I ask no favors for my sex. I surrender not our claim to equality. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks and permit us to stand upright on that ground which God designed us to occupy.
the essay by douglass, "The Claims of the Negro Ethnologically Considered," given as a commencement address at Western Reserve College in 1854 (!) - is one of a number of little-known treasures.
The relation subsisting between the white and black people of this country is the vital question of the age. In the solution of this question, the scholars of America will have an important and controlling part. This is the moral battlefield to which their country and their God now call them. In the eye of both, the neutral scholar is an ignoble man. Here, a man must be hot, or be accounted cold. The lukewarm and cowardly will be rejected by earnest men on either side of the controversy. The cunning man who avoids it, to gain the favor of both parties, will be regarded with scorn; and the timid man who shrinks from it, for fear of offending either party, will be despised. He that is not for us, is against us.
In brief, I did not resign and I do not resign, and I explicitly declared that I did not resign the day before the deadline they gave me, even as they continued to assert publicly that I was on leave and a member in good standing of the faculty.
I regarded myself as having been effectively fired. I expressed myself in bitterness and sadness, after a terrible humiliation and breach of my free speech, to the effect that I did not intend to return. I sought a dignified separation agreement that would allow me to retire and make me something like whole financially. It was pointedly not forthcoming. I did not resign.
In my opinion, the reason that they decided to assert that I had resigned anyway is because the process for removing me, as specified in the Dickinson Handbook (a contractual obligation on the administration) would have been extremely embarrassing for Weissman and Scaduto, and unsustainable. I better have resigned, I believe they believe, or else their actions will be scrutinized by faculty members and become common knowledge in the community.
Even as I walked into the meeting with Weissman and Scaduto, I had no idea what would happen, or that something like what has happened - removed without recourse - was even one of the possibilities. Faculty people at Dickinosn and everywhere need to think about what the guarantees of free expression and a fair and elaborate disciplinary process or tenure mean when push comes to shove. All were instantly and unilaterally suspended in my case.
Feb 27: I said in this blog entry that I wanted to get out of academia. I also said that I wasn't quitting Monday or whatever, and what I was thinking was an early retirement and a transition to full-time writing of some sort.
March 3: Neil Weissman - the Provost (#2 person) at Dickinson - and Dana Scaduto, the General Counsel, after meeting with me for an hour, removed me from the classroom until I had a compulsory psychiatric examination "as a condition of employment" (despite the fact that I had expressed my willingness to have an examination voluntarily and waive confidentiality). They explicitly asked what I would do if arrested by Oklahoma authorities, and Weissman repeatedly asserted that I had threatened Zagzebski's life as Scaduto listened and confirmed his interpretation, or at least did not object to it.
When I refused, they gave me a few minutes to leave campus or be escorted off.
March 9: I asked in the nicest possible way, for early retirement and some sort of severance package, hoping to pay off my student loans at last.
This entry includes the email exchange with Weissman, including the fact that I said "I am not coming back." I must say that in the immediate aftermath, I was outraged, deeply humiliated, really feeling wrong about my students. It is also true that it would under any circumstances be very difficult for me to decide to return if the same administrators were in place; the institution showed that its values were incompatible with my work, and that they placed no value on my contribution over the last 13 years, during which I had been reviewed a number of times very positively, including for tenure, and during which I had never had any disciplinary-type problems whatever.
But again, I would be seeking an early retirement. And I would listen to offers, ideas, alternatives, respectful separation arrangements that would not leave me in a desperate financial condition. I did not resign, and I do not.
When they remove you from campus and ban you from returning while inflicting maximum humiliation on you, let me tell you this: you feel that you have been fired. Or, I might just say: you have been fired, no matter what they say. But they also did not say, through the end of March, that I had resigned; instead they claimed I was "a faculty member in good standing."
March 10: They replied with an astonishingly insulting offer, including the stipulation that I have a compelled psychiatric examination before I could enter the campus.
In Reason magazine online, Dickinson spokesperson Christine Baksi characterized Sartwell as "on leave," in an email to Reason.
"Professor Sartwell is a faculty member in good standing at Dickinson," she wrote. "He is currently on leave.
from Dana Scaduto, April 4.
Starting on March 3, 2016, Dickinson College allowed time for you to consider and select among options that would have allowed you to return to active service or request a leave of absence. You did neither. Instead, on March 8, when Neil Weissman reiterated the college’s interest in your return to the classroom, rather than your departure, you advised Neil Weissman in an e-mail as follows: "Neil i am definitely gone! i have retired."
