Swinburne and Trump: from FB

The paragraphs below are revised versions of a Facebook post.  I was hoping to start a discussions, but failed to do so.  There are three things I think it may bring out.  First, the opposition to homosexuality in the RC Church is not an innocent implication of a venerable doctrine.  It is the product of a highly selective concentration on sex.  Secondly, people who think it is properly philosophical to label same-sex coupling as disordered, sick, etc, should ask if they are happy to say the same of the overweight.  Thirdly, it would be delicious to know what the average weight of the gay-shaming philosophers is.


Sex is only one of the areas in which natural law theorists think (or should think) about in terms of faculties, natural ends and well ordered desires. As I remember Elizabeth Anscombe pointing out years ago, consumption of food is another area. And here the spread of disordered desires is on open display throughout many countries.

Should we thank Trump for drawing our attention to the situation? Perhaps now we can all take some action.

Many people may protest that it is impossible to lose a substantial amount of weight and keep it off. That should not mean we should continue to leave heavier than average people at the mercy of their disorder desires.

Foods with fake attractions (artificial sweeteners) are surely like sex toys. Do we really want children to see such things on shelves in stores we frequent?

The recent tendency of designers to add larger sizes is clearly making big people more comfortable.

It is time to stop the growing obesity in our populations.

National boycott and some small things philosophers can do to help

Yesterday, Shaun King at the New York Daily News announced a national boycott against “police brutality, racial violence and systemic injustice in America.” The boycott will start December 5, the anniversary of the 1955 start of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Here are some of the key features of the planned boycott, from the King article linked above:

1. We will not be releasing the names of the cities, states, businesses, and institutions that we will be boycotting until Dec. 5, 2016. Between now and then, we hope that cities and states around the country will begin to enact emergency legislation and policies to prevent police brutality and racial violence. Furthermore, we do not want any potential institutions to somehow undermine our efforts.

2. We can tell you this, our boycott will be national. That means we will be boycotting:

  • Entire cities and states much like what you see being done in North Carolina right now over the anti-LGBT House Bill 2.
  • Particular brands and corporations who partner with and profit from systemic oppression.
  • Particular brands and corporations headquartered in cities and states notorious for police brutality and racial violence, which say and do little to nothing about it.
  • Particular institutions, including banks, which fund, underwrite, inform, train or otherwise support systemic oppression and brutality.

8. We do expect this boycott to last for months, or even years, not days or weeks.

It’s worth reading the whole article to learn about the background and the other details. So, here it is again.

For those of us who intend to support the boycott, some planning is in order. We won’t know which particular cities/companies/institutions are subject to boycott until the day is upon us. But we can make some reasonable conjectures.

Here are a couple of small things philosophers can do to show solidarity with the movement. It is highly plausible that Baltimore will be among the boycotted cities. The 2017 Eastern APA will be held in Baltimore in early January. Philosophers who are in a position to do so may wish to hold off on pre-registering for the APA and purchasing airline tickets to Baltimore until we know whether or not Baltimore is subject to boycott. And, if Baltimore is targeted, those philosophers who are able to skip the meeting should seriously consider doing so. Further, philosophers, especially APA members, should consider writing to the APA to inform the Association that they will be joining in the boycott and hence will miss the Baltimore meeting if Baltimore is boycotted. They should therefore urge the Association to develop both an official position and a clear plan in case Baltimore is boycotted. Finally, we should speak with our colleagues in other disciplines and urge them to take similar tacks with their professional associations, who will similarly have meetings planned in cities that are likely to be boycotted.

(h/t SE for the links)

Canadian domestic violence survivor goes public after replacement judge declares mistrial

Yesterday, Canadian public broadcaster the CBC published the story of Isabelle Raycroft, Canada’s latest high-profile victim of intimate partner violence.

Here’s the tl;dr: the trial judge wrote a decision convicting Raycroft’s husband of four counts of assault against her, then got sick and couldn’t deliver the verdict. A replacement judge was appointed to read the verdict and determine the sentence. Before sentencing, a delegation of “old boys” from the rural Ontario community in which the Raycrofts reside appeared before the court to attest to the good character of the convict. Having heard this testimony (but not the evidence that was presented at trial), the replacement judge declared a mistrial. The devastated complainant decided that the public needed to know what she’d gone through. She went to court to have the publication ban on the case waived, and then she went to the CBC.

