhere. We don’t even know their names. They are also Pogge’s victims.

69

Kiwanda 06.25.16 at 1:49 pm

J-D @64: The same notion of “due process” could be said to be followed by a group of people some of whom become a lynch mob: they examine the evidence, draw their conclusions, and act accordingly. Lynch mobs, by your reasoning, are simply a group of people who have lost faith in the formal institutions of the law, which in a particular case has failed to protect the vulnerable, according to a reasonable view of the evidence, which after all can never be 100% complete and objectively documented.

70

Ingrid Robeyns 06.25.16 at 2:09 pm

Sorry that moderation was a bit slow – I was away from my computer (and will be for most of the next days). The fact that some comments spent a while in the moderation queue may also have changed some of the numbers of the comments.

Also, people here are honest (and some also courageous) by writing non-anonymously. The CT comments policy doesn’t require you to reveal your identity on the site, but you can’t post while using an anonymous (non-functioning) email address – see our comments policy on top of the page. Those comments (independent of what is being argued or said) will not be published.

71

RNB 06.25.16 at 3:44 pm

@71 I agree with NP.

72

Ingrid Robeyns 06.25.16 at 7:10 pm

Verbasequentur @37: thanks for your valuable thoughts.

One of the disadvantages of writing on a blog (or elsewhere) over having a real-life discussion is that what people intend to write is not always how they are understood, and often with good reason. If we talk to each other, we can quickly ask for explanation or clarification; on the blogs, we don’t have this option since the OP lays down an entire argument and often it would have improved the discussion if the writer of the OP was early in the process asked for some clarification or asked whether (s)he really wanted to say X.

Your interpretation of my post is reasonable, but it is not the position I wanted to defend – or, at the very least, would want to defend now. I wrote at the start that I myself am very averse to ‘lynching mobs’, and that this is prima facie a strong reason not to have such an Open Letter and hence not to sign it. But I do not think that the Open Letter, or my post on the Open Letter, is calling for such a lynching mob, let alone collective punishment. I also think the Open Letter is only legitimate since the world is so radically non-ideal – the formal institutions that should protect justice in this case don’t seem to be able to get their act together. I think the Open Letter is, in my reading, putting pressure on all those involved to make sure that the victims are heard and their complaints are taken seriously, and also calling upon all members of the relevant communities to change social norms. That’s something quite different from ‘collective punishment’.
Reading your interpretation of my post, I now think I should have framed it as follows: “many of us will be asked, or will ask ourselves, whether we should sign the open letter. I asked myself this question. Here is the reasoning I went through”. I know that many people – both those who signed, as well as those who decided not to sign, as well as those who are still undecided, have gone through some reasoning like this. I believe it can help to see what other people think (on exactly the same question) to make up one’s mind — and know as a matter of fact that it helps others too (judging the number of emails I have received on this post). I am sure that your arguments too, will help others to make up their mind.

In addition to the question about whether or not to sign this letter, there is the question about whether to show that one cares about the climate in philosophy/global ethics or global justice studies for the most vulnerable people. It may be that an Open Letter is not the best way to move forward. Recall that in Pogge’s case some people have been noting things that could reasonably been interpreted as problematic/harmful professional behaviour for many years. To the best of my knowledge, many/most of those people did nothing, or else what they did was not effective enough, since the behaviour went on for many years (the statements by two now professors on Leiter’s Blog where from a very long time ago). The OP also wants to address that, which is why this letter is not just about Pogge, and hence why even if you were right that it were a case of collective shaming, it should not be reduced to that. But then if you find that an Open Letter is an illegitimate means to try to change those social norms, the question is how to change them. Perhaps a proposal for a Code of Conduct that people can sign up too? [I’m just thinking out loud, I hope that is OK].
Your 6th point strikes me as not a very plausible interpretation for why people sign up. For one thing, many of the signatories are not engaging with Pogge’s work; others have been explicit critics. And I have not been able to notice any of this among those who signed up with whom I spoke – but then, I only spoke/know a small fraction of those who signed the letter. I think that to the extent that there is a sentiment, the sentiment is rather: “this has been brewing for so long, the amount of information we have received from various sources (not just the web) has piled up, we have patiently waited for a fair verdict from the formal institutions for so long – please clear up this mess now, and make sure justice prevails, for this particular case, and for the prevention of all future cases.”

73

D Levinson 06.25.16 at 8:10 pm

How long have people waited for a fair verdict from the formal institutions? Does anyone have the specific dates? How long did Yale take to respond to the initial complaint? When was the civil rights complaint made, and what exactly is going on there? If there is a delay, is it unusual?

74

Monique Deveaux 06.25.16 at 8:23 pm

@ 53 & 5 Sengupta and @ 22 Deveaux
In answering Mitu’s comment @5 that she thought the open letter writers ought to have consulted her about the letter or at least given her the head’s up, I said that, in advance of releasing it for open signature, the letter was not circulated to anyone that we worried might not be supportive of it. In doing so, did not mean in any way to suggest that Mitu is not a trustworthy person, but see that my wording may have given this impression. It has also been pointed out to me that my poorly worded point about the decision not to contact Mitu or others involved in ASAP prior to the letter’s release may have played into the trope of ‘racialized/woman of colour as unwitting yet conniving victim’. My sincere apologies to Mitu and others for this.

75

Jerry Blumenthal 06.25.16 at 8:26 pm

Speaking of courage, I think it needs to be said that Mitu Sengupta has shown a remarkable amount. I don’t believe I’ve read a single post critical of the Open Letter from anyone within the “community” where the author’s put her name on it. That’s really something. Of course, others have used their names, but they had already made their position public through the open letter. And, quite frankly, at this point it seems that disagreement/dissent is much more likely to make you a target of criticism (even ostracism) than the other way around. Don’t we live in a sad world? Judging by your posts, Mitu, it is clear to me that Pogge worked with some (probably many!) women-of-colour collaborators for all the right reasons: for their brains, integrity, and chutzpah!

76

ZM 06.25.16 at 8:52 pm

I don’t really want to engage with the commenter, but I want to flag two comments quoted below, particularly the second comment about Althusser strangling his wife, and then the question being posed of “Where are the limits, if any?”

I feel like it should be obvious to anybody that strangling one’s wife has definitely crossed a limit. Strangling wives is illegal everywhere I can think of. I have never read a defence of strangling wives. The other comment is about whether whether anyone remembers feeling vulnerable at university, and the commenter appears to identify as working at a university (although for a while I thought it was the David who worked for some European government in the Reagan era).

Actually if I ever had a Philosophy professor who talked about Althusser strangling his wife, and then asked the class “Where are the limits, if any?” I would have been feeling somewhat vulnerable as a young woman in the class. And then gossiped about the Professor afterwards.

“Does anyone here remember feeling “vulnerable” at university? It’s not something I recall anyone I knew feeling. Without presuming to comment on the specific case, which I know nothing about, I can’t escape the feeling that what we have here is a vocabulary and a set of concepts imported from other areas, and looking for an application.”

“Leaving Heidegger aside for a moment, there’s other interesting cases: what about Althusser, who was a hard-line supporter of Soviet Communism, who strangled his wife in a fit of madness and finished his days in a mental hospital? Yet his books on Marx are still read and even taught. And this is someone who actually did these things – he wasn’t just the subject of anonymous accusations. Where are the limits, if any?”

77

Sertorius 06.25.16 at 9:35 pm

@78 Jerry Blumenthal

No one is saying that Pogge sexually harassed every woman he encountered or worked with, and doubtless many are women of courage and conviction. This has exactly nothing to do with the question at hand. It’s almost like you know nothing about how sexual harassment works.

No one is ostracizing those who voice dissent against the open letter. I don’t share their view of the case, and I have read all the links attached to the open letter. Have you? Are you saying that all Pogge’s accusers are lying?

You also might ponder why every tenured member of Pogge’s department (save two – one of whom is a Dean and could not reasonably sign it) signed this letter. Do you think all 16 of them have some petty grudge against Pogge, and that they took this action lightly?

78

J-D 06.25.16 at 11:47 pm

Both the rules of procedural fairness have been followed in this case.

1. There are no reasonable grounds for apprehension of bias on the part of the adjudicator. The adjudicator in this case is the relevant community as a whole. If the bulk of the community to which Thomas Pogge belongs decides to ostracise him, then he will in effect be ostracised (and this is independent of whether the signatories of the Open Letter are seeking to have him ostracised, which I gather may not be the intent*); if the bulk of the community to which he belongs decides not to ostracise him, then he will not be effectively ostracised. Whether he suffers adverse consequences will depend on the aggregate of the decisions made by many individuals. There may be reasonable grounds to apprehend that some of these individuals are biassed, but there are no reasonable grounds to apprehend bias on the part of the aggregate whole.

2. Thomas Pogge has been afforded adequate opportunity to be informed of adverse allegations and to respond to them. He has responded to some of them. (There is no rule of procedural fairness that adjudication must be suspended until all allegations have been responded to; if there were, somebody could always avoid adverse consequences by standing mute to all allegations, which would be the opposite of procedurally fair.)

What makes lynch mobs not procedurally fair is that they violate the second of these rules (by denying the victim adequate opportunity to respond to adverse allegations and often even to be adequately informed of them) and usually the first as well (since there is typically good reason to consider the mob biassed). This case is different.

