February 17, 2017

"Cornell University Students Vote Against Intellectual Diversity, on Grounds It Would Harm Diversity."

A funny headline on a piece over at Reason.com by Robby Soave. At Cornell, the Student Assembly voted down a resolution that called for a committee to look into the lack of political diversity in the Cornell faculty. The arguments against the resolution were summarized as:
(1) conservatives have not been historically oppressed as have other groups; (2) spending resources on intellectual diversity diverts resources from promoting other forms of diversity; and (3) conservative students are free to speak out in class if they find something disagreeable or wish to argue their own point of view....
The headline isn't very fair to that 3-point objection to having this committee. It focuses on #2 and distorts even that. I rather doubt that the cute, clickable headline was written by Soave, because he disapproves of campus conservatives acting like leftist students by "playing the victim" and inviting speakers who are "provocateurs" and not serious experts in "philosophy and policy."

I don't agree with Soave's disapproval. I think you can have philosophers and policy wonks and also lively provocateurs, and I think it's worth exploring victimology — who's really the victim? I've spent enough time around conservatives and libertarians to know that their pretensions about neutral, egg-headed reason feel hollow and deceptive much of the time to those of us who aren't already on their side. I believe it's unreasonable to deny that emotion is part of human reason, and I have seen Reason magazine philosophy/policy types boil over with anger at the expression of that belief.

But I want to get back to that headline, inapt as it is for Soave's brief essay on the Cornell committee that was not to be. It seems like an argument through stating a paradox: They voted against diversity on the ground that it would hurt diversity. (It's reminiscent of that old Vietnam War line: "It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.")

But it occurs to me that there are some ideas that are destructive of intellectual diversity. I don't mean ideas put into practice, such as censorship or discrimination based on viewpoint. I mean the ideas themselves. Within a free-speech approach, you can argue that censorship or viewpoint discrimination is a good idea. It would be censorship or viewpoint discrimination to exclude those ideas. People can see those arguments in the marketplace of ideas and decide for themselves if they want to buy them. You might say, but if people do accept those ideas, they might put them into practice, but if you believe in the overarching idea of free speech, you are trusting people to consider and reject the bad ideas, and you think the idea of free speech will win in the marketplace.

But there is one type of idea that just as an idea is destructive of the diversity in the marketplace of ideas. Do you see what it is? It's an idea that is so good it wrecks the market for all the competing ideas, the completely convincing idea. There are many ideas like that — problems where the solutions have been discovered. We needn't puzzle over the possible answers anymore. We know (or feel sure that we know). That's the one type of idea that you should exclude if intellectual diversity is your most sacred goal. That shows why intellectual diversity can't be your highest goal. Why would you exclude the most devastatingly obviously correct ideas?

I'll pose one answer to my question and let you decide whether you want to buy it: You'd exclude those ideas when you have other ideas you want to protect from competition. So then there's this corollary: To genuinely love intellectual diversity and to want to exclude one of the ideas is to admit that it's devastatingly better than those other ideas.

And, yes, yes, of course I know that "they" do not really love intellectual diversity. It's a hypothetical. Assume genuine love for intellectual diversity. Assume it is really and truly your highest value. If you had 10 ideas about how to solve a particular problem and a new idea came along that was so obviously true that no one would bother with the other 10 anymore, you would suppress the 11th idea, so that you could continue to benefit from the vibrancy of 10 living, breathing ideas.

If that's all too abstract, think it through in the context of a culture with 10 thriving religions and the question whether to ban the discussion of atheism.

88 comments:

Unknown said...

Historical oppression trumps present-day oppression.

southcentralpa said...

Oh, yes, this is all of a piece with their warring with Western Civilization. Despite what the self-styled multi-cultis say, WC is very much the "great conversation", and now that they have the upper hand, they are trying to say "WE WON! CONVERSATION OVER!! LALALALALALALA!!!"

Uh, no. Any system that is not built on the inherent worth and importance of the individual will inevitably head in the direction of serfdom and the gulag.

rhhardin said...

Intellectual diversity is not for convincing but for improving.

traditionalguy said...

We can only discuss that CO2 is pollution that is destroying the world, in fact it already has done it per AlGore's Delusion.

We must Tax all breathing and put on lifetime caps, with extra free lifetime breaths allotted to the oppressed.

And did you hear the earth is actually Flat. No discussion allowed.

Levi Starks said...

We don't serve your kind of diversity in a classy place like this.

Sebastian said...

"The headline isn't very fair to that 3-point objection to having this committee. It focuses on #2 and distorts even that." As your overreaction shows, the headline is very apt.

Seeing Red said...

Hello Ms. DeVos.

PoNyman said...

For a second I forgot if I was on Scott Adams' blog or on Althouse.

roesch/voltaire said...

What is the completely convincing idea one day may prove to be much less convincing another day, or may not be convincing in another culture. Consider the Heliocentric model of the universe, or Marxist utopianism both of have lost the force of convincing ideas for most people. What we need is the freedom for continual inquiry of ideas and phenomenon.

Fernandinande said...

their pretensions about neutral, egg-headed reason feel hollow

"Reason.com" has a severe SJW infection.

"playing the victim" and inviting speakers who are "provocateurs" and not serious experts in "philosophy and policy."

That's the latest excuse for censorship: declare someone worthless without hearing them, then you don't have to hear them.

