Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Hendricks Interview

Vincent Hendricks recently gave an interview in which he discusses the recent photographic fiasco. (Background here and here.) Since it's in danish, Berit Brogaard of NewAPPS has done us the favor of translating it.

The interview is pretty interesting. There are some things I'd like to discuss. In what follows, quotes from the interview are offset, the interviewer's questions are in bold, Hendricks's responses are in italics, and my remarks are regularly regular. Also, I'm not quoting the whole interview; I'm snipping out the bits I find most interesting/astonishing.

A: First, why did you agree to be photographed as ‘the man of the month’ for Connery.dk?

V: I, along with many other Danes engaged in cultural, political or business projects, help promote a nonprofit charitable project called ‘youmeshopping.dk’. The pictures for Connery.dk were made in collaboration with youmeshopping.dk to build awareness of the charity initiative. This is the reason I agreed to be the man of the month in February. It is in this context that the images should be seen and understood.


This is interesting. The pictures were for charity. I don't totally understand how the pictures can be for charity, though. How do the pictures build awareness for "youmeshopping.dk"? It didn't seem to me that the pictures I saw were doing much in the way of raising awareness for charity. If it's just that the pictures accompanied an article in which he mentioned a charity, that's not the same thing as the pictures themselves promoting the charity.

A: But wasn’t the criticism directed at the photos as displayed in a different context, namely that of your own website?

V: ...Let me also point out that the criticism ended, even in the U.S., as soon as it became public that I did this as part of a charity initiative.


This is sort of interesting, because I followed this pretty closely, and I had no idea until just now that he'd done the photos as a part of a charity initiative. Or that the criticism of him had ended. Is this correct? Is this something that people knew about, and that had some effect on the criticism?

A: What was the purpose of advertizing a logic course using photos of yourself surrounded by half-naked women dressed in school uniforms?

V: ...I also wanted the course to have some appeal to young men who read these kinds of magazines but who rarely sign up for logic courses.


This is pretty fucking interesting. Hendricks's schtick throughout this whole thing has been all about how caught off guard he was, how he didn't mean to offend anybody, and how surprised he is that everyone got all bent out of shape about it. But here he is acknowledging that photos like these have a limited appeal--that their appeal was not universal. They appeal to a certain kind of person: he says 'young men' but what he means is, men with an adolescent sense of sexuality. And that he was specifically trying to appeal to these adolescents.

And once you realize that this is the kind of person to whom the photos appeal (which you have to do in order to use the photos in an attempt to appeal to them), it's not crazy to imagine that they might not be appealing to the women, who often don't like those kinds of magazines. (And other people who don't like that kind of magazine.) And that advertisements for university-level logic courses ought to be designed to appeal as widely as possible. And that these advertisements should, in particular, not be specifically and intentionally aimed at young men and away from women. And that an advertisement that appeals to male students by illustrating that you regard your female students as sex objects might aim away from female students. The dots are there.

And let's face it. It's pretty obvious why a thoughtful person would see the need to increase the number of young men in his logic courses. I think we can all agree that it's the one area in philosophy in which the men just cannot seem to gain a toehold.

A: You say that the pictures are self-mocking. How so?


What? The photos are not self-mocking. "Look at me! I'm a sharp-dressed professor surrounded by half-naked 20-year-old female students, who are dressed in sexy schoolgirl outfits and posing in sexually suggestive ways! I'm mocking myself!" What the fuck?

V: Look, what’s the chance that a professor at a university would be associated with anything that might even remotely resemble the scenario depicted in the pictures?


That's not what mocking yourself is.

It's not my world. I am Professor of Formal Philosophy. I'm not a Clark Kent, model or rock star.


I mention this just to point out how much he doesn't understand the concept of Clark Kent. (Also, I think he kind of thinks of himself as a model.)

A: Many of your critics are philosophers. Do you think that people in philosophy are too uptight?


This is pretty much of a bullshit question.

A: Didn't you realize that the pictures could perhaps seem a bit offensive?

V: Yes, I did. ... The key mistake I made was to fail to clarify where the photos came from and what purpose they were serving. I regret not doing that.


I still think they key mistake he made was using the photos to advertise for a course he was teaching. I don't think it would have helped all that much if he'd mentioned that the photos were from a magazine, and that in the magazine article he promotes a charity. I don't see why the fact, if it's a fact, that the photos are a nifty way to promote a charity in some teenager sex magazine indicates or suggests that it would be a good idea to use them to promote your university logic class.

A: The photos have been criticized for maintaining gender stereotypes, and for being quite sexist. Is it okay to display sexist pictures for the purpose of charity?

V: It is, of course, reprehensible if charity work adds to chauvinism or sexism, racism or other prejudice. It was not sexism or anything like that that was driving my willingness to participate, and I don’t think the charity initiative youmeshopping.dk or magazine Connery.dk intended these photos to be an expression of sexism.


Hmm. The idea seems to be that it's not sexist because he wasn't trying to be sexist. I'm not sure I see this as a sound inference. I guess it's necessary at this stage to point out that it's possible to be sexist without intending it. That it's possible to be sexist by accident. I don't know why, but I keep thinking about how when I was a little boy, my grandmother used to say this saying about what the road to hell is paved with. Unfortunately, I can't remember what she said. I think it was fruit salad. I don't know why I mentioned it. Nevermind.

--Mr. Zero

108 comments:

Gabriele Contessa said...

I guess that this http://choiceandinference.com/2012/03/01/hendricks-on-the-cover-of-connery-magazine/
is what supposedly ended the controversy (in the mind of VFH and his friends that is)

Anonymous said...

teLook, what’s the chance that a professor at a university would be associated with anything that might even remotely resemble the scenario depicted in the pictures?

Don't these photos prove that, in the case of Prof. Hendricks, the chance is 100%?

Anonymous said...

I fucking hate that assholes like this are not only in our profession but THRIVE in our profession.

I can't support shaming efforts enough in his case.

Anonymous said...

I wish H would've just said, "Look, I enjoyed the photo shoot, I like men's magazines, and I'll pose for whatever photos I want."

I would have respected that more. I don't like insincere apologies.

Anonymous said...

Two controversies, two bullshit apologies. Let me ask the obvious question: Why is this fucking guy still an EIC at Synthese? Why does he still have control over whether my work gets published in one of the best journals in my sub-field?

The mind reels.

Bobcat said...

"And let's face it. It's pretty obvious why a thoughtful person would see the need to increase the number of young men in his logic courses. I think we can all agree that it's the one area in philosophy in which the men just cannot seem to gain a toehold."

It struck me as odd that H thought there were few young men in logic courses. So I thought: either logic is very popular among women, but not so popular among men, in Denmark (possible, for all I know about Denmark, but it would still surprise me), or Hendricks is trying to attract the kind of men who are into "Girls Gone Wild" because he thinks that if he teaches them logic, they'll be more likely to behave themselves. If I'm right about that second possibility, then Hendricks has, it seems to me, attributes to logic quite the efficacy at improving people's thinking.

zombie said...

Oh. It was for CHARITY. Well, that explains everything. And excuses everything. And apparently, the professor has an expansive view of his charitable activities, which extend to improving young men through the awesome power of logic.

I have to question just how good he can possibly be at (a) doing logic, and (b) teaching logic. Perhaps it is fortunate that he will not be teaching logic to young women.

Anonymous said...

Here is a description in English of the charity Hendricks is "supporting."

http://www.dune-site.com/you-me-shopping

It is not difficult to imagine pictures of the sort he took being used to attract attention to this sort of charitable initiative.

It is, of course, difficult to imagine a philosopher being dumb enough to take these pictures, or, even worse, being dumb enough to use them to advertise his logic course, or, even worse than that, being too dumb to see what is wrong with all of this.

But, to paraphrase another poster, we don't have to merely imagine such a philosopher any longer. We have proof that one is dumb enough in all of these respects.

Mr. Zero said...

To the person whose comment I didn't approve:

As written, it was not entirely clear what you were trying to say. I think I'd be willing to approve a clearer version, though, if you were willing to R&R.

Anonymous said...

TEH LOGIC! CAN YOU FEEL IT. Honestly, you have to wonder whether VH sincerely believes he's making a decent argument here. Either way, the outcome isn't good.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Just wow. Thanks for posting this, although it makes me angrier about the whole controversy than even before. I can't believe he really thinks that if we'd all known the pictures were for charity (supposedly) and the purpose, everything would be all right, ESPECIALLY after the whole outcry. The mind boggles.

Anonymous said...

11:27:

I feel your pain. Maybe he's still an editor because this is the very first time ever that a philosopher has demonstrated unprofessional behavior, and the field at large doesn't know how to react.

Anonymous said...

10:12,

'this is the very first time ever that a philosopher has demonstrated unprofessional behavior.'

I honestly don't know if you intended this to be sarcastic or not - surely, you jest, right?

Anonymous said...

scc

CTS said...

As I posted at Feminist Philosophers:

Allow me to summarize.

1) He does not realize the images were sexist.
2) He thinks that doing the shoot for a charity nullifies any possible sexism [that others might perceive].
3) He thinks this a fine way to appeal to male students.
4) He does not consider the reaction of female students.
5) He is incapable of fully admitting an error of judgment.
6) It is really all a problem of someone else’s perception.

Anonymous said...

Since this thread is about an interview I'm going to (selfishly) ask a question about your approach to (academic) interviews:

How do you cope with them? I tend to turn into a crazy stress ball for weeks before the interview. During the interview itself I think I'm relatively personable but how do you keep yourself from absolutely freaking out about them beforehand?

Sorry for the derail, with the Pacific APA coming up there's a fresh round of interviews about.

Anonymous said...

Zero...

The guy was making a self-satiric joke about how sexy logic professors are seen to be by the general public (by ironically putting himself in the role of a rock star with groupies).

In doing so, he crossed a line and caused offense. He should have noticed that, and he didn't.

You, Mr. Zero, didn't get the original joke (which is different from getting the joke and thinking it's in bad taste -- it's clear from your comments that you didn't even get the joke). Fine -- not everyone has to get every joke.

But you just keep going on and on and on and on about this, and whenever it's getting so old nobody here wants to talk about it anymore, you go shaking the bushes to get more and more concerned feminists to join the chorus of disapproval.

We get it, man. You made your point. The guy made a joke that was in bad taste. He shouldn't have done that. That makes his action bad. It shows his character to be flawed. Oh yeah, and Synthese.

Can we _please_ change the fucking topic?

I never thought I'd have to say this, but even your 'Guess what campus this is a picture of' contests are better than this. If there's another no-news day, can we please stick to those? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Waaaaah, 6:09 is upset because someone on the internet providing free content isn't writing what he (yes, clearly he) wants! And those damn humorless feminists! Always mucking up the fun to which we are clearly entitled, with our superior joke-getting abilities! Why doesn't someone WRITE THINGS FOR MY AMUSEMENT, ACCORDING TO MY DEMANDS, DAMN IT?!

