Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

‘F–k You, A–holes,’ Argued the Yale Philosopher

Extremism in the attack on homophobia is no vice, it seems

They don’t make Yale philosophy professors like they used to, I reckon. Jason Stanley is the Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University. He also deigned to offer his professional Ivy League philosopher’s opinion on reports of remarks that the distinguished Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne made last week at a Society of Christian Philosophers meeting — comments that offered a critical view of homosexuality, reportedly (I say “reportedly” because to my knowledge, no one has seen a transcript of his talk). The considered judgment of the Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale, regarding Swinburne and those who defended his right to his opinion, is this: “F*ck you assholes. Seriously.”

Except without the asterisk.

I knew this because I saw it on this post on a group blog by right-of-center philosophy professors. You should take a look at it, noting especially its tone. Most of the post is dedicated to rounding up reaction, for and against, to Swinburne’s speech, with particular attention paid to the hysterical nature of left-wing philosophers. The author of the blog entry took screenshots of a Facebook page, which is how Stanley’s judgment ended up on that site. (I saw it the other day, but did not know who Stanley was until a reader pointed it out to me that he’s very far from a nobody.) Stanley now writes, on his Facebook page:

I am really mortified about this. My comment “F*ck those assholes”, posted on a friend’s private FB page about homophobes, was *photographed*. Even *worse*, it made it into *the right-wing hateosphere*, where it is being linked and relinked. I really wish now I hadn’t said that!! I PROFOUNDLY regret not using much harsher language and saying what I really think of anyone who uses their religion to promote homophobia, you know that sickness that has led people for thousands of years to kill my fellow human beings for their sexual preferences. Like you know, pink triangles and the Holocaust. I am really, truly, embarrassed by the fact that my mild comment “F*ck those assholes” is being spread. This wildly understates my actual sentiments towards homophobic religious proponents of evil like Richard Swinburne, who use their status as professional philosophers to oppress others with less power. I am SO SORRY for using such mild language. I am posting this on “public” so that there will be no need for anyone to violate any religious code of ethics and take pictures of private FB pages to share my views about such matters.

The Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University, everybody.

I urge you to go to the linked post from the conservative philosophers’ blog and judge for yourself if it can remotely be described as part of any such “hateosphere”. If anything, the reckless judgment, vulgar language, and unhinged nature of Prof. Stanley’s remarks are far closer to hatred than anything on the conservative philosophers’ page. But as is par for the course for the academic left, extremism in the attack on homophobia is never, ever a vice.

Philosopher Ryszard Legutko, in his book The Demon In Democracy, understands what’s going on here. For the progressive, as for the communist, achieving the egalitarian utopia requires demonizing and extirpating the enemies of Equality and Freedom:

So at a certain moment the spirit of mistrust turns to human minds and human thoughts, which are believed to be the fountainhead from which acceptance of the inequalities springs. It is thus a matter of time before the sting of egalitarian ideology is directed against education, where the minds are shaped, against family life and community life, through which human thoughts acquire social durability, against art, language, and science, where they find more refined expression.

Legutko continues: “The spirit of suspicion will not disappear because there are always newer areas to conquer and deeper sources of inequality to discover.”


Both sides — communist and liberal-democratic — share their dislike, sometimes bordering on hatred, toward the same enemies: the Church and religion, the nation, classical metaphysics, moral conservatism, and the family. Both are unable to mitigate their arrogance toward everything that their ideology despises, and which, in their revolutionary ardor, the seek to remove from the public space and from private lives.

Both are fixated on one or two things that they refer to ad nauseam because those things delineated the unbreachable boundaries of their limited horizon. In every sentence from the Leninist and Stalinist catechisms one can replace “proletariat” with “women” or with “homosexuals,” make a few other minor adjustments, and no one will recognize the original source. Both sides desire a better world so badly that in order to have it, they do not hesitate to control the totality of human life — including these aspects that are most personal or intimate. Both, unfortunately, have been successful politically and have taken over the ideological power of institutions, laws, and even something as elusive, but nonetheless important, as political atmosphere.

Let’s try that Leninist and Stalinist catechism trick:

We are on the eve of decisive events. Progressives in academia must not pin their faith on the general language of “freedom of expression” and “freedom of inquiry,” but must contrapose that language in their own progressive-democratic terms in their full scope. Free speech must never mean the right to make hurtful, bigoted remarks that make the university an unsafe place for marginalized communities. History shows that kind of thing leads to things like pink triangles and the Holocaust. Only a force guided by this understanding of can really ensure the complete eradication of homophobia, racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and all bigotries from the university.

I bet Prof. Stanley could sign on to that. I bet a lot of university professors could, and would. It is inspired by this passage from a 1906 speech of Lenin’s, in which he told revolutionaries not to reject the ordinary meaning of democratic terms, and start using their own language instead. Otherwise, the bourgeoisie might gain a foothold in the coming post-Czarist political order:

We are on the eve of decisive events. The proletariat must not pin its faith in general democratic slogans but must contrapose to them its own proletarian-democratic slogans in their full scope. Only a force guided by these slogans can really ensure the complete victory of the revolution.