I've never seen/heard Milo speak (don't like watching people talk), but when I read about his supposedly outrageous or "provocative" - what a stupid idea - statements** , they're actually quite rational, more rational and certainly more honest than many official university statements and positions.

**some of the statements in that letter from the Perkeley Teacherettes are false, like this one: "More serious, however, was his reference to women as “cunts” at a recent event at the University of West Virginia."

Amadeus 48 said...

Ahhh...student assemblies, the reserve of the passionately ignorant. Student senates have always been places where the world's laziest thinkers roam free, spouting nonsense and conspiring against the liberties of mankind--where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are definitely not unalienable rights. I say let them spew, but don't give them any budgetary power.

As we used to say during the heyday of Democratic control of the government, no person's liberty or property is safe while Congress is in session. Student assemblies have an outstanding record of trampling on the rights of others going back to the French Revolution. Aux barricades, mes enfants!

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Is that apt? Are you so sure that atheism is the new idea?

Achilles said...

"I'll pose one answer to my question and let you decide whether you want to buy it: You'd exclude those ideas when you have other ideas you want to protect from competition. So then there's this corollary: To genuinely love intellectual diversity and to want to exclude one of the ideas is to admit that it's devastatingly better than those other ideas. "

Progressives/socialists can't argue that their ideology has performed as well as free markets. That is why they drive people they disagree with off campus.

Nonapod said...

If you had 10 ideas about how to solve a particular problem and a new idea came along that was so obviously true that no one would bother with the other 10 anymore, you would suppress the 11th idea, so that you could continue to benefit from the vibrancy of 10 living, breathing ideas.

It all depends on the nature of the problem I guess, but generally if your honest about actually trying to solve a problem rather than just philosophical debate, then the most optimal solution, the one that as you say is "so obviously true", is logically the one that should be pursued. You need a diversity of ideas when searching a potential solution space, but once an optimal solution to a particular problem is found... at that point, why are we hanging on to suboptimal ideas? Again, this all assumes your goal is to actually solve problems I guess.

Gahrie said...

I believe it's unreasonable to deny that emotion is part of human reason,

This absurdity is yet another piece of evidence that we need to repeal the 19th Amendment.

Emotion: "instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge."

Reason: "the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic."

logic: "reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity."

M. Findlay said...

Math. Every idea but the correct one, i.e. 2+2=4, is wrong. There is no intellectual diversity with math (at least at the level I'm capable of engaging).

MadisonMan said...

The headline is unfair because one type of diversity is defined, and the other is not.

Cornell University Students Vote Against Intellectual Diversity, on Grounds It Would Harm Diversity.

vs.

Cornell University Students Vote Against Intellectual Diversity, on Grounds It Would Harm Racial Diversity.

vs.

Cornell University Students Vote Against Diversity, on Grounds It Would Harm Diversity.



Only one tells the whole story.

whswhs said...

That point is actually addressed in Mill's On Liberty. What Mill says is that (a) if you don't let people assert things that are clearly false, and argue for them, no one will ever have occasion to argue that the true things are true, or to refute the unsound arguments for the false beliefs; (b) actually arguing for why true things are true gives you a real understanding of the subject; (c) if you never have to do that, you won't actually know why those things are true, and then they'll turn into unexamined dogma rather than actual knowledge.

Robert Heinlein might have been influenced by that when, in Space Cadet, he had students training to be officers in the Space Patrol take a required seminar in "Doubt," where on the first day they were asked to discuss "Resolved: That the Patrol is a detriment to humanity and should be abolished." Or maybe he had looked at the Summa Theologica, where Thomas Aquinas presents every proposition with a list of arguments for its being false—for example, a handy compilation of arguments for "There is no God."

Jupiter said...

"It's a hypothetical. Assume genuine love for intellectual diversity. Assume it is really and truly your highest value."

I don't think that's possible. At least, if you are suggesting that one might desire the maximization of intellectual diversity, that would preclude subjecting oneself to the intellectual straitjackets of logical argument, or even goal-oriented behavior. You could maybe take a gardening approach to ideas; that you would like to have little separate plots with various species. Lots of little theories that are bad, but not hopelessly bad. In fact, that is a fairly apt description of the modern academic approach to intellectual diversity. The problem is that the most vigorous plants are weeds.

PB said...

Conservative students know they need to be careful about challenging the liberal views of many professors/teachers for they risk being graded poorly. Not to mention stimulating the ire, hostility and potential violence from the true-believers of the leftist fellow students.

exiledonmainstreet said...

"I've never seen/heard Milo speak (don't like watching people talk), but when I read about his supposedly outrageous or "provocative" - what a stupid idea - statements** , they're actually quite rational, more rational and certainly more honest than many official university statements and positions."

Milo will be a guest on Bill Maher's program today. I expect Maher (and the trained seals who make up Maher's audience) to be hostile, but Milo is used to hostile questioning and normally acquits himself quite well.

As far as the "cunt" business goes, anybody who has spent any time in the UK knows that that word is applied quite freely to both men and women over there. I lived there for a year in the '80's and it was initially quite startling to hear a man in a business suit casually say "that man is a complete cunt." The English women at the table didn't bat an eye.

Paul Zrimsek said...

"Imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever, saying 'I KNOW YOU FEEL UPSET RE STAMPING, BUT THAT'S DIFFERENT FROM STRUCTURAL OPPRESSION'." -- Scott Alexander

Jupiter said...

Ideas, like plants and animals and religions, are subject to evolution. Those ideas that are best able to inhabit the minds available to them will, necessarily, do so. In that respect, they are like parasites. Or symbiotes, as the case may be. Because, of course, ideas have consequences, for the minds they inhabit. And this would seem to be the best reason for placing any faith in the objective correctness of logical reasoning. It got us this far, ne c'est pas? An idea that kills the person who thinks it would seem to be at a fairly strong selective disadvantage. But then we have the phenomenon of the martyr ....

Levi Starks said...

Achilles,
I like where you're headed with that thought, essentially it's that the reason leftism hasn't yet succeed is because there hasn't yet been a situation where it was the only possible choice. If we can just manage to drive out every other possible choice, then it's bound to be a success.

Jupiter said...

M. Findlay said...
"Math. Every idea but the correct one, i.e. 2+2=4, is wrong. There is no intellectual diversity with math (at least at the level I'm capable of engaging)."

That's not math, that's arithmetic. Take, say, geometry. Euclidean geometry is "correct", in that it is internally consistent. But so are Reimannian geometry, and Lobachevskian geometry. They start from three mutually inconsistent versions of the parallel postulate, but each version leads to an internally consistent geometry. So, math is actually a pretty good example of a situation in which intellectual diversity has value. Assuming you think geometries are valuable.

buwaya puti said...

Unfortunately, everything said on such matters about free speech and diversity and all sorts of related matters are mere proxies for the real point, which is about power.
That's why argument, logic or even emotion won't work.
You can't convince, because to be convinced is to be defeated.

Sean Gleeson said...

Thank you @whswhs for saying the stuff I was going to say about Mill and Aquinas until I read that you had just said it.

@Althouse, I was almost following your argument that one who values intellectual diversity above all must oppose the discussion of obvious truths. Almost. Until you cited atheism as your example. That made me doubt that I understood any part of what you were arguing. I thought you were saying that nobody would be allowed to profess tautologies like "A = A" or plain facts like "the sun is hot."

But atheism, being arguable, is not in this class of assertions. Nowhere near it, really. So I'm afraid I have lost the whole thread of your argument, probably near the beginning. If anyone can explain it more clearly pitched to a reader of my limited abilities, I might be enlightened.

Unknown said...

I've noticed that Islam and leftists have the same view of speech: Everyone is free to praise Allah (Marx) as much as they want; indeed it may well be required to speak endlessly on the merits and wondrous nature of Allah (Marx).

But say anything against them? That is hate speech, marks you as an infidel, and you are no longer human and thus killing you is not a crime.

For some lifelong Republicans, just saying that Trump is not Hitler is the same thing.

--Vance

Paul Sand said...

I dug this out from here; it's from Nozick's Philosophical Explanations:

The terminology of philosophical art is coercive: arguments are powerful and best when they are knockdown, arguments force you to a conclusion, if you believe the premises you have to or must believe the conclusion, some arguments do not carry much punch, and so forth. A philosophical argument is an attempt to get someone to believe something, whether he wants to believe it or not. A successful philosophical argument, a strong argument, forces someone to a belief.

Though philosophy is carried on as a coercive activity, the penalty philosophers wield is, after all, rather weak. If the other person is willing to bear the label of "irrational" or "having the worse arguments," he can skip away happily maintaining his previous belief. He will be trailed, of course, by the philosopher furiously hurling philosophical imprecations: "What do you mean, you're willing to be irrational? You shouldn't be irrational because..." And although the philosopher is embarrassed by his inability to complete this sentence in a noncircular fashion - he can only produce reasons for accepting reasons - still, he is unwilling to let his adversary go.

Wouldn't it be better if philosophical arguments left the person no possible answer at all, reducing him to impotent silence? Even then, he might sit there silently, smiling, Buddhalike. Perhaps philosophers need arguments so powerful they set up reverberations in the brain: if the person refuses to accept the conclusion, he dies. How's that for a powerful argument? Yet, as with other physical threats ("your money or your life"), he can choose defiance. A "perfect" philosophical argument would leave no choice.

Bay Area Guy said...

Modern-day University mission:

What do we want? ETHINIC DIVERSITY WITH POLITICAL UNIFORMITY

When do we want it? NOW

p.s. The Hell with Shakespeare......

Otto said...

I suggest that all read " The Closing of The American Mind" by Alan Bloom. After reading this great book you will see that we are witnessing here is American culture .Ann went from using Rousseau light "I believe it's unreasonable to deny that emotion is part of human reason" to take a jab at enlightenment reason to using
American style Nihilism of no right or wrong "But there is one type of idea that just as an idea is destructive of the diversity in the marketplace of ideas. Do you see what it is? It's an idea that is so good it wrecks the market for all the competing ideas, the completely convincing idea. "

buwaya puti said...

The real practical sanction here on free speech and intellectual diversity is the threat to livelihood. Few students can safely argue the opposite of the point of view of the side with power, because this is a risky proposition for academic advancement and employment. That's the threat to free speech, the cultural climate that sees such retaliation as legitimate.

Clayton Hennesey said...

This reminds me of nothing so much as Mao's Cultural Revolution.

Incubated in the universities, enforced by the Blac Blocs.

