Two Frameworthy Statements
Here’s the one I wanted to comment on no matter what. In a discussion of that perennially popular subject, why are there so few conservative academics. I simply wanted to point out (actually I want to frame in gold leaf, and embroider, and carve in stone, and issue in a limited edition with illuminated initials and gold binding) this comment, which pretty much sums up a lot of what B&W is about and what prompted it in the first place:
The labels ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ take on new and peculiar meanings in Academia. For instance, I believe in affirmative action, increasing taxes on the rich, socialized medicine, I am pro-legalized abortion, hold Christianity to be institutionalized ignorance, and donate to the ACLU. In all you could say I am pretty left wing. Except when I was a grad-student in Classics. Then I was called at various times a Nazi, a Fascist, compared to the French Aristocracy prior to the revolution, and labelled ‘arch-conservative’ more than once. Why? I rejected relativism, ridiculed deconstructionism, was in favor of the traditional Canon as core reading in the Humanities, had the audacity to point out the many egregious historical errors that certain Black Studies and Women’s Studies professors made (the former blatantly making stuff up about Egypt, the latter Crete). I also ‘proved’ I was a right-winger by explaining the etymology of the word ‘history’, after someone used the term ‘herstory.’ Intellectual conservatism and political conservatism are quite different things.
There it is. The day the left became associated with anti-rationalism and left rationalism to conservatives – that was one bad day.
It’s fascinating to see Stanley Fish saying something similar. I don’t know if this is a clarification or a change of views. I had thought he was a fairly Rortyish (or do I mean Rortyesque) pragmatist, but this doesn’t seem very Rortyesque:
It’s hard to see how anyone who believes (as I do) that academic work is distinctive in its aims and goals and that its distinctiveness must be protected from political pressures (either external or internal) could find anything to disagree with here. Everything follows from the statement that the pursuit of truth is a — I would say the — central purpose of the university. For the serious embrace of that purpose precludes deciding what the truth is in advance, or ruling out certain accounts of the truth before they have been given a hearing, or making evaluations of those accounts turn on the known or suspected political affiliations of those who present them.
But either way, it’s a very eloquent statement of a very important point. Where is that gold leaf…