Intellectual exploration with Twitter trolls

Peter Boghossian has quit his job at Portland State University and published his resignation letter on Bari Weiss’s Substack.

Peter Boghossian has taught philosophy at Portland State University for the past decade. In the letter below, sent this morning to the university’s provost, he explains why he is resigning.

He’s taught it even though it’s not his field. He has an EdD, a doctorate in education. I’ve never really understood why he gets to teach philosophy at a university without the usual advanced degree.

Anyway, his point is, he’s dedicated to free inquiry and he likes to invite speakers with all kinds of views to his classes so that the students can learn to think and question.

But brick by brick, the university has made this kind of intellectual exploration impossible. It has transformed a bastion of free inquiry into a Social Justice factory whose only inputs were race, gender, and victimhood and whose only outputs were grievance and division.

Students at Portland State are not being taught to think. Rather, they are being trained to mimic the moral certainty of ideologues. Faculty and administrators have abdicated the university’s truth-seeking mission and instead drive intolerance of divergent beliefs and opinions. This has created a culture of offense where students are now afraid to speak openly and honestly. 

There’s probably a lot of truth in that, but Boghossian isn’t just a Socratic asker of provocative questions.

Meanwhile, ideological intolerance continued to grow at Portland State. In March 2018, a tenured professor disrupted a public discussion I was holding with author Christina Hoff Sommers and evolutionary biologists Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying. In June 2018, someone triggered the fire alarm during my conversation with popular cultural critic Carl Benjamin. In October 2018, an activist pulled out the speaker wires to interrupt a panel with former Google engineer James Damore. The university did nothing to stop or address this behavior. No one was punished or disciplined. 

As an aside, it’s funny that he calls Christina Hoff Sommers an “author” when she, unlike him, has an actual PhD in philosophy. Much more centrally, calling Carl Benjamin “popular cultural critic” is highly misleading. Benjamin is better known as Sargon of Akkad, a misogynist Twitter bully. He’s the one who “jokingly” threatened to rape MP Jess Phillips. He’s basically a professional misogynist, and the fact that Boghossian covered that up with “popular cultural critic” tells me he doesn’t believe his own self-advertising.

In short the story isn’t quite as simple as he says.

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