An abnormal moral context

Justin Weinberg at Daily Nous, part 2:

There did not appear to be many such calls to pull the interview, though. This is not to suggest that a certain number of such calls, itself, is sufficient reason to pull an interview, but it does speak, perhaps, to concerns editor and owner Andrew Gallix might have about the survival of his publication.

Besides the feedback on social media, four of the magazine’s editorial board members resigned in protest of the publication of the interview. [Update: they are Eley Williams, David Winters, Hestia Peppe, and Joanna Walsh; for those curious, none of the four is an academic philosopher.]

So four members of the editorial board resigned in protest of the not-silencing of Holly Lawford-Smith.

It would be a significant loss to the philosophical community if this led to the end of Marshall’s interview series, which has included philosophically substantive conversations with an incredibly wide range of philosophers. Marshall has been with 3:AM for 19 of its 20 years in existence. In an email, he writes that he has had “absolute freedom” to conduct and edit his interviews as he sees fit and won’t continue “if I can’t guarantee that when I publish it it will remain published no matter what the response.”

It’s interesting that he had that freedom for 19 years and lost it over this.

Someone (I’m sorry I’ve forgotten who, or where)* recently borrowed Cheshire Calhoun‘s idea of an “abnormal moral context” to characterize the current public understanding of various matters related to transgender persons. In her essay, “Moral Failure,” Calhoun describes an abnormal moral context as one in which “some segment of a society produces advances in moral knowledge that outrun the social mechanisms for disseminating and normalizing that knowledge in the society as a whole.” In these circumstances, there is a gap between “what from a (presumably) advantaged epistemic position is viewed as the right thing to do” and what everyone else thinks. “The gap, of course, will be obvious only to those who take themselves to be reasoning from a more advanced, socially critical point of view.” Those who act on this “more advanced” view Calhoun calls “moral resisters.”

Of course. We know that. It’s Owen Jones constantly saying we’re “on the wrong side of history.” There’s a pattern, which we’ve noticed many times: people tend to be morally blind to a lot of stuff they should see. John Stuart Mill was considered loony for writing The Subjection of Women. Abolitionists were considered dangerously loony by almost everyone. Post-abolition racism and legalized slavery (vagrancy laws and the like) were taken for granted. Lesbians and gays were considered freaks. But, you know…both can be true. We can be morally blind until a new generation of radicals takes our blinders off, and some new generations of radicals can be just wrong (anti-vaxxers, recovered memory apostles, Goop fans). Trans ideology could be the latest form of awakening, or it could be the latest blind alley of bullshit and magical thinking.

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