Jupiter said...

buwaya puti said...
"You can't convince, because to be convinced is to be defeated."

And yet people are constantly convinced. Daily. Hourly.



buwaya puti said...

"And yet people are constantly convinced"

Not on any matter of political controversy, or not openly so. It is dangerous to be convinced. Or perhaps if one lives in a milieu with less of an oppressive climate.

exiledonmainstreet said...

This writer believes the attacks on free speech are creating a new generation of conservatives:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/02/17/student-lefts-culture-intolereance-creating-new-generation-ofconservatives/

I hope he's right. One of the most puzzling things about the Millennials is that they don't see that they are in fact, the most pro-Establishment generation since the 1950's one. (And the Silent Generation of the 1950's were children of the Depression and WWII. It's no wonder they placed a premium on peace and prosperity.)The leftist Millennials sheepishly accept what their authority figures have taught them. The SJWs are following a boring 50 year old script written by their parents.

Being told constantly: "You can't say that! You can't think that!" are bound to make "taboo" ideas attractive. The Right is in a bizarre situation now - they have political, but no cultural power. The worm's got to turn at some point and maybe it will soon.

bagoh20 said...

As a self-admitted lightweight and non intellectual, I say this is a bad case of reaching, and missing the real modern day price being paid by so many for the completely convincing ideas of the past, especially those developed and accepted in the glory days of the recent past.

I assume, with no particular evidence, that even without the top-down civil rights laws forcing people to associate, that we would have made substantial progress on race relations anyway. I wonder if the dismal state of race relations today, the poor family structure, crime, poverty and dependence experienced by many Blacks would not be better if we had taken a more natural, organic, and unforced path. Many aspects of Black life are worse now than they were before those laws, such as crime, illegitimacy, and dependence, which has also spread outside the targeted "beneficiaries" by osmosis.

Andrew Pardue said...

Ptolemy's views on cosmology were completely convincing for 1400+ years and then along came Copernicus. In other words I don't think that your one completely convincing idea can exist. Even a dogmatic institution like the Catholic Church there is enough intellectual diversity that there is some priest out there who will imply that Jesus really didn't rise from the dead but that his ideas lived on. Most universities sadly have less intellectual diversity than the Catholic church. Given that a university isn't or shouldn't be dogmatic institution that is to use the President's word "so sad".

Also
(2) spending resources on intellectual diversity diverts resources from promoting other forms of diversity;
Traditionally isn't one of the arguments about affirmative action for college admissions is that it is supposed to in the words from a supreme court case from 2015 involving the University of Texas :

"UT prepares tomorrow’s leaders for a world that is increasingly global and interconnected. It’s vital that our students have the opportunity to work with students from different backgrounds and experiences — and the freedom to learn from the myriad perspectives, viewpoints and ideas that should flourish on campus," UT Austin President Gregory L. Fenves said after the hearing.
isn't this the same argument as to why we need diversity and affirmative action from nearly every university or have I missed something.

So we should pursue diversity so the we will have intellectual diversity (i.e.myriad perspectives, viewpoints and ideas that should flourish on campus) but Cornell students argue that pursuing intellectual diversity would hurt diversity.

Scott McGlasson said...

You can't convince, because to be convinced is to be defeated.

I would amend that to: "You can't convince someone to admit they are wrong, because to be convinced they were wrong is to be defeated".

Certainly it happens from time to time, but not very often :)

Ann Althouse said...

"I've never seen/heard Milo speak (don't like watching people talk), but when I read about his supposedly outrageous or "provocative" - what a stupid idea - statements** , they're actually quite rational, more rational and certainly more honest than many official university statements and positions."

I know. Soave seems obviously to be referring to Milo. I think listening to someone like that is similar to listening to a comic who's in the Lenny Bruce tradition, taking on serious subjects. These people who fancy themselves intellectual and cannot find a way to be entertaining may want to ban those who are operating on multiple levels with serious points mixed with comic overstatement and theatricality.

And that says something about Trump. He's doing so much with his speech, and less gifted people — who want influence and power — would like to say: no fair!

wildswan said...

Sean Gleeson

Where you have ten religions you have more diversity. But if you exclude atheism then you have less diversity because then there is really only one argument: that religion matters. But if you include atheism it isn't the eleventh religion. It contradicts the main argument of the other ten so that you have to choose - religion does or does not matter. Or if you say that you don't have to choose between contradictions then again you have chosen a philosophical position - contradictions don't matter so again you have limited diversity.

So whether you choose to include atheism or exclude it, to accept contradictory conclusions or exclude them, there are forks in the road after which, for the individual, there is less diversity than before.

(But if you accept contradictory arguments then this particular diversity limitation can create the impression further down the line that you accept diverse arguments or religions whereas in actual fact you have decided that none of them are true and all are equally wrong. This is based on the contradictions within skepticism and this consequence of skepticism is quite common these days.)

Only philosophy analyzes the consequences of various kinds of arguments and philosophy is not much considered these days. So you get the kind of rubbish the Cornell students are upholding. Conservatives must be excluded because diversity. We must accept others but we must not learn from others because cultural appropriation. The university is worth 40,000 dollars of debt per year only if it teaches us not to learn.

Ann Althouse said...

"Is that apt? Are you so sure that atheism is the new idea?"

