Thursday, April 20, 2017

From the post following the one linked below.
Among the weirder allegations I've seen on Facebook as to why philosophers shouldn't read the book is that Kipnis doesn't understand the difference between sex and rape. This is an absurd fabrication, and was not, of course, supported with any textual evidence. But it is a good indication that Hellie is on to something here about how desperate some of those involved in the initial witchhunt are feeling about the world at large now knowing how reckless some vocal members of the "profession" were.
"profession" in scare quotes. I'm not sure Leiter understands the implication.
---

From Rickles to Kipnis
NY Times on the Kipnis book
This is a rather apt appraisal:
Kipnis has now written a book, “Unwanted Advances,” about feminism, relationship statecraft and the shadow world of Title IX investigations. It is invigorating and irritating, astute and facile, rigorous and flippant, fair-minded and score-settling, practical and hyperbolic, and maybe a dozen other neurotically contradictory things. Above all else, though, “Unwanted Advances” is necessary. Argue with the author, by all means. But few people have taken on the excesses of university culture with the brio that Kipnis has.
What is significant about the book for the academic community in philosophy is that--its occasional glibness and fascination with its own meta-narrative about alleged "sexual paranoia" on campus aside--it sets out in compelling detail two recent injustices against now-former members of the community of employed philosophers, David Barnett and Peter Ludlow. It was always clear, at least to me, that Barnett had been wrongfully treated; the Ludlow case was less clear to me, at least until I read this book and had an opportunity to read the depositions in the lawsuit brought by the undergraduate.
Kipnis has a BFA from The San Francisco Art Institute, an MFA from The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and is a veteran of the Whitney ISP.  The first is famous as a free-for-all, the second as a center for "conceptual art", art as philosophical/political illustration, in the 70s, and the third along the same lines, mixing puritanical politics and careerism in an art world finishing school. 30 years ago a visiting artist guest speaker was attacked for casting sculptures in bronze, considered a male medium.

I used George Kuchar for the SFAI link; this fits too (I thought I'd written more about him) and this one as well.

Kipnis
You have to feel a little sorry these days for professors married to their former students. They used to be respectable citizens —leaders in their fields, department chairs, maybe even a dean or two—and now they’re abusers of power avant la lettre. I suspect you can barely throw a stone on most campuses around the country without hitting a few of these neo-miscreants. Who knows what coercions they deployed back in the day to corral those students into submission; at least that’s the fear evinced by today’s new campus dating policies. And think how their kids must feel! A friend of mine is the offspring of such a coupling—does she look at her father a little differently now, I wonder.
Compare
In 1992 I was chairman of the History Department at New York University—where I was also the only unmarried straight male under sixty. A combustible blend: prominently displayed on the board outside my office was the location and phone number of the university’s Sexual Harassment Center. History was a fast-feminizing profession, with a graduate community primed for signs of discrimination—or worse. Physical contact constituted a presumption of malevolent intention; a closed door was proof positive.

Shortly after I took office, a second-year graduate student came by. A former professional ballerina interested in Eastern Europe, she had been encouraged to work with me. I was not teaching that semester, so could have advised her to return another time. Instead, I invited her in. After a closed-door discussion of Hungarian economic reforms, I suggested a course of independent study—beginning the following evening at a local restaurant. A few sessions later, in a fit of bravado, I invited her to the premiere of Oleanna—David Mamet’s lame dramatization of sexual harassment on a college campus.

How to explain such self-destructive behavior? What delusional universe was mine, to suppose that I alone could pass untouched by the punitive prudery of the hour—that the bell of sexual correctness would not toll for me? I knew my Foucault as well as anyone and was familiar with Firestone, Millett, Brownmiller, Faludi, e tutte quante.1 To say that the girl had irresistible eyes and that my intentions were…unclear would avail me nothing. My excuse? Please Sir, I’m from the ‘60s.

...So how did I elude the harassment police, who surely were on my tail as I surreptitiously dated my bright-eyed ballerina?

Reader: I married her.
Leiter quoting the NYT again
...invigorating and irritating, astute and facile, rigorous and flippant, fair-minded and score-settling, practical and hyperbolic, and maybe a dozen other neurotically contradictory things. Above all else, though, “Unwanted Advances” is necessary.
As opposed to the vast number of books written by "professional philosophers" that are both un-contradictory and unnecessary.

I've assumed the worst about Ludlow because I assume the worst about academic pedants. That applies to his accuser just as easily. Kipnis on the other hand is a bit of a libertine. That's where she got her start. The politics of libertinism is problematic at best, at worst of course it's fascist.
As an aside, I'll add that Adam Lindemann in June is showing new paintings by Michel Houellebecq).