Since Thomas Pogge has been afforded adequate opportunity to be informed of adverse allegations and respond to them; and since there are no reasonable grounds for apprehension of bias on the part of the body which is the effective adjudicator; it appears to me that what has been done is procedurally fair. I hope somebody will tell me about it if there has been in this case some violation of the rules of procedural fairness which I have overlooked; or if there is some other rule which should be followed in this kind of case, and which hasn’t been, and which I have overlooked.

*Insofar as the intent of the signatories of the Open Letter is to apply pressure for formal institutions to discharge their responsibilities, as opposed to directly bringing adverse consequences on Thomas Pogge, there is even less ground for complaining of breach of procedural fairness or for comparisons to lynch mobs.

79

Daniel 06.26.16 at 12:14 am

Sorry for the rushed reply, but:
1. The accused must have a say in determining whether or not the adjudicator is biased (in real trials, they would, for instance, have a say over jury selection).
2. The accused must be provided a safe environment for responding to allegations, not just “adequate opportunity” (in a real trial, the accused would be provided legal counsel, and would be advised on his right to remain silent, not incriminate himself, and so on). In fact, this is why the fact that Pogge’s statements have been used against him is disturbing to me. One may argue of course that a philosopher of Pogge’s stature, a human rights scholar at that, should be aware of all his basic rights at all times. But being accused is typically very distressing, and that knowledge could well fail him.
Perhaps in a very “thin” sense procedural fairness has been maintained. But not in a substantive sense, in my opinion.

80

D Levinson 06.26.16 at 12:35 am

Sorry for the rushed reply, but:
1. The accused must have a say in determining whether or not the adjudicator is biased (in real trials, they would have a say over jury selection).
2. The accused must be provided a safe environment for responding to allegations, not just “adequate opportunity” (in a real trial, the accused would be provided legal counsel, and would be advised on their right to remain silent, not incriminate himself, and so on). This is why the fact that Pogge’s statements were used against him is disturbing to me. One may argue of course that a philosopher of Pogge’s stature, a human rights scholar at that, should be aware of all his basic rights at all times. But being accused is typically very distressing, and that knowledge could well fail him.
Perhaps in a very “thin” sense procedural fairness has been maintained. But not in a substantive sense, in my opinion.

81

J-D 06.26.16 at 1:01 am

D Levinson @81

1. If your first rule was applied universally, it would make all forms of ostracism and boycott impossible. For example, it would have required giving South Africa the opportunity to challenge for bias everybody involved in imposing any sort of sanctions before those sanctions could be imposed. If you’re dealing with a tribunal with a specifically identified membership, then allowing the accused to make challenges for bias is a good way — possibly an indispensable way — of implementing the rule that there should be no reasonable grounds for apprehension of bias on the part of the tribunal. Where it’s the community as a whole, through the aggregate effect of the decisions of its individual members, which is determining whether adverse consequences will be imposed, there is no way of implementing your suggested rule, so it’s not a reasonable one in this kind of context. Seriously, how would you suggest implementation of your suggested rule in this case?

2. Everybody should have a safe environment, although unfortunately many people do not. Fortunately for Thomas Pogge, he does have a safe environment, so that rule has not been violated in this case. If he wants a lawyer he can get one. You write that you are disturbed that his statements have been used against him; but there is no general rule that it is unfair for people’s own statements to be used agains them, and more specifically it does not violate the right to a safe environment. It is true that being accused is typically distressing, but that’s not enough to make it a violation of the right to a safe environment. Seriously, what would you suggest needs to be done in this case to afford Thomas Pogge a safe environment?

82

ZM 06.26.16 at 4:18 am

“2. The accused must be provided a safe environment for responding to allegations, not just “adequate opportunity” (in a real trial, the accused would be provided legal counsel, and would be advised on their right to remain silent, not incriminate himself, and so on).
This is why the fact that Pogge’s statements were used against him is disturbing to me. “

I believe in a Court Pogge’s statement’s would be able to be used against him by the Prosecution, or by the Plaintiff’s lawyers in a Civil suit, remembering that Civil suits have a less onerous burden of proof due to the result only involving something like monetary damages being awarded, rather than the loss of freedom which imprisonment involves .

Also the right to remain silent and not incriminate oneself is a double edged sword in trials, due to the fact it ends up looking like you are hiding something if you don’t respond to questions.

If either in the media or Court Pogge took the option of staying silent in order not to incriminate himself, a lot of people would think it looked like he was hiding something and was guilty.

“One may argue of course that a philosopher of Pogge’s stature, a human rights scholar at that, should be aware of all his basic rights at all times. But being accused is typically very distressing, and that knowledge could well fail him.
Perhaps in a very “thin” sense procedural fairness has been maintained. But not in a substantive sense, in my opinion.”

I don’t think you understand what Procedural Fairness is, Procedural Fairness (Natural Justice) is typically the right to be heard and address the court, the right for things to be conducted in a open court rather than in chambers, the right to be told the reasons for the decision etc.

This gives a good summary http://www.judcom.nsw.gov.au/publications/benchbks/sentencing/procedural_fairness.html

Also an Open Letter is not a Court, there are not any laws for Procedural Fairness with regard to the writing or signing of Open Letters at all.

The laws that would govern Open Letters are those that restrict Freedom Of Speech, so for instance there should be a public interest served by the contents of the letter if it addresses matters that would otherwise be private, the Open Letter should not be defamatory or libellous, that sort of thing. Procedural Fairness is a legal concept which relates to the conduct of court cases, not Open Letters.

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ZM 06.26.16 at 6:03 am

Also, I think you completely misunderstand what the right to remain silent and right not to incriminate oneself is about, in any substantive sense.

This right was not devised as a way to allow criminals to remain silent and not incriminate themselves, it was devised as a recognition that a criminal investigation and trial can be very stressful, and weak minded people might confess to something they did not actually do under the pressure of the investigation and trial.

One example is a fellow in 17th C New Haven who could not withstand the pressures of the trial, and confessed to fathering a pig.

Of course we all know that that is impossible, but somehow he confessed anyway, and now for posterity he is a text book example of someone who falsely confessed under pressure, as the man who falsely confessed to fathering a pig.

This is why people have the right to remain silent and not to incriminate themselves. It is not designed so criminals can avoid being convicted and escape justice — its purpose is to protect the innocent.

“The privilege against self-incrimination, while traditional and fundamental, is not ancient. Rather, it is a lesson about perils from relatively recent history.

An example is revealed in a recent work by a Connecticut judge, uncovering criminal cases from the 17th Century, in the colony of New Haven. In one case, a piglet was born, dead, but highly deformed, with what appeared to be some humanoid features, including a single eye and a penis-like nose. In response to a complaint by the owner of the piglet’s mother, the New Haven courts investigated the household of the sow’s previous owner and, in particular, a servant, George Spencer. The unfortunate Spencer had only one good eye, was said to have a mirror-like resemblance to the piglet and was imprisoned on suspicion of an abomination. Spencer denied involvement until a magistrate visited him and noted a line from Proverbs 28:13— ‘He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy’. He promptly confessed to fathering the piglet, before retracting it, denying confessing to others, admitting confessing to others and, finally, at the gallows, admitting his bestiality (but frustrating the crowd by refusing to go into the details.)

To many modern ears, the tale is one of the fallibility of past methods of investigating crime, especially ones that involve pressuring people to cooperate in their own prosecution. The recognition of such failings is the origin story of the right against compelled self-incrimination, which protects suspects from precisely such pressure, specifically by protecting all suspects from being made to answer any investigative questions (‘the right to silence’) and protecting everyone from being made to answer any incriminating questions (‘the privilege against self-incrimination’.)”

https://www.alrc.gov.au/fair-trial-procedural-fairness-jeremy-gans

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Faustusnotes 06.26.16 at 6:41 am

For the record I didn’t ask for dissenting opinions to be banned in another thread, only that people not engage with someone who is being rude. I guess that’s considered to be quashing dissent by some.

I think I understand that we study philosophers for the things they got wrong as well as right, but when those philosophers are giving direct lessons about ethical behavior, surely we should take into account their own behavior in assessing whether their lessons are of any value? For example, if the author of Animal Liberation insisted on eating ,eat one might question the value of his philosophy. Similarly someone who writes famous tracts on the means to overcome exploitation of working people, while sexually exploiting his maid. Of course in he latter case people did ignore his personal problems, because after all they only affected a vulnerable young woman, and we ended up with the Soviet Union. Maybe there was a flaw somewhere in the theory, some way we could have identified it might not work out, and maybe the clue was in the author’s own willingness to use power for his own benefit?

Similarly here, we have a “thought leader” who writes on global injustice but seems to have a penchant for ignoring institutional norms and basic, obvious ethics of power imbalances when it suits him. Are his teachings on governance and the need for global institutional reforms going to be the best we could hope for given this? How do his theories deal with the status of women in developing countries, and should we expect them to be the best path to empowerment of these women given how he appears to view women from these countries who enter his personal orbit?

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D Levinson 06.26.16 at 8:04 am

J-D@83. You are right in that neither the requirements I’ve mentioned in #1 nor #2 can be “implemented” when we’re talking about public condemnations, boycotts, and such. Which is why, in my opinion, we should refrain from using them against individuals, where the potential for harm and suffering is great. There is a difference between publicly condemning a state, regime, a set of institutions, or even a powerful individual who represents such institutions (such as Bibi Netanyahu) and condemning an individual. While a genuinely fair process cannot be achieved in either case, my concerns really kicks in when we’re talking about an individual. In short, I think these are bad tools for bringing an individual to justice.