The story is frustrating, astonishing and riveting, and provides yet more evidence (as if it were needed) that when it comes to sexual violence, the law is an ass. Read it here.

Another lawsuit against a sexual harassment victim

As so often happens, yet another sexual harasser is suing his victims.

A University of California, Berkeley professor who is the subject of three sexual harassment complaints has filed lawsuits against the women he is accused of victimizing, an unusual step that the students say will not deter them from speaking out.

Blake Wentworth, assistant professor of south and south-east Asian studies, has accused the women of defamation and “intentional infliction of emotional distress”, with new lawsuits filed nearly a year after university investigators concluded that he had violated sexual harassment policies.


a lesson for sexist bullies

The sexist bully and blowhard we saw in the first presidential debate is someone whom many of us have encountered.  He might have called you Miss Piggy, or he may have scolded you for getting pregnant when still a student.  He could even remark your miscarriages were a way of postponing tenure decisions, or he may have gone in for lighter teasing about your clothes, hair, and boyfriends.

A number of women have expressed their recognition of Trump’s behavior in this week’s news papers.  Th NYT starts:

The direct confrontation between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton over Mr. Trump’s treatment of women didn’t come until the final moments of Monday night’s debate. But in many ways, the entire event played out as a big-screen version of what women encounter every day.

There were plenty of aha moments for any woman who is the sole female member of her company’s management team, a female sportscaster, bartender, cop, construction worker, law partner or, yes, a beauty queen. And maybe for the sole female presidential candidate, too.


It occurs to me that we might have a teaching opportunity here.  If you have a colleague who goes in for this obnoxious behavior while insisting it is just good fun, tell him that he is behaving like Trump, and that he makes too many of us feel shocked and even ill.

When NOT to talk about implicit bias

Folks here know that I (like many of our bloggers) am very interested in implicit bias. But I get really angry when I seeing it invoked where it’s really not what we should be talking about.  Like the Terence Crutcher murder.

In the wake of yet another killing of an unarmed black person by a police officer, we are once again hearing about the importance of fighting implicit bias. Now, I am completely on board with the thought that it’s important to fight implicit bias: I just published two co-edited volumes on it. It’s important, and it explains a lot. But it does not explain this murder, and it is the wrong place to look for a solution to the problem of police shootings of unarmed black people.

Read the rest.

CFA: Harms and Wrongs in Epistemic Practice


Call for Abstracts


The Royal Institute of Philosophy Annual Conference 2017:
Harms and Wrongs in Epistemic Practice


The University of Sheffield

3rd–4th of July 2017


We are pleased to invite abstracts for papers to be considered for presentation at a conference on Harms and Wrongs in Epistemic Practice, to be held on July 3rd and 4th 2017 at the University of Sheffield. Invited speakers are:


  • Alison Bailey (Illinois State University)
  • Heather Battaly (California State University, Fullerton)
  • Havi Carel (University of Bristol) and Ian James Kidd (University of Nottingham)
  • Quassim Cassam (Warwick University)
  • Miranda Fricker (CUNY Graduate Center / University of Sheffield)


How we engage in epistemic practice, including our methods of knowledge acquisition and transmission, the personal traits that help or hinder these activities, and the social institutions that facilitate or impede them, is of central importance to our lives as individuals and as participants in social and political activities. In the past decade, sustained philosophical attention has turned to the various ways in which this practice can and does go awry, and the epistemic, moral, and political harms and wrongs that follow. The aim of this conference is to draw attention to the full range of these harms and wrongs. We hope to bring together a range of theorists working on a diverse variety of relevant topics in order to spark new insights and forge new interconnections.


Proceedings of the conference will be published as a special issue of the journal Philosophy. Accordingly, we are conducting a two-stage review process to ensure papers presented are of publishable quality. At this point we invite submissions of a 750 word extended abstract. Based on the abstracts we will then invite a shortlist of applicants to submit a full paper, from which we will make the final selection for the conference. See below for more information about this process. We encourage submissions from philosophers at all levels of career progression who are working on any issues relevant to the remit of the conference, broadly construed. Topics might include, but are by no means limited to:


  • Epistemic vice and vices
  • The effects of social positioning on one’s epistemic life
  • Epistemologies of ignorance (particularly from a non-US perspective)
  • The problems of persistent disagreement
  • Feminist epistemology, critical race epistemology, and other critical epistemologies
  • Non-ideal aspects of trust and testimony
  • The role of social structures in perpetrating or sustaining epistemic harmsand wrongs
  • Topics in applied epistemology (medical, political, educational, etc.)



