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.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

On the ‘anti-conservative bias’ of academia

Wisconsin Republicans like to whine about the ‘anti-conservative bias’ of contemporary universities. Such complaints have been used to help justify their ongoing destruction of the University of Wisconsin system (including: the recent de facto prohibition of student protests by the [Scott Walker-appointed] Regents of the UW system; the attack on academic freedom through the evisceration of tenure two years ago; the massive budget cuts to the system over the course of Walker’s time as governor; etc.).

For a helpful explanation for why this ‘bias’ exists in academia, read this post by Joe Heath (a philosopher at the University of Toronto).

One of Heath’s key points is something that I’ve long held to be obviously true—viz., universities are inherently ‘pro-reason’ (broadly understood to mean an overall pro-evidence, pro-argument, pro-logic, etc., outlook). So insofar as much of political and social conservatism is anti-reason (anti-evidence, etc.), then academia inevitably is going to be a hostile environment for most political and social conservatives. And to the extent that anti-reason conservatives go to university and become less conservative as a consequence, this is not (or at least not primarily) due to ‘brainwashing’ by Marxist profs, but rather because they become acclimated to a rationalist way of seeing the world. (In contrast to anti-reason conservatives, libertarians are massively overrepresented in academia, especially in the US. But of course libertarians think that they have arguments for their positions; they’re ‘pro-reason’, like their liberal and left-wing interlocutors.)

Another thing that I like about this post is Heath’s take down of the irritatingly influential Jonathan Haidt. What I find most grating in much of Haidt’s work is its unargued premise of moral non-cognitivism. (Heath also criticizes Haidt’s ‘political moralism,’ which strikes me as fair, but is not something that causes me to tear my hair out in annoyance.)

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