Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Pointless, Unnecessarily Long Response to A Comment Left By Troy Nunley

Professor Troy Nunley, author of this W4 post, has visited us and responded to a critical post I wrote. I started to draft a brief response, but there were so many wrong, misleading, or clueless statements in Nunley’s comment that I lost control of myself. I realize, of course, that responding at all was a pointless waste of time, and that responding at length was really really stupid. I should never have written this, and you definitely shouldn’t read it. The only thing I can say in my defense is that I have grading to do.

Nunley writes,
Regarding c, Mr. Zero granted the point. Thanks. However, he changes subject...
I don't see how this is a change of subject. I thought the subject was whether there is something wrong with the APA's new policy. I granted the irrelevant semantic point, pointed out that it did not affect the larger issue that anti-miscegenation policies are discriminatory and a rightful target of the APA's policy. If Professor Nunley insists that the semantic point is the important thing, then I thank him and withdraw from the conversation until he is willing to discuss an important issue. (This last sentence is obviously a lie.)
...changes subject to address whether or not discrimination upon whether one is interracially married or not is morally beyond the pale. Please don’t go there; I am in an interracial marriage.
I am in the dark here. Why can't I talk about how the policy applies to interracial marriage because Troy Nunley is in an interracial marriage? And anyways, I didn't go there; Nunley went there when he objected to the APA's use of the word 'integral' to describe why rules against interracial marriage are discriminatory. My complaint is not that Nunley is a bigot who disfavors interracial marriage; it's that the semantic point about whether this is an according-to-Hoyle integral connection is not germane.

And anyway, I think that there’s a clear sense in which anti-miscegenation policies touch something integral about racial identity. What, after all, is the (false) premise behind such policies? That (e.g.) black people are somehow morally unfit to enter into certain kinds of relationship with (e.g.) white people. (It also seems to suggest that there is something wrong with (e.g.) white people who are interested, willing, or otherwise open to pursuing certain kinds of relationships with (e.g.) black people.) It seems to me that moral equality with people of other racial groups and a concomitant moral fitness to enter into whatever relationships one wants with whomever one wants regardless of ethnic identity is something close to “integral” to being (e.g.) black. Or white. Or nonwhite-hispanic. Or gay. Or whatever.
A lot of comments on this blog give me the impression that commentors think that because Mr. Zero changed the subject that I must, in fact, be challenging him on the new subject.
Whatever. The point is, anti-miscegenation policies are wrong; they're wrong because they're discriminatory; and the APA (rightly) regards the long history of people using such policies as a tool of discrimination as sufficient reason to reject them as unethical. In so doing, they also happen to use the word ‘integral’ in an unnatural manner.

But I think it’s important to keep our eyes on the prize, so to speak. What is the upshot of all this? Does the APA’s policy condemn something it shouldn’t condemn? No, it does not. Does it condemn something it should condemn but for the wrong reason? Slightly, since anti-miscegenation policies are discriminatory because they’re discriminatory, not because of their long history of being used as tools of discrimination. Nunley’s examples demonstrate that the policy uses the word ‘integral’ in a weird way, but not in a way that actually tells against the policy.

I know we’re philosophers and we split hairs for a living, but there’s splitting hairs and then there’s splitting hairs.
...nor illegally impregnating women with one’s one [sic] sperm (emphasis on those last four words) integral to being a man.
I don't see why Professor Nunley gets to insist that those four words are of any importance whatsoever. Is it of special significance when you illegally impregnate someone with your own sperm rather than that of someone else? Suppose my wife and I each illegally impregnate various women with my sperm. Are we doing totally, completely different things, or are we doing the same thing? (Hint: the same thing.) Or imagine the cops who crack the case: "What did he do?" “He illegally impregnated women with the wrong sperm.” “No, in order to know what he did, I need to know whether it was his sperm, or somebody else’s!” “…”
I do not admire persons who switch the subject and depict me as having taken a contrary view on the new subject.
I think if you read the words I wrote, it is clear that I remain agnostic about Professor Nunley's views on the "new" subjects. All I did was point out that Nunley's various examples did not stand in counterexample to the APA's new policy and were, in fact, its rightful targets (if only in extremely bizarre circumstances). If a school made any of Nunley’s proposed counterexamples a condition of employment, the school would thereby discriminate against members of the intuitively relevant group. This calls into question Nunley’s claim that the proposed counterexamples were genuine. I did not suggest that Nunley was opposed to interracial marriage.
As for a, again, Mr. Zero changes the subject as to whether persons of a certain age or political behavior ought to be fired or not hired. Whatever views Zero has, I’m certain I didn’t contradict them.
Then Professor Nunley and I must also be in agreement about whether the relevant behaviors are the proper target of an anti-discrimination policy (they are), and whether he has managed to effectively criticize the APA’s new policy (no).
In the final paragraph (thankfully) Mr. Zero gets to the heart of the matter. ALL I said was the APA is wrong on what they consider “integral” here.
All I can say is, I totally disagree with Professor Nunley about what the heart of the matter is.
But let’s face it, the policy was not intended to target a rash of anti-pregnancy, anti-interracial colleges.
For one thing, (and I hate to have to keep mentioning this) Bob Jones suspended their policy against inter-racial relationships just ten years ago. This occurred as a result of widespread criticism generated by the publicity surrounding George W. Bush’s association with that school. The policy was changed because of outside pressure, not because they suddenly heard the voice of Jiminy Cricket. It seems to me that the Bob Jones people owe a debt of gratitude to the people who refused to give them a free pass to discriminate because of their religious affiliation.