We will be using a two-stage reviewing process. Please read the following instructions carefully. All submitted files must be in .DOC, .DOCX, .PDF, .RTF, or .TXT format.


Dates at a Glance

1st of December 2016: abstracts due

15th of December 2016: notification of acceptance to the shortlist

31st of March 2017: full papers due

15th of April 2017: notification of acceptance to the conference


Stage 1: Abstracts

At this time, we are pleased to invite submissions of extended abstracts of approximately 750 words, of papers suitable for a 30 minute presentation. Please prepare your abstract for blind review (i.e. remove all content that may identify you as the author(s)) and send it to hwep2017@sheffield.ac.uk by the 1st of December 2016. Submissions must be accompanied by a cover sheet, attached as a separate file, providing the title of the proposed paper and the author(s)’s:

  • Name
  • Personal pronouns
  • Email address
  • Institutional affiliation
  • Appointment title
  • Demographic information the author(s) wish to declare

There is a limit of one submission per author (including co-authored submissions). Based on the abstracts we will then invite a shortlist of applicants to submit a full paper. Applicants selected for the shortlist will be notified no later than the 15th of December 2016.


Stage 2: Papers

Authors whose abstracts have been selected for the shortlist will be invited to submit a full-length paper of 6,000–8,000 words on that topicThe paper must be prepared for blind review and sent to hwep2017@sheffield.ac.uk no later than the 31st of March 2016. Authors whose papers have been accepted for presentation at the conference will be notified no later than the 15th of April 2016.


Accessibility and Diversity

Submissions are open to all, but at least 20% of open-call spaces on the programme will be awarded to postgraduates and researchers without a permanent position. If you fall into one of those categories, we invite you to include that information on your cover sheet.

We are keen on assembling a demographically diverse programme. To aid in this, if you are a member of a demographic group that is underrepresented in anglophone professional philosophy, we invite you to declare this information on your cover sheet.

The conference venue is accessible. For more information or to make an accessibility request, please contact the conference organizers.

Stipends will be available for those accepted, but we regret that we cannot guarantee to cover expenses in full (more details T.B.C. closer to the conference date).


This conference has been organized in accordance with the BPA/SWIP-UK Good Practice Scheme.



Please direct all queries to hwep2017@sheffield.ac.uk.

Organising committee: Simon Barker, Charlie Crerar, Trystan Goetze


Further information about the conference will be available at:



Responding to sexual harassment in academia: punishment or pedagogy?

Eric Schliesser has an interesting discussion posted at D&I (which we linked to earlier) of the piece in the Chronicle by Brian Leiter, regarding the ethics of how we respond to sexual harassers in academia.  I think the exchange is worth reading, but that both pieces assume the wrong framework for approaching the issue.* That is, it would be more productive to think about the appropriate role of sexual harassers going forward in academia through the lens of pedagogy rather than punishment.

Leiter’s piece begins with a discussion of Colin McGinn – particularly, the question of whether or not he should be allowed to teach again. Leiter fears that disproportional punishment in response to sexual harassment in academia is trending (e.g., firing, refusal to hire); Schliesser notes that other offenses in the academic community aren’t treated under the kind of proportionality principle Leiter is advocating for (e.g., some plagiarists are shunned from the academic community; we don’t typically give students a second chance before a plagiarized paper receives an F). But, when the administration at East Carolina University vetoed the faculty’s offer of a teaching position, was this an instance of punishment? When a commentator on a blog suggests that having been fired for sexual misconduct disqualifies one for future teaching positions, are they thereby advocating for punishment of offenders?

I don’t think so. If I learn that Jane betrayed her friend John’s trust, and on that basis I decline to form a friendship with her, my failing to become friends with Jane is not a punishment. It is a negative consequence of her conduct towards John, but not all negative consequences are punishments. I wouldn’t put Bernie Madoff in charge of my finances; I wouldn’t leave my dogs with Tony Barbara; and though I’m sure she would never need it, I wouldn’t loan my car to Lindsay Lohan. I wouldn’t be punishing Lindsay Lohan – she’s just not entitled to my car, and I wouldn’t want to take the risk.