God, what a tool.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:55,

You use abusive, name-calling language, but you've missed entirely what I was saying. Please: take a deep breath, count to 100, and go back and read what I wrote. Read it carefully. Don't read the next part until you've done that.

Ready?

OK. Notice now what I did _not_ do. I did _not_ say that I found the joke amusing. I did _not_ complain that feminists didn't get the joke. I did _not_ say that the situation was otherwise fun.

Get that part now? Are you ready to take the time to understand what I clearly _was_ saying and responding to without jumping the gun? Here goes:

Mr. Zero claimed, in his post, that "the photos are not self-mocking" and that Hendricks does not know what mocking yourself is. Remember?

I, as it turns out, don't find the self-mockery funny in this case, but I found the self-mocking intent behind the photos easy to understand from the moment I saw them. Most people would. So, whatever the other problems with the photos clearly are, and leaving aside the question whether I found the self-mockery in this case funny or 'fun' (I found it to be neither), Mr. Zero seemed to be missing a key component of what was going on.

You make it seem as though the point behind my post was to complain about my Hendricks-photo-gazing fun being ruined by Zero's comments. I don't know where you could have got that preposterous idea.

For instance, did you miss the entire paragraph in which I said that Hendricks ought not to have done what he did, and so on?

And where on earth did I make any general claim about feminists?

What _did_ prompt me to write was, as my post made abundantly clear, that Zero is going on and on about this issue far longer than seems warranted, and doesn't seem to be achieving anything by doing it.

Hendricks has been put through the ringer on this one for a long time now. His name is now successfully mud. The smear campaign has worked. Leiter, this blog, and many others have probably permanently killed his professional reputation. Why keep kickign the guy while he's down? What he did was in bad taste, and contributed to a chilly climate. Those are bad things. WE GET IT. WE REALLY REALLY DO. Nobody here that I have seen is praising Hendricks for the photos (though you evidently wanted to attackme for doing so because you read the word 'feminist' in my original post and I didn't accompany it with songs of praise).

But there comes a time when these prolonged, reputation-destroying personal attacks become far too ugly. In this case, Zero is repeatedly booting a bloodied and unconscious man and nobody is pulling him away as he turns back over and over to kick the already-past-beaten guy in the face. I find that behavior repellent, and it lowers the tone of this otherwise good blog. It does that both in itself and in bringing out the baser elements of some readers.

Do you get it now?

P.S. You got my sex wrong, also.

Anonymous said...

If VH has actually apologized, I would agree with 6:09 that we should give the guy a break. But he has only apologized for how the pictures were perceived, not for the pictures themselves At the same time, VS thinks they're great promotion for his classes for young men.
At my institution, which is also in continental Europe, some members of the (almost exclusively male) faculty often make crude sexist jokes during classes. Some male students find this funny, most women (and a minority of the male students) are embarrassed. It's seen as innocent banter, "so typically professor X, bragging about his sexual adventures". I don't see what I can do about the overt sexism. But as a tangible result, we have more women dropping out, and less than 20% of our PhD program has women enrollments. Women also experience higher attrition rates than men, so that very few actually finish their dissertation.
I do not mean to bash VH, but it is important that there is more awareness about how women are perceived (i.e., as less intelligent, as sex objects) by some people in continental European philosophy.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi 6:09/6:33,

I found the self-mocking intent behind the photos easy to understand from the moment I saw them. Most people would.

If you say so. I don't see it at all. I'm not aware of anyone other than you and Hendricks to have picked up on it. If it's that clear, maybe you could explain it. I guess I think it's BS, though.

Hendricks has been put through the ringer on this one for a long time now. His name is now successfully mud. The smear campaign has worked. Leiter, this blog, and many others have probably permanently killed his professional reputation. Why keep kickign [sic] the guy while he's down?

I put this post up because Hendricks gave an interview that I thought was worth discussing. It's worth discussing because of the intense cluelessness Hendricks demonstrates therein concerning what he did, what the photos illustrate, why they are objectionable, whether his "apology" had been accepted, whether the criticism had "stopped" or simply died down, whether it's possible to do something sexist without intending it, and whether it's possible to do something objectionably sexist even if it's "for a good cause."

I posted it when I did because the interview was published in Danish on March 8th and translated into English on March 12th. I read the translated interview that evening, collected my thoughts about it during the day of the 13th, wrote the post that evening, and put it up the morning of the 14th. The post is timely. It's a post on Wednesday morning dealing with events we learned about on Monday.

I'm not sure you know what a "smear campaign" is.

If Hendricks's reputation has been damaged, Hendricks himself is the one who damaged it. It's not just that he did something dumb. Everybody makes mistakes. That much is inevitable. What has caused this incident to go from "Vincent Hendricks did something dumb that one time" to "Vincent Hendricks is shamefully clueless and tone-deaf when it comes to sexism" is Vincent Hendricks's own cluelessness and tone-deafness. What has caused it to continue to be an issue is Vincent Hendricks's own continued (shamefully clueless, tone-deaf) discussion of it.

Anonymous said...

Zero,

Thanks for the invitation to explain to you what the self-mockery in the photos is, but no thanks for your pre-emptive suggestion that what I am going to say is 'BS' before I've even said it.

Anyway, here goes. Disclaimer (since it seems especially necessary, given what you and some of your hotheaded readers might be inclined to do): I am _NOT_ defending Hendricks in what follows, I am _NOT_ legitimizing his being in the photos, I am _NOT_ saying he is OK, I am _NOT_ denying that sexism is a problem, or anything like that. I am _ONLY_ explaining what the self-mocking joke was clearly meant to be. It's really, really important that you and the self-appointed Feminist Superfriends understand that in reading what follows. Thanks.

OK, here goes.

I'm going to start with two parallel examples that have nothing to do with sexism, just so you get the idea. Then I'll explain the parallel theme that was intended.

Parallel example 1: suppose a 40-year old man is working as a gas jockey. He knows he's got a low-status, low-paying job with no big future, which is kind of embarrassing to him. For some reason, he is going to be featured in a glossy magazine. So, to have a little fun at his own expense, he has himself photographed -- still wearing his gas jockey outfit -- at a snazzy black-tie cocktail party, talking with celebrities; being driven by a chauffeur in a Bentley; standing proudly in front of a stately mansion; and so on.

Parallel example 2: Suppose someone else is, like me, really out of shape. She recognizes that she doesn't have anywhere near the figure that most people find highly attractive. But, rather than hide this fact, she makes light of it by recreating Marilyn Monroe poses, etc., in a series of ironic photos. The intent is, again, to offset what some people might initially think is a negative quality by showing off her wonderful sense of humor.

Now for Hendricks. He's going to be featured in a glossy magazine. He's aware of the fact that, to most people, he's not going to look like a very exciting or attractive man. Hey, it's his job to be a _logician_ -- how nerdy and geeky can one get? So, he tries to get some of the readers on his side by laughing _with_ him rather than _at_ him. Rather than appear plainly as the non-sexy nerd he knows he is, he makes a wild joke of the whole thing by pretending that he thinks he's one of the most sexy people imaginable -- a rock star with attractive young groupies hanging all over him. That way, people will still think he's a geek, but at least he'll get them laughing at his joke.

That's the idea, Zero. Remember: I am NOT... please reread the above.

Mr. Zero said...

Parallel example 1: suppose a 40-year old man is working as a gas jockey. He knows he's got a low-status, low-paying job with no big future, which is kind of embarrassing to him.

Maybe things are different in Europe, but where I come from, "professor of philosophy/editor-in-chief of top philosophy journal" is not low-status.

For some reason, he is going to be featured in a glossy magazine.

Hendricks has been in magazines before.

So, to have a little fun at his own expense, he has himself photographed -- still wearing his gas jockey outfit -- at a snazzy black-tie cocktail party, talking with celebrities; being driven by a chauffeur in a Bentley; standing proudly in front of a stately mansion; and so on.

Hendricks isn't wearing a "gas-jockey" outfit. The outfit he's wearing probably costs over $5,000. He's wearing sleeve garters.

So, I just don't see the analogy. You've got a high-status guy who's so accustomed to being featured in glossy magazines that he has a section of his webpage devoted to documenting these appearances, dressed in a high-status manner. The second analogy is no closer. He's not out of shape; he's pretty good-looking, actually.

Where's the mockery?

Anonymous said...

Zero:

The thing with analogies is that _not_ every detail from the original case is identical with every detail from the analogous case. _That's what makes them analogies, rather than identities_.

I never claimed or implied that being a logic professor is low status. I claimed that about a 40-year-old gas jockey.

I never claimed or implied that Hendricks had not been in a magazine before. That's irrelevant.

I never claimed or implied that Hendricks was photographed in a gas jockey outfit.

You seem not to understand the difference between a _parallel_ case and an _identical_ case. That's disturbing.

The common feature in all three cases -- my two parallel cases and Hendricks' actual case -- is this: A subject S, who has somewhat-undesirable trait T, is going to be photographed in a magazine. S makes light of the situation by posing, ironically, as someone who has the very opposite of trait T, in order to get the audience to laugh with him/her rather than at him/her.

That's it.

Anyway, I've now explained the joke to you, as promised. If you continue on claiming (truthfully or falsely) that there is no joke at all, funny or not funny, in good or bad taste, then I'm afraid you're only going to reveal to your readers that you have a tin ear for irony.

Anonymous said...

@9:35

In fact, VH has been regarded as something of a sex symbol (and has apparently regarded himself as such) before this incident. There was a link to a photo on NewAPPS a week or two ago confirming this.

So the whole argument that VH is a non-sexy nerd poking fun at himself is BS, as far as I'm concerned. If anything, he was drawing upon preexisting, preestablish sexual cachet.

And by the way, get off Zero's ass. He's spot on.

Mr. Zero said...

You seem not to understand the difference between a _parallel_ case and an _identical_ case. That's disturbing.

Do you really think that I don't know what an analogy is? Do you think that this reflects poorly on me, or on you?

I understand that your cases were designed to be parallel to the Hendricks case. My objection is that the cases are not parallel. Hendricks doesn't have the low-status, shabby-dressed, unattractive qualities shared by your characters. He's a high-status, good-looking, well-dressed logic professor who happens to moonlight as a model. He's portrayed in the photos as being a good-looking, well-dressed logic professor in a position of authority over a bunch of barely-dressed girls in schoolgirl outfits who are posing as "students." He's portrayed as having the status he in fact has; he's portrayed as having authority he in fact has; he's portrayed as having various other characteristics he in fact has. He is portrayed as wielding that authority over a group of female students who are themselves portrayed as sex objects. That's not mocking yourself.