It is in the hypothetical culture I offered for the purpose of exploring my idea about intellectual diversity and the marketplace of ideas. You're supposed to imagine a culture where there are 10 thriving religions and a new voice comes along speaking about atheism. The people in the culture have a decision to make. How should the analyze it in terms of what I have said about intellectual diversity and the marketplace of ideas.

Achilles said...

Blogger buwaya puti said...
"And yet people are constantly convinced"

>Not on any matter of political controversy, or not openly so. It is dangerous to be convinced. Or perhaps if one lives in a milieu with less of an oppressive climate.<

The goal of the left is to make it impossible to rationally discuss ideas. Their ideas wilt under analysis.

Angel-Dyne said...

AA: I believe it's unreasonable to deny that emotion is part of human reason...

Gahrie:

This absurdity is yet another piece of evidence that we need to repeal the 19th Amendment.

Emotion: "instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge."

Reason: "the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic."

logic: "reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity."


Your dictionary skills are immaculate, but your knowledge of neurology appears to be lacking. The Professors statement is incorrect only to the extent that it isn't "unreasonable" to deny that emotion is part of human reasoning, it's just wrong, factually. (One can be reasonable and wrong.)

You are certainly correct that shabbily educated people who think feelz=knowledge aren't reasoning, just emoting. You may be correct that females tend to be too feelzy - lesser logical capacity, less interest in gaining facts - and therefore shouldn't vote. (Believe me, I often think this myself.) But if you think that emotion and reason are entirely distinct physical processes, you're mistaken about how human brains (male or female) work.

Drago said...

It is perfectly acceptable to possess and espouse any thought pre-approved by the Campus Soviets.

Ann Althouse said...

I didn't say atheism was new, but if you assume it was always open for discussion in my hypothetical culture and only now are they thinking of banning talking about it, you'd have evidence that the idea had not yet proven so devastatingly persuasive as to have wiped out some or all of the 10 religions.

I offered that specific to make it easier to think about what I'm saying, so if what you are doing is complicating it so it can't be used... well, why are you doing that? To get out of doing the assignment?

The assignment is not required, just something that you might find interesting. You could come up with a different idea that could be devastating and threaten diversity.

I don't think atheism is an idea that dooms the 10 religions. We can see that in the world. And this was really the point of my hypo: If the people of the 10 religions exercised their political power to ban the discussion of atheism, they would be saying something about what they though about the persuasiveness of their own religion (or about the nature of religion) and that would hurt their cause (arguably) more than acting as though their religion can beat atheism in a fair fight.

mockturtle said...

Maybe 'students' should spend more time on studying and less time in political activism. They are, as we all were at that age, foolish and naive. They seem to think they run the university.

Ann Althouse said...

"That point is actually addressed in Mill's On Liberty. What Mill says is that (a) if you don't let people assert things that are clearly false, and argue for them, no one will ever have occasion to argue that the true things are true, or to refute the unsound arguments for the false beliefs; (b) actually arguing for why true things are true gives you a real understanding of the subject; (c) if you never have to do that, you won't actually know why those things are true, and then they'll turn into unexamined dogma rather than actual knowledge."

By "that point," do you mean my point? Because that isn't my point.

Anyway this is a longstanding traditional argument, and the references to the "marketplace of ideas" gesture at that tradition. My point is something on top of that: there's a product coming to market that is so desirable it drives out the competition and then there's no more shopping going on, and the people value the breadth of the shopping experience ABOVE getting to the truth. If the truth is OBVIOUS once you hear a particular argument, but you value the ongoing process of examining possible truths, you might want to exclude the ONE THING that actually IS true because it ends the ongoing process, the intellectual diversity.

If Mill and Milton said THAT, please quote the passage.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Angel-Dyne.

I really do believe I am speaking from a scientific perspective, based on science books I have read. There may be much more to it than I know, but the whole bodily nervous system is involved in the brain function, and there have been people who have suffered brain injuries that have incapacitated them from making even simple judgments about what to do because they've lost the the emotional component of reasoning.

When I had my run-in with the Reason magazine people, the subject under discussion was legislation to forbid discrimination in private businesses. They were ironically emotional in their refusal even to talk about whether their preferences contained racial instincts. We are animals, and we evolved to do what furthered the proliferation of our kind and not someone else's. We did all that before we thought philosophically about what we were doing. I don't see the value of denying that there is some unknown component of racism in the legal positions we defend, even as we defend them with arguments that are race-neutral.

jimbino said...

Diversity is a non-sensical concept. I am an Irish-English, native-born Amerikan, born in Paraguay and soon speaking Guarani and Spanish, which makes me Hispanic by gummint definition.

That makes me more "diverse" than your typical Mexican Hispanic, since there are far fewer native-born Irish-English Amerikan Hispanics than your typical Amerikan Hispanic. The first president of Chile, Bernardo O'Higgins, was, like me an Irish exception.

All this is an attempt to reconcile with reality the fact that the UT Austin Law School awarded me the one class "Hispanic" scholarship when I was surrounded by loads of what we used to call "Mexican Americans."

madAsHell said...

Intellectual diversity? Doesn't that mean that they need to hire both smart, and stupid people?

What could go wrong?

Sebastian said...