Consequently, without obligation but in response to your specific request, on March 10, we tendered a separation agreement to assist you in transitioning from the college. We agreed to allow you twenty-one days to consider the terms of separation offer, during which time we continued to provide your salary and benefits. This continuation of salary and benefits was a courtesy. Your rejection of the terms of the proposed agreement is a separate and distinct issue from your resignation from the college based on the indisputable statement to Neil on March 8 that you had elected to end your service to the College. You reiterated this position publicly on multiple occasions, including most recently in a written statement you sent to the Dickinsonian on March 29 in which you stated, “No, i will not be accepting [the separation offer] and I will not return. . . . Not, in short, if it was the last college on earth.”
For these reasons, asserting that you unquit in your message of March 30 is a position without merit. We do not have any obligation to invoke the dismissal procedures of the Academic Handbook as you are no longer an employee of the College.
from Human Resources director Debra Hargrove, :
Your employment with Dickinson College ended effective March 31, 2016. Attached is some general information about your benefits that we hope will assist in this transition.
If you would like to make arrangements to remove personal property from your office, please contact the Provost’s Office to coordinate a mutually convenient time.
Your final pay was deposited into your account on March 31, 2016. A printed copy of the payroll advice will be mailed to the address on file. Your health care benefits will end on April 30, 2016 unless you decide to continue those benefits available to you through COBRA, as described in the attached brochure.
I sent this email to Dana Scaduto on April 4:
Public statements notwithstanding, I regard the email I sent you on March 30 as expressing my official position that I have not resigned. I might be persuaded to retire if reinstated without conditions.
Should I regard your email as official notification that I am no longer an employee of Dickinson College? If so, have I retired, or been terminated?
I need clarification on these matters in particular in order to access retirement accounts.
But I repeat that I understood that I had until March 31 to declare my intentions officially, and that I have not resigned.
I would like this book to remind Americans, and whomever else might be interested, that our cross-section of this continent has a great anti-authoritarian history: a history of religious individualism, revolution, anti-slavery, anti-gender-oppression, anti-statism. It is a tradition of looking skeptically at all forms of political and economic hierarchy.
I intend to do a companion volume on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, but one thing I very much like about the history I'm presenting is that it occurs before and outside the left/right spectrum, which only became current in the US in the very late 19th century. The question of whether an anti-federalist like Robert Yates, or an agrarian like John Taylor, or a radical individualist such as Emerson or Spooner is on the left or the right is ill-formed. At any rate, they were skeptics about state power and unbridled capitalism, opponents of slavery and exploitation. Nor do feminists such as Sarah Grimké or Lucretia Mott fit comfortably in the later political spectrum: they are extremely religious and also radically individualist, and yet they supported all the progressive reforms of their era.
Several of these documents are famous, but a number of the figures are far too little known and their texts far too little available. I also hope that this volume is an exercise in canon-formation.
[not to put too fine a point on it: the political left is authoritarian, elitist, thoroughly dedicated to hierarchy. it ain't freed nobody from nothin, and it never will. judged by the values it itself professes, it is evil; it is precisely what it professes to be dedicated to destroying.]
After reading an article in the New Yorker that seemed to confuse Merle Haggard with Jean Paul Belmondo and maybe Johnny Holiday, I gave up. Lucinda Williams recommended a piece and that made me think it might be really possible to still communicate authentically in English. So, while this is kind of a review of the writer's piece, it's really my tribute. Haggard was a lot of things but one thing no one ever accused him of to his face, anyway, was being some kind of auteur. So, in a probably misguided attempt at authenticity...Melancholy Honkytonk.
Being authentic and honest has it's dangers and downsides -- ask Crispin -- but if you work at it, you might be surprised a bit. Maybe even in a good way. --Mike
american defiance is out in paper, with kindle coming soon. it is a collection of anti-authoritarian texts stretching from anne hutchinson's defense against and attack on the puritan theocracy to voltairine de cleyre's "anarchism and american traditions."
there are some celebrated slices, especially emerson and thoreau, but there is so much that is so little known. i've tried to give whole texts or very substantial parts. john woolman's 'plea for the poor' from the 1760s anticipates the arguments of peter singer. sarah grimke's letters on the equality of the sexes is probably the first feminist book published in the us, and she's better than fuller, i think. william lloyd garrison argues for total anti-statism in 1838. sitting bull lures a reporter into the new york herald's last stand. there is a really stunning and ground-breaking essay on race by frederick douglass that is almost never read (better than dubois 50 years later), along with a big chunk of david walker's unbelievable appeal. angela heywood throws down some surrealist political sex poetry. anti-federalists, abolitionists, anarchists, and antinomians are all represented.