ZM @84 and 85: Of course I understand that the right to remain silent was not meant to ensure that the accused remain silent or that they wouldn’t incriminate themselves! My point was that in a real trial the accused would be advised, by an expert, of the full consequences of not remaining silent; of how his words, or which words specifically, could be used against him or misinterpreted, and so on. Under duress, the accused could say all sorts of things that could be misinterpreted. It’s not his lawyer’s job to help him lie, of course, but it is to point towards consequences and prevent the accused from walking into traps. I think all of this only reinforces my point about public condemnations, boycotts, the ‘social media trial,’ being bad tools to apply to individuals. And to return to J-D’s remark that Pogge could have hired a lawyer, well, we really don’t know if he has or has not; if he has not, why he has not (perhaps he’s not in sound mental health, who knows?). The point really is that no-one knows, and what he have here is a process that’s completely lacking in transparency. To repeat: bad tool for bringing an individual to justice. I’d say that even in cases involving far more heinous crimes, such as rape, pedophilia, torture, etc. Our legal system may not be perfect, but it’s really far, far fairer than what’s going on here. And if you have a problem with the legal system, address those problems, not take to alternatives that are definitely less fair than our flawed legal system.

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D Levinson 06.26.16 at 8:23 am

I also want to push Z-M 85 on a point, if I may: “This is why people have the right to remain silent and not to incriminate themselves. It is not designed so criminals can avoid being convicted and escape justice — its purpose is to protect the innocent.” I think this is very telling.

Have you decided that Pogge *cannot possibly* be innocent?

And this brings me back to one of J-D’s remarks about the intention of the OL, which J-D suggests is to put pressure on institutions. I don’t think that’s clear at all. If people are signing because they’ve decided that Pogge cannot possibly be innocent, then their intent is to destroy him (not literally, but to stop citing him, get him fired from Yale, never invite him to a conference, etc.). In other words, your focus is not on process, but on punishment (and so the ‘lynch mob’ charge could be seen to fit). To repeat: bad tool generally, bad letter specifically (Verbasequentur @37 makes some great points in this regard).

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Jerry Blumenthal 06.26.16 at 9:50 am

@Sertorius: your post leaves me confused! What did I say to provoke such an outburst? I thought that one specific person, Sengupta, should be recognized for putting her name on her dissenting posts. I don’t see many people doing that, dissenters or supporters, not even you! I’m putting my name on my post, but it doesn’t really matter because I’m not part of the “community” in any way. I do believe that those who express dissent are more likely to face criticism than those who sign the letter ***at this point***. Why? Your post gives an indication: because so many heavyweights of philosophy have signed on. They could not possibly be wrong, correct? There’s no way they could sign a ‘bad letter,’ am I correct? If you dissent by being critical of the OL you are going against Nussbaum, Miller, Darwall, etc. etc. Who’d want to do that? Isn’t that precisely your point?

I am not ***at all*** accusing anyone of lying. I’m not sure where that comes from. I have read the links. But what does that have to do with my post?

@78 Jerry Blumenthal

No one is saying that Pogge sexually harassed every woman he encountered or worked with, and doubtless many are women of courage and conviction. This has exactly nothing to do with the question at hand. It’s almost like you know nothing about how sexual harassment works.

No one is ostracizing those who voice dissent against the open letter. I don’t share their view of the case, and I have read all the links attached to the open letter. Have you? Are you saying that all Pogge’s accusers are lying?

You also might ponder why every tenured member of Pogge’s department (save two – one of whom is a Dean and could not reasonably sign it) signed this letter. Do you think all 16 of them have some petty grudge against Pogge, and that they took this action lightly?

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ZM 06.26.16 at 10:35 am

D Levinson,

I would prefer you didn’t “push” me actually. You appear to me to be stressing legal loopholes, I don’t think you have made any sort of case that Pogge is innocent of the accusations.

People are allowed to write and sign Open Letters to support victims or to state they have knowledge of some kind about the allegations, such as that gained via gossip in Professional or student channels .

As I wrote about the University professor David above who commented about Althusser shooting his wife and then asked “where are the limits, if any?” a Professor saying this in class would immediately be something I noted, and I would think this Professor may not be a safe person to be around. I would speak about this to female students, and if I remained in the class after this remark, I would seek if there was any gossip about this Professor. Most women are used to using informal information sharing networks to flag people who may be dangerous.

Ingrid has said there has been many stories floating around about Pogge, many people have some sort of knowledge about the allegations about him, and many people think the disciplinary procedures have not worked.

Your idea that public censure can only be used against regimes, States, and heads of State, is utterly ridiculous to be frank.

Why can’t public censure be used against people who have murdered someone, perpetrated domestic violence, raped someone, or sexually harassed people?

What about Bkack Lives Matter? Are you proposing that since this is about black people being killed, it’s not appropriate for public censure, and Bkack Lives Matter should cease to exist? That no one should mention either the black people whose lives have been lost , and no one should mention the perpetrators of the killings?

That public censure should be reserved only for the House of Congress or President??

If this man was s shoe maker then this issue might be just gossip around his neghbourhood and a few articles in the local paper. But this man is a global figure in Philosophy. He is influential in the discipline, apparently both for his ideas and for his ability to use networks to help people he favors find employment .

I have not raised an issue with the legal system, although I saw a talk recently about female victims of trafficking and the prominent female lawyer did speak about the law often failing female victims of crime.

What I have said is that you appear to misunderstand Procedural Fairness and the reasoning behind the right to remain silent and the right not to incriminate oneself, which are there to protect the innocent from being forced into false confessions, not to facilitate criminals escaping justice.

The law that applies to the writing and signing of Open Letters is the law about invasion of privacy and defamation and those sorts of things. Neither of which appear to apply in this case, as there appears to be a public interest being served due to Pogge being a public figure and due to the type of behavior being reported, and the fact that there doesn’t seem to be defamation involved.

Actually this OP is the first time I have ever heard of Pogge in my life.

People have the right to be presumed innocent in a trial. They do not have the right to be presumed innocent in Open Letters. No one who signed the open letter would be able to sit on a jury if there was a criminal trial. But they can sign Open Letters if they want without having to give Pogge the presumption of innocence.

You really seem to confuse Court procedure with everyday life.

Actually if you have ever done anything in Court, like last year I made a submission at a VCAT hearing, Court is nothing like everyday life. There are lots of formalities and procedures.

Do you ask everyone to stand up when you enter the room? Do you make everyone only give you a reply once you make your full submission?

Reading the Open Letter it looks like there are definitely sufficient grounds to bring Pogge to court. There appears to be multiple affidavits about his behavior . The failure of university administrators to stop this from turning into a long term patter of harassment also raises questions of how sexual harassment is handled in universities.

This does not mean that I am arguing that Pogge should not be given the presumption of innocence in court, since that is a basic feature of how criminal court cases run. I don’t propose changing this, and I am not the one making allegations against Pogge, I am merely an Australian commenter who only heard of Pogge for the first time reading this OP.

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J-D 06.26.16 at 12:14 pm

D Levinson 06.26.16 at 8:04 am

J-D@83. You are right in that neither the requirements I’ve mentioned in #1 nor #2 can be “implemented” when we’re talking about public condemnations, boycotts, and such. Which is why, in my opinion, we should refrain from using them against individuals, where the potential for harm and suffering is great.

I cannot agree that fairness requires observance of a rule against publicly accusing people of bad conduct.

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D Levinson 06.26.16 at 12:29 pm

ZM, fine, I won’t push you, but I suggest you stop attributing words to me that I did not write. (1) I did not claim Pogge is innocent. You made a claim that suggested that you thought that he *must* be innocent, which is why I asked the question. (2) Do, please, re-read my post. I said I think this sort of public condemnation/shaming is a bad tool for bringing individuals to justice. I stated my reasons why. I didn’t say that such tools should be banned. I implied that it’s risky, and therefore requires more careful wording than the present letter offers (I don’t have time to go into detail, but I agree with much of what Verbasequinter says, so you may wish to refer to that post). I stand by what I’ve said. Indeed, I believe that the worse the crime, the riskier such tools are. I absolutely woud *not* want to use them against a child molester, for instance. If you disagree with me, that’s fine. Your disagreeing with me doesn’t make me wrong, and nor does it mean that I don’t understand how sexual harassment works, or that I don’t understand the difference between trials and the real world, or whatever other accusation you wish to fling at me. I don’t get your point about Black Lives Matter. I support Black Lives Matter. In my understanding, BLM raises consciousness about racism, especially police racism in the US (which I agree is a huge problem), and I support their public condemnations against the police. If all they did was to try to shame individual police officers, yes, I might have a problem with that. Does that make me a racist or someone who doesn’t understand how racism works? I don’t think so.

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D Levinson 06.26.16 at 12:38 pm

J-D 93, but this is not a case of you and I or the next person condemning Pogge. This is a case of a campaign that’s gathered some 1000 signatures and that will probably live on the internet forever for people to see. I’m not suggesting there’s a rule, but I do think that scale and proportionality are important concerns regarding fairness.

