Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Ivory Closet

On the masthead of this new weblog: "Life as a Closet Conservative Inside Liberal Academia."

From a recent post:

My dissertation, which I'm still working on, focuses on a contemporary French philosopher who is known in academia primarily as a radical Leftist. Generally speaking, academics seem to just assume that you agree with and share the same views as the figure you focus on in your dissertation. So, everyone just assumes that since I'm writing on a radical Leftist that I must be a radical Leftist. I keep my mouth shut about my conservativism. Often I have to bite my tongue when I hear disparaging remarks about conservatives. But, so long as I manage to do that the liberal bias of academia makes it all too easy to stay in the closet. Everyone just assumes your [you're] a liberal.

BV: The author points out something verified in my own experience. Since I had written a dissertation on Kant, some former colleagues assumed that I must be a Kantian. One of these people was an old Thomist who had published a grand total of one article in his career and needed a reason to dislike a young upstart. So he assumed I was a damned Kantian opposed to the old-time metaphysics that he learned out of scholastic manuals. Another colleague, who didn't get tenure, was a libertarian who hated Kant for Randian reasons. He pegged me as a metaphysician who was a Kantian and who therefore held that the sense world is illusory!

Another bonehead of a former colleague under the sway of Heidegger and Gadamer assumed that I must be a Thomist since I had published articles critical of Heidegger in such journals as The Thomist, New Scholasticism, and International Philosophical Quarterly.

A libertarian, chess-playing, mailman friend of mine was once shocked to hear that I was teaching a seminar on Nietzsche at a Catholic university.

Paul Edwards once accused me of being a "semi-shepherd" because I had argued that Heidegger's Being question was immune to
objections he had raised. I was not a full-fledged "shepherd of Being," but a "semi-shepherd," a species of varmint that Edwards found just as objectionable as the full-fledged variety.

In each of these five cases, there was a failure to grasp an important truth: Philosophy is not ideology. Philosophy aims at truth, not at ideas useful for the end of gaining and acquiring power. We do not study Kant and Nietzsche and Heidegger to refute them or to agree with them, or to satisfy a need to have something to believe in, or a need to belong to a movement. Philosophy is inquiry: an attempt at arriving at the sober impersonal truth to the extent that this is possible for such limited beings as we are.