All posts filed under: Right of Reply

The Customer Is Not Always Right: A Reply to Elliot Berkman

It’s a disheartening time for academia. Our cloistered world is beset by a number of existential challenges. Many of our once-venerable institutions are suffering from mission drift, saddled with administrators who have no idea how to navigate interfering voices on all points of the political spectrum. At the same time, the university’s business model has been under pressure from disruptive online competitors whose products are becoming more sophisticated, more attractive to students, and cheaper, making the high cost of a university education increasingly difficult to justify. Wide swathes of the general public are losing faith in higher education, both for partisan and practical reasons. Here at Quillette, University of Oregon psychology professor Elliot Berkman recently offered an intriguing analysis of some of the self-defeating actions taken by academics. Berkman argues that academics need to take the social impact of scholarship more seriously, step out of our ivory towers with greater frequency, and otherwise work harder to earn the trust and respect of the broader world. We need to craft research that is more accessible and …

Understanding Postmodern Conservatism: A Reply To Aaron Hanlon

“Truth is Not Truth” ~Rudy Giuliani, Meet the Press, August 20, 2018 On August 31, the Washington Post published an interesting opinion piece entitled “Postmodernism Didn’t Cause Trump. It Explains Him” by Professor Aaron Hanlon, an Assistant Professor of English at Colby College. In his article, Professor Hanlon referred to my May 17 article for Quillette, “The Rise and Emergence of Postmodern Conservatism” as an example of a prominent tendency on to “blame” postmodernism for the rise of Trumpism. Hanlon describes this tendency at length midway through the article. I will quote him in full to avoid misrepresenting his position: Today, critics on both Left and Right are happy to wave their fingers at postmodern theory, so long as they can blame it for the Trump electorate’s unprecedented disregard for the truth. In Quillette—an online magazine obsessed with the evils of ‘critical theory’ and postmodernism—Matt McManus reflects on “The Emergence and Rise of Postmodern Conservatism.” From the Right, David Ernst contends that “Trump Is The First President To Turn Postmodernism Against Itself .” And from the Left, Kakutani recently wrote in the Guardian: “Relativism has …

In Defence of Critical Legal Theory: A Reply to Andrew Kelman

I read Andrew Kelman’s recent Quillette article “Beyond All Warnings: The Radical Assault on Truth in Law” with interest and some appreciation. Kelman characterises his article as an attack on ‘critical legal theory.’ Invoking Jordan Peterson, Kelman connects the emergence of critical legal theory in the law school with the broader academic fad of what Peterson has called “postmodern neo-Marxism.” These relativistic philosophies, Kelman argues, have undermined the belief that there can be neutrality and truth in any field, including the law. Drawing on postmodern philosophy, critical legal theorists and their followers, convinced that all law is about power, seek to use the legal system to redistribute power to those groups they feel have been traditionally marginalised in society. "Conservatives and classical liberals must unite to find a new way to end bigotry without the tribalism of extremist identity politics…Twenty years of increasing corruption in the law has passed, and we are now beyond all warnings." https://t.co/g5DyGRV32m — AndrewKelman (@TheUKDemocrat) April 3, 2018 Kelman argues that the influence of critical legal theorists has been pernicious. Under …

Deliberation Not Boundaries: A Reply to Wessie du Toit

In a Quillette piece entitled “Does Free Speech Need Boundaries to Survive?”, writer Wessie du Toit presents a case against what might be called free speech absolutism; that is, the position that no boundaries should ever be imposed on expression. In what follows, I will make a radical case for free speech absolutism, that goes beyond merely defending the principle. Let’s begin with du Toit’s own arguments. He makes a compelling case as to why we might have reached, or at least be approaching, the point at which liberal institutions are threatened by free speech: It wouldn’t be misleading to say that the greatest threat to free speech today comes from free speech itself. In particular, it comes from the sheer volume and chaotic nature of that speech. The current polarization of politics is rooted in an endless, sprawling argument about values taking place online – an argument that is now spilling over into demonstrations, acts of violence, and other culturally charged spectacles. He further explains how this poses a problem for free speech absolutism: …