What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

On This APA Business, Help Me Out

Presumably, not having attended graduate school, I exist in a shadowland of ignorance on these matters, hence the perplexity which leads to my inquiry. But suppose that I had attended graduate school, and had earned all of the requisite degrees, with a specialization in political philosophy; suppose further that I had sought positions at a number of institutions, and that the one most interested in my application was dominated by Rawlsians in political philosophy (nothing against Rawls or Rawlsians per se; it's just an example); suppose, finally, that I was not a Rawlsian - and whether I agreed with Nozick, Kekes, or Cohen as against Rawls was immaterial. Would it be licit for the institution, upon an interview, to decline my application, expressly on the grounds that they'd prefer their political philosophy program to be preserved as a warren of Rawlsian scholasticism? That I was not, in view of my differences in philosophical convictions, a good fit?

I should say, in closing, that I've some experience with such tensions between faculty and institutional imperatives, as my first faculty adviser was canned for publishing an anthology of feminist philosophy, in contravention of the institution's guidelines for faculty academic publishing.

Any insight that might dispel my perplexity will be welcomed.

Comments (8)

I think most philosophers don't think it would be licit, although David Lewis famously argued that one criterion for faculty hiring should be whether their views are true.

Again, I have no relevant experience, but I am fundamentally dubious that hiring decisions such as the one in my hypothetical don't happen. There is nothing necessarily invidious about it; a department or program has a certain character, almost everyone knows this, and that's just the way it is. Such an such an institution is the place to go, if you want to study X from perspective A.

To sharpen the question, if there is a program in GLBT studies, is someone who repudiates the very premise of the program permitted to teach under its auspices?

Well, I almost hesitate to say it, but I probably ought to before someone from the Leiter side says it:

According to the debate that took place at the APA before they put the new policy into place, the policy in no way prevents a school (say, a Christian school) from requiring--not just informally as in your hypothetical, but actually formally--adherence to a statement of faith *and practice* according to which homosexual acts are morally wrong. Got that?

Weird, right?

Okay, but here's the deal: According to that discussion (which I understand took place publically between Peter van Inwagon and Norcross), and according to later interpretation given to it by PVI himself, the institutions _still_ couldn't discriminate on the basis of a faculty member's _engaging in_ homosexual practice. They could require him to sign a statement that he believes it to be wrong, but they couldn't fire him for engaging in this activity that he has said is morally wrong.

This is, of course, crazy. As our commentator Tony pointed out in a previous thread, this is supposedly all about having an "integrated" life, living in a way that has one's orientation integrated with one's actions. But this envisaged scenario involves people's being anything but "integrated," in fact, having anything but _integrity_, as they engage in manifest acts of bad faith in signing such a statement while living a homosexual lifestyle. But the school can't do anything about it. So much for being integrated.

You can see, though, the disanalogy with your hypothetical, Maximos. Because of this so-called "loophole" (which I think is insulting and worse than pointless), those supporting the APA's policy can argue that in no way are they trying to stop a religious institution from having a certain _intellectual_ character or bent in terms of the things people are supposed to believe.

Well, sort of. Except that they would be showing that they didn't really believe it if...

You get the picture. But it makes it hard to come up with a hypothetical analogy of the sort you're talking about in terms of a "departmental emphasis" or "institutional beliefs" or whatever.

No, it's not easy to devise an exact analogy, but we can come fairly close with the statement of faith I was required to sign when admitted to my school, and the statement on academic work that my adviser no doubt signed when he was hired. For my part, I was required to affirm that nutty evangelical doctrine of Dispen(sen)sationalism, and so I signed the statement with mental reservations, and promptly conducted my Christian life as befitting a non-dispen(sen)sationalist: criticizing the doctrine and attending churches where it was not only not taught, but actively opposed. The analogy would be: the school can require that one affirm such a doctrinal statement, but can never act upon any actions indicating that the signatory has transgressed it. Which I did. The entire logic of the thing was that I could be expelled for violating it.

And if your actions were at all commonplace, _or_ if the school had to abide by some rule according to which it _could not_ discipline you under those circumstances, then the school's identity as a dispensationalist school was pretty much a lot of baloney--it no longer had such an identity. That's obviously a much more problematic situation where we are talking about a school's _Christian_ identity (complete with traditional Christian moral standards) than about its "dispensationalist identity," which none of us particularly cares about.

But I would say that if the school wanted to have a dispensationalist identity, that's up to the school. I wouldn't start trying to mark their ads or something. :-)

I fully agree, in the case of Dispen(sen)sationalism, which is simply not worth preserving in any form. I'll only note that it rendered the search for philosophers exceedingly arduous. It was relatively easy to find qualified Catholics/Thomists, and adherents to one or another of the Reformed churches, but they couldn't sign that doctrinal statement in good faith.

But is not integrity another category under which people can be hired or fired? If somebody acts in a way contradictory to their professed beliefs then how can you know they will uphold principles of fair grading and mutual respect between students and faculty? When you can't trust a person's word then you can't work with them. You can't let them represent your institution. How do you not fire them?

Yes, Randy, that was my point too. But apparently the APA doesn't care about integrity, they only use the notion of "integrated" life as a club, not with - you know - intellectual integrity.

Post a comment

Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.