I long ago decided that academic conferences are a waste of my precious time. Philosophy (my discipline) is a written medium. One reads; one writes. All of my lecturing takes place in the classroom, where it might do some good. I have no interest in lecturing to, or even talking to, other philosophers. I do enjoy reading philosophy, but I read slowly, carefully, and with pen in hand. I can stop when I want, think when I want, make notes when I want, even put the essay down and come back to it later, after I've had a chance to digest what I've read. ThisNew York Times op-ed column made me chuckle. Evidently, other academics are coming around to my view.
Addendum: Imagine the cost to the environment of all these academics flying around. There is no earthly reason, in 2015, for people to be getting together physically, when they can get together virtually. Use e-mail. Use a telephone. Use Skype, FaceTime, or GoToMeeting. Make a YouTube video. Descartes and Hobbes didn't need to get together physically to exchange ideas, and look what happened when Hume and Rousseau did get together physically. I rest my case.
Re “Open Up the Court” (Op-Ed, April 24), by Jonathan Sherman, calling on the Supreme Court to open its oral arguments to cameras:
The justices harbor several reasons for refusing to let all but a lucky few hear and see the arguments live. One of the silliest is that the average person would get the wrong impression about the arguments’ importance, failing to appreciate that the written legal briefs are vital, perhaps more vital.
One cure would be for the chief justice to state this truth from the bench, inviting members of the public to read the briefs themselves. If the justices are unwilling to act on their own, Congress can and should legislate that these proceedings shall be open.
JOHN P. MacKENZIE
Long Island City, Queens
The writer is a former Supreme Court reporter for The Washington Post and a former member of The New York Times’s editorial board.
The Supreme Court of the United States will issue a ruling this summer on the constitutionality of state laws (statutes and constitutional provisions) that limit marriage to one man and one woman. The other day, someone on a reputable website (I've forgotten which) wrote, fearfully, that the Court may invalidate existing marriages between two men or two women (in states that allow it). This reflects a degree of ignorance that is shocking. Let me explain.
The issues before the Court are as follows (I take the language from the Court's website):
Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?
Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?
Presumably, if the Court answers the first question affirmatively, then it will also answer the second question affirmatively; but the Court may answer the second question affirmatively while answering the first question negatively. In other words, states such as Texas may be required to recognize homosexual "marriages" completed in other states, but not be required to issue such licenses themselves. I'm not saying this will happen; I'm saying it's a coherent outcome. The Court might use the Full Faith and Credit Clause of Article IV to effect this result.
In no event will any existing marriages be invalidated. If the Court answers the first question in the affirmative, then every state will have to allow homosexual "marriage." If the Court answers the first question in the negative, however, then every state will be allowed to do as it pleases with regard to marriage. States such as Massachusetts, which currently allow homosexual "marriages," will be able to continue allowing them. States such as Texas, which currently do not allow homosexual "marriages," will be able to continue disallowing them.
I hope that helps.
Addendum: For those who are curious, I enclose "marriage" in quotation marks in the expression "homosexual 'marriage'" for the same reason I would say "artificial 'person'" or "married 'bachelor'." Calling something a marriage doesn't make it a marriage, any more than calling something a person makes it a person or calling something a bachelor makes it a bachelor. The law may decree that two men or two women are married to one another, with all the rights and responsibilities that that status implies, but it can't force citizens to accept such relationships or to describe them as "marriages." Thank God we still have the right to think and speak as we please and to associate with whomever we please.
Addendum 2: Suppose the Supreme Court of the United States answers the first question in the negative, which would allow states to do as they please (as far as the United States Constitution is concerned). States, no less than the federal government, have constitutions. The Supreme Court of Texas, for example, may well rule that the Texas Constitution requires officials of the state of Texas "to license a marriage between two people of the same sex." This is true even if the state constitution in question contains language defining "marriage" as the union of one man and one woman, as the Texas Constitution in fact does (see Section 32 here). The state supreme court may conclude that the state's Equal Protection Clause (see Section 3a here) overrides the state's constitutional marriage provision.
Official stances compromise a university’s ability to produce unbiased research. Would you trust a paper on the risks of abortion from a Catholic school? After Stanford’s divestment from coal companies, will its work on climate change be viewed as research or advocacy? If a school divests from Israel, could its faculty conduct unbiased study of the Middle East? If universities become advocacy organizations, they will lose their place as trusted research laboratories.
The other day, as you may recall, I expressed frustration that I couldn't figure out the chords of Peter Frampton's song "Nowhere's Too Far (For My Baby)." Thanks to the man in this video, I got it. The key is to tune the guitar differently. I was reluctant to do this, thinking that there must be a way to play the song in standard tuning, but perhaps Frampton himself uses nonstandard tuning. In any event, it sounds great! I wish there had been an Internet the first time I learned guitar, because it would have made things much easier. Better late than never, I guess. By the way, the song will sound better on electric guitar than it does on acoustic. I have a Gibson SG, but I don't want to get it out of its coffin, I mean case. I want a new Les Paul!
Some discomfort is inevitable in classrooms if the goal is to expose students to new ideas, have them question beliefs they have taken for granted, grapple with ethical problems they have never considered, and, more generally, expand their horizons so as to become informed and responsible democratic citizens. Trigger warnings suggest that classrooms should offer protection and comfort rather than an intellectually challenging education. They reduce students to vulnerable victims rather than full participants in the intellectual process of education. The effect is to stifle thought on the part of both teachers and students who fear to raise questions that might make others “uncomfortable.”
Note from KBJ: It's heartening to see a principled position by the AAUP, or indeed by any college or university professor. For at least 50 years, professors have delighted in forcing their students to "question beliefs they [the students] have taken for granted." In most cases, the beliefs being questioned were religious in nature; but many students were led to believe that something was wrong with them if they accepted traditional values, practices, or institutions, such as marriage, the nuclear family, and faith in God. I'm sure some professors today would like to coddle the poor little babies who cry about having to read or discuss topics that make them uncomfortable, but many, evidently, think the coddling has gone too far. Good for them! If you're not making your students squirm, you're not doing your job.
For the many dissident psychologists who have been calling for accountability and reform at the American Psychological Association for years, your article comes as a bittersweet revelation.
Ever since the A.P.A. first began tinkering with its ethics regulations over a decade ago to provide loopholes allowing American psychologists to work in torture chambers, principled A.P.A. members and other activist psychologists have been demanding an end to the moral corruption at the organization that purports to represent our profession.
Licensed psychologists have a duty to “do no harm” and to promote human health and the public good. The fact that leaders of a national health professional association blithely traded that duty for access to power and privilege is an unprecedented ethical scandal of the highest degree. One can hope that with this new report we will finally see an end to the corruption embedded at the top of the A.P.A.—and that the United States will never again engage in torture as part of official policy.
YOSEF BRODY President Psychologists for Social Responsibility Brooklyn
Note from KBJ:Torture, no; abortion, yes. This organization, which is thoroughly politicized (to the left), is a joke. No wonder its membership is plummeting.
A blog should be fun and serious by turns. Goodness knows this blog is often serious. Here's a new feature that should be fun for everyone. Each Saturday, starting today, I will provide a word and ask readers for song titles that contain that word. Don't use a search engine. The point is to tap your musical memory. For example, I can think of several songs, right now, that contain the word "captain." Here is one of them (a song, by the way, that I love):