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David 06.26.16 at 2:00 pm

I think perhaps one or two people have misunderstood my comment on Althusser, which was directed not to his behaviour (or anyone else’s) but to his ideas. I’m reluctant to comment on the case in the OP (or similar cases) directly, since I have no personal knowledge of them. My question was whether ideas and personal contributions to scholarship are to be assessed independently of personal behaviour and beliefs. if the answer is yes, then ostracism of an individual, assuming it was generally felt to be justified, would not extend to arguing that their works, for example, should not be read or taught. Althusser is admittedly an extreme example, but perhaps an instructive one. Does his atrocious behaviour mean that his theories about Marx are wrong, or even if correct, should not be studied? Does Carl Schmitt’s flirtation with Nazism in the 1930s mean that his legal theories, including those expressed before 1933 and after 1945 are wrong, or even if right should not be studied? This is what I meant when I asked how far one could reasonably go. If someone has behaved improperly, how improper does that behaviour have to be before you reach a point of acting against their work and their teaching, as well as against them personally? Does such a point actually exist?

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LFC 06.26.16 at 2:01 pm

Faustusnotes @87
Similarly someone who writes famous tracts on the means to overcome exploitation of working people, while sexually exploiting his maid. Of course in [t]he latter case people did ignore his personal problems, because after all they only affected a vulnerable young woman, and we ended up with the Soviet Union. Maybe there was a flaw somewhere in the theory, some way we could have identified it might not work out, and maybe the clue was in the author’s own willingness to use power for his own benefit??

This is not a thread about Marx. However, the suggestion that if people hadn’t “ignored”* the fact that Marx had an ‘illegitimate’ (out-of-wedlock) child w/ his maid the USSR wd not have come into existence (or a flaw or flaws in Marx’s theories wd have become clearer) is hard to credit. First, there is no straight line, to put it v. mildly, from what Marx wrote to what the USSR embodied (and it’s more than arguable that Marx wd have been horrified by Stalinism). Second, as others have already pointed out, flaws in a writer’s personal behavior do not necessarily mean his/her ideas are flawed.

——-

*And it wasn’t a question of “ignoring” something generally known, since Marx’s liaison w the servant Lenchen Demuth and the facts about the paternity of the child (for whom Engels claimed paternity at the time, to save Marx’s marriage) were not generally known until much later, indeed not until the 1960s (see Sperber, Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life, p.262). Moreover, as Sperber writes: “The emotional circumstances of the conception — a onetime occurrence, or part of a longer affair; some kind of coercion, physical or otherwise, on Karl’s part, or Lenchen as willing partner — are all completely unknown.” (p.263)

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ZM 06.26.16 at 6:25 pm

D Levinson,

(1) I am not quite sure what you mean. I didn’t make a claim as to Pogge being innocent or guilty, although there seems to be sufficient evidence in affidavits to definitely warrant a court case and the open letter suggests people do think he is guilty. I was addressing your idea that Open Letters should adhere to procedural fairness, and your ideas about the right to remain silent and the right not to incriminate ones self.
(2) I did not suggest you said public condemnation should be banned. I was pointing out the rules about procedural fairness do not apply to Open Letters. If they did the writers of Open Letters would have to hold mock trials or something before they wrote an open letter, which I really don’t see as desirable.
I think public condemnation is useful and has an important role in some circumstances. You did say that people should refrain from using public condemnation against individuals, which I disagree with, particularly people who are public figures. As I said, if this was about a shoe maker, there might be gossip in his neighbourhood, there might be an investigation, there might be an article in the local paper. But Pogge is an influential public figure in the Philosophy profession. The civil realm he is part of is larger than his local neighbourhood, and he is accused of sexually harassing women in his professional role rather than in his private life.
(3) I raised Black Lives Matter because it is an example where both the general issue is important, but also the individual lives which have been lost is important. It’s not simply a matter of decrying racism in the abstract, and making civil realm protests against the State.
Both racism and sexism are as much civil society issues as they are issues where the State is responsible.

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ZM 06.26.16 at 6:33 pm

Re: Althusser

Althusser’s work, to my knowledge, was not really connected to him killing his wife.

If someone’s work was connected to the crime they committed it would be appropriate to withdraw that work from sale. For example, should Hitler have survived WW2 and spent 20 years in gaol, it would seem very unreasonable and unjust if he made a living in retirement from the sale of copies of Mein Kampf.

Even already made and sold texts that are connected to the author’s crimes or somehow bound up with them, such as Mein Kampf, should be treated very carefully. And certainly biographical information of authors always colours one’s opinions and understanding of their work , even work that predates the authors crime.

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J-D 06.26.16 at 10:21 pm

D Levinson @95

I agree that there’s an important relationship between fairness and proportionality, but I can’t accept that the response in this case was a disproportionate one when nobody can explain what they think would have been a proportionate response.

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D Levinson 06.26.16 at 10:24 pm

ZM 98: This is exhausting. We obviously disagree on a number of points, and that’s really fine with me. I do think, for example, that rules of procedural fairness should apply to Open Letters and any other such campaigns. You haven’t convinced me otherwise. I said people should refrain, and yes, I forgot to add “in my opinion,” which I usually do (I learned that from an episode of The Good Wife). I don’t think Pogge is a “public figure” in the way that, say, Trump is. He is important within a particular community because of his scholarly work and (some would say) activism. I am actually fine with that community censuring him. But the OL goes well beyond the community, doesn’t it? Anyone can sign on, and I have a problem with that. Finally, I understand that BLM is about bringing justice to individuals and changing civil society discourses and understandings. All I said was that if BLM was only about going after individual cops, I’d have a problem with it. In fact, by comparing BLM to the OL, you are doing BLM grave injustice. The movement’s structural analysis is very impressive. This is missing in the OL, in my opinion.

ZM 99: “Althusser’s work, to my knowledge, was not really connected to him killing his wife.” Yes, I agree, but connecting Pogge’s work to his (alleged) pattern of sexual harrassment and assault is also a stretch. I’m not sure why people are making this connection. Perhaps in order to justify their ridiculous “no citation” campaign. I agree with others on the thread who’ve asked: where does one draw the line? At Marx? Caravaggio? Egon Shiele? Wagner? Gandhi?!?

By the way, your Hitler reference is absurd. Did you just draw a parallel between Pogge and Hitler?

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Faustusnotes 06.26.16 at 10:49 pm

LFC the issue isn’t that Marx had an illegitimate child, it’s that he likely sexually exploited his maid. When someone writing about exploitation is themselves an exploiter, surely that makes a review of their theories valid? In the case of the OP we have someone working on heroines of justice for the global poor who, personally, appears to see the power differential between himself and poor women as a useful tool of self aggrandizement. How does that affect his theories?

As another example, Bill Kristol spent a few years campaigning against sex work. Sex workers pointed out that he seemed to have a bit of a first world white hero rescuer complex going on, his work was prejudiced in ways he himself maybe didn’t clearly understand. Ultimately he got sucked in by a Cambodian fraudster who took him on an easy ride. His alternative to sex work for poor Asian women was grinding poverty in sweat shops. Putting all of that together, if a certain fashionable set of rich westerners had listened to the critiques of his personal approach to poor women they might not now have egg on their faces – and might also have done some real good for poor women.

So I wonder what this story tells us about the validity of pogge’s theories of global justice. How is his alternative financing mechanism working? It appears like an empty vessel to me. Are his ideas supported by the countries and peoples they apply to? Have they worked? Or has all the benefit accrued to him and his backers?

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D Levinson 06.26.16 at 10:49 pm

J-D 100: Fair enough. I think it’s easier to spot a disproportionate response than think up a proportionate one. Sengupta made a good point earlier in the thread that got lost in the fray: that perhaps this shouldn’t have been an Open Letter posted on the web for everyone to access and sign. Perhaps they should have stopped at the original 150 signees. That might have been more proportionate. In my opinion, the wording could have been better. This has been already said as well, by Verbasequintur and others.
Okay, I think I’ve had enough of all of this for a while, though it’s been a good discussion. Hitler references are usually a sign that things are doing to deteriorate, in my opinion!

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LFC 06.27.16 at 12:26 am

Faustusnotes @102
I think you probably mean Nicholas Kristof, not Bill Kristol. Doesn’t affect your main point, which I understand if not agree with (at least in the case at hand), and I think we should just leave it there.

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J-D 06.27.16 at 12:31 am

D Levinson @103

I acknowledge that you consider the response disproportionate; I don’t. In particular, I don’t see how the distinction you suggest between limiting the letter to the original signatories and allowing additional people to sign is important for proportionality.

Verbasequentur found the wording of the letter unclear in several respects, but lack of clarity is not the same thing as lack of proportionality; and Verbasequentur did not suggest any changes to the wording as meeting any test of proportionality or fairness. I’m still not seeing anybody suggesting ‘the letter would have been fair if it had said X but is unfair because instead of that it said Y’.

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ZM 06.27.16 at 6:25 am

Daniel Levinson,

I am sorry you find me disagreeing with you “exhausting”, so I will try to make this my last comment in response to you.

1. “I do think, for example, that rules of procedural fairness should apply to Open Letters and any other such campaigns. You haven’t convinced me otherwise.”

Rules of Procedural Fairness are for courts, they are not for Open Letters, and the only way you could actually apply the rules of Procedural Fairness to Open Letters was to hold Mock Court trials every time some people wanted to write an Open Letter. I really think this would be very undesirable.

Pogge is already going to be taken to court, I doubt he wants a group of 150 Philosophers summons him to their Mock Trial, as if he is a sexual harassment version of Socrates. I think it is preferable these 150 Philosophers are confined to writing Open Letters in the normal way, rather than summonsing Pogge to a Mock Trial in order so they can write their Open Letter.

