Friday, July 21, 2017

Is It Time To Start A New American Philosophical Association That Is Not The American Philosophical Association?

Reading the APA's "Good Practices Guide" makes me wonder whether it is--time for a new organization, I mean. The APA now seems to be primarily interested in promoting "progressive" political and social ideas rather than promoting...y'know...philosophy. The thing really is a mess, but I'm not going to get into it in detail now. Given its strong commitment to ideas that are clustered on the left end of the intellectual / political / social spectrum, the committee had to realize that a large percentage of the membership of the APA would disagree with a whole lot of it. I'm not sure why anyone would produce something so committed to such a particular, partisan set of ideas, knowing their unpopularity, if they didn't intend to try to ram the thing through and impose those ideas on those who disagree. Such an effort would likely be successful since a pall has fallen over discussions of such things, and many people are hesitant to disagree with ideas on the left for fear of being viewed as or called some version/complex of *-ist or *-phobic.
   The thing--which someone on the Metaforum has called The Miss Manners Guide To The Profession--actually contains the following paragraphs, which I just grabbed as the first laughable passage(s) I could find quickly:
Departments should discuss the value of promoting drinking in moderation at departmental social events. Steps that could be taken include limiting the number of drinks per person through the distribution of drink tickets; limiting the length of the event; and limiting the amount of alcohol served. 
Some institutions have taken the step of requiring that, at events where alcohol is served, a member of the department with training in good practices with regard to alcohol must be present. Such individuals can also be designated as persons to whom any concerns about alcohol-related behavior at the event could be communicated.
Obviously it's not that I have anything...much...against drinking in moderation. What seems laughable to me is the idea that the damned APA has any business taking a position on such things or telling people what it would allegedly be good for them to do in this respect. And "trained in good practices with regard to alcohol"????? Jesus Christ. It's really a bit difficult to believe that this isn't a joke. Then there are the bits about safe spaces at conferences... (Not making that up.) Not to mention that an entire section/chapter of the thing (of eight) is devoted to the quasipseudoscience of implicit bias. No objective person could seriously suggest that given the state of the discussion. If there were any doubt that it's a partisan document, the inclusion of that chapter alone would answer them. 
   The thing is seventy-seven pages long--seventy-seven pages of micromanagement of everything from what one should discuss in class to how much one should drink at departmental events. It includes quite a bit of material that seems to be intended to turn philosophy instructors into psychological counselors for their students. It deems innumerable things to be "good practice" that are very not good--e.g. choosing material for class on the basis of the biological characteristics of the authors. The thing would better be called something like An Attempt to Impose Early Twenty-First Century Obsessions Of The Left On The Formerly Noble (Or At Least Not-Completely-Shitty) Profession of Philosophy. 
   At any rate, the whole thing has made me wonder whether it might not be best for philosophy to go its own way, leaving politicized quasi-philosophy / social criticism / political activism to do as it will with the A"P"A. But I've got actual work to do now, so more on that later.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you considered working with others to elect officers to APA who share your concerns about the direction of the organization?

5:34 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah that, of course, is the less radical route. There does seem to have been some half-hearted rallying against the very worst candidates in the last election--and the the seemingly worst ones lost. So it's probably foolish to be considering the more radical solution at this point.

8:09 AM  

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