I never claimed or implied that Hendricks was photographed in a gas jockey outfit.

I realize that. That's why I put scare quotes around "gas-jockey." I didn't think you thought that gas jockeys wear five-thousand-dollar suits, with sleeve garters. I was pointing out that Hendricks is not dressed in a way that is parallel to your case; that Hendricks is high-status and is dressed that way. He is not low-status and dressed that way in an inappropriate context for humorous effect. (Nor is he high-status dressed low for humorous effect. Nor is he low-status dressed high for humorous effect.) I was trying to demonstrate that your analogy doesn't make sense.

A subject S, who has somewhat-undesirable trait T, is going to be photographed in a magazine...

What I've been trying get at is, I don't see what the somewhat undesirable trait, T, that Hendricks in fact has and which the photos portray him as having the exact opposite of, in a way that is designed to get us to laugh with him rather than at him.

Anonymous said...

Good lord... why is this so difficult to understand?

Let me repeat what I just said. I'll put it in boldface so that you two get it this time: I am not saying that being a logic professor is low status.. Got that now?

Let me try explaining the intended joke one more time. I'll go really, really slowly this time, to make sure you're following.

Hendricks is a logic professor. That is not normally seen as a sexy, with-it, or hip profession.

He wanted, as he explained, to break that mold in a funny way (again, whether you or I _find_ it funny is neither here nor there -- that's what he was aiming to do, whether or not it worked or whether he should have aimed to do it in this way or at all).

Hence, he had himself photographed in a way that represents him qua logic professor in a manner that anyone will know is _not_ really correct regarding a logic professor.

Come on, _think_ about it for a second. Do you seriously believe...
a) that Hendricks really _is_ so sexy that the photographs represent what everyday life is like for him?
b) that Hendricks is outrageously deluded enough to _believe_ that the photographs depict what it is actually like in his classroom?
c) that Hendricks sincerely intended to _misrepresent_ what the life of a logic professor (or his own life) is like by making the magazine readers think that the photos were accurate?
d) that Hendricks is so dull as to think that the magazine readers would _really believe_ that that's what it's like to be a logic professor?

If you understand that a-d are remarkably implausible, then you presumably understand that he was, instead, engaging in a joke based on how sexy it _isn't_ to be a logic professor.

That's the whole thing. It was a joke. I'm not saying it was a harmless joke, or a funny joke, or an OK joke to make, or anything like that. But it's absurdly obvious that it was a joke and not intended as a serious depiction.

Anonymous said...

As for the lone person who sees the joke, I disagree. Partly it is because of the expression on his face. The 'bad-ass to the bone' scowl. If he was trying to be ironic I think he would have gone for a nerdy look. Something to highlight the feature that is supposed to make the sexy background and the fact of the magazine spread incongruous. If this is humor it is really poorly done. But that doesn't make it not humor. David Spade movies are still humor, they just suck. Maybe you and Hendricks have a David Spade kind of sense of humor.

But I tend to doubt it. A quick look around the webpage does not reveal anything to suggest that Hendricks takes a self-deprecating attitude towards himself. He comes across as a ridiculous popinjay. Of course maybe his entire public persona is a joke. Maybe every time he has a picture taking he is thinking 'Strike the uber-serious, intense pose that makes me look like I am thinking the really deep thoughts. That will be funny because I am just a very well paid logic professor, who edits a major journal and has a dual appointment at one of the most prestigious philosophy programs in the world.'

You can keep saying its a joke. You can keep thinking you have good reason to believe this. You can keep thinking that you have good enough reason to believe it that anyone who disagrees with you must have a tin ear. You can even continue to capitalize 'not' for no good reason. But it doesn't change the fact that you are spending your time going on someone else's blog whining about the fact that he won't post things that interest you. As though seeing the Hendricks post hurts you in some way. As though you can't just move right along to your next bookmark. As though your time is really that valuable. It doesn't change the fact that you need to grow up.

See I am with you on being tired of the Hendricks thing. I thought it served its purpose when it reminded everyone, once again, that sexism is still a problem, and when he was publicly shamed to a sufficient extent that young women considering philosophy know that lots of people in the profession do not find his antics appropriate. I don't care if he apologizes though. I don't care to see him lose his position at Synthese or anything like that. I like to see posts about the job market here and when I don't I go to Leiter and check the tenure track hiring thread and then on to Phylo. I certainly don't demand that Zero start posting stuff I like better. Just like I wouldn't go to my neighbors house and ask them to get better lawn decorations. Its not my fucking lawn. Its not your fucking blog.

Act like an adult.

P.S. The thing about analogies is that while there have to be differences in details, there has to be some significant amount of similarity. Otherwise it is what we call a false analogy. And what I think Zero was saying was that the dissimilarities were so significant that the analogy was a failure. And basic principles of charity in interpretation should have led you to realize that, and to realize that your response was juvenile.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the dispute between Zero and his interlocutor can be resolved by noting that there are several levels in the Hendricks photos. (1) The photos show Hendricks surrounded by young, under-dressed, subservient women who, evidently, are eager to please him sexually. (2) The photos show Hendricks surrounded by professional models who, in exchange for money, have consented to portray a scene from some absurd adolescent sex fantasy. (1) and (2) are both true (that's the magic of fiction for you). (1) represents women as sexual playthings. That's offensive, and that's why the photos are inappropriate for a course webpage. But (2) represents Hendricks as a person who wants to act out adolescent sex fantasies. The photos are offensive in virtue of (1), but they're also self-mocking in virtue of (2).

Mr. Zero said...

Good lord... why is this so difficult to understand?

Because you're not making any sense.

Let me repeat what I just said. I'll put it in boldface so that you two get it this time: I am not saying that being a logic professor is low status..

I think part of the problem is that you think I just can't understand the words as you've written them, and then you think that rewriting the same words will solve the problem.

I am aware that you're employing an analogy. I am playing along with that analogy when I use your vocabulary relating to status or physical attractiveness or whatever. When I point out that Hendricks is not portrayed as "low-status," what I am saying is, Hendricks is not portrayed as being literally low status, he is not portrayed as having any analogous qualities that can be slotted in to do that work.

But it's absurdly obvious that it was a joke and not intended as a serious depiction. ... But it's absurdly obvious that it was a joke and not intended as a serious depiction.

Do you think that I think that the photos were meant to be a literally accurate depiction of Hendricks's professional life? If so, then there is something wrong with you.

I realize that the photos are not stills from an Errol Morris film. That they are inaccurate. That on some level they are supposed to be a joke. That doesn't mean that he's mocking himself. If you are mocking someone, you are portraying that person in a somewhat unfavorable light. This is someone being mocked. That's not what Hendricks is doing. He might be joking, sure, but he's not mocking himself.

Anonymous said...

OK, so this is what it all seems to come down to:

1) Other people agree with me that this Hendricks thing is dull and that we should move on, and also think that it's wrong of me to complain about something written by Mr. Zero in his posts even if it _is_ complaint-worthy but that it's OK for other people to complain about what _I_ write in the comments section because it's not my blog. OK then, I guess, though that's pretty weird.

2) The photos are both offensive _and_ self-mocking, but in different ways.

3) The photos are a joke (obviously: whoever doubted that???). But they are absolutely, utterly, _not_ self mocking! They don't resemble someone's impersonation of Sarah Palin. So, it was a joke that either mocks someone other than Hendricks, or it was a joke that doesn't mock anyone at all. So 2) is wrong.

Great. Can we move on now, please -- assuming that I can say that on someone else's blog without thereby "whining"?

Anonymous said...

Zero--

11:57 here. Don't you think he's mocking himself by portraying himself (or by allowing himself to be portrayed) as a person who wants to act out adolescent sex fantasies? You say: "If you are mocking someone, you are portraying that person in a somewhat unfavorable light." I think there are two portrayals in the Hendricks photos (as described in my (1) and (2) above), and I think that one of the portrayals is self-mocking, while the other is self-aggrandizing.

by portraying himself as a person who wants to act out adolescent sex fantasies.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised Mr Zero doesn't get a simple analogy. Maybe that's an indication as to why he doesn't get a job after his interviews.

The pictures are a joke for mocking the stereotype perceived logician.

Mr. Zero said...

3) The photos are a joke (obviously: whoever doubted that???). But they are absolutely, utterly, _not_ self mocking!

In your comment at 11:33 (where you say, "Come on, _think_ about it for a second. Do you seriously believe..." and then provide four options each of which is a way for the photos to be true, or for Hendricks to think they are), you seemed not to distinguish between the photos being a joke and their being self-mocking. That if I didn't think they were self-mocking, I had to think they were meant as a serious and accurate depiction of Hendricks's life. So I pointed out that although I realize that the photos are some kind of joke, that they aren't literally true, they are nevertheless not self-mocking.

They don't resemble someone's impersonation of Sarah Palin.

In that they don't paint the central character in an unambiguously negative light. (About which more below)

Can we move on now, please

The only person preventing you from moving on is yourself.

The pictures are a joke for mocking the stereotype perceived logician.

and

Don't you think he's mocking himself by portraying himself (or by allowing himself to be portrayed) as a person who wants to act out adolescent sex fantasies?

I thought about that. There is a clear sense, as 11:57 points out, that there's something morally bad about the way Hendricks is portrayed in the photos. But I don't think it makes sense to suppose that he's mocking himself by allowing himself to be portrayed in that way. For one thing, there are a number of "professor" tropes that Hendricks could have used if he wanted to portray a humorous and self-deprecating "fish out of water" scene. He could have used a "old and stodgy professor" trope, like profs Smith and Jones from the Ph.D. comics, or a "nerdy and geeky" trope, like the people on The Big Bang Theory, but he didn't. He used a "well-dressed, serious, and authoritative professor amidst highly sexualized students" trope.

For another thing, you can't mock yourself by portraying yourself in photos as having an adolescent sense of sexuality while in the same breath using the photos in an advertisement that's designed to appeal to exactly the adolescent young men who really do have this adolescent sexuality. Maybe I have a tin ear for this sort of thing, but I don't see how the portrayal can be ironic and unironic at the same time. At the very least, it's a highly advanced maneuver that some of us can be excused for not catching.

For another thing, even if there's something sort of wretched and pathetic about posing for these sorts of photos, I don't think you can mock yourself just by posing for the photos. If you see what's undignified about posing for photos like those, the only response that makes sense is to refuse to pose. You can't pose for them in a way that says, "look at how silly the people are who pose for these sorts of photos the way I am posing for them right now."

And even if I'm wrong about this last part and it is possible, there's nothing about the actual execution of these photos that suggests this reading.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry too much Zero. There is a world that we all share. A world where these photos are in bad taste and where all of the evidence we have of Hendricks collide to paint a picture of a man whose head is shoved very far up his own arse.