2. I already know it is your opinion, since you wrote the comment. Possibly some people would like you to tell them it is your opinion, but you certainly don’t need to inform me of this every time you comment. Just take it for granted I know ;-)

3. Pogge is an important public figure in Philosophy and Academia. His works have a global reach. There have been a number of cases of sexual harassment in Academia, and I think it is recognised as a problem area. It has also been recognised as a problem which university processes have not been well able to respond to. If Pogge had committed a single instance of harassment on one occasion, I could see why you might think the response of a public Open Letter could be disproportionate. But the Open Letter says Pogge has developed a long standing pattern of sexual harassment, which he has not stopped despite being previously censured.

In Australia we had the case of a Master from Ormond College sexual harassing two young women, and this became a prominent news story, and the author Helen Garner wrote a book about it, and then third wave feminists wrote books about it. This case involved less sexual harassment than the case involving Pogge, but it got national coverage, and the books are sold globally.

4. I see what you mean about Black Lives Matter, that it has connected the cases of a number of black lives which were lost and noted the structural aspect of this, rather than being about a single life, or about a policeman who shot several black people.

Maybe the prominence of the Pogge case would encourage some sort of movement of women who are victims of sexual harassment at university, or vicims of sexual harassment generally.

But any sort of movement about sexual harassment at universities etc would not have the chance to develop if you shut down public censure about individual cases like you are arguing should happen.

Imagine if public censure was shut down about the loss of individual black lives. Public censure against the killers happened in the Trayvon Martin case, and in the Michael Brown case that sparked the riots in Ferguson. Do you think Black Lives Matter would still have developed into the movement it has if public censure about the loss of individual black lives was shut down?

5. I am sorry, you have misunderstood my comment about Althusser and Hitler.

I was trying to draw a distinction between the case of an author who has committed a crime where his work has nothing really to do with the crime, which is the case, to the best of my knowledge, with Althusser’s strangling of his wife and his work on Marx; and the case of an author whose crime and work are inextricably joined together like Hitler.

Hitler was just the first example that sprang to mind of an author whose works and crimes are inextricably joined together — I was not in any way comparing Pogge to Hitler, and I would in fact think Pogge was more in the Althusser side of things.

However, I would expect that biographical information about Althusser be provided in copies of his books, and also taught at universities when his work was discussed. I have not read Althusser, but it is my understanding his work on Marx has little connection with his strangling of his wife, I am happy to be corrected if this is not the case.

However, in Althusser’s confessional autobiography — which I hope he wasn’t allowed to sell and it just came out after he died — he says he started massaging his wife and then realised he strangled her, and he also says he owned 1000s of books and only read a few hundred, and wasn’t terribly well read in philosophy.

Maybe Althusser is not the best theorist to read on Marx, if he wasn’t very well read. You could study him as someone poorly read who wrote ended up writing books about Marx, and someone who started giving his wife a massage and ended up strangling her. Both being cases of overreach, although only one being a crime. His poor wife.

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ZM 06.27.16 at 6:26 am

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Kiwanda 06.27.16 at 6:38 am

Faustusnotes @102: “So I wonder what this story tells us about the validity of pogge’s theories of global justice. “

That’s easy; it tells us nothing.

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ZM 06.27.16 at 6:41 am

The article is actually quite interesting, it finishes saying something quite pertinent to the Pogge case I think —

“But there is perhaps a wider lesson to be drawn. Nearly all the great intellectual gurus of the Sixties and Seventies are dead – Sartre, Lacan, Barthes, Foucault and finally Althusser himself. The Eighties duly mourned them and it now seems as if the Nineties have ushered in a period of ghoulish iconoclasm. L’Avenir dure longtemps is only the latest in a series of texts which have had the effect of demystifying the Parisian intelligentsia of the past two decades. There was, most recently, the publication of Simone de Beauvoir’s correspondence, which shed a less than flattering light on both Sartre and herself. Francois Weyergans’s best-selling novel, Le Pitre, was a cruel debunking portrait of Lacan. Barthes’s posthumous Incidents was a melancholy little volume in which he wrote of his loveless frequentation of rent boys. Herve Guibert’s A l’ami qui ne m’a pas sauve la vie recounted the violent sex life of his friend Michel Foucault, the first celebrity publicly known to have died of Aids. Julia Kristeva’s Les Samouras was a transparent roman-a-clef in which all of the above were shown to have had feet of clay.

Philosophers, pure thinkers, are not really supposed to have faces or bodies. And what all of these thinkers shared was a mistrust of the ‘subject’, of the author as the privileged creator and interpreter of his own work, of the legitimacy of biographical information as a support to the comprehension of a text. Yet they, too, had lives, and those lives have now returned, with a vengeance, to haunt their work.”

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faustusnotes 06.27.16 at 6:57 am

Why is that so, Kiwanda? If I told you there was this dude who had written a history of the Jews, and oh btw he hates Jews, you might think his history not entirely reliable, right? If I told you a misogynist had written a history of feminism, you might wonder if that history were accurate. Here someone who apparently exploits women from poor countries has written a bunch of theories about how to treat women from poor countries. Does that give you no pause for thought?

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D Levinson 06.27.16 at 7:44 am

ZM:
1. How did you know that my name is Daniel Levinson? I’ve been signing as D. Levinson?
2. I’m not suggesting that Open Letters are like mock trials. However, the basic rules of procedural fairness should apply. Why? Out of fairness. I think you are the only one on this thread who’s arguing that they have no relevance.
3. I’d prefer to see two books out about Pogge rather than an unclearly worded letter that everyone jumped on. But that’s just my opinion.
4. You continue to misunderstand my position about Black Lives Matter. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with highlighting the damage done to individual black lives. To draw a parallel, highlighting the experiences of women who’ve (allegedly) suffered at the hands of Pogge is just fine. In my opinion. I said I’d have a problem with BLM if all they did was to target individual cops and tried to take them down. Even when BLM did, they took the cops as representatives of the police, so they were censuring the police as a whole. The individual police officers had lots of protection, including from their own union. The Pogge matter is entirely different. This is a case of the philosophy community purging Pogge. The correct parallel is if the police, itself, condemned Zimmermann.
5. I’m no expert but I don’t think Pogge’s work is inexorably linked to the issue at hand. Reading up about him quickly, I don’t really see him as a feminist philosopher.

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D Levinson 06.27.16 at 7:50 am

p.s. I still think the no citation campaign is ridiculous. ZM: you continue to draw a parallel between Hitler’s crimes and those of Pogge’s in that you suggest that citing Mein Kampf would be somehow comparable to citing works by Pogge in global justice. To be polite, I think you’ve lost the plot.

109

ZM 06.27.16 at 9:02 am

D Levinson,

1. You wrote a comment twice, one as Daniel and one as D Levinson. I am happy to just call you D Levinson. You might want to ask the mods to delete the one from Daniel if you don’t want both names available to the public.

2. What I meant was the rules of Procedural Fairness can’t be applied with the writing and signing of Open Letters, unless you had some sort of Court procedure, like a Mock Trial, before writing the Open Letter.

If you want people to use Court rules like Procedural Fairness and the right to silence for the writing of Open Letters, but you don’t want them to conduct a Mock Trial, how do you propose that the rules of Procedural Fairness be applied to the writing and signing of Open Letters?

3. The books about the Master of Ormond College came out after the allegations of sexual harassment became a big public issue in Australia.

The case also became an issue about the role of the academic and legal establishment in not dealing with sexual harassment very well and the young women feeling like the establishment wasn’t helping them.

This article has a bit of a summary https://www.uow.edu.au/~bmartin/dissent/documents/sau/sau07.html

I think things like Open Letters can really help to show women who have been sexually harassed that people support them, and make it easier for them to go through the process of taking legal action, especially when they are taking legal action against public figures.

4. I am a bit confused here really, you have said “To draw a parallel, highlighting the experiences of women who’ve (allegedly) suffered at the hands of Pogge is just fine.” which seems to indicate you would not have a problem with the Open Letter, but you have clearly said you don’t think the Open Letter should have been written and signed and circulated… I’m confused…

You say “when BLM did, they took the cops as representatives of the police, so they were censuring the police as a whole.” I really don’t think this is the case, they are clearly censuring individual police officers who have killed black people, and censuring a racist element in the police force that allows this culture of violence to perpetuate.

“This is a case of the philosophy community purging Pogge. The correct parallel is if the police, itself, condemned Zimmermann.” Again, I really find this confusing. Zimmerman wasn’t even in the police.

If you are looking for a police officer who killed a black person, a better example would be Darren Wilson who shot and killed Michael Brown. This was the spark for the Ferguson Riots.

I don’t know why would would be against the Police in Ferguson condemning Darren Wilson shooting Michael Brown and initiating an investigation into his conduct.

Obviously the police would have to go through a formal procedure, unlike the Academic Philosophers who have written this Open Letter.

But I would totally support 150 or more highly regarded police officers writing and signing an Open Letter about Darren Wilson’s conduct. I am not sure if police are actually allowed to do this sort of thing though, due to their role in law enforcement which is part of the government. Philosophy professors do not have any role in government or law.

But generally speaking I wouldn’t have a problem with the idea that Darren Wilson be condemned for the shooting by other Police offices, unless they are not allowed to do this since they work in law enforcement.