Or take this one. First, the Stanleyfied version:

This means replacing what in fact are structures of oppression (structures hypocritically cloaked as “freedom of expression”) with a more just way of governing academia, one that empowers the marginalized. This means replacing democracy for the oppressors by democracy for the oppressed. This means replacing freedom of speech and inquiry for the white, male, heterosexists, for the exploiters, by freedom of speech and inquiry for those who have long been excluded from power. This means a gigantic, world historic extension of freedom, its transformation from falsehood into truth, the liberation of humanity from the shackles of heterosexist, white-supremacist patriarchy, which distorts and truncates any, even the most “open” university.

The original, from Lenin’s 1918 speech on “‘Democracy’ and Dictatorship”:

This means replacing what in fact is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (a dictatorship hypocritically cloaked in the forms of the democratic bourgeois republic) by the dictatorship of the proletariat. This means replacing democracy for the rich by democracy for the poor. This means replacing freedom of assembly and the press for the minority, for the exploiters, by freedom of assembly and the press for the majority of the population, for the working people. This means a gigantic, world historic extension of democracy, its transformation from falsehood into truth, the liberation of humanity from the shackles of capital, which distorts and truncates any, even the most “democratic” and republican, bourgeois democracy. This means replacing the bourgeois state with the proletarian state, a replacement that is the sole way the state can eventually wither away altogether.

And so on. The fact that a Yale philosophy professor not only holds such vicious opinions towards another professor who apparently only stated a historically standard Christian philosophical view of homosexuality, but who also did not hesitate to publicly denounce that professor in the most vulgar possible terms, is a striking sign of the revolutionary times. To give you a sense of the ideas that are considered so vile as to be unutterable, even in a Christian philosophers’ conference, I searched in Swinburne’s 2007 book Revelation to see what his view on homosexuality is. To my knowledge, there has been no transcript provided of his SCP talk, but numerous online comments by philosophers who were there said that there was nothing in it that Swinburne had not already said in Revelation (which was published by Oxford University Press, not known for being a purveyor of National Socialist tracts) It’s possible to search on Amazon and find the relevant pages in the Swinburne book. It starts on p. 304. As best I can tell, here is his argument:

  1. Children need two parents. The inability to beget children is a “disability.”

  2. Homosexuality, by this definition, is a disability.

  3. Disabilities need to be prevented and cured.

  4. What causes homosexuality? We don’t know, but it’s likely some combination of genetics and environment.

  5. We can change the environmental conditions by discouraging people from homosexual acts, and embracing a homosexual identity.

  6. There is always a possibility that the disability called homosexuality might be cured, so therapy should be considered. But as of now, we have no reason to think that it will be successful, except in a slight number of cases.

  7. In any case, homosexuals should be encouraged to be chaste, just as heterosexuals should be encouraged to be chaste in the face of their own disordered sexual impulses.

  8. We must show love and compassion to homosexuals (and others with disordered impulses), but real love and compassion implies wanting not what they want, but what is best for them.

  9. Therefore, to love gays (and everybody else) is to desire that all who live outside the bounds of normative heterosexual marriage live in chastity.

This is a very common Christian argument from Scripture and the natural law. For a more detailed version of this argument, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teachings on the meaning of sex and sexuality. The Catholic Church teaches that all sexual acts and all sexual desire outside of heterosexual marriage (including masturbation,  and use of pornography) are disordered, because they disrupt the purpose of sex (= the unity of the couple, open to the possibility of the conception of new life). This is why the Church condemns contraception as a deformation of the right use of sex. The Catechism calls homosexuality “intrinsically disordered” because it is a state of sexual desire that can in no way be rightly ordered.

One can easily see why contemporary philosophers would object to this, and they should object to it, philosophically, if it violates their principles. But the idea that what Swinburne said is some sort of crazy right-wing blast from the bowels of Hitleriana, not fit to be stated in philosophical company, is insane.

But I don’t think Stanley and his academic confreres are insane, not in the least. I think they are radical progressive ideologues. I think they deliberately want to demonize any philosophers who hold to the traditional Christian teaching on the meaning of sexuality, particularly homosexuality. One of the most prominent contemporary philosophers is Princeton’s Peter Singer, who has advocated bestiality (under certain conditions) and the extermination of handicapped newborns. Singer is welcome within contemporary philosophical circles … but Richard Swinburne is now to be anathematized?

Anybody with eyes can see what’s going on here. There is a cleansing underway. The fact that the Society of Christian Philosophers is allowing itself to be bullied by these people is deeply depressing. Christian philosophers ought to be defending Swinburne’s right to state his opinion, even if they disagree with that opinion.

(I should add here that one of the handful of reasons I would even consider voting for Trump is the certain knowledge that a Hillary Clinton administration would only further the cultural hegemony of cutthroat revolutionaries like Stanley and his fellow travelers.)