Then there is whatever world your anonymous detractor(s) live in. This is the world where philosophers sometimes forget that real people exist and actions have real consequences.

All I see them saying is: "But there exists a possible world x in which Hendricks' photos are self-mocking therefore we should behave, in the actual world, as if they are self mocking." Grant that it's possible. What Hendricks and his one (or two) supporters seem to be lacking is common sense.

I mean it's also possible that he can claim that his interview was also an elaborate joke, that he was not really trying to appeal to adolescents males...but every single shred of evidence suggests otherwise. Every single shred of evidence suggests that Hendricks is a misogynistic asshole. If you want me to believe otherwise then you need to do more than give me logical possibility, you need to give me evidence.

Cardinal Monday -- back again! said...

If I may, Mr. Zero:

What seems to prevent us from moving on is your insistence on maintaining a rather silly and extreme position about whether or not the photos are intended as a joke. How did you think you were going to win this one?

And do you really not see that, in telling your interlocutor that the only thing keeping us from moving on is herself, you are making a claim that is not only false but self-stultifying? Really.

Now for the substantial bit. You are adding to your already implausible stack of commitments with a new one: that, as you tell us peons from on high by looking it up in the Book of Facts, one can never engage in self-mockery without "painting the central character in an unambiguously negative light." Wow, thanks for telling us that.

So: Larry David does not engage in self-mockery in _Curb Your Enthusiasm_, since he does not depict himself as unambiguously negative throughout the series.

Same for Jerry Seinfeld in _Seinfeld_. Not self-mockery, as we now know thanks to you.

Ben Stiller and various other celebrities who have appeared in a self-deprecating way as themselves on Ricky Gervais' _Extras_? Not self-mocking at all. Not unambiguously negative. Same for anything Gervais says about himself, or that his friend Karl Pilkington does.

Actually, the set of people who engage in self-mockery (and not self-character-assasination) might well be more or less empty.

Good of you to clear that up, O enlightened one.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:51,

Wow. Just wow.

I thought it would be enough if I put little underlines around 'not', wrote it in all caps, and otherwise drew attention to it.

But I guess even that isn't enough for you: you're so committed to flag-waving that you still read me as a Hendricks supporter just because I'm not frothing at the mouth and screaming in rage about Hendricks every single minute.

So let me repead what I've said several times. I'll repeat it word for word, but I'll also include spaces between the letters so that it stands out more. Ready?

Here it is again:
"I am _ N O T _ defending Hendricks. I am _ N O T _ legitimizing his being in the photos. I am _ N O T _ saying he is OK. I am _ N O T _ denying that sexism is a problem, or anything like that. I am _ O N L Y _ explaining what the self-mocking joke was clearly meant to be. It's really, really important that you and the self-appointed Feminist Superfriends understand that."

Glad we've been able to have this chat.

Mr. Zero said...

What seems to prevent us from moving on is your insistence on maintaining a rather silly and extreme position about whether or not the photos are intended as a joke.

No, that can't be it. I haven't denied that it's a joke; I just don't see how it's self-mocking. If you look at my comment @ 12:10 PM you will see me acknowledge that the photos are supposed to be a joke. If you read the anonymous comment @ 12:21 you will see my interlocutor emphatically point out that this is not the point of contention. So that's not the issue, and nobody ever thought it was the issue. Until you came along, that is.

So: Larry David does not engage in self-mockery in _Curb Your Enthusiasm_, since he does not depict himself as unambiguously negative throughout the series.

I wonder why you tossed in the bit about "throughout the series"? Larry David clearly does portray himself in an unambiguously negative light in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Frequently. When he does so, nothing in the set of commitments I've endorsed here prevents me from saying he's mocking himself. My commitments entail that in those moments where he portrays himself in e.g. a positive light, he is not engaging in self-mockery. But surely that's correct. Surely the fact that doesn't always mock himself does not entail that he never mocks himself.

Cardinal Monday said...

Mr. Zero, are you more concerned here with being correct, or with coming off as correct? I ask you that because you've ignored all my other examples and respond to only one in a way that doesn't apply to the others.

What about the rest?

As for Larry David, I wasn't being evasive. I think there are many single points in the show in which he employs self-mockery without presenting himself in an unambiguously negative light.

For instance, what about the episode in which he goes to see a doctor, gets bored waiting in the doctor's examination room, and gets caught telephoning Jeff Garlin in the waiting room? He argues against the doctor, in a silly but not entirely unconvincing (and not "unambiguously negative") manner, that the rule against doing that seems stupid. It's self-mocking, because it gets the audience to join him in laughing at himself, but he is also getting the audience on his side to laugh with him at the doctor and his rules.

According to your odd classification, that is not possible. Also, that one example (one of hundreds from the program) shows that I was not being evasive or ducking a challenge.

Also, it follows from your odd and arbitrary categorization that self-mockery is an all-or-nothing matter: that one cannot be self-mocking to a limited extent, or add a touch of self-mockery to something one does (as when Southerners amp up their drawls for a moment as a joke while saying something).

Why should anyone accept this, if he or she were not just trying to avoid admitting having made a mistake?

Mr. Zero said...

Mr. Zero, are you more concerned here with being correct, or with coming off as correct? I ask you that because you've ignored all my other examples

Chill out. I haven't seen the shows, so I'm not in a position to discuss them (other than Seinfeld, and I don't see a need to consider Seinfeld separately).

As for Larry David, I wasn't being evasive. I think there are many single points in the show in which he employs self-mockery without presenting himself in an unambiguously negative light

The remark about "unambiguously negative" was designed to rebut my interlocutor's claim that the self-mockery was obvious. I did not suggest that un-ambiguousness was a logically necessary condition of self-mockery. That's why I was willing to discuss the various ways of disambiguating the photos (see, for example, my comments @ 4:40 and 11:17). And it's not as though I've used this supposed "unambiguously negative" criterion consistently. @12:10 I said "somewhat unfavorable," and didn't say anything about "unambiguous".

For instance, what about the episode in which

I'm not going to debate the self-mockery content of various scenes of television shows with you.

Also, it follows from your odd and arbitrary categorization that self-mockery is an all-or-nothing matter:

No, it doesn't. See above.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

Please please please stop approving the posts of this dipshit troll.

Anonymous said...

I love this discussion so much. I love how so many arguments between philosophers eventually devolve to competing claims of "you are mis-reading me; please read more carefully."

Cardinal Monday said...

Let's see whether I've got this right, Mr. Zero. You've maintained a long discussion in which you've refused to alter your view that the photos are, categorically, not self-mocking.

When pressed on what grounds this claim, you've said that they are not self-mocking because they do not resemble a Sarah Palin satire that is clearly _not_ a case of self-mockery, but rather other-mockery.

When asked what it was about this Sarah Palin clip that you held to be such a necessary part of (self??)-mockery, you said, and I quote, that the Hendricks photos differ "[i]n that they don't paint the central character in an unambiguously negative light."

That is the only clue you've given as to what, on your criterion, differentiates something you allow to be mockery and something you don't allow to be self-mockery.

It was then pointed out to you, clearly and patiently, that there are many other instances of things that most people would consider to be self-mockery that don't have the single characteristic you've mentioned (unambiguously negative portrayal) -- your sole grounds for denying that the Hendricks photos are self-mocking.

You then pretended that that was not a problem for you by claiming that I was evading some problems witn one of the cases I mentioned in passing.

I then responded to that charge of evasion by describing for you, in detail, a case of apparent self-mockery from that very show. Here's a clip of the scene I described (hey, you posted a clip of the Palin (non-)self-mockery...) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSLCQ3blBuI

Your response to that was to do what? To state indignantly that you refuse to discuss the very show you just before accused me (falsely) of being evasive about.

So at this point, Mr. Zero, I hope you can forgive us little peons for wondering just what the hell your grounds for denying that the photos are self-mocking could possibly be.

If you could cast some light on this by, first, telling us what your grounds in fact are for denying that the Hendricks photos count as self-mockery (since the only basis you suggested before is now a basis you yourself deny), and then justifying those grounds in some non-arbitrary manner. That is, please don't just assert baselessly and arbitrarily that the phrase 'self-mockery' has certain limitations that common or scholarly usage seems not to recognize. That may be how Lewis Carroll's Humpty Dumpty would argue for the definition of the word, but it's hardly legitimate argumentative practice (even though it's all you've done so far).

Cardinal Monday said...

One more thing, Mr. Zero. I think this really needs to be said.

While I think it was callous of a previous commenter to say what (s)he did about your reasons for having a rough time in the job market are uncalled-for, since there are many highly qualified people out there in your position, there may be something in what (s)he says that could be of help to you.

The few times I've been on search committees, I've tried to get some sense of whether the candidates are capable of saying three words together that many people in the game can't, even though they're the most important in the profession: "I was wrong."

In departmental politics, we all get it into our heads to put in place or oppose some stupid policy at some point or other. That's OK. But a colleague who can't admit to being wrong will stick to his/her guns and cause grief to the rest of us. That's not OK.

People who can't ever admit they are wrong also tend to have a hard time with publications. Referees often give helpful and important suggestions. How will the candidate respond to those suggestions? With gratitude? Or with stubbornness?

Finally, the last thing students need in a philosophy course is an instructor who models these bad habits of thought for them, and makes them pigheaded rather than reflective.

So, and I don't think I'm alone in this, I always try to ask a very critical question during a job talk to see how the candidate reacts. Based on how irrationally stubborn you've been on your blog whenever you've chosen to open discussions on feminism, I wonder whether you present yourself in this manner in your on-campus interviews. If so, it could really be hurting you.

Or perhaps there's just something about feminist issues that gets you so excited that you can't reason and just go wild, but you're not a fanatic about anything else. If so, then you might want to avoid talking about feminism in your interviews.

Anyway, Mr. Zero, please think about this. You've been fighting for days, in the most crude and unphilosophical manner, for your idiosyncratic claim that Hendricks was not self-mocking in the photos. Nothing of any importance whatsoever hangs on the issue. Everyone here has agreed that Hendricks was wrong, with or without your weird self-mockery issue. And you have come out very much the loser on this matter, as seems very clear.

Are you able to admit, just this once, that you could have been wrong? Or does some crusading zeal make it impossible for you to cede one inch to criticism?

Anonymous said...

@ Cardinal Monday

You are annoying. Go away.

Anonymous said...

it's ironic that cardinal monday chose to link the discussion between Larry David and his doctor that there is indeed "one little prick" involved in the relevant situation.

Mr. Zero said...

When pressed on what grounds this claim, you've said that they are not self-mocking because they do not resemble a Sarah Palin satire that is clearly _not_ a case of self-mockery, but rather other-mockery.