Also the police could suspend Darren Wilson and conduct an investigation into his conduct and pending the results of an investigation expel him from the police force. As it happened a Grand Jury failed to indict Darren Wilson, I don’t know all the details, it seems like he definitely did shoot and kill Michael Brown as far as I can tell?

After the riots the US Department of Justice conducted an investigation into Darren Wilson and the Ferguson Police, and gave two responses, one saying the Ferguson Police as a whole were guilty of misconduct to black people in Ferguson, and the other supporting Darren Wilson.

If they are allowed to, I don’t see why Police officers couldn’t sign an Open Letter about this failure to address the shooting of Michael Brown adequately. It seems like a lot of people thought what happened in response to the shooting of Michael Brown was unfair and unjust.

I am from Australia so I didn’t follow the Michael Brown case as closely as if it took place in my own country. We definitely have a big problem here with Aboriginal deaths in custody, and I think it is appropriate for individual police involved to be publicly censored. Doing this makes police know even if they escape disciplinary procedures, there are other consequences in civil society. In a 2004 Aboriginal death in custody case in Palm Island, where Cameron ‘Mulrunji’ Doomadgee died, the community burnt down a police station after the Queensland State Coroner found there was no sign of police brutality. There were court cases until about 2009, and the officer was not convicted. Like sexual harassment, police brutality often takes place hidden behind closed doors and can thus be difficult to obtain criminal convictions in court.

5. I have not heard of Pogge’s work before this OP. I think faustusnotes raises some important points, but I don’t really feel qualified to comment much about this without having knowledge of Pogge’s work.

p.s. I haven’t written about the no citation campaign at all.

“ZM. you continue to draw a parallel between Hitler’s crimes and those of Pogge’s” No, I explicitly said I was NOT drawing a parallel between Pogge and Hitler.

I was drawing a DISTINCTION between the works of Althusser and the works of Hitler, where you might say that Althusser’s works on Marx were not directly implicated in his crime of strangling his wife, as opposed to Hitler whose book Mein Kampf is most definitely implicated in his crimes against humanity, and it would be absolutely shameful if he had survived the Second World War and was able to continue selling Mein Kampf.

As far as I can tell Pogge’s works are not implicated in his alleged sexual harassment, and in fact the issue appears to be that he is hypocritical in opining on global justice in books, and then sexually harassing young women from developing countries as a professor.

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J-D 06.27.16 at 9:04 am

D Levinson 06.27.16 at 7:44 am
I’m not suggesting that Open Letters are like mock trials. However, the basic rules of procedural fairness should apply. Why? Out of fairness.

To the extent that it’s possible to apply the basic principles of procedural fairness to a case like this one, they have been complied with.

111

Mitu Sengupta 06.27.16 at 9:10 am

Sorry, just a quick point, but I didn’t link the open letter’s being open explicitly to fairness (towards Pogge), though fairness is a concern for me. I suggested that opening up the letter was divisive, and that it might have been equally effective to stop at the initial 150-160 names, given that the original set included some very prominent philosophers and his colleagues at Yale. I was curious about what led to the decision to make it an open letter, and if there had been a considered weighing of pros and cons. I don’t think anyone has answered that question.

112

J-D 06.27.16 at 9:41 am

I don’t know what the reason was for opening the letter to more signatures, but the obvious guess is that it’s the same as the reason for opening petitions to more signatures: to provide an opportunity for demonstrating the extent and diversity of support for the case being made.

It’s not clear to me how that would be divisive, but if it is divisive that doesn’t have to be a reason for not doing it. Sometimes the right thing to do is divisive.

113

Mitu Sengupta 06.27.16 at 10:32 am

I have already explained why I think it’s divisive. I accept that being divisive is a good idea in some cases, such as when you are fomenting revolution, but I’m not sure it was a good idea in this specific case. Having an open letter means that many vulnerable members of the philosophy community (grad students, postdocs, untenured faculty) will feel pressure to sign lest they be viewed as condoning Pogge’s actions. Tenured faculty, though less vulnerable in the sense of having job security, may sign in order to avoid getting on the wrong side of ‘big people’ who have influence over all kinds of things in academia, from research grants to conference invitations. +++To be clear, I am not suggesting that this is the principal reason why people are signing.+++ I’m flagging a risk and asking whether this risk was assessed in the decision to make the letter open, what arguments were offered, etc. Fairness is affected if people sign for bad reasons, or if they sign (for these bad reasons) without having read all the material in the ‘public domain’ on which the statement rests. I’m afraid that beyond this, I am not willing to engage with anonymous commentors on this blog. You are welcome to contact me by private email. My e-address can be easily found on the internet.

114

ZM 06.27.16 at 10:41 am

J-D and Mitu Sengupta,

I think Ingrid explains why the Open Letter was opened up, saying it is about changing social norms about sexual harassment as much as about Pogge himself:

“So this Open Letter does at least two things. First, to tell Yale that we, members of the relevant communities, strongly disapprove of what has happened, and that Yale should quickly and fairly proceed with the complaints against Pogge. Second, to tell ourselves, as members of those communities, that we do not tolerate such behaviour in our communities, and that we commit to each other to speak up about other (and future) incidents that we may get to know about.

Many have said that the Pogge case illustrates that there has been a culture of silence, or a culture of brushing sexually offensive behaviour under the carpet. This petition is about Pogge, but not only about Pogge. Let’s gather the courage to speak up about other cases of sexual harassment that we know about. Let’s strengthen the social norms that it is not OK to abuse your hierarchical position to receive sexual favours. Let’s demolish the social norms that if everyone else is turning a blind eye, it is fine for us to also turn a blind eye. Let’s address these problems by both institutional change and a change in culture and social norms in the profession.”

115

Mitu Sengupta 06.27.16 at 10:46 am

Sorry, a few spelling errors there in my post @117 (smh). And I want to emphasize again that I am not suggesting that people are signing on for the ‘bad reasons’ I have indicated. But it is a risk. I am sure everyone has theories about why the letter was opened up, and if this risk was assessed, but I’m interested in having an answer from the authors of the letter/organizers of the campaign.

116

D Levinson 06.27.16 at 10:59 am

ZM 113: That’s fine. I am Daniel Levinson. Given that there are probably 100s of Daniel Levinsons in the world, it doesn’t really matter. Yes, sorry, I mixed up Zimmermann with Wilson. I hope that’s forgivable, given that I’m confusing one racist for another. I wouldn’t have a problem if the police condemned Wilson, though I’d find the hypocrisy a bit rich if they tried to scapegoat one man for the crimes of their institution. All I was pointing out is that you are drawing the wrong parallel. Are you sure you are a philosophy student? And your other wrong parallel between Hitler’s crimes and Pogge’s still stands, my opinion, even though you’ve tried hard to backtrack.

117

J-D 06.27.16 at 11:31 am

Mitu Sengupta 06.27.16 at 10:32 am
Having an open letter means that many vulnerable members of the philosophy community (grad students, postdocs, untenured faculty) will feel pressure to sign lest they be viewed as condoning Pogge’s actions.

Can we test that? For example, I see 16 Yale professors on the list of original signatories. I can also see on the Yale University website a list of 39 graduate students in Philosophy; I find six of their names on the list of additional signatories. Apparently 33 of them have not felt pressured into adding their signatures. That doesn’t seem as if there’s a strong pressure on otherwise unwilling people.

The reason for choosing Yale as an example seems obvious, but maybe there’d be a different picture if we looked at other institutions. My hunch is not.

118

Mitu Sengupta 06.27.16 at 12:15 pm

J-D 121, I really don’t like engaging with anonymous commenters, but I do wish to clear up misinterpretations of what I’ve said. Please do re-read my comment: (A) I am not concerned only about graduate students. (B) People who haven’t signed may also have felt pressure, so your methodologically unsound straw poll’s results are inconclusive for that reason also. (C) To repeat, I am not attributing bad motives to those who have signed. My question is about risk assessment. I don’t identify as a ‘moral philosopher’, and risk assessment (a bit of a technocratic term, I realize) is important in my field (development). So perhaps that’s why it seems important to me, though, of course, it’s not the only thing that’s important. (D) I’m really not interested in what you have to say on this matter unless you are one of the organizers of the campaign, in which case you should identify yourself as being such. Have a good day.

119

ZM 06.27.16 at 3:40 pm

D Levinson,

Sorry, I didn’t realise you had just mixed up Zimmerman and Wilson. I had to look up Wikipedia on the Michael Brown case since I wasn’t very familiar with the details myself.

“All I was pointing out is that you are drawing the wrong parallel. Are you sure you are a philosophy student?”

No, I didn’t mean to give you the impression I was a philosophy student, I’m studying urban planning.

“And your other wrong parallel between Hitler’s crimes and Pogge’s still stands, my opinion, even though you’ve tried hard to backtrack.”

No, I really am not backtracking. I tried to make a distinction between Hitler and Althusser, and if I was not clear, I think that Pogge’s case is more similar to Althusser and his works don’t appear to have anything directly to do with the alleged sexual harassment. If he published a philosophy book trying to promote professors sexually harassing students, and then was accused of sexually harassing students, then that would be more like Hitler and I really would hope the book would be taken off the market.