"But there is one type of idea that just as an idea is destructive of the diversity in the marketplace of ideas. Do you see what it is? It's an idea that is so good it wrecks the market for all the competing ideas, the completely convincing idea." The comment is inapt in a discussion of "diversity," which has helped to destroy actual diversity not because it is "completely convincing," but because it has been imposed by sheer power. Its proponents could not care less about the "marketplace" of idea--they just want power, and will use any idea to get and hold it. In practice, of course, the "convincing" idea often just happens to be ruling idea, which just happens to be the idea of the ruling class, as whatshisname used to say.

Achilles said...

Something people should look up is the concept of rhetorical despotism.

tim in vermont said...

Why would you exclude the most devastatingly obviously correct ideas?

Like global warming? Where could a rule like that go wrong?

gerry said...

If we can just manage to drive out every other possible choice, then it's bound to be a success.

Um, no. But I know you are being sarcastic. ;)

DougWeber said...

I think the answer at the first level is to deny the existence of anything that is so obviously true that no further discussion of it is not appropriate. That is my stance. I am willing to argue any, and I mean any, policy on either side. I think a reasonable argument can be made that slavery is not absolutely, morally wrong. For now this argument will not win, and I really do not fully support it. But I am also humble enough to know that I could be wrong and it would be hubris to refuse to argue with those who propose it(as long as the argument is a reasoned one). History has shown multiple examples(many in the sciences) where the obvious true of a proposition was actual wrong or at least incomplete.

Gahrie said...

But if you think that emotion and reason are entirely distinct physical processes, you're mistaken about how human brains (male or female) work.

Distinct physical processes? What do you mean? Emotion and reason are mental processes. Do they both occur in the brain and involve electrical impulses traveling through neurons? yes. But the process of reason is specifically suppressing and ignoring emotional thoughts and impulses. Emotion and reason are in fact antonyms.

They were ironically emotional in their refusal even to talk about whether their preferences contained racial instincts.

Perhaps because they knew that they had used reason and logic to suppress any racial instincts they might have had?

The way I remember it, you were the one who became emotional (dare I say hysterical) at their unwillingness to accept your emotional judgement of them.

CJinPA said...

"Sorry, you haven't been historically oppressed."
"But you're oppressing me now by this very action."
"Hmm...maybe come back next year when what we're doing now is considered history?"

Gahrie said...

The purpose of reason is to overcome emotion.

Todd said...

That's the one type of idea that you should exclude if intellectual diversity is your most sacred goal.

We are not talking about "free speech" here, but ideas and intellectual diversity. If the "problem" has already been solved and the "best" or right answer is known, to exclude it is to waste time and effort by trying to resolve what has already been resolved. If the right answer to 2+2 is 4, excluding "4" from discussion results in a futile exercise, no?

To genuinely love intellectual diversity and to want to exclude one of the ideas is to admit that it's devastatingly better than those other ideas.

Very likely YES. As has been noted elsewhere, to shout down your opponent is to admit defeat. If you won't allow the discussion, you can't defend your position.

Someone far smarter than I said (to paraphrase) "the answer to free speech is more free speech". Why does modern American Higher-Ed hate free speech so?

Gahrie said...

"Emotional reasoning is a cognitive process by which a person concludes that his/her emotional reaction proves something is true, regardless of the observed evidence."

Seeing Red said...

Oh good grief!


EVERY race has been historically oppressed.

Sean Gleeson said...

@Althouse, I understand you better now, thanks. Is this something like the implicit syllogism?

Premise 1: Person X values "Intellectual Diversity" above all other values.

Premise 2: "Intellectual Diversity" means every proposition that is believed by anyone in the group must have at least one opposing claim believed by someone else in the group.

Therefore: Person X must oppose the expression of any argument so convincing that everyone in the group would hold a belief in common.

Because I can see obvious problems with both premises, starting with the existence of Person X. Advocates of intellectual diversity would never say they value it over all other values; rather they would say it is good because it facilitates the search for true belief, or words to that effect. Nor do I think they would define intellectual diversity to mean nothing may be commonly agreed upon. But I don't want to belabor this critique, since I'm sure you meant it in a sort of whimsical thought exercise kind of way. I'm just demonstrating that I finally managed to comprehend it.

Gahrie said...

The idea that emotions are a valid component of reason goes a long way to explaining the problems with our colleges and universities today.

David said...

What are these people going to do when they get out of college? Only in rare cases will they be able to make the fight against "oppression" the center of their working lives. How will that feel to them? Do they have skills to do more pedestrian but useful work? Are they doomed to a life of dissatisfaction with everything? What a terrible way to Iive.

n.n said...

[class] diversity. Judge people by the "color of their skin".

An implication of their twilight faith and Pro-Choice quasi-religious/moral philosophy, is that they perceive people as colorful clumps of cells, recyclable, reusable, and reducible.

J. Farmer said...

Of course, intellectual diversity is the only kind of diversity that matters. A school full of blacks, Hispanics, Asians, transgendered, and Laotian immigrants who all think the same way gets you absolutely nothing, except perhaps a more enjoyable pot luck dinner.

Roughcoat said...

What is the reason or purpose of spelling America with a "k," i.e. Amerika?

exiledonmainstreet said...

Roughcoat said...
What is the reason or purpose of spelling America with a "k," i.e. Amerika?

2/17/17, 1:24 PM

It's the German spelling of America, and thus, meant to indicate that the country is no different than the Third Reich. Of course, some leftists want to make absolutely sure you get the point, so they spell it Amerikkka.