The Sarah Palin video was supposed to serve as a clear example of mockery. I was hoping you'd be able to see that Tina Fey is mocking Sarah Palin in a clear way, that starkly contrasts with the alleged self-mockery of the Hendricks photos. In one case the mockery is clear; in the other, it's at best highly subtle but more likely non-existent.

Do you really not see that there's a relationship between self-mockery and other-mockery? Do you really not see that self-mockery is a special case of the x mocks y relation in which x = y? Do you really need me to spell that out for you?

It was then pointed out to you, clearly and patiently, that there are many other instances of things that most people would consider to be self-mockery that don't have the single characteristic you've mentioned (unambiguously negative portrayal) -- your sole grounds for denying that the Hendricks photos are self-mocking.

We've been over this. I said 'unambiguously negative' because the person I was arguing with thought it was a clear instance of self-mockery. This person thought it was so clearly a case of self-mockery that most people would pick up on it, and that there must be something wrong with my irony detector if I didn't see it. If it's that clear, it must not be very ambiguous.

That doesn't mean that I think all instances of self-mockery have to be unambiguous. It just means that the really, really clear ones will be unambiguous. Can you really not understand that?

If you could cast some light on this by, first, telling us what your grounds in fact are for denying that the Hendricks photos count as self-mockery (since the only basis you suggested before is now a basis you yourself deny), and then justifying those grounds in some non-arbitrary manner.

It's very simple. He's not portraying himself in a negative way. He's not making fun of himself. Even ambiguously. He's portraying himself as a well-dressed, serious, authoritative logic professor who has sexual access to four or five highly sexualized "students" half his age.

As I said before, there's a clear sense in which this is a negative portrayal--I see it as a negative portrayal. But the audience of the photos--the young men who buy the magazine that commissioned the photos, and at whom Hendricks says he intended the course advertisement to reach--does not see this as a negative portrayal. This audience sees stuff like that as highly positive. Is that really too difficult for you to comprehend?

Anonymous said...

@ Cardinal Monday

Apparently you missed the reference to this above:

http://www.sophiebech.dk/gallery/commercial/pic1.html

Again, the motherfucker was regarded as a sex symbol even before the goddamn shoot. As Mr. Zero keeps pointing out, he's playing up this status in the pictures under dispute--he's not mocking himself, but calling attention to what a sexy mo-fo he is. The basic idea is something like "See, I'm a sexy mofo and all these chicks want to bang me... and I'm their LOGIC PROFESSOR!!!"

Cardinal Monday=FAIL

Anonymous said...

Zero,

The more I read, the clearer it is that you didn't really pay any attention to the parallel cases I was giving.

Suppose, again, that I am going to be featured in a magazine, and realize that I am not a very physically attractive woman (and please, please, please don't be so stupid as to think that just because the negative trait in this parallel case is physical attractiveness, it has to be in the actual case: that would be an idiotic misunderstanding of what the parallel is. More on that later). Let's also suppose that I'm being featured in a magazine as a representative (as I could be in real life) of an organization called 'Overweight Women of America'. So, as I said before, I decide to be self-mocking about it and pose ironically in a Marilyn Monroe dress to recreate the famous scene where she is standing over the heat vent on the sidewalk, etc.

Now, what am I doing there? Am I portraying myself as negative? That is, _in this parallel case_ (and _NOT_ in the Hendricks case) am I doing something that makes me look less attractive than I actually am? Of course not. I am posing in a way that is glamorous and sexy. That's why Marilyn Monroe posed that way.

So, what's the self-mockery? Well, it's like this: I admittedly lack a desirable trait (physical attractiveness, _in my parallel case_). I am also representing a group that lacks (or is perceived to lack), on the whole, that trait. But I pose in a way that only someone from a group that _has_ that trait would pose, in a way that I shouldn't be able to get away with.

The viewer is meant to see that I know I and my group can't seriously believe that I'm/we're physically attractive enough to pull off that pose straightforwardly. So they realize we're laughing at ourselves in a fun way. That gets the viewer on side.

So you see, the depiction is _not_ negative on the surface, but positive. It's the viewer's immediate reaction of laughter that provides the negativity. That's the irony of it.

OK, so much for the parallel. I beg of you: please don't lower my already low expectations by saying something asinine like "But Hendricks has been in other photographs that suggest he thinks of himself as good-looking!" That's not at all what I'm denying. Read on.

If you get the above description, you can now get the basic paradigm:

a) Some person, representing some group, is asked to pose for a series of photographs.

b) The group that that person represents is generally deemed unsexy owing to their having a particular trait.

c) The person therefore chooses to pose in a way that would be ridiculous for anyone who doesn't have that particular trait.

d) The ridiculousness is therefore amped up to the extreme in order to make clear that the person is self-consciously making a joke of the whole thing.

You see now how this is what is basically going on in the case where I pose as Marilyn Monroe to represent Overweight Women of America? And how it's not overtly negative, but only ironically negative?

OK, now let's fill in the Hendricks details.

a) The person in this case is Hendricks. The group he represents is logicians.

b) The negative trait that makes logicians unsexy (in the minds of the general public) is geekiness.

c) Hendricks poses in a way that would be overtly ridiculous for a geeky person like a logician.

d) The ridiculousness is therefore amped up to an extreme by a portrayal of a scene that would be preposterous for anyone other than the most un-geeky person: a rock star. Nobody could possibly believe that a logician would believe himself to have young, attractive groupies hanging on him like in the photos, just as nobody could possibly believe that I believe myself to be as sexy as Marilyn Monroe.

That's the way ironic self-mockery works: it's _not_ overtly negative.

Cardinal Monday said...

Anonymous 7:59,

Are you telling me that you sincerely believe that Hendricks is so deluded as to be under the impression that the pictures represent what life in his classroom is actually like???

Mr. Zero said...

The more I read, the clearer it is that you didn't really pay any attention to the parallel cases I was giving.

No, it's that I said, "I don't see what the somewhat undesirable trait, T, that Hendricks in fact has and which the photos portray him as having the exact opposite of, in a way that is designed to get us to laugh with him rather than at him." (@ 11:17 yesterday) I was hoping you'd say what it was supposed to be. You didn't.

So, what's the self-mockery? Well, it's like this: I admittedly lack a desirable trait...

Again: what desirable trait do the photos depict Hendricks as admitting that he lacks?

a) The person in this case is Hendricks. The group he represents is logicians.

Ok. So far, so good.

b) The negative trait that makes logicians unsexy (in the minds of the general public) is geekiness.

I addressed this in my comment @ 4:40 yesterday. One way for the photos to have been self-mocking is to have exploited the "geeky professor" trope. But the photos do not exploit this trope. They do not portray Hendricks as geeky. Hendricks is portrayed as well-dressed, handsome, serious, and authoritative. As somebody else pointed out, he comes across as a badass, not a nerd.

c) Hendricks poses in a way that would be overtly ridiculous for a geeky person like a logician.

Again. There would be something absurd about it if Hendricks was being portrayed as geeky, which he is not.

d) The ridiculousness is therefore amped up to an extreme by a portrayal of a scene that would be preposterous for anyone other than the most un-geeky person: a rock star.

A rock star, or a model. Which is how Hendricks is portrayed in the photos.

Nobody could possibly believe that a logician would believe himself to have young, attractive groupies hanging on him like in the photos, just as nobody could possibly believe that I believe myself to be as sexy as Marilyn Monroe.

I think you're just wrong about this. While the photos are clearly a work of fiction, it's being played as a straightforward fantasy. There's no ironic "beauty and the geek" angle. No attempt has been made to emphasize his geekiness. His character is, in fact, not the least bit geeky. If there was any element of geekiness to the way Hendricks is portrayed, I could see your interpretation. But it isn't there.

Anonymous said...

Zero,

I have told you exactly what you asked me to tell you. You asked what the negative character trait was in Hendrick's case, and I told you. it's geekiness. Geekiness, geekiness, geekiness. That's what trait logicians are seen to have that's unsexy.

Now, you claim that the photos don't play up Hendricks' geekiness.

Of course they don't!

_That's exactly the point of the parallel I've had to mention so many times!!!_

Just _think_ about my parallel for a minute. I'm posing as Marilyn Monroe. I'm recreating her pose as precisely as possible. I'm posing as Angelina Jolie. I'm trying to recreate that pose as accurately as I can.

Get it? I'm _not_ trying to play up the 'overweight' angle in the photos. That would make the photos stupid, instead of ironically self-mocking. I'm 'trying' to pretend that the overweight angle doesn't exist, and pose precisely as though I _weren't_ overweight. That's what makes it ironically self-mocking and funny!

The same ironic sense of self-mockery is what's employed in the Hendricks photos. He's trying to present himself, _qua logician_, in as un-geeky a pose, manner and situation as it is possible to pose in, but the viewer is meant to say 'Yeah, right -- a logician with groupies. Nice try', and then realize that the logician in the picture doesn't buy it either, and then get the laugh.

That's the irony of it.

Anonymous said...

My goodness. This is rather silly.

Certainly Hendricks could have intended the photos to be self-mocking.

But if it was intended as self-mockery, they are a rather botched attempt: As has been pointed out, Hendricks makes himself look good by the standards of the intended audience.

What seems more plausible is that the photos were intended as mockery of logic professors. And as Hendricks is a logic professor, this could be thought of as self-mocking in some sense. But by setting himself against the supposed negative stereotype of logic professors, it seems more like Hendricks is saying that it doesn't apply to him: "We all know logic professors are soooo lame. But not me. I'm too sexy for my proofs! Look: The girls are fawning all over me!"

Anonymous said...

@ Cardinal Monday

You're missing 8:18's point, and Mr. Zero's. There's a difference between self-mocking irony, on the one hand, and fantasy of the sort found in dude mags and porn. Of course Hendricks doesn't believe that his classroom isn't really like that. But because he's a sexy dude, the picture works as a Maxim-esque photo shoot. What matters isn't so much that he's a logic professor (i.e., a member of a traditionally "geeky" group), but that he's portayed as a PROFESSOR --i.e., as a male authority figure, a man who is in a position of dominance over submissive, sexualized women. If you don't get that, you're a goddamned fool--but I think that's been established already.

Mr. Zero said...

it's geekiness. Geekiness, geekiness, geekiness. That's what trait logicians are seen to have that's unsexy.

I see your point. It's not that I don't understand you. It's that your point is wrong. There is no geekiness in the photos.

Just _think_ about my parallel for a minute. I'm posing as Marilyn Monroe. I'm recreating her pose as precisely as possible...

It's not that I don't understand your example. I understand it. It's that your example is not parallel.

The same ironic sense of self-mockery is what's employed in the Hendricks photos. He's trying to present himself, _qua logician_, in as un-geeky a pose, manner and situation as it is possible to pose in, but the viewer is meant to say 'Yeah, right -- a logician with groupies.