120

Ingrid Robeyns 06.27.16 at 8:25 pm

Before the comments get closed (which happens automatically, and I expect soonish), I just want to point out that I am not at all supporting the view that we should now no longer teach Pogge’s work. I cannot see a single good reason for that position, except if it would deeply disturb students, which I do not think will be the case (yes, my students take offence at the views of Aristotle on Slaves and on Women, but we can handle that, and try to see what is of value behind those discriminatory views; but I am pretty sure my students would be very upset if I would no longer teach Aristotle, and frankly I think that if there is a paper by Pogge that need to be taught and there is no equally good replacement, then it is bad (perhaps even wrong) not to teach it).

We have been teaching Pogge’s work in the past because it has been important, canonical and influential; and these are the exact same reasons why we should continue teaching it. If the entire syllabus were full with writers who had the attitudes and acts towards female students that Pogge is now being accused off, and with writers who have been upholding social norms that should not be upheld, THEN we had a problem because it would give students the impression that philosophers writing on global justice all think it normal that one does with students what Pogge has done with them. But that is not the case. So I think the Open Letter should not affect the standing of Pogge’s *work*; we need to make a distinction between the work by Pogge, and the person Pogge. It is the person who has to take responsibility for his deeds, but I fail to see how what has happened should change our attitudes towards his work.

Still, in practice what may be important is that teachers figure out whether students have a need to talk about the question of personal integrity of the authors of the texts on the syllabi, and guide a discussion on this. But for me a first genuine question is whether students actually have such a need.

121

Kiwanda 06.27.16 at 9:00 pm

faustusnotes: “If I told you there was this dude who had written a history of the Jews, and oh btw he hates Jews, you might think his history not entirely reliable, right?”

I would read and try to evaluate the work, and decide if I believed the arguments and citations were convincing. Ideas are independent of their authors, and of personalities, political allegiances, identities, and behavior.

As far as the results of unethical experiments goes, the main reason not to use them is to avoid encouraging future unethical experiments. Not because the experimenters are bad people. (Although it seems the results of some unethical experiments are in use today.)

(And: please try to find some other general derogatory term for men; “dude” has gotten tiresome.)

122

J-D 06.28.16 at 4:39 am

Mitu Sengupta @122

You ask whether I’m one of the organisers of the campaign. I’m not.

You write that you don’t like engaging with anonymous commenters. I’m not commenting in an effort to get you to engage with me.

You repeat that you are not attributing bad motives to the people who have signed; I don’t understand why you considered the repetition worthwhile, given that I did not suggest that you had made any such attribution.

Whenever people make a protest in any public form, there is some risk that other people will feel pressured to join the protest against their own preference. For example, if I encounter a public protest outside a place of business as I walk along the street, there is a risk that I will feel pressured to join in that protest against my own preference — although in fact when I actually did encounter that situation I felt no such pressure. The only way to eliminate the risk of creating this kind of undue pressure is to eliminate public protest; plainly that’s unreasonable. By itself, the fact that there is some risk of undue pressure associated with the form of public protest is insufficient to pass judgement; what’s needed is some attempt to assess/evaluate the risk. My attempt at doing so was admittedly rudimentary, but it’s more than I’ve observed anybody else do.

123

faustusnotes 06.28.16 at 5:04 am

Okay Kiwanda, so you don’t consider the behavior of the writer to be relevant when assessing history texts. What about ethics texts? For example, about appropriate behavior towards women from developing nations. Ingrid thinks Pogge’s work has been important, canonical and influential; were we to reassess his earlier work in light of how we now know he apparently behaves, would we find flaws in it we hadn’t earlier noticed?

In asking this question I’m thinking in particular of the problem of Communism, which was built from a revolution on the back of works by people like Marx, Lenin, Trotsky et al. These were a bunch of beardy dudes from a certain class background who had certain individual behaviors and personal ethics that didn’t always perhaps live up to an ideal of an equitable society. Somewhere in all the things that happened after 1917 there was buried a worm of corruption that destroyed the entire communist project and which a lot of well-meaning people at the time didn’t see or only saw too late. I wonder if, had they assessed more of those writers in terms of their beardy dudeyness, rather than the high ideals they espoused, they might have thought, “hang on a minute. This dude exploited his maid. Maybe his political prescriptions will have an opening for beardy dudes to exploit a whole class of people?”

If Western society proceeded solely from assessing ideas on their merits, one assumes that things like slavery and genocide wouldn’t have happened. Typically for these things to be accepted, we have to overlook some moral oversights on the part of the people proposing them. I would suggest that debating the ideas on the basis of the ideas themselves hasn’t always worked out, for example when lying liars lie their way into invading Iraq – if I say “that argument doesn’t work because Tony Blair is a lying vampire” you say “but assess it on its merits! These people could make a nuclear weapon in 20 minutes!” But in the end the lying vampire lied to you so that you could assess its ideas on their “merits.” You needed external information to properly debate with the lying vampire, information that you apparently refuse to consider.

See e.g. also, Brexit.

124

D Levinson 06.28.16 at 7:17 am

JD 126, I’d like to wade into this, since my argument with you has proceeded along similar lines. I don’t see anyone saying that public protest is illegitimate, although this isn’t a typical public protest in the sense that it addresses the wrongdoings of a specific individual within a narrow academic community. Everyone who’s expressed objections to the OL on this thread has had issue with the way it has been formulated, its inclusions as well as omissions, and (for me, specifically) the way the letter signing campaign has proceeded. Your response to any such objection has been to the tune of: “Well, I don’t see anything better. No one has suggested anything better.” I’ve already acknowledged that you are correct in so far as it’s much easier to criticize than to provide alternative formulations. Criticism need not always be accompanied by alternative formulations. Having said that, I think one may legitimately expect better of a letter signed by so many stellar names, including the entire Yale philosophy department. I may not have enough cerebral matter to come up with a better formulation, surely they do? I still don’t understand, for example, why they letter is written on behalf of “our philosophical community” and then opened to the public so that anyone can sign, including non-philosophers such as Z-M who say they know nothing about Pogge and had never heard of him before the OL. Is this what the letter writers wanted?

125

J-D 06.28.16 at 8:16 am

D Levinson @128

If you want to know what the letter writers wanted/intended (and why) you’ll have to ask them, not me.

I don’t think your characterisation of my position is adequate.

What I have observed is that people have objected to what’s been done without being able to give an adequate explanation of what rule they think has been broken. People are prepared to assert that what has been done is not fair, but I can’t seem to get an answer to the question ‘How is it not fair?’ My suggestion that people might explain how they think things could have been done differently is one way of tackling that question: if you can explain how another approach would have been fairer that might shed light on what principle of fairness you think has been violated. In this, your most recent comment, you write that ‘one may legitimately expect better’, but you still haven’t explained how what has been done is not good.

All the objections I have seen don’t come to any more than people saying ‘I don’t like it’. What I want to know is why you don’t like it. In the absence of an answer to that question, I can only form my own speculations about why people don’t like it, and when I fall back on those I come up with plausible answers which don’t, however, have substantive force as objections to the course of action being criticised. (I can tell you about my speculations if you’re interested, although I don’t know how much that will help.)

126

ZM 06.28.16 at 8:20 am

D Levinson,

“why they letter is written on behalf of “our philosophical community” and then opened to the public so that anyone can sign, including non-philosophers such as Z-M who say they know nothing about Pogge and had never heard of him before the OL.”

To be clear, I have not signed the Open Letter. This is not because I don’t support the Open Letter, but because I never heard of this before now, and I never heard of Pogge before this OP, and I didn’t even think of signing the Open Letter until you just suggested I was signing it.

Are CT commenters actually invited to be signing the Open Letter?

127

ZM 06.28.16 at 8:30 am

Now I have to think about signing the Open Letter. There are some names on the Open Letter that just say Student and don’t say the Department, and some names from Departments other than Philosophy. I suppose I could sign the Open Letter now you have mentioned it D Levinson, I never even thought of signing it until now as I was under the impression it was for the Academic Philosophy community and I hadn’t read the list of names.

Ingrid, are you able to clarify whether you are inviting commenters and readers of CT generally to sign the Open Letter?

128

Ingrid Robeyns 06.28.16 at 2:26 pm

ZM, I am not one of the initiators of the Open Letter, but people have been asking me whether I wanted to sign it, or people who got invited have asked me whether I felt I should sign, or whether (in more general terms) I believe we (that is, academic philosophers in this case) should sign. So both in real life, as well as on Facebook, there have been debates among academic philosophers about the Open Letter. I wanted to clarify the thoughts I went through before deciding to sign (since for me it is not obvious at all that it is a good thing to sign this letter, as I write in the OP, there are good reasons not to sign – I just think that *on balance*, and given the strongly non ideal world we live in, it was right to sign).

SO I don’t think I should invite anyone to sign (since I am not an initiator of this letter), but my understanding is that the Initiators have put the letter in the public domain so that it is possible for anyone who feels that this is also about their community, that they could sign.

I am not sure those who initiated the Open Letter are still following this discussion, but if they do, they will be in a better position to respond then I am.

129

D Levinson 06.28.16 at 6:39 pm

JD-129, whether or not a ‘rule’ has been broken is not the only consideration for fairness. Other legitimate issues brought up in these threads are context sensitivity and care for the ‘community’ that OL signers are concerned about. Your characterization of dissenting posts as amounting to “I don’t like it” is grossly unfair and very arrogant.You could have at least added, “in my opinion.” [You see Z-M: this is the most useful phrase ever invented!]. Seriously, I don’t think you’ve managed to definitively refute any of the claims advanced. In my opinion. Z-M, I think it’s good that you didn’t sign the letter even if you agree with everything it says. It does not read as though it’s meant for the wider community, even if it was meant to do that. In my opinion. I hope you can now see why several people on this thread have found it confusing.

