Have Mercy

Brian Leiter has now posted a list of the names of the signatories to the petition to Hypatia regarding Rebecca Tuvel’s article. He characterizes the petition as outrageous and invites them to either explain themselves or retract.

I would like to enjoin the profession as a whole to cease with these degrading displays. Shot through far too much of these debates is an eagerness to treat other people as shiny objects we can publicly display for the comment and opinion of others. And each new presentation of a shiny object detracts from long overdue attention to systemic issues in the profession, indulging instead in treating individuals as culpable for collective action problems and challenges associated with our unhappy professional culture. Aside from the offensive futility in managing our problems in this way, there is something deeply disingenuous in characterizing one group of people as a mob and then holding them up to mob reaction. If you don’t like “mobbing,” then don’t contribute to this and don’t invite it.

More generally, surely there can be more than the comically simplistic presentation of two sides here. The tendency to present these complex systemic (systemic!!!) issues as bifurcating into nameable good guys and bad guys insults us all, and some far more than others. We do not need to create demons when they haunt us all via the long legacies of awful in our profession. It is possible to feel great concern and humanity for all who have been affected by this. It is possible to see all of the issues raised here as incredibly vexed and radically difficult to address. It is possible not to want anyone involved to suffer more or to be held up to further opprobium. None of these possibilities will be realized if we don’t stop looking for shiny objects to sully and start talking about the systemic issues involved.



2 thoughts on “Have Mercy

  1. I do not think it is good manners to reference and give a somewhat misleading paraphrase of someone else’s posting without linking or even quoting. What I said is this: while “some of the[] signatories [to the open letter\ are among the ‘usual suspects’ involved in cyber-nonsense [examples omitted…many are substantial and accomplished professional philosophers, junior and senior. So I ask them: can you please explain why you signed this letter? You may also indicate if you now regret having signed, in light of the many criticisms that have been made. Only signatories to the letter may post here (including signatories not mentioned above, whom I missed). I will not permit responses to the explanations offered, this comment thread is strictly for those who signed the letter. Given how outrageous this entire episode seems to so many, I think, in the Millian spirit, we need to hear from those involved as to how they are thinking about this episode.”

    There will be no “mobbing” here, since I will moderate comments and am limiting the thread to those who signed the open letter. I am sure I’m not alone in being genuinely curious as to how the signatories who are philosophers are thinking about this whole issue. I would hope you would be too.

    I hope you will have the courtesy to post this comment.

  2. I have posted Brian’s comment above because I refer to his post in mine. However, I think I will close comments for this post. Several want to discuss whether and how to hold various parties responsible for the Hypatia situation but I don’t think that needs to happen now or here, or that I am adequate to moderating any conversation of that sort today.

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