It's not the same sense of irony. The photos don't operate on that level. It's not an unattractive person posing ironically as Marilyn Monroe; it's an attractive logic professor (who actually is a model) posing un-ironically (but fantastically) as an attractive logic professor.

Anonymous said...

"It's not the same sense of irony. The photos don't operate on that level. It's not an unattractive person posing ironically as Marilyn Monroe; it's an attractive logic professor (who actually is a model) posing un-ironically (but fantastically) as an attractive logic professor."

Bingo. You fuckin nailed it, Zero.

Cardinal Monday said...

Yes, professors are authority figures (over their students). But whether the person is a professor of logic, history, or chemical engineering, he/she is a geeky authority figure. That's the point.

Do the images work as a Maxim-style photo shoot? Yes, in a humorous way. Hendricks may be handsome in a Maxim-friendly way, but he's posing as a professor. Again: not only is he a professor of logic; he's posing as one, and in a scenario that is very obviously not, and not intended to be, realistic. Hence, the intended comic effect.

Whether the attempt at ironic self-mockery was successful or not is not relevant. The fact is, he's posing in such a way as to attempt ironic self-mockery qua logician.

I hope that's clear now. If not, please make clear why it isn't without repeating what we've already gone over and dealt with.

Mr. Zero said...

Hendricks may be handsome in a Maxim-friendly way, but he's posing as a professor. Again: not only is he a professor of logic; he's posing as one, and in a scenario that is very obviously not, and not intended to be, realistic. Hence, the intended comic effect.

Cardinal Monday et al. claim that since the photos are unrealistic, they are therefore a joke, and that this joke operates at Hendricks's own expense.

I disagree. I acknowledge that they are unrealistic, but that is because the photos depict a sexual fantasy, and sexual fantasies don't have to be realistic.

Anonymous said...

Zero, you just wrote, "your point is wrong. There is no geekiness in the photos."

Holy fuck.

Yes, that's what I just emphasized once again in my last post. _There is no geekiness in the photos_. THAT'S THE IRONY I JUST EXPLAINED!!!

How can you think that my point is wrong if my point is what you think the _refutation_ of my point is??

He is presenting himself as a logician. Logicians are perceived by most people to be geeky rather than sexy. He's trying to pass off _not_ just or primarily himself, but logicians as a whole, as sexy enough to have groupies, counterfactually.

That's the irony.

Now, you may say, "Geez, that really doesn't work for me as ironic self-mockery. My sense of ironic humor is such that the only people who can successfully represent a group lacking in trait X in an ironically self-mocking manner are those who lack trait X to the same extent that average members of that group are thought to lack it."

Fine. Then it doesn't work for you as comedic irony. Perhaps you are on to a general principle of comedic irony, such that it fails to work as comedic irony, period. I'm not denying that (or saying anything about it). I'm just telling you what the _intention_ seems to have been, whether or not that intention was realized.

And Cardinal Monday is right. You would have saved yourself a world of trouble if you hadn't come on with such bluster, with charges of BS before you'd even heard what I had to say. I hope you _don't_ act like this in your job interviews, for your sake.

Anonymous said...

I guess Cardinal Monday hasn't ever watched any porn. I don't whether to be impressed by that or horrified.

Cardinal Monday said...

Cardinal Monday et al. claim that since the photos are unrealistic, they are therefore a joke, and that this joke operates at Hendricks's own expense.

That's not quite it, Mr. Zero. What I claim is that Hendricks was making an attempt at self-mockery qua logician. That's quite different.

There is something dialectically curious happening here. Hendricks claims that he intended the pictures as a piece of self-mockery. You claim that that he is misrepresenting his intentions, and that Hendricks actually intended them as part of a fantasy.

In subsequent discussions, you have refused to accept even that Hendricks _might_ have been trying to engage in self-mockery, qualogician.

Now, that really is something: you not only believe, and want us to believe, that you have a better understanding of Hendricks' intentions than he himself does, but you feel confident enough to argue vehemently that no interpretation other than your own even has a reasonable chance of being right -- and all this in spite of the fact that there is a sincere difference of opinion on the matter.

Doesn't that give you a moment's pause?

Mr. Zero said...

Yes, that's what I just emphasized once again in my last post. _There is no geekiness in the photos_. THAT'S THE IRONY I JUST EXPLAINED!!!

Look. It's not that I don't understand the parallel you're trying to draw. It's that your parallel isn't actually parallel.

How can you think that my point is wrong if my point is what you think the _refutation_ of my point is??

Because your point is really, really wrong.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so logic professors qua logic professors are stereotypically geeky. Vincent Hendricks qua Vincent Hendricks is a stone-cold sexy dude. But Vincent Hendricks qua logic professor must be a geek, right? This poses contradiction, because he doesn't LOOK like a geek. So if he had intended to be ironic, mock himself, etc., the surest indication would be a deliberate playing down of "Vincent Hendricks the sexy dude" and a deliberate playing up of "Vincent Hendricks the stereotypical logic professor." But there is NO EVIDENCE OF THIS AT ALL. So it's not just that there is an intention gone awry here; there's no evidence of that intention at all.

Anonymous said...

@ Cardinal Monday

If there's no evidence to corroborate VH's interpretation of his own motives, then it's reasonable to conclude he is speaking in bad faith.

Anonymous said...

lulz. This discussion is ridiculous, so I apologize for fanning the flames, but I think this needs to be said.

Cardinal Monday et al. need to recognize that context plays an important role in the interpretation of things like artworks and performances, and so in the interpretation of certain items as 'ironic' or 'self-mocking'. Curb Your Enthusiasm and its derivations are indeed chock full of self-mockery: this is the case because the viewer is aware that what s/he is watching is not a piece of reality television or documentary footage, but rather a television show featuring fictionalized caricatures of real people. If you thought they were documentary footage, you'd be well within your rights to think LD and co. are asshats.

Unfortunately, the context of VH's pictures doesn't do much to support the self-mockery interpretation. If they were just advertisements for the logic course, you'd have a stronger case (but I'm not convinced it would be a successful act of self-mockery in that case anyway). Unfortunately, the photos were taken for a ladmag instead, and appropriated by VH for his logic course without any indication that they were somehow inappropriate (such as by pairing them with other trope-y photos, or trying to embed them in a critical thinking context). No, instead, VH thought it was appropriate to pose for them for a general, uninformed public, and then appears to have thought they were appropriate advertisements for his class. There's no overt indication there, as Mr. Zero has pointed out, to lead us to believe that we're not seeing some kind of reality show/documentary footage. Instead, all indications are that we're witnessing expressions of someone's sincere belief that he is hot shit. And unfortunately, he's exactly the kind of person who should know better than to feed the stereotypes he's feeding in order to boost his own image.

Anonymous said...

Word up, 10:09.

Anonymous said...

No, Mr. Zero, my point is _not_ "really, really wrong." You still have what I'm saying backward.

I just presented you with what appears to be a refutation of your entire case -- again -- and what do you do when your back is finally against the wall and there's nothing you can do about it?

Do you concede that you just _might_ be mistaken on that tiny, tangential point on which you've been criticized?

No. That would be too much for the great Mr. Zero (aka Mr. Right -- Always Right.) Instead, you dogmatically assert that my point (which you still haven't got, apparently) is not only wrong, but "really, really wrong."

Woe unto anyone so unfortunate as to have you as a colleague.

I'm done here. Have the last word. Add in some more 'really's, if it makes you feel more of a man.

Anonymous said...

Um, I just skimmed all of this, but why is not possible that everyone is right here.

Why is not possible that Hendrix thought of himself as making the MM/overweight joke at one level of consciousness, but also, at another, was doing a "nudge, nudge..wink, wink, but we all know _I'm_ not geeky, even though all logic professors are supposed to be."

Don't people do this all the time: make what they think are passing as self-depracating jokes that the savy among us CAN TELL are really attempts at narcisitic self-flattery.

Its the thing that comedians often mark with the whole "just kidding..no i'm not...yeah, really i am.. but really" schtick.

Cardinal Monday said...

Anon 10:09,

Again: are you sincerely asking us to believe that Hendricks is so deluded as to think that this is what his classroom environment is really like?

My British, Canadian and European friends always complain that Americans, by and large, can't understand irony. Now I understand why. What a sad state of affairs.

Anonymous said...

Cardinal Monday:

10:09 here.


Before my post at 10:09 was approved, Mr. Zero made essentially the exact same point, but in much less space. Allow me to quote him:

"Cardinal Monday et al. claim that since the photos are unrealistic, they are therefore a joke, and that this joke operates at Hendricks's own expense.

I disagree. I acknowledge that they are unrealistic, but that is because the photos depict a sexual fantasy, and sexual fantasies don't have to be realistic."

Un-realism is not a sufficient condition for irony or self-mockery. As 10:05 put it, "it's not just that there is an intention gone awry here; there's no evidence of that intention at all." In the case of VH's photos, the 'documentary footage' interpretation should not be mistaken for the interpretation that this is what happens to VH when he teaches logic. Rather, the DFI is that Hendricks is hot shit (rather than a nerd). Hendricks and his awesomeness are the subjects of those photos. And the subject is in no way mocked or undermined.

A professional photographer said...

@10:15 -- Good point. Why can't it be both?

Here's another possibility that has been oddly neglected here (oddly, because it's the most likely).

If the photo shoot was like most media photo shoots, the theme and composition of the photographs were not even selected primarily, if at all, by Hendricks!

So, here's a plausible account of what might have happened:

1) Hendricks, the logic professor, engages in some modeling.

2) The 'lad mag' approaches him and asks whether he would be willing to pose for some pictures for charity. Hendricks agrees.

3) Hendricks shows up, and the photographer says he/she would like to have a little fun with the 'logic professor' angle by putting Hendricks in a ridiculous scenario in which he is a logic professor with groupies. Hendricks goes along with this.

4) The magazine comes out, and the readers (and others) generally think the pictures are funny, and tell Hendricks that.

5) Hendricks has to advertise for his logic course, and wants a catchy way to do so. He reasons -- carelessly, and blame-worthily -- as follows: 'I already have these popular pictures, taken by a professional photographer. They're funny and eye-catching. Why not use them?'

6) He does so, and they are seen now in a new context and by fresh eyes (in particular, not by lad mag readers). The shit hits the fan.

7) Hendricks realizes his mistake in using the photos in this way, and apologizes.

8) Even after his apology, the interviewer presses him. Hendricks then explains the spirit in which the photos were taken.

What about that? Isn't that more plausible than the view that Hendricks, violating normal magazine conventions, composed his own images and directed his own photo shoot?

Anonymous said...