Steve M. Galbraith said...

It seems to me that the person letting her emotions guide her reasoning is Althouse in her disagreement with the libertarian view on public accommodation laws. The same libertarians - rightly or not - who opposed those laws are saying TODAY that private businesses shouldn't be forced, for example, to serve gay weddings. There's a consistency in their views that transcends race.

I think libertarians are wrong here but they have a consist opposition to such laws regardless of the quality/type of person being refused service. Race, gender, sexual orientation, gender - it makes no difference to them; property rights trumps public accommodation laws.

As to state rights and public accommodations? Well, they really are wrong on that one.


Gahrie said...

It seems to me that the person letting her emotions guide her reasoning is Althouse

She won't deny that....instead she'll argue that that is what is supposed to happen.

bagoh20 said...

This university level intellectual argument has been addressed many times in the original Star Trek series. Althouse is Captain Kirk, and his emotionalism always won the day over the logic of Mr. Spock, at least with us 11 year olds.

Qwinn said...

I think Ann's question misses the point. I don't see anyone other than her talking about intellectual diversity being "above all other" principles. The question at hand is whether it is above racial diversity, which IMO is obviously answered yes. Why aren't we examining the apparent belief that racial diversity is a principle sacred "above all others" and the obvious problems with THAT? Because that's the only sacred principle I'm seeing being enforced or even requested.

damikesc said...

Don't feel "playing the victim" is an apt comment.

They are forcing them to play by the rules they set up.

They are going to force the Left on campus to either admit they don't believe what they are saying or that they are simply incapable/unwilling to abide by their professed standards.

I don't see either being a bad result for conservatives on campus.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said... I don't see the value of denying that there is some unknown component of racism in the legal positions we defend, even as we defend them with arguments that are race-neutral.

Yeah, I can't see why anyone would get emotional over being called secretly racist. Why would anyone get upset about that? "Hey, I know you say you believe X because it's logical, etc, and I am sure you really think that's why you believe that, but I think part of why you believe that is your unacknowledged racism. Oh, and by the way, you can't really defend yourself from this charge (of racism) since you won't agree that you are in fact racist--I get to both accuse you of being motivated by racism and deny you the ability to defend yourself from that charge. Any argument you might make that you're not motivated by racism will be met with my insistence that it's a secret, hidden motivation, one your mind won't even allow you to admit. Also I know you're part of a group that's constantly smeared as racists--smeared as a tactic of your political opponents to shut you out of debates altogether--so you're probably extra-sensitive to unfounded charges of racism. Hey, why're you getting so emotional, buddy! Oh, the irony!"

HoodlumDoodlum said...

What unknown components of horrible beliefs do you acknowledge yourself, Professor, motivating your own opinions and beliefs?

If I responded to an argument of yours with "hey, I hear what you're saying, but I think you hold that position not for the reasons you articulate but instead because you actually hate Jews and admire Hitler, even though you won't admit that to yourself" do you think we'd have a very productive conversation after that?

HoodlumDoodlum said...

You believe what you believe in part because of your racist, sexist, anti-gay beliefs. You hide them well, maybe even from yourself, but they're there. Why won't you admit those horrible beliefs play a role--maybe a major role--in your values?

I, on the other hand, disagree with you, and therefore my values are not informed by secret racism, sexism, nor homophobia. Someone thinking logically might object that that line of reasoning commits the fallacy of affirming the consequent...but ah-ah! That person, the one objecting, MUST be objecting at least partially due to their own secret racism, sexism, homophobia, etc, and not just because of their clear reliance on logic.

If everyone's motivated by secret horrible beliefs then what's the point of bringing it up? The pretty clear implication is that only SOME people are motivated by secret horrible beliefs, and by a miraculous coincidence those people all happen to disagree with me!

That's a pretty offensive line of argument, yeah.

whswhs said...

"If Mill and Milton said THAT, please quote the passage."

I think I'm really trying to make a more modest claim, which is that even if there is an obvious truth on some matter, there will be people who dispute it. For example, a long-time friend of mine belongs to the Flat Earth society, not because he has heterodox views on the shape of the Earth, but because he finds such views entertaining and is interested in seeing how people argue for them. (Admittedly, this might be like Chesterton's story about the man who joins a society of anarchists, intending to spy on them, only to learn that all the other members are anarchists.) Then there are people like the Greek sophists who enjoyed argument for its own sake, and there is the use of heterodox propositions as a method of teaching. So I don't think that solidly established truth would completely kill off heterodox ideas.

Of course, it could be argued, as perhaps you are actually arguing, that it would cause them to die back drastically, even if they survived in out of the way places. I'm not sure that's a concern for me, but then I don't think intellectual diversity is my single highest value. Isn't there a large middle ground between saying that we should treasure intellectual diversity and dispute above everything else, and saying that intellectual diversity has no value and we need take no particular measures to preserve it?

Bob Loblaw said...

Conservative students know they need to be careful about challenging the liberal views of many professors/teachers for they risk being graded poorly. Not to mention stimulating the ire, hostility and potential violence from the true-believers of the leftist fellow students.

Yes. Point #3 is mendacious. By that logic, no society is or has ever been without free speech.

whswhs said...

