6.7.15

BECLOWNING-BY-OVERTHINKING.

It is a long-maintained position of mine that institutions evolve to conserve on transaction costs, which means that a lot of what people who should know better describe as unearned privilege those conventions that facilitate cooperation.  Sometimes, though, those people might not even know better.
Given its emphasis on first principles and abstract thought, it may be tempting to view academic philosophy as a turf where the race of participants matters little, but [Syracuse philosophy professor John] Caputo says that’s entirely untrue. In fact, race is of central importance, and it’s proven by the mundane phrases philosophers use.
At Daily Caller and College Insurrection, it's just more evidence of the Perpetually Aggrieved saying silly things.  Or perhaps it's evidence of the thin-ness of philosophy's research program (unlike medicine or parts of mathematics and economics, there may be no opportunities to do original research within a Kuhnian paradigm -- but the day after a long weekend, I'm not going to overthink this.)

Besides, why look for a complex explanation when a simple explanation will do.  Take this Opinionator conversation (please!) out of the New York Times.  Here's Professor Caputo, abasing himself engaging in constructive self-criticism.
“White” is of the utmost relevance to philosophy, and postmodern theory helps us to see why. I was once criticized for using the expression “true north.” It reflected my Nordo-centrism, my critic said, and my insensitivity to people who live in the Southern Hemisphere. Of course, no such thing had ever crossed my mind, but that points to the problem.
"True north" is a term of art from navigation that emerged when navigators cross-referenced their compass bearings with their star-sightings, and figured out that the magnetic pole isn't at the geodetic pole.  Perhaps we're talking about a sailing ship on the ocean, or perhaps it's a camel caravan, the compass being attributed to the Chinese.  If you're in the middle of the southern ocean on a cloudy night, are you going to worry about possible insensitivity or are you going to con the d**n ship properly?  It doesn't matter what you call the direction to the North Pole (the reciprocal bearing will give you the direction to the South Pole) as long as you, the plotter, and the helmsman are all using the same expression.

But that doesn't deter Professor Caputo.
I also think we have to take account of the professionalization and corporatization of the university, where our livelihood depends upon becoming furiously specialized technicians who publish in very narrow areas. Racism — like sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, religious discrimination, mistreatment of animals, environmental destruction, economic inequality — is a complex problem. All these problems demand to be addressed responsibly, and that requires expertise, a command of the literature, a knowledge of history, etc. No one can do all that, especially people trying to find jobs and later on get tenure and promotion, unless it intersects with their specialty in some pertinent way.
On the other hand, it's apparently within the discourse practices of philosophy to attribute ill intent to the adaptation of a navigational term of art to connotate constancy.

If I were still on faculty, could I time-slip this guy for insufficient understanding of environmental destruction or economic inequality, two areas of inquiry within which economics might have a comparative advantage?

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