The thing about the photos is that they aren't an optimal anything. They aren't optimal self-aggrandizement on VH's part. (I think that when you see a philosopher post one of those Steve Pyke photos on his/her website, you're seeing something pretty close to what optimal self-aggrandizement by a philosopher would look like.) But then, the photos aren't optimal self-mockery on VH's part, either. (As many have pointed out here, the fact that VH is well-let, well-dressed, attractive, etc. prevents the photos from being good examples of self-mockery.) I think a lot of the dispute here relies on a wrong assumption that the VH photos are optimal somethings-or-other. Those on Zero's side say (in effect), "If the photos are self-mockery, then VH wouldn't be so well-dressed, powerful-looking, etc." Zero's opponent(s) say (in effect), "If the photos aren't not self-mockery, the situation that they portray wouldn't be so absurd." But neither of those conditionals are plausible, if you drop the optimality assumption.

My guess is that the people who created these photos just had a range of contrasting aims and priorities. They wanted VH to be good-looking in the photos; they wanted to include some sexy girls; they wanted the photos to be humorous--etc. They might have stumbled into self-mockery (if that's possible). Self-mockery might even have been one of their several goals. But they definitely didn't create an optimally self-mocking photo series--and nor did they create an optimally self-aggrandizing photo series.

Anonymous said...

10:32 - I don't think anyone thinks VH is responsible for composing the photographs himself. Your chain of events seems very likely. What he IS responsible for is not pulling out when it became clear exactly how the photos were to be composed (he can't have missed the nubile children surrounding him). And he's responsible for not realizing the problem after the fact, either, since he used them to advertise his course.

A professional photographer said...

Anon 10:40:

Excellent point. I agree, and wish some of the contributors to the discussion had been less dogmatic. Perhaps they would have noticed this.

Anon 10:46: I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees the absurdity in assuming that Hendricks composed and staged these photos.

Was it wrong of him to use the photos in a professional, philosophical context? Definitely.

Did he have an obligation, since he works as a professor as well as a model, to pull out of the photo shoot when he saw what it was going to look like? That's a tougher one. I tend to think that lad mags are generally bad, and that one should not normally support them. Then again, I think that Focus on the Family is a bad institution, and that one should not support it. I would look down on a colleague who did either of those things. But at the same time, I'd be generally leery of accusing either Hendricks or a far-right colleague from doing either of those things in a non-institutional context. I think it's a tough call.

Anyway, I think we all, including Hendricks, agree that he should definitely not have used the shots to advertise the course. But looking at the photo shoot more realistically can help this out of control speculation about Hendrick's intentions in posing in just the way he did from continuing needlessly. We can be almost certain that he didn't plan out the shoot, and probably had little or no input into it.

Mr. Zero said...

I just presented you with what appears to be a refutation of your entire case -- again -- and what do you do when your back is finally against the wall and there's nothing you can do about it?

Look. Your claim is that just as it is possible for an unattractive person to pose ironically as Marilyn Monroe, it is possible for a handsome logic professor to pose, ironically, as a handsome logic professor. As I've pointed out several times, the parallel doesn't make sense.

Elizabeth said...

Here's what I don't get about the "it's ironic! it's self-mockery!" argument: The "sexy schoolgirl" fawning over a male teacher is ONE OF THE MOST CLICHED FANTASIES THERE IS. People. The women in the photos are wearing Catholic schoolgirl uniforms and one is holding an apple. How could it be a joke to sexualize this? It's been sexualized in our culture for quite some time. Its sexuality is beyond banal; it's trite.

Mr. Zero said...

My comment at 11:11 above would be more accurate if I'd said "non-geeky" rather than 'handsome.' Sorry.

Cardinal Monday said...

Mr. Zero,

You seem unable to distinguish

a) engaging in a photoshoot whose aim is to be ironically mocking about oneself qua oneself, on the one hand, from

b) engaging in a photoshoot whose aim is to be ironically mocking about oneself qua logic professor, on the other hand.

You keep thinking your interlocutors are talking about a, when we're talking about b. Or, at least, you're claiming to think that in order to ensure you don't have to alter your position/ risk learning anything.

Elizabeth: yes, the theme of the photoshoot is trite and cliched. That's what makes the participation of a logic professor in it ironic.

Please see my previous, sad comment about most Americans being unable to understand ironic humor. I hate to think that that charge is so plainly true.

Anonymous said...

Cardinal Monday, Anon:

I know that I'm a bit deaf on the irony thing, being an American and all, but just wanted to point out that you were the one to plead for the Hendricks discussion to come to an end. You said, "But you just keep going on and on and on and on about this, and whenever it's getting so old nobody here wants to talk about it anymore..." This is fucking brilliant.

Mr. Zero said...

You seem unable to distinguish a) engaging in a photoshoot whose aim is to be ironically mocking about oneself qua oneself, on the one hand, from b) engaging in a photoshoot whose aim is to be ironically mocking about oneself qua logic professor, on the other hand. You keep thinking your interlocutors are talking about a, when we're talking about b.

I'm sorry, but I disagree with you. My interlocutor claims that Hendricks is mocking himself because of the way he portrays himself as a logic professor, and logic professors are geeky. I claim that although Hendricks is portrayed as a logic professor in the photos, and although there is a such thing as a geeky logic professor, he is not portrayed as one of the geeky ones. The fact that there's such a thing as a geeky logic professor doesn't entail or suggest that there's anything ironic or self-deprecating about portraying oneself as a non-geeky logic professor surrounded by sexualized students. Maybe he is geeky in real life; I don't know. My claim is that he does not appear to be geeky in the photos. Which is, according to you, what matters.

I don't know why it's so difficult for you to accept that I don't agree with you about this; why you can't seem to acknowledge the possibility that I've thought about and understood your argument and I still don't agree with it. Maybe I'm right and maybe I'm wrong (I don't think I'm wrong, obviously, because if I did I'd just change my mind). But I don't see anything in any of the many times you and Cardinal Monday have repeated the same point over and over again that would make me want to change my mind. The "parallels" aren't parallel, no matter how many times you insist they are, and no matter how many times you suggest that I must be stupid, or incapable of thinking clearly about topics that are even tangentially related to feminism, or that I demonstrate a flawed, obstinate character if I don't see things your way.

Anonymous said...

Right, most Americans are unable to understand irony.
That's definitely true. It's not that you're an asshole.

Anonymous said...

Here's a tweaked version of the Marilyn Monroe analogy.

Imagine someone who is (a) very attractive, but (b) comes from a group of people who are widely regarded as unattractive. If this person poses like Marilyn Monroe, would this be self-mockery?

So, for instance, maybe we should imagine a male who looks just like a beautiful female. If this male poses like Marilyn Monroe, is this self-mockery? I don't think so. Maybe it would be irony of some kind, but it doesn't strike me as self-mockery.

To complete the analogy: Hendricks is (a) a non-geeky logician, but (b) comes from a group of people (i.e., logicians) who are widely regarded as geeky. In the photos he's posing as a non-geeky logician, which is precisely what he is, contrary to the stereotype of his profession. That doesn't look like self-mockery to me.

I stand by my earlier comment: If you want to classify this as self-mockery, you should appeal to the fact that Hendricks is acting out an adolescent fantasy, thus revealing that he has adolescent fantasies, thus revealing something bad about himself, thus mocking himself. I know Mr. Zero doesn't like this view (and I'm not sure he's wrong), but this alternative path to a classification of the photos as self-mockery strikes me as better than Cardinal Monday's path.

Cardinal Monday said...

@12:39:

I'm not the one who said I wanted the conversation to come to an end. The anonymous woman with whose points I generally agree did. She, apparently, has ended the conversation by declining to write any more.

@12:53:

First, I'm glad to see someone else addressing the important difference between mocking oneself as an individual and mocking oneself as part of a group. I disagree with you about what follows, but I think it's difficult to see in your tweaking of the Marilyn Monroe case, since it's hard to picture what could be involved in the man being sexy as a woman unlike most men, etc. So, if I may, I'll present my own parallel to go with those of anonymous.

Suppose a very smart scholar comes from a rural area in Alabama. Many people have the impression that rural Alabamans are not very scholarly. But this person (call him Bill) is.

Bill presents a paper at a prestigious conference. He knows that people are likly to be prejudiced against him on account of his being a rural Alabaman.

So, he presents a brilliant paper at the conference, responding cleverly to all objectors during the Q & A. But all the while, he makes tongue-in-cheek comments like "Back in rural Alabama, which houses 90% of the greatest minds in the world..." and "Some great philosopher, who like me was from Po-dunk, Alabama, once said that...".

That seems to fulfil all the requirements you mention. Bill belongs to a group that is generally perceived as lacking in a particular desirable trait; Bill himself is not personally lacking, or perceived to be personally lacking, in that trait; and Bill is making light, ironic, self-mocking fun at himself as part of that group by putting his membership of that group up-front and suggesting in a way he couldn't possibly actually believe that the group of which he is a member has the trait to a ridiculously high extent.

So: is that self-mockery qua member of a group? Sure seems like it to me. I'd like to hear the case against it, if there is one.

@Mr. Zero:

You ask why I can't just accept the fact that what seems to be self-mocking humor to you and to me are different.

I can accept that, and I do. But I don't see how you can, given the extreme position you've taken on.

You didn't just say that Hendricks' position wasn't self-mocking; you said that any claim that it is is pure BS.

That seems to commit you to something inconsistent with tolerant relativism about whether it's self-mockery. If you now want to back off that extreme view and say only that it's your personal opinion that the photos were not (group) self-mocking, and that there is no objective basis for determining whether they really were or were not, then great. The conversation is over and we both win. And you have to adjust your position hardly an iota (assuming that shade of an iota is not too much for your ego to concede).

@Anon 12:52:

I am an American.

Anonymous said...

Why did this turn into a stupid philosophical exercise about logically possible motives. At this point I don't care what his motives were, his actions had a clear and almost entirely unambiguous reception. This reception was to be expected and should not have come as a surprise to anyone.

Hendrick's failure here is to be the kind of asshat who is so full of himself that he refuses to realize how these photos were actually interpreted by the vast majority of people. Just because *he* might or might not have meant it as a joke is frankly besides the point for me. A racist joke is no worse for being a joke, a sexist advertisement is no worse just because the idiot using the advertisement thought it was funny.

Mr. Zero said...

I can accept that, and I do. But I don't see how you can, given the extreme position you've taken on.

You don't see how I can what? Accept that I don't agree with you? Why wouldn't I be able to accept that I disagree with you? What "extreme position" have I taken on?

You didn't just say that Hendricks' position wasn't self-mocking; you said that any claim that it is is pure BS.

