Tuesday, January 25, 2022
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And they call themselves philosophers

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RECENTLY, Professor Kathleen Stock resigned her philosophy chair at the University of Sussex because she claimed her life had been made intolerable by the wokeists who were outraged when Stock said that ‘gender identity does not outweigh biological sex. There are only two sexes’.

Here is a brief summary of this depressing story . . .

After Professor Stock was appointed OBE last December, 600 professional philosophers took to social media to object in the form of An Open Letter Concerning Transphobia in Philosophy. 

(Well, isn’t it depressing to learn that there are 600 professional philosophers?)

May I make my own objection – not to Professor Stock but to the demonstration by that whole gang of philosophers that they are not worthy of the name philosopher. The meaning of the word is lover or friend of wisdom. But this lot cannot hope to aspire to wisdom. They can’t even use the English language – a grievous defect in a philosopher. Philosophy is about reasoning and reasoned argument, and you can’t reason properly when you don’t understand the meaning of the words you are using.

These learned members of the Woke Academy speak of transphobia but they don’t mean what that word means. In their definition, a transphobic person is someone who does not accept the claims of the transgenderists when they say that anyone must be accepted as the man/woman/non-binary etc that he/she/it says he/she/it is. Their claim is absurd because it is all against the biological fact that there are only two sexes. I’ll come back to that in a minute; let me state my first objection to this crowd:

phobia – from the Greek phobos and amplified in Freud’s psychoanalytic vocabulary – is an irrational fear. But neither I nor Kathleen Stock, nor anyone known to me, goes in fear of transgendered people. It is part of the same slovenliness of speech which has given us homophobia and Islamophobia. I’m not afraid of homosexuals and I’m not afraid of Muslims – though perhaps I might be a teeny-weeny bit wary if I were told there was a jihadist with a machete shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ next door.

Back to the letter from the 600 rather less-than-philosophical philosophers. Its authors identify themselves as academics ‘committed to the inclusion and acceptance of trans and gender non-conforming people, both in the public at large, and within philosophy in particular’. They say they wrote their letter ‘to affirm our commitment to developing a more inclusive environment, disavowing the use of professional and cultural authority to further gendered oppression’.

They add: ‘Stock is best-known in recent years for her trans-exclusionary public and academic discourse on sex and gender, especially for opposition to amendments to the UK Gender Recognition Act and the importance of self-identification to establish gender identity, and for advocating that trans women should be excluded from places like women’s locker rooms or shelters. She used the occasion of her OBE award to post on Twitter, calling for UK universities to end their association with Stonewall, the prominent LGBTQ+ rights charity, describing its trans-inclusive stance as a threat to free speech.’

Let me ask: how commonsensical – let alone philosophical – is it to reckon it’s a good idea to let all-in wrestler sorts into ladies’ changing rooms and women’s prisons on the grounds that such potential sexual predators ‘identify as women’?

In 50 years as a working philosopher, I’ve learned to expect no better from those philosophers who use their subject as a cloak for their ideological prejudices. But what about the competence of their victim, Kathleen Stock? I confess to being befuddled when she describes herself as ‘a philosopher of fiction and imagination’. The meaning of her terminology eludes me. Perhaps that’s because I’m thick – or is it only that I’m on the wrong bandwagon?

Finally, I am astonished – you might say epistemologically gobsmacked. Stock wrote an article for the Spectator a couple of weeks ago in which she confessed, ‘I have never read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.’ 

You don’t need me to tell you that Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was one of the greatest philosophers of the modern age, or of any other age, come to that. The Critique is his signature work. For a professor of philosophy to say she has never read is like the Archbishop of Canterbury admitting he has not read St John’s Gospel.

What does it say about our higher education structures that a person ignorant of Kant’s great work was appointed to the chair in a department of philosophy?

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Peter Mullen
Peter Mullen is a Church of England clergyman, writer and broadcaster

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