For another thing, discrimination on the basis of pregnancy remains a problem. A friend of mine who was pregnant while on the job market was advised to keep her condition a secret from interviewing departments until after she had been offered a job. The worry was that people might not want to hire somebody who would then have to take maternity leave in her first year on the job, even though it’s clearly her right to do so and they have no right to take this possibility into consideration. This tells against Nunley’s suggestion that women are safe from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.

Finally, it would be pretty stupid for an anti-discrimination policy to omit mention of various forms of obviously unethical discrimination just because they didn’t see them as a huge problem right at that exact second. Better safe than sorry.
It was to depict the new attack on Christian schools as an extension of defenses of women and minorities. That’s why it concocted a bogus notion of “integral relations.”
This “extension” of the protections afforded to women and minorities to gays and lesbians is not bogus. It’s on purpose and it’s the right thing to do. Furthermore, it is not new; the previous policy prohibited basing employment and other decisions on sexual orientation. The new policy simply recognizes that forcing gay faculty members to remain celibate as a condition of employment, while not imposing the same burden on straight faculty members, is discriminatory. The suggestion that "practicing" gays are morally unfit to serve as college professors is as immoral and pernicious as the suggestion that black people are morally unfit to serve as spouses of white people. And the claim that white people who have black spouses are morally unfit to serve as college professors.
Too bad they don’t know what they are talking about.
A sentence ago, Nunley’s view was that the APA’s use of the words ‘integral connection’ in the policy was a display of guile; that it was “concocted” in order to disguise what he views as a purposeful attack on specifically Christian schools. But now, in this sentence, it’s a display of stupidity: they just don’t know what they’re talking about. I think he should pick one accusation and stick with it.

I have a competing hypothesis. I think that the APA saw that it is wrong for certain Christian schools to impose such a strong differential burden on gay and lesbian faculty, and took a stand against it. This is, in my view, no more an attack on Christian schools or Christian morality than the 1989 policy was, when it condemned as unethical Bob Jones’s anti-miscegenation policies (which were allegedly based on Christian ethics), for eleven years (until BJU caved to outside pressure and rescinded the policies). While it is an attack on the policies of some Christian schools, these policies are bigoted and wrong, and the fact that they are the policies of Christians is no excuse.

Please tell me you didn't read this whole thing.

--Mr. Zero

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

That was a magnificent piece of procrastination.

My reading it, on the other hand, was a run-of-the-mill, unimpressive piece of procrastination.

Anonymous said...

Well put!

I think one should also add: The fact that Nunley feels something is "beyond the pale" because it applies to him (i.e., interracial marriage) but thinks that things that don't actually apply to him (i.e., gayness) are well within the pale reflects a truly repugnant moral cowardice.

Bigotry against homosexuals is beyond the pale, and Troy's self-serving rationalizations are as despicable as the self-serving rationalizations of racists.

CTS said...

Mine too.

John said...

...totally read that whole thing.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or is the newly "renovated" Oxford University Press-APA website even less helpful than it was previously?

Anonymous said...

I skimmed the whole thing.

zombie said...

No time to procrastinate now. I'll do it later.

Anonymous said...

The W4 group is typical of the kind of cultural troll who thrives on being dismissed. (they call it persecution) Brian's treatment (while completely justified) is fertilizer for their self-reinforcing little conversation.