Here's what I think happened: Hendricks did something dumb. Really stepped in it. People got pissed off at him, which he wasn't expecting at all. But he doesn't want to own up to it, take responsibility and apologize, so he makes up a story about how the pictures are "self-mocking." This story is BS.

Then this other person said she thought the photos really were self mocking. I said, I'd be interested to hear what you think is self-mocking about it, but I think (in advance) that it's still going to be BS. Apparently that hurt her feelings, and maybe I shouldn't have said it. Maybe I should have waited until after she had a chance to explain herself before I said it was BS.

But look. Her story (and yours?) is that Hendricks's portrayal of himself is something like, Lots of logic professors are geeky. Not me, of course--there's not a whiff of geekiness anywhere on me! And I've got sexed-up students hanging all over me! I'm a big stud, who is not geeky at all! Also, I'm mocking myself, because logic professors other than me are geeky. The position that this is is BS is not "extreme." It's accurate.

Anonymous said...

@ 2:10

Cause this is what philosophers do (i.e., turn everything into a philosophical exercise), and it is one reason among many why philosophers suck. John Protevi (over at NewAPPS) calls it the "universal seminar room" phenomenon and has subjected it to some pretty devastating criticism.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes sexist asshattery is just sexist asshattery. To engage in navel-gazing, hair-splitting exercises like this about said asshattery is to lend it an implicit legitimacy that it doesn't deserve. What it deserves is unequivocal condemnation (which it has received) followed by silence (which it is not receiving, thanks to people who insist on using it as a goddamn seminar room exercise...)

Anonymous said...

"why is not possible that everyone is right here?"

Because this is philosophy, a field of study that has developed out of the ancient Greek efforts at proving other people wrong.

Anonymous said...

@Cardinal Monday:

It does seem to me that self-mockery is happening in your Bill example, but I'd like to see an asynchronous case that is equally compelling. I'm worried that Bill is mocking himself in one moment, and presenting (or revealing) himself as super-smart in another moment. I'm still not really convinced you can do both of these things in the very same moment. But of course, in a photo, you've only got one moment to work with. So, I'm worried that the Bill case might not do much to establish (the possibility of) self-mockery in the Hendricks case.

--12:53

Cardinal Monday said...

Anon 2:10:

I couldn't agree with you more. What Hendricks did was inappropriate, wrong, and hurtful. The fact that it was meant as a joke, self-mocking or otherwise, is no justification for what he did.

So, why are we still discussing this side point? Because the woman who was posting here (anonymously) until she recently gave up wanted to raise a minor critique of Mr. Zero's characterization of Hendricks -- a characterization, by the way, that both she and I otherwise agree with entirely. Anyone would have expected that Mr. Zero would have simply conceded this tiny point to her, and that the matter would have ended there.

But instead, Mr. Zero has fought doggedly to preserve every tiny detail of his original post, and has involved us in the most convoluted and arbitrary claims about what constitutes self-mockery in order to do so.

Were I Mr. Zero, I would have said (ages ago, and certainly right now) "Fine -- what I said about Hendricks' claim to have been self-mocking is at least questionable. I concede that point. But the important thing, as we all agree, is that Hendricks acted inappropriately. Let's focus on that."

But Mr. Zero has not made that slight concession, nor (I predict) will he concede that anything he said in his original post is flawed to the tiniest degree. He seems to hold himself to be infallible where matters of feminism are concerned.

Mr. Zero, you say now (using your ability to read minds again) that the real reason why Hendricks claims that the photographs were meant to be self-mocking was that he doesn't want to apologize and admit his error.

And yet... look at what Hendricks says in the very interview you link to in the post:

"There were a couple of blogs criticizing the pictures. I have no interest in hurting anyone’s feelings. The photos were seen as expressions of chauvinism and as making women look bad. I really regret that. When I interact with people I see them as individuals before I see them as men or women. But the misunderstanding is deeply regrettable. That is why I deleted the photos from my private website and apologized publicly immediately after reading the first post from critics who saw the photos as an expression of sexism or chauvinism."

So: Hendricks _did_ apologize, and regrets that the photos made people uncomfortable and were seen as making women look bad.

Admitting an error, apologizing, and moving on. I certainly disapprove of what Hendricks did, but I wish more people were prepared to admit (or even notice) when they are mistaken.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:20,

Your post about the imperative to universally condemn people and then demand silence reminds me of Oscar Wilde's quip: "I like to do all the talking myself. It saves time, and avoids arguments."

It also reminds me of totalitarian regimes.

Cardinal Monday said...

@12:53:

Thank you for being so honest as to concede my point about my example. Refreshing to see someone debating fairly and honestly!

As for your new challenge to me, I'm not sure what to say. I've thought about it for a bit, and I can't come up with a plausible case that works atemporally. I hadn't thought about that wrinkle, I admit.

If you would, please give me a little more time to puzzle it over. I'll tell you if I come up with anything that works.

Thanks for the interesting challenge to my view.

Anonymous said...

@5:11

Uh, no. You're an idiot. Some things--like obvious sexism, for example--are just self-evidently stupid and immoral, and when we encounter them, the proper response is to condemn (not conceptually analyze, or dissertate them) into oblivion and then move on--and if you don't get that, you can just fuck right off. Totalitarian regime? Kiss my ass.

Anonymous said...

Nice argument, 5:11.

"X believes some things deserve condemnation followed by STFU, rather than monotonous, masturbatory, hair-splitting, philosophical discussion. Therefore, X is a totalitarian."

Anonymous said...

@Cardinal Monday--

You're welcome! But let's get down to brass tacks here. Do you have a job to offer me, and when can I start?

Kidding... :)

-12:53/3:47

Anonymous said...

6:30,
You have somehow managed to attribute to me a conclusion I don't accept and never stated, to critique an argument I never made, and to misrepresent me as having made _any_ argument, all in three sentences. Quite the accomplishment.

In fact, I never claimed that anyone was a totalitarian, and never argued for that conclusion or anything else. I said that a certain line of thought was reminiscent of that used by totalitarian regimes, with the implication that we ought to tread warily.

6:26,
Perhaps you are not a fan of such things as due process and careful consideration. Your juvenile response to me -- calling me an idiot, using coarse language against me -- speak very well to the dangerous tendencies I originally suspected you of leaning toward.

Being less vindictive and vicious than you, I can only hope that, were you ever publicly accused of wrongdoing, you would _not_ be judged by people as patently bullying and eliminative of dissent as you just showed yourself to be in your response to me.

I think a good test of a person's character is how well he or she handles opposing views, and how quickly one is willing to jettison careful consideration in condemning another person.

Anonymous said...

7:12, this is 6:30. Good point. Now that you mention it, I really don't think the Holocaust or slavery have been given adequate enough due process or careful enough consideration. New topic: Was the Holocaust morally justified? Yes or no? Personally, I think it depends on how one defines "morally justified..."

Anonymous said...

Look at! Somebody used "coarse language" on this blog!!!

Cardinal Monday said...

@6:56: I wish I did!

Anonymous said...

6:30/7:26:

I'm with your interlocutor here. What the fuck, man? Did your civics class not cover the basic idea that, if you get riled up over some issue and decide that this one issue is really, really important so we shouldn't even engage in discussion of it but just come out shooting, you've fucked up the whole project and betrayed the very ideas of a just society? Has it still not dawned on you? Really?

And are you seriously intending to advance the following argument?

P1. The Holocaust and slavery were very immoral.
P2. They were so immoral, in fact, that nobody should ever have spent time debating them.
P3. The photos Hendricks posed in are tasteless and disturbing sex fantasies, and his use of them to advertise his logic course is also immoral.
C. Therefore, we should not spend time discussing those photos.
Corrolary: Also, we should use abusive language toward anyone who does not instantly get on board with us in our refusal to talk about them.

There are many, many things wrong with that argument. But it seems the most charitable interpretation of what you are saying.

I know you're really keen to rally the mob, get out your baseball bats, and bash in some skulls, and that thinking and talking about things like this is not your cup of tea (as you say). But in case you're still reading, here are some problems. I'll save time by leaving aside the obvious invalidity of your reasoning.

Many people have had many things to say about the Holocaust. Hannah Arendt, for one. She sure spent a lot of time dissecting the issues involved, and through careful discussion, developing and arguing for her notion of the 'banality of evil'. What do you think: idle, mental masturbation? Should we have sworn at her for taking the time to intellectualize with big-city intellectuals when she should have been standing with the crowd and just screaming the same hateful slogans in lockstep with everyone else, and then, when the last Nazi was hanged, leaving the matter in perfect silence? Huh?

What about slavery? It's still going on in the world. And philosophers are still writing about it, and analyzing what constitutes slavery, dissecting the distinction between real and wage-slavery, and debating these points at length. Big fucking waste of time, eh? What a bunch of longhair brainiacs.

Yep, we shouldn't discuss the Holocaust or slavery at all. As philosophers, we should lead the world in showing how quickly we all jump out of our chairs without saying a word or wasting a moment in thinking (if it's not obvious to you without thinking, you're one of the ENEMY!!), light our torches, and rush to the scene of action. And then, when we've stamped out the evil, we should say nothing more about it. That's what real philosophy is all about, ain't it? Or maybe, there are places where philosophy just has to come to a screeching halt while we turn off our minds and kick the ass of the next living Satan, like Hendricks.

Oh, by the way: if you'll read through the comments, you'll see that nobody who's posted in this thread has tried to defend Hendricks. Nobody. Just sayin'.

Not Cardinal Monday said...

I'm Cardinal Monday, and I have a deep-seated need for Mr. Zero to validate me.

Not Cardinal Monday said...

I'm Cardinal Monday, and I will not rest until everyone acknowledges the possibility that they're wrong and I'm right.

Not Cardinal Monday said...

I'm Cardinal Monday, and I'm from Alabama, and I'm doing something smart. Look! I'm mocking myself!

Cardinal Monday said...

Empty sarcasm: the last refuge of the guy who's lost the argument.

Anonymous said...

So it looks like Chicago and Berkeley (especially) are killing it on the job market. But why aren't more people posting to Leiter's list? There are tons of jobs listed as filled on Phylo that aren't up on Leiter. Many for a long time. This is one of the few things on Leiter's blog that is actually useful.

P.S. Everyone involved in the current discussion is a loser and I'm glad that none of you are my colleagues

Anonymous said...

P.S. Everyone involved in the current discussion is a loser and I'm glad that none of you are my colleagues

LOL. second that

I'm convinced that 6:26 is some 12 year old who found this site and decided to troll

Cardinal Monday said...

@10:40 -- Your final statement is pleasantly self-referential.

A CHURL'S MONKEY.

Not Cardinal Monday said...

I'm Cardinal Monday, and somebody made use of sarcasm in criticizing my absurd arguments and behavior, so I win!

Anonymous said...

New theory:

Cardinal Monday = Spiros.