As a coda... Here's George.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

"Ebony and Ivory" over the closing credits

Two in a row

"So was Mr. Rickles a bigot or a mensch? The truth, probably, is that he was both."
...It seems as if the liberal program of attempting to shame and berate people into being more open-minded and tolerant may have backfired. Listening to interviews with Donald Trump’s supporters during his once-implausible rise, I was struck by how many of them mentioned that they admire that “he’s not politically correct.” This was often a not-unbreakable code for saying he was a refreshingly unapologetic bigot. But it’s still worth noticing that apparently telling people they’re not allowed to say certain things or feel certain ways, that their opinions aren’t just incorrect but morally wrong, does not, after all, make them better people; it makes them hate your guts.

“You’re black, I’m white,” Mr. Rickles said to an audience member. “It’s the breaks.” This line is a direct ancestor of a Louis C. K. bit: “I’m not saying white people are better — I’m saying that being white is clearly better.” The comic duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, who have rhetorical dispensation to be funny about such things by virtue of being biracial, like to palpate the touchiest spots in the American racial psyche — playing two upscale yuppies trying out out-black each other at a soul food restaurant by ordering items like cellar doors and human feet, or slaves on the auction block getting increasingly touchy and peeved as they keep not selling. Laughter is a saner, more restorative response to the world’s injustice than self-righteous scolding.

Mr. Rickles’s show that night was weirdly schizoid, alternating between snapping epithets and waxing sentimental about how he loves to make people laugh, his deep love for his mother and Frank Sinatra. The official line was that Mr. Rickles’s pit-bull hostility was a stage persona; his real-life personality was legendarily warm and generous. Of course his insults would never have been funny if he’d actually meant them — his persona is a parody. (Contrast that with alt-right iconoclasts like Milo Yiannopoulos, who confuse authentic bigotry and cruelty with humor.) But all that anger, even if it’s an act, must come from somewhere.

So was Mr. Rickles a bigot or a mensch? The truth, probably, is that he was both. We all are, albeit most of us not in such cartoonishly binary form. Maybe trying to stifle and disown the former makes the latter more brittle and false, more of an act. And maybe it’s venting the former persona onstage, as it were, set off from real life by the quotation marks of humor, that allows us to be more genuinely decent.
It was inevitable that someone would come to play the role Key and Peele are playing.
Can a film be too inflammatory for its own good, or are there times, and places, when only fire will suffice? In an interview with the Times, Peele, whose mother is white, admitted that the movie was originally intended “to combat the lie that America had become post-racial,” and the result is like an all-out attack on a rainbow. Short of making us listen to “Ebony and Ivory” over the closing credits, “Get Out” could hardly be more provocative. There’s a scene with a head-stamping, a scene with an exposed brain, and a truly creepy scene with a bowl of Froot Loops. And yet, despite all that, what makes this horror film horrific is the response that it gives to the well-meaning and problem-solving question “Can’t we just learn to live together?” To which the movie answers, loud and clear, “No.”
"Short of making us listen to 'Ebony and Ivory' over the closing credits"
Black comedy for white people isn't new. Black comedy for white people, directed at white people, is.


Leiter contra Rickles
Not "freedom of speech," but "freedom of [specific kinds of] expression" 
Philosopher Robert Simpson (Monash) comments.
(Thanks to Jerry Dworkin for the pointer.)
I've mocked Leiter for his defense of hate speech laws, and I've mocked others for obliviousness to racism -Christakis et al. never have defended speech they themselves found offensive- but I never caught the obvious point that Leiter is the one academic pundit I know of who both opposes freedom of speech and mocks the fragility that follows from his preference.

Another older link from Leiter.
A year ago I received an invitation from the head of Counseling Services at a major university to join faculty and administrators for discussions about how to deal with the decline in resilience among students. At the first meeting, we learned that emergency calls to Counseling had more than doubled over the past five years. Students are increasingly seeking help for, and apparently having emotional crises over, problems of everyday life. Recent examples mentioned included a student who felt traumatized because her roommate had called her a “bitch” and two students who had sought counseling because they had seen a mouse in their off-campus apartment. The latter two also called the police, who kindly arrived and set a mousetrap for them.
The last paragraph on Rickles again
So was Mr. Rickles a bigot or a mensch? The truth, probably, is that he was both. We all are, albeit most of us not in such cartoonishly binary form. Maybe trying to stifle and disown the former makes the latter more brittle and false, more of an act. And maybe it’s venting the former persona onstage, as it were, set off from real life by the quotation marks of humor, that allows us to be more genuinely decent.
My old description and defense of "expressive" speech as honesty, not just as the best policy for speakers but also strengthening the resilience of an audience, requirements for the burdens of self-government. It's important not to be protected from knowledge of the world.

We live in bubbles that only others can burst. Arguments otherwise by comparison, are brittle and false.