I’m pleased that I completed my formal education and moved out of teaching before social media transformed the world. In this article, Marie Snyder talks about teaching an introductory Philosophy course (the subject of my first degree) and the pushback she’s had from students.
There’s a lot I could write about this which would be uninteresting, so just go and read her article. All I’ll say is that, personally, I still listen to musicians (like Morrissey) whose political views I find abhorrent. Part of diversity is diversifying your own thinking.
It’s important that we scrutinize behaviours. It’s useful to clarify that discrimination or harm of any kind — from former cultural appropriation to sexual crimes — is not to be tolerated. We should definitely overtly chastise damaging behaviours of people as a means to shift society to evolve down the best timeline. But we are all greater than our worst actions; for instance, Heidegger’s overt anti-semitism doesn’t obliterate his theories of being. His student and lover, Hannah Arendt, is another name potentially requested stricken from syllabi for a collection of racist comments despite her quarrel with her mentor about his bigoted position.
We have to look at ideas, not people, when sifting the wheat from the chaff. Some ideas stand the test of time even if their author is found otherwise wanting. It doesn’t suggest that they’re an honourable person when we find a piece of work worthy of our attention, and it’s not like we’re contributing to their wealth if they’re long dead. We need to bring back a nuanced approach to these works instead of the current dichotomous path of slotting people in a good or bad box.
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