Of course, if I don’t choose to engage in a particular kind of relationship with someone on the basis of their past conduct that doesn’t entail that they will never be able to enter into such a relationship with someone else. This contrasts with the kind of case Leiter is considering where a sexual harasser cannot find another position in academia at all. But, as Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa pointed out in a comment on facebook, neither is there some general governing body handing out teaching positions: “[T]here’s a job market. No person or organization faces the question of whether [some sexual harasser] should ever be allowed to teach again. The question faced, by each of a bunch of departments, is, should we hire [this person] to teach here?” In any given instance, that will be a complicated question to answer. (If for no other reason than that the academic job market is flooded with candidates. For any one, no matter whether they’ve engaged in misconduct or not, what are the odds there isn’t a better qualified candidate out there?)

Suppose I’m wrong about all of this, though, and that there is a punitive element to the refusal to hire a sexual harasser. Even so, I think it would be more productive to think about this issue through the lens of pedagogy rather than punishment. As Leiter writes, “[s]exual harassment of students by their professors betrays the fundamental idea of a university as a place where everyone can come to learn and master an intellectual discipline, and be evaluated on their intellectual competence, rather than their sexual desirability.” (NB: with Schliesser, I suspect much sexual misconduct is not about desirability.)

Some kinds of relationships only function properly if certain preconditions are met. Friendship must be given willingly. Being a doctor requires that one have medical knowledge. Practicing as a social worker requires licensure. Rather than asking if we ought to keep those who engage in sexual misconduct on faculty so as to not send harassers out into the world for someone else to deal with as Leiter does, or asking if refusal to hire is proportionally punitive, we ought to be asking what’s pedagogically appropriate. Certainly, we have moral responsibilities – to victims and perpetrators of sexual misconduct. But examining this through the framework of pedagogy rather than punishment has the dual benefit of not privileging our responsibilities to wrong-doers over those who are wronged and keeping our guiding aim, qua educational community, centered. Are those who betray the fundamental idea of a university fit to be employed by one? If so, why? If not, what would it take for them to become so again?

I would be opposed to my department hiring McGinn, but it’s not a question of punishment. I would be opposed to my department hiring McGinn because he doesn’t seem to think he did anything wrong, and I don’t know how someone who thinks it’s appropriate to treat students in that way could be entrusted with their educations.

*There’s a lot more to say about all of these issues, but I just want to briefly note that with Schliesser, I also don’t think the Chronicle piece gets the cases quite right. For example, it reads:

On the other hand, there are cases like that of Sujit Choudry [sic], former dean of the law school at the University of California at Berkeley, who was found to have violated the university’s sexual-harassment policy, though there was no finding that he acted with a sexual intent . . . A dean of a major law school should not be hugging his secretary on a regular basis, as Choudry [sic] did. Such a dean may not be a sexual harasser, but he is sufficiently insensitive to professional norms and legal rules to be unfit for administrative responsibilities, including responsibility for ensuring that others comply with legal rules regarding sexual harassment . . . But now Berkeley wants to fire him for the offense for which he lost his deanship and some salary already. He is now spending tens of thousands of dollars defending his right to remain as a professor, even though there has been no public allegation about misconduct in that role. In cases like this, vindictive hysteria appears to have replaced a proportionate response to the actual misconduct.

Choudhry was found not merely to have hugged his administrative assistant on a regular basis – rather, he admitted to (1) hugging her regularly, (2) kissing her on the cheek regularly, (3) touching her shoulders and arms, (4) holding her hands to his waist, and (5) not engaging in similar conduct with male colleagues or staff. Leiter is right that there was no finding that he acted with a sexual intent, but neither was there a finding that he did not. The investigation report notes that Choudhry’s defense was that he did not act with a sexual intent, but then goes on to explain why this is irrelevant to the question of whether or not he engaged in sexual harassment for the purposes of university policy (i.e., he engaged in intentional physical touching that was unwelcome, and only directed at women, consistently over a seven month period).

Longing For The Male Gaze

Jennifer Bartlett’s provocative opinion piece in the New York Times today considers the role of street harassment and cyber-harassment as she reflects upon the  tension between her longing to be viewed as sexually desirable and her feminist leanings.

I also do understand what it feels like to get attention from the wrong man. It’s gross. It’s uncomfortable. It’s scary and tedious. And in certain cases, traumatic. But I still would much rather have a man make an inappropriate sexual comment than be referred to in the third person or have someone express surprise over the fact that I have a career. The former, unfortunately, feels “normal.” The latter makes me feel invisible and is meant for that purpose. I like it when men look at me. It feels empowering, not disempowering. Frankly, it makes me feel like I’m not being excluded.

More here.