it's undeniable that an increasing number of academics in the United States prefer to be called by their first names, viewing honorifics as pretentious and arrogant. The blame for this social calamity can be placed squarely at the feet of Marxist sociology, which more or less permeates society today. For the Marxist everything is reduced to power relationships, including titles and formalities. The use of honorifics exposes power relationships that are not supposed to exist (better translated as "you're not supposed to notice") in our egalitarian society, interfering with the liberal's preferred method changing reality by ignoring it.
The first thing we know about any professor who rejects honorifics is that he defines his own position primarily in terms of power and privilege rather than knowledge or accomplishment, regarding the former as instruments of oppression. He feels embarrassed or guilty about this and prefers not to be reminded by his title. He has little respect for his own achievement, considering it something anyone else could do - which sounds deceptively humble. Behind the facade of humility there are some disturbing corollaries. It usually follows that such a man has even less respect for the achievements of others, [emphasis his] which he thinks anyone else might have easily accomplished, most especially himself. He views many of those who fail to reach his own level of achievement with either pity or contempt, as the only legitimate explanations for inequality in his egalitarian mind are: a) oppression; or b) moral fault.
Now, it's awfully amusing how he lays this at the feet of Marx. And then there's the bit in italics, about what usually follows this pernicious informality. These seem to be clear instances of exactly the kind of bad behavior our scientist friends were complaining about last week, where the philosopher asserts that some phenomenon is caused by or correlated with some other phenomenon, but where this relationship has not been subject to empirical scrutiny and has in fact just been made up. Examples of this in the quoted text include: that people who eschew titles view them as pretentious and arrogant; that they do this because of marxism; that they do this because they object to relationships of unequal power; that they nevertheless define the relationship in terms of unequal power, regardless of the details; that they feel embarrassment or guilt over this inequality of power; that they regard accomplishments as oppressive; that they respect the achievements of others even less than they respect their own; that they believe that just anyone could earn a doctoral degree; that the only legitimate reasons for an inequality of achievement are oppression and moral fault. Wowza.
I allow my students to use my first name. I do this not because I have no respect for my own achievements, but (in part) out of my tremendous respect for the achievements of real doctors. I do not see my role as defined by power and privilege rather than by knowledge and achievement; I see my role as involving all of these things. I have certain powers and privileges, and I am qualified to have these powers and privileges in virtue of my knowledge and accomplishments. But the most important thing about these powers and privileges is that they come with very serious responsibilities. I am competent to do this job in virtue of my qualifications, but they have little or nothing to do with the fact that I can be trusted with the responsibility of doing it.
I have these powers, privileges, and responsibilities, as well as my knowledge and achievements, whether or not I insist on being addressed in a way that accentuates them. I am inclined to suspect that this widespread trend of using first names is a result of the fact that the academic student-teacher relationship is, like a lot of things, now less formal than it was. People don't dress up the way they used to, and they don't use titles the way they used to.
I also have some experience with this practice from the perspective of an undergraduate. My undergraduate professors all permitted students to use first names--some allowed all students to do so, while others insisted on the honorific from students at the intro level while they were more relaxed with students in the upper division. This did not decrease my respect for them, their knowledge, or their accomplishments. I was, and continue to be, in awe of how smart and accomplished these people were and are. They were the smartest people I had ever met in real life, and I declared philosophy as my major, before I had any inkling that I wanted to pursue it as a career, in the hopes that a philosophical education would make me as smart as they were. I did not get the idea that just anyone could achieve what they had achieved.
And so it seems to me that if they respect you only because they call you doctor, they don't respect you. It seems to me that whether they call you doctor or not is irrelevant to whether they respect you. And it seems to me that, in an environment in which nobody else is doing it, insisting on being addressed as doctor will make them respect you less because they will think you're a jackass.
P.S. Cullbreath is really distasteful. Here he is reprimanding a commenter for the "offensive" practice of using the feminine pronoun for a generic person.