You(along with Clayton - and a few others) are really doing God's work with these guys. Actually engaging with them on this fine-grained level is important and effective. I know from personal experience (with two of these characters) that they really hate detailed critical scrutiny and will quit a tough discussion very quickly (while claiming victory of course).

It's especially delicious that this analysis is coming from an unknown graduate student rather than an established authority figure or opinion maker like Brian.

The entire community is benefiting from your supererogation.

Anonymous said...

You were right! I shouldn't have read it. Now, back to grading...

Anonymous said...

You might want to engage in a fine-grained way with those of your opponents who do not seem to be nuts.

Anonymous said...

Kudos.

Yes, just as contemporary neo-Cartesians thrive on the scrutiny given them (oh--I am so prejudiced aren't I?), so do those who throw in their lot with a first-century converted Christian (who never met Christ) whose haughty letters to particular churches later became holy canon merely by that and the subsequent century's version of viral circulation, and bequeathed his personal hatred of gays, feminists, and intellectuals to all later generations of those socialized to the faith. The fact that we are seriously dealing with this now is an indictment of the very meaning of what we vauntingly call "western civilization".

Troy Nunley said...

Quick replies to Mr. Zero again.
I said Zero changed the subject on my criticism of (c). He claims the subject was actually whether something(!) was wrong with the APA policy. True that, and there is something wrong with it. Zero changed the subject to whether everything(!) was wrong with the policy including its attack on bans on interracial marriage. That’s cheating. And your talk about whether your new topic is “germane” is an attempt to slight over that explicit cheat; you ought to stick to whether what I clearly said was in fact false. And if you wish to speak of “germane” points or topics, make sure not to implicate me for taking a contradictory view.
Second, the attempt to find sex with white people “integral” to black racial identity by psychologizing those who forbid it is ridiculous. Even if those persons oppose equity for blacks (and I’ll allow that that is their likely motive) and even if permitting sex with whites is essential to that equity it does not follow that such sex is “integral” to being black. It follow only that being allowed (not actually having) such sex is integral to properly respecting (not being) blacks.
Thirdly, with respect to whether you change the subject Zero, yes you do and do repeatedly. My arguments are simple Modus Tollens arguments. (1) The APA policy is committed to the view that X is integrally connected to Y. (2) It is not the case that X is integrally connected to Y. Therefore, the policy is incorrect in its claims about what is integrally connected to what. AT NO POINT have you challenged a premise in any of my three arguments against a-c. Well, OK, I have to grant that the points in which you desperately, desperately tried to make sex with white integral to being black were a challenge to my second premise against APA policy point c. But that was a disaster. Not as disastrous as missing the arguments altogether though.
Again, until you are prepared to challenge a premise in arguments of this sort, you have no legitimate reply to my arguments at all, only a lengthy commentary concerning arguments I never made.

Troy Nunley said...

Quick replies to Mr. Zero again.
I said Zero changed the subject on my criticism of (c). He claims the subject was actually whether something(!) was wrong with the APA policy. Correct, and there is something wrong with it. Zero changed the subject to whether everything(!) was wrong with the policy including its attack on bans on interracial marriage, etc.. That’s cheating. And your talk about whether your new topic is “germane” is an attempt to slight over that explicit cheat; you ought to stick to whether what I clearly said was in fact false. And if you wish to speak of “germane” points or topics, make sure not to implicate me for taking a contradictory view.
Second, the attempt to find sex with white people “integral” to black racial identity by psychologizing those who forbid it is ridiculous. Even if those persons oppose equity for blacks (and I’ll allow that that is their likely motive) and even if permitting sex with whites is essential to that equity it does not follow that such sex is “integral” to being black. It follow only that being allowed (not actually having) such sex is integral to properly respecting (not being) blacks.
Thirdly, with respect to whether you change the subject Zero, yes you do and do repeatedly. My arguments are simple Modus Tollens arguments. (1) The APA policy is committed to the view that X is integrally connected to Y. (2) It is not the case that X is integrally connected to Y. Therefore, the policy is incorrect in its claims about what is integrally connected to what. AT NO POINT have you challenged a premise in any of my three arguments against a-c. Well, OK, I have to grant that the points in which you desperately, desperately tried to make sex with white integral to being black were a challenge to my second premise against APA policy point c. But that was a disaster. Not as disastrous as missing the arguments altogether though.
Again, until you are prepared to challenge a premise in arguments of this sort, you have no legitimate reply to my arguments at all, only a lengthy commentary concerning arguments I never made.