"Althouse is Captain Kirk, and his emotionalism always won the day over the logic of Mr. Spock, at least with us 11 year olds."

But it was Mr. Spock who became the great sex symbol and the focus of a lot of amateur press (and later Internet) erotica. Indeed there's an entire genre of amateur fiction, slash, that grew out of stories where Captain Kirk himself surrendered to Mr. Spock's erotic needs. . . .

Roughcoat said...

Roughcoat said...
What is the reason or purpose of spelling America with a "k," i.e. Amerika?

2/17/17, 1:24 PM

It's the German spelling of America, and thus, meant to indicate that the country is no different than the Third Reich. Of course, some leftists want to make absolutely sure you get the point, so they spell it Amerikkka.


Got it. So that guy who spelled it "Amerika": He's just putting in our face that he's an asshole. Like, "I'm going to say something to you, and I'm going to use word a that's meant to tell you that I think your country sucks." What a way to start a conversation. What an asshole thing to do.

Gahrie said...

What an asshole thing to do.

Pretty much sums up the Left these days.........

SukieTawdry said...

J. Farmer said...Of course, intellectual diversity is the only kind of diversity that matters. A school full of blacks, Hispanics, Asians, transgendered, and Laotian immigrants who all think the same way gets you absolutely nothing, except perhaps a more enjoyable pot luck dinner.

I love that. Of what value is "the opportunity to work with students from different backgrounds and experiences" if despite their varied backgrounds they arrive at the same cognitive juncture? Ideological groupthink, after all, isn't worth much. The "myriad perspectives, viewpoints and ideas" that should, according to the diversity mavens, flourish on campus in reality do not. They, however, seem to care little about that. College campuses have become downright anti-intellectual.

If I were trying to solve a problem, I would be thrilled to have that 11th new, obviously true idea come along. To suppress it and not discard the others would be foolish and counterproductive. There's little value in diversity for diversity's sake (even, I'm guessing, for someone who holds intellectual diversity as his highest value). And anyway, I presume the one obviously true idea didn't come along in a vacuum. Chances are, in the absence of intellectual diversity, it wouldn't have come along at all.

SukieTawdry said...

Althouse is Captain Kirk, and his emotionalism always won the day over the logic of Mr. Spock, at least with us 11 year olds.

There were times when logic did not offer a solution and Spock resorted to human instinct. He claimed that under such circumstances, it was the logical thing to do.

n.n said...

The Left's solution to address natural bias is to nurture prejudice for profit.

The Left's failure to reconcile moral, natural, and personal imperatives is caused by their adoption of a twilight faith and Pro-Choice quasi-religious/moral philosophy that denies individual dignity and intrinsic value of human life. Only the Progressive Constitution of South Africa and similar left-wing enterprises in recent history and older regimes institutionalize [class] diversity (i.e. discrimination by "color of their skin") and normalize abortion chambers (i.e. final solution) as a matter of law on principle. Their only interest in diversity is for purposes of marginalizing and suppressing competing interests, beginning with the individual, continuing to families, up to larger natural and social unions.

Angel-Dyne said...

AA: When I had my run-in with the Reason magazine people, the subject under discussion was legislation to forbid discrimination in private businesses. They were ironically emotional in their refusal even to talk about whether their preferences contained racial instincts.

Um, correct me if I'm misremembering, but weren't you also reacting awfully emotionally, to the very idea that decent people might prioritize freedom of association over racial egalitarianism?

Jus' sayin'.

We are animals, and we evolved to do what furthered the proliferation of our kind and not someone else's. We did all that before we thought philosophically about what we were doing. I don't see the value of denying that there is some unknown component of racism in the legal positions we defend, even as we defend them with arguments that are race-neutral.

"Denying there is", or "denying there may be"?

At any rate, what's the value of insisting that must be (or could be) some unknown component of racism in any positions one defends? What does that change? If you are going to introduce the emotional component of human reasoning into an argument about anything, then it applies to everyone's reasoning. Everyone's views about things, no matter how "reasonably" they are thought through and articulated, are rooted in emotional predilections.

When you say "[w]e did all that [thought 'racially'] before we thought philosophically about what we were doing", you appear to be doing what I criticized Gahrie for doing: claiming that your thinking -- in this case thinking "non-racially" -- is strictly "reasonable", and not grounded in emotions, like those other guys; that the "non-racial" view is thought-out, philosophical, by virtue of being "non-racial". But putting a higher value on "equality" or "non-racism" than on the right to freedom of association is every bit as emotionally rooted as the reverse.

That may be a misreading, and you are really just giving an example of the (possible) emotional roots of one viewpoint, not ascribing a non-emotional base to the opposing one. But I still don't see what difference it makes in the end. Telling people that they think what they think because of this or that unconscious or unexamined emotional response cuts both ways. Nor do I see why a viewpoint is wrong or necessarily "philosophically" weak because it is, for example, based on primordial instinctive "in group" emotions.

Sean Gleeson said...

“I don't see the value of denying that there is some unknown component of racism in the legal positions we defend, even as we defend them with arguments that are race-neutral.”

You don’t? Because I sure do. I see value in denying that. (Can you imagine what the next Reason hit piece on you will say? “Althouse, who freely admits there is a racist component in every legal position she defends...”)

Dennis Braswell said...

Best you ever wrote. Truth is the highest priority. It's thicker than blood and water.