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Fun With Paranoid Philosophers

My TAC intern is not coming to get potty-mouthed progressive philosophers. Really! (Jeff Cameron Collingwood/Shutterstock)
‘Bring me the head of the Ivy League epistemologist!’ said no one, ever (Jeff Cameron Collingwood/Shutterstock)

The Yale Daily News has published a short piece about Yale’s troubled philosophy professor Jason Stanley and the controversy over his vituperative outburst. You will likely not be surprised to discover that Stanley, who once portrayed two Yale colleagues who had been set upon by a mob of student Jacobins as the real bullies in the matter, believes that a Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy is out to get him because he speaks truth to power. Try to read this without laughing:

Stanley said the recent reprisal is framed as offense caused by his language on Facebook, but is in fact the design of his “powerful enemies” who he claimed have attacked him in recent years, in retaliation for his open disapproval of their actions. For example, Stanley said, he openly took issues with the Templeton Foundation — one of the most prominent donors in the field of philosophy where Dreher worked as publications director — for what he described as disproportionate funding for religious philosophy and negligence towards studies on racism or homophobia.

Um, golly. He’s apparently implying that the John Templeton Foundation is somehow behind my criticism of his publicly denouncing Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne and Swinburne’s defenders with the infelicitous phrase, “F–k you, assholes.”

That’s pretty funny. I haven’t worked for Templeton for five years, and was at JTF for only a year and a half. I had never heard of Stanley until his name came up over the Swinburne fiasco. After reading the story, I googled to find out what kind of dust-up Stanley had with JTF. Did this happen while I was there? I didn’t recall it. Turns out that Stanley’s bigoted denunciation of JTF for throwing money at philosophical projects of which he disapproves (because they might say something favorable about religion) came in 2013, two years after I left the Foundation. 

So he’s grasping for straws. Stanley is a professional philosopher. Surely he has heard of the concept of Occam’s Razor, which says among competing hypotheses, the simplest explanation should be favored. The truth is, I first encountered Jason Stanley’s name when a reader sent me a link to this piece on the philosophy blog Rightly Considered.  No doubt it flatters Prof. Stanley’s self-image to see himself as the victim of a dark fascist conspiracy, but it just ain’t so. He shot his mouth off and got called on it. Simple as that. I know that scary clowns are terrorizing college campus on the East coast right now, but I promise, none have been dispatched to New Haven to defend the heteropatriarchy from a Yale philosopher.

You know, it’s kind of pitiful to observe a grown man portray himself in the pages of his campus newspaper as the victim of “powerful enemies.” Such self-dramatizing paranoia! But more charitably, it just goes to show that the professor has a rich inner life.

The Yale paper reached out to Richard Swinburne in Oxford for comment. He said he would leave it to others to defend him, but he did say this:

“Philosophers usually argue rather than use expletives,” Swinburne said. “But I’ll leave your readers to decide whether this was the suitable response from a philosopher.”

The YDN reports that “Stanley is currently teaching ‘Language and Power’ and a philosophy section of Directed Studies.” Seems like this whole embarrassing affair ought to have taught him a valuable lesson in how foul, abusive language is usually an expression of weakness. 


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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