130

ZM 06.28.16 at 7:00 pm

D Levinson,

I never heard of Pogge until this OP, and did not even consider signing the Open Letter until you rather oddly attributed signing the Open Letter to me in a comment.

I think the contents of the Open Letter are fine, and don’t share your confusion. But I never heard of Pogge until this OP, he doesn’t work in the country I live in, and I am not in the discipline he teaches in. Maybe if it turns into an Avaaz petition at some point I would consider signing it.

And, again, no, I actually find your use of the term “in my opinion” really annoying and in fact it makes me doubt you are arguing in good faith.

To me it makes you appear to want to reduce everything to a matter of one’s opinion. And makes you seem to think that no one can query anything you assert, as long as you add “in my opinion” after it. Which sort of makes it pointless having a discussion with you if you just reiterate what you already said and say “in my opinion” again. Sorry.

You said you picked up the idea of over using the term “in my opinion” from the TV show The Good Wife, which I have never seen, but according to Wikipedia it is about “Alicia Florrick, whose husband Peter, the former Cook County, Illinois State’s Attorney, has been jailed following a notorious political corruption and sex scandal. After having spent the previous thirteen years as a stay-at-home mother, Alicia returns to her old job as a litigator to provide for her two children”.

Why did the show make you decide to use the words “in my opinion” so much? Is it used in legal arguments in Court in the show or something?

131

D Levinson 06.28.16 at 7:20 pm

ZM, Your previous post (addressed to the author of the OP) suggests that you are confused. I am certainly arguing in good faith. I do believe there’s truth, but that few people have access to it, and there are multiple perspectives on it. Most things boil down to opinions that are based on unverifiable assumptions. Most people think that it is understood that something you say is your opinion, but I prefer to declare this upfront. What’s wrong with that, other than it being annoying? Re: The Good Wife. In one episode, the judge kept insisting that everyone in her court end what they said with “in my opinion.” She argued exactly what I’ve done: let’s just declare this upfront. The episode had nothing to do with sexual harassment. Not everything does.

132

ZM 06.28.16 at 7:35 pm

D Levinson,

I was only confused as to whether Ingrid was asking for people who comment and read CT to sign the Open Letter. Ingrid then clarified this, by saying that ” I don’t think I should invite anyone to sign (since I am not an initiator of this letter), but my understanding is that the Initiators have put the letter in the public domain so that it is possible for anyone who feels that this is also about their community, that they could sign.”

Um, look, I think given your views on truth, I am probably not going to be able to have discussions with you that I would consider worthwhile or profitable. I hope you don’t mind me being honest about that.

Also I wish you wouldn’t keep attributing things to me which I have not said.

1. You kept arguing that I said Pogge’s work was like Hitler’s work, when I was drawing a distinction between Althusser’s work and Hitler’s work and I was saying that I thought Pogge’s work was more like Althusser’s work in this, in that the crime Pogge is accused of does not have a direct relation to his work.

2. You asked me if I was sure if I was studied philosophy, which I had not claimed to be studying.

3. You stated I was signing the Open Letter, when I had not mentioned signing the letter, and had no even considered signing the letter until you stated I was signing it. Which really put me on the spot about it. I haven’t heard of Pogge before this OP and while I support the Open Letter, I don’t really feel like I have much knowledge of the case, never having heard of it before. Ingrid said maybe one of the writers would clarify further about this.

4. You have now implied that I said something about the specific episode of the Good Wife where you got the idea to use “in my opinion” a lot, to have something to do with sexual harassment by arguing against the proposition which I never made — “The episode had nothing to do with sexual harassment. Not everything does.” This makes it sound like I said the episode was about sexual harassment.

I did not even know what episode you got the idea from. I have never watched the Good Wife in my life. And I specifically asked you if you got the idea because the show uses it “in legal arguments in Court in the show or something?” without mentioning sexual harassment at all.

I think I’m going to leave it there.

133

D Levinson 06.28.16 at 9:44 pm

I don’t get it, Z-M. What is your understanding of the ‘truth’?
Yes, my bad about all the misunderstandings. I am reading the posts mainly on my phone. I guess I thought you’d signed because you felt so passionately about it.
Still, there was no need to bring Hitler into the conversation.
Let’s leave it at that.

134

J-D 06.28.16 at 10:08 pm

D Levinson 06.28.16 at 6:39 pm
JD-129, whether or not a ‘rule’ has been broken is not the only consideration for fairness. Other legitimate issues brought up in these threads are context sensitivity and care for the ‘community’ that OL signers are concerned about. Your characterization of dissenting posts as amounting to “I don’t like it” is grossly unfair and very arrogant.You could have at least added, “in my opinion.” [You see Z-M: this is the most useful phrase ever invented!]. Seriously, I don’t think you’ve managed to definitively refute any of the claims advanced.

Same problem as before. It’s a good general principle that people should be sensitive to context, but nobody here has even attempted to explain how the writers of the letter have not been sensitive to context. It’s a good general principle that people should care about other members of their community, but nobody here has even attempted to explain how the writers of the letter have failed to show care for other members of their community.

It’s not that the case in favour of conclusions adverse to the writers of the letter has been made unsatisfactorily; it’s that no case in support of those conclusions has been offered at all.

If you assert that the writers have not been sensitive to context, I deny it. If you assert that the writers have not shown proper care for their communities, I deny it. If you assert that what they did was not fair, I deny it. How do you suggest the discussion should proceed from there? My suggestion would be that you give some details of how you think they have not been sensitive to context, or have not shown proper care for their communities, or have not been fair; if you have an alternative suggestion, please, offer it.

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D Levinson 06.28.16 at 10:15 pm

J-D, everything’s been explained ad nauseam already. You just haven’t been reading/listening and it’s not my job or responsibility to spell it all out for you (you are clearly a grad student with a lot of time on your hands!). Your denials are also ‘assertions.’ I think I’m done with this discussion now. We’re just repeating ourselves.

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Kiwanda 06.29.16 at 5:19 am

faustusnotes: Okay Kiwanda, so you don’t consider the behavior of the writer to be relevant when assessing history texts. What about ethics texts?”

That’s easy: the same.

“I wonder if, had they assessed more of those writers in terms of their beardy dudeyness, rather than the high ideals they espoused, they might have thought, “hang on a minute. This dude exploited his maid. Maybe his political prescriptions will have an opening for beardy dudes to exploit a whole class of people?”

Yes, that’s it; if only there had been a more careful reading of Marx, in light of his beardy dudebro-fboy-ness, history would’ve been so different. After all, once people learned that Aristotle was a beardy dudebro, they disemvoweled the Nicomachean ethics and were thereby protected from his harassing disquisitions.

“I would suggest that debating the ideas on the basis of the ideas themselves hasn’t always worked out, for example when lying liars lie their way into invading Iraq – if I say “that argument doesn’t work because Tony Blair is a lying vampire” you say “but assess it on its merits! These people could make a nuclear weapon in 20 minutes!”

Yes, assessing ideas on their merits is exactly the same as believing what anybody tells you, and the way to truth is by knowing who the Bad People are, and blocking them on twitter.

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J-D 06.29.16 at 5:39 am

D Levinson

No, I’m not a grad student — although I don’t see what difference it makes, or why you introduce the subject.

I have been reading: when I say I have seen no explanation, it’s because I have seen no explanation, and in particular not from you.

Yes, in one sense a denial is a form of assertion: you assert one thing, I assert the contrary. I’ve suggested how the discussion might go forward from there, but you’re not interested — which is fine, there’s no reason why you should be.

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D Levinson 06.29.16 at 5:50 am

JD: Your pattern of argumentation suggests that you are a philosophy grad student. You are right that its not relevant and was probably a cheap shot on my part, thereby apologies. But repeating yourself, that that too from behind the cover of anonymity, is not a way to move the discussion forward. I’ve said what I’ve wanted to. If you aren’t convinced, that’s fine. Now go on, you can have the last word!

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J-D 06.29.16 at 6:19 am

D Levinson 06.29.16 at 5:50 am

JD: Your pattern of argumentation suggests that you are a philosophy grad student. You are right that its not relevant and was probably a cheap shot on my part, thereby apologies. But repeating yourself, that that too from behind the cover of anonymity, is not a way to move the discussion forward. I’ve said what I’ve wanted to. If you aren’t convinced, that’s fine. Now go on, you can have the last word!

I am not a graduate student, in philosophy or anything else: but there’s no way I can prove that, so if you don’t want to believe me, you won’t. As I said, I don’t see how it’s relevant anyway: if I do argue the same way that philosophy grad students argue, it doesn’t affect the merits of the case I’m making (or lack of them).

I made my case that what has been done in this case meets appropriate standards of fairness in what I think was my initial contribution to this discussion. I don’t mind so much repeating myself if requested to do so, but for the moment I will limit myself to giving the number of that comment, 81, so that anybody who’s interested can find and reread it. What I would like to see is somebody explain what unfairness they perceive to a similar level of detail. If you really think somebody has already done that, all you need to do is give me the comment number. I’m not asking anybody to do anything I haven’t done myself.

If you really want to give somebody the last word, the best way is not to post a comment saying ‘You can have the last word’, but rather to say nothing.

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