What is this blog about?

What is this blog about?

I am a political philosopher. My 'political philosophy' is a form of 'liberal egalitarianism.' So in this blog I reflect on various issues in political philosophy and politics (especially Canadian and American politics) from a liberal egalitarian perspective.

If you are curious about what I mean by 'liberal egalitarianism,' my views are strongly influenced by the conception of justice advanced by John Rawls. (So I sometimes refer to myself as a 'Rawlsian,' even though I disagree with Rawls on some matters.)

Astonishingly, I am paid to write and teach moral and political philosophy. I somehow manage to do this despite my akratic nature. Here is my faculty profile.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Armed students versus academic freedom

In an earlier post I explained that an armed society is an unfree society. By that I meant, roughly, that the more common guns are in a society, the more often people will be subject to coercive threats from others. Since coercive threats restrict individuals' freedom (even if we understand freedom simply as what Isaiah Berlin famously termed 'negative liberty'), it follows that the more armed a society is, the less free overall that society will be. In explaining this rather basic point, I unpacked the famous saying, "an armed society is a polite society." Why is such a society 'polite'? The answer is obvious: because of fear. And a fearful society simply is an unfree society.

That post was motivated in part by a recent proposal within Wisconsin to allow students to carry guns into campus buildings within the University of Wisconsin system (including, of course, the university at which I work). Fortunately, that insane proposal did not become law (or at least not this legislative session; I doubt that the NRA will give up its lobbying efforts anytime soon).

Public universities in Texas were less fortunate. Starting this summer, public universities within Texas will be forced to allow students to carry guns into classrooms and other campus areas (if those students have 'conceal carry' permits). Naturally, most faculty members are deeply opposed to this for the obvious reason that the presence of guns within classrooms invariably will chill speech. This point is nicely expressed by Elliott Hannon at Slate:
"The Republican-run Texas state legislature voted last year to allow students to carry concealed handguns into classrooms, dorms, just about anywhere on campus. If that seems like a bad idea to you, imagine how you’d feel if you were a professor. There’s nothing quite like the free exchange of ideas in an armed art history 301 seminar. The academic chilling effect seems pretty obvious for students and faculty."
Hannon is commenting on this slide displayed at a recent meeting of the faculty senate of the University of Houston on how professors should adapt to the new law:

I cannot comprehend how anyone could think that allowing guns into classrooms could be helpful or not have a deleterious effect on pedagogy and academic freedom. But as the (always excellent) Charles Pierce wryly observed: "It'll liven up that Philosophy 101 class, I'll give you that."

1 comment:

  1. https://www.texastribune.org/2016/02/25/ut-architecture-dean-cites-campus-carry-reason-dep/