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Philosopher of science Massimo Pigliucci on the new ideas-challenged campuses

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We have sometimes followed philosopher of science Massimo Pigliucci.*

For example: Cosmologist Sean Carroll would retire falsifiability as a science idea. Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci defends it.


Pigliucci Responds to deGrasse Tyson on Philosophy

Pigliucci seems to think for himself. He was one of the Altenberg 16, who want to move past tenured, textbook Darwinism to look at what really happens with evolution.

Pos-Darwinista writes to say that he has been making some political noises as well recently:

Politics isn’t really our thing here, but if you hear about him in this context, yes, it’s the same guy. He’s concerned about free speech shutdowns on campus:

Another example is this year’s shutting down of four commencement speakers at different colleges, because of students’ protests. They were Condoleezza Rice at Rutgers, Robert Birgeneau at Haverford College, Christine Lagarde at Smith College, and Mike Johnston at Harvard. Josh Kamensky even wrote an article in defense of the shutdowns, entirely un-ironically entitled “Students at Four Colleges Have Shut Down Their Commencement Speakers. It’s a Victory for Free Speech” [5]. Now, I am not a fan of Rice and her role in the Bush-II administration, nor of many policies of the International Monetary Fund directed by Lagarde. And I despise Birgeneau’s approach as Chancellor of UC-Berkeley, which included the endorsement of the use of batons on campus protestors; as for Johnston, he is famous for advocating the much dreaded “test-driven” education reform, which I also think is a politically motivated blunder. Oh, and yes, I do find Rice’s turning down of a speaker’s fee of merely $35,000 downright outrageous. But I don’t think pressuring speakers and universities to cancel the events in question was the right way to go about it. (And I’m not the only one: see, for instance, Timothy Egan in The New York Times [6] and Isaac Chotiner in The New Republic [7] — not exactly Fox News-type outlets.)

And then there is the issue of triggering. That’s an increasingly invoked practice on campuses whereby faculty are supposed to include “trigger warnings” in their syllabi, to alert students that they may be talking about something that, for one reason or another, the students may find disturbing. Now, there are some legitimate concerns in specific cases. If a student has being seriously traumatized — say in case of rape, or shell shock from having been in a war situation — then it is possible that talk or exposure to visual material concerning similar circumstances may generate an emotionally charged reaction. But that seems to me to be on par with students who have any other type of medical or psychological condition and require special attention. Universities already have procedures in place for such cases, whereby the student contacts the appropriate service office on campus, who then alerts the faculty to the problem and suggests ways to handle it.

Lest you think my position is narrow minded and conservative on this, a number of humanities faculty from “gender/sexuality studies, critical race studies, film and visual studies, literary studies, and cognate fields” (they had to state their liberal credentials upfront, or else) co-signed a poignant letter on why Trigger Warnings Are Flawed, published in Inside Higher Education [9], where they wrote: “We are currently watching our colleagues receive phone calls from deans and other administrators investigating student complaints that they have included ‘triggering’ material in their courses, with or without warnings. We feel that this movement is already having a chilling effect on our teaching and pedagogy.” They go on listing ten problems with trigger warnings, as well as a number of reasonable alternatives to deal with the issue.

And more. You get the picture.

It’s painful to watch a guy who thinks for himself so carefully defend his right to do so. He has such difficulty calling the new “Shut up, they explained” culture what it is: Mediocrities with tenure, thugs in office, and cowards on the Board.

Why can’t he just say what transparently needs to be said: Young people who cannot handle opposing or distressing ideas should not be at a university. There are lots of useful and rewarding things we can do with our lives without interfering with the right of others to pursue the life of the mind—which they are capable of even if we aren’t.

Question: Does acceptance vs. rejection of philosophical naturalism play a role in the fact that I find that easy to think and say, but he doesn’t? Just wondering. – O’Leary for News

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One Reply to “Philosopher of science Massimo Pigliucci on the new ideas-challenged campuses

  1. 1
    Truthfreedom says:

    Bernardo Kastrup refers to coyne as the: “dim-witted biologist”. I totally agree 🙂

    He also says something about coyne’s illiteracy (philosophically speaking, of course):

    “This is one of those embarrassing passages in which Jerry Berry unwittingly makes painfully clear to the whole world the depths of his philosophical ignorance”.

    Worth every paragraph.
    Dim-witted biologist: consciousness is accidental.

    Thanks “News”!

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