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the plantinga liveblogger

I personally don’t care what your religion is and don’t think that it has anything whatever to do with your philosophical competence, and I suspect the same holds true for nearly everyone in our field. So I get a little irritated when I see random conservative know-nothings citing the anonymous Plantinga/Dennett liveblogger’s paranoia about anti-religious antipathy among academic philosophers as evidence for how we actually treat people of faith. Whoever you are: I think you should know better than to allow yourself to be a useful idiot for people like that.

Categories: Philosophy.

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5 Responses

  1. I, for one, wouldn’t feel very comfortable in an analytic philosophy department if I were a theist. I think it’s kind of a disservice to those theists who might be thinking about entering the field not to warn them that certain of their views will be rudely dismissed by many of their colleagues. I can think of multiple people at Michigan off the top of my head who routinely say things that would be offensive to theists. (You can guess at least two of them immediately.)

    Nice tweet, btw.

  2. It’s some jump from not feeling “comfortable” being a theist to libeling the entire profession, by implying that “[being known to support alvin plantinga's position] could damage or destroy my career in analytic philosophy.” Sort of like the jump between indigestion and an ulcer.

  3. Hi Nate

    Do you think that religious questions are ultimately philosophical questions? I ask because if so, then it seems to me that you must not think that the arguments religious philosophers give to support religious belief are obviously bad (or horrible or whatever), since you say that their beliefs say nothing about their philosophic competence. However, if the arguments are obviously bad, then it seems hard not to question their philosophic competence (if we take a bad philosopher to be one who makes and accepts the conclusions of obviously bad arguments).

  4. I suppose I was responding more to Alex’s comment than to your initial post. (But I also think it’s reasonable to read an implicature off of your initial statement that analytic philosophers treat people of faith well, and I think that’s false. But of course that’s reading in to what you said, so you’re free to deny it, which perhaps you do.)

    I also think your paranoid blogger’s claim is a lot closer to exaggeration than libel. While I think it would be pretty extraordinary (though not impossible) for avowed religious beliefs to destroy a career in analytic philosophy, I do think they make it harder in general to be taken seriously, thereby damaging a career.


  5. So, when I came back to check for your response, I noticed that I should have said “support for Platinga’s position” instead of “avowed religious beliefs”. So, before you spend any part of a response on that, I assert the emended version.

    But the actual reason for this comment is that I got around to reading the play-by-play. First, this part made me giggle:

    “Dennett tried to come up with an alternative to traditional Christian Ictus. He notes that it is an acronym and so he tries to come up with a latin acronym for Darwin. It translates as follows: “Destroy the author of things to discover the nature of the universe.” This was his last response. Basically, he is talking about murdering God. Dennett has revealed a deep wickedness in his character. I will never take him seriously as a philosopher again.”

    (It gets even more amusing later on, when he accuses Dennett of making ad hominem arguments.) Second, as quickly becomes evident when reading the thing in full, the anonymous author takes all of this too personally to evaluate some of the actual philosophical claims being made. Third, I wonder if some of it just went over his head. (For example, is he unclear about Tooley’s claim because he doesn’t know Davidson on content? And the fact that he didn’t see Dennett’s callousness coming a mile away suggests he’s quite new to all this.)

    Given all of that, I suspect that supporting Platinga’s position the way he did might not be the best thing to attach your name to and send around to prospective (secular) employers. (That reflects more on the author than on the profession.) But I also think that Dennett’s ability (assuming he said what the blogger says he said) to get away with what’s essentially hate speech at professional events ought to be a source of shame for the community. It seems quite likely to drive theists away from the profession, especially if they have reason to believe Dennett-y scorn will be targeted at them at some point, which one might count as destroying potential careers in analytic philosophy. (Many people think the field is still too unfriendly to women–just imagine if big names drew snickers from sympathetic crowds by ranting about them!)


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