this is our most radical and most american heritage: a fierce anti-hierarchical tradition, the texts themselves sometimes unimaginable acts of defiance. we need remindin.
in editing this book, i am appointing myself secretary of defiance. these texts constitute our artillery battery, our canon.
i have been officially terminated by dickinson college, as of march 31, without appeals process or compensation, for precisely posting a miranda lambert video on my blog, and the fact that this shows that i am dangerously insane. they may well claim that i resigned: this can be shown to be false with documents. yes, i am lawyering up, aaup investigation, and so on. i did not realize how far we are from free.
i hope people take this chance to listen beyond the first couple of cuts to merle haggard, especially the early stuff. packages i'd recommend: i'm a lonesome fugitive and swinging doors and the bottle let me down.
also, i think 'the strangers' is the best name for a country band.
my next self-publishing project will be an anthology of american anti-authoritarian writings from the 17th through the 19th century. a number of fundamental texts here are far-too-little known and not widely enough available. many of them are quite unimaginably defiant. here is the toc, still subject to alteration:
Trial and Interrogation of Anne Hutchinson (1637)
Roger Williams, "A Plea for Religious Liberty" (1644)
John Woolman, "A Plea for the Poor, or a Word of Remembrance and Caution to the Rich" (1764)
Anti-Federalist Papers (1787)
Samuel Bryan, Centinel 1
Robert Yates, Brutus 3
Robert Yates, Brutus 6
James Madison, "The Virginia Resolutions" (1798)
Letter to Governor Harrison (1810)
Speech to the Osages (1812)
John Taylor of Caroline, "Authority" (1814)
David Walker, "Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World" (Preamble and Article 1, 1830)
Sarah Grimke, Letters on the Equality of the Sexes (selections, 1838)
William Lloyd Garrison, "Declaration of Sentiments Adopted by the Peace Convention" (1838)
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nathaniel Peabody Rogers
"Reply to a Correspondent" (1846)
Josiah Warren, Equitable Commerce (1846)
Henry David Thoreau
"Civil Disobedience" (1849)
"Life Without Principle (1863)
Lucretia Mott, "The Laws in Relation to Women" (1853)
Frederick Douglass, "The Claims of the Negro Ethnologically Considered" (1854)
Angela Heywood, "Human Sex Power - Fleshed Realism"
i have often heard or read that no white american of the antebellum period did not harbor racist attitudes, and that this includes abolitionists. that is really utterly false. consider nathaniel peabody rogers: in 1840 he was saying that racism is not natural but produced socially, and a century and a half before people were diagnosing bigotry against gay people as originating in fear, rogers was labeling racism 'color-phobia': the title of the essay from which this is drawn.
Our people have got it. They have got it in the blue, collapse stage. Many of them have got it so bad, they can’t get well. They will die of it. It will be a mercy if the nation does not. What a dignified, philosophic malady! Dread of complexion. They don’t know they have got it - or think, rather, they took it the natural way. But they were inoculated. It was injected into their veins and incided into their systems by old Doctor Slavery.
The color-phobia is making terrible havoc among our communities. Anti-slavery drives it out, and after a while cures it. But it a base, low, and vulgar ailment. It is meaner, in fact, than the itch. It is fouler than Old Testament leprosy. It is a tasty disorder, a beautiful ailment, very genteel, and apt to go in first families. We should like to have Hogarth take a sketch of the community that had it - of ours, for instance, when the St. Vitus’ fit was on.
speaking of chinese philosophy, william michael morgan is the best new male country singer i've heard in awhile. plus i believe his name is straight from general hospital. anyway, he's working in that mode i love: george strait/alan jackson/randy travis early-90s neo-trad (now that's a good name for a genre). he's both letter-perfect and heartfelt along those lines, i believe.
so, i will try to suggest the strengths of the waterway version of the ttc by giving some versions of chapter 11, which is quite a key one and very lovely. i want to say, these are versions i respect and consulted, not at all the ones i think are bad.
i think the the paperback of waterway came out great. i'm getting a bit better at making books online. there's more to come, and i'll get there on design etc eventually! we don't actually need the gatekeepers anymore.
If there were a god,
he'd be like water
that brings life to things
Water seeks the lowest place
and cleanses what it touches.
It is as satisfied with the humble
as with the exalted.
Still, deep, clear,
true, kind, useful,
This is also the true man,
liquid, and at ease.
you know, i hadn't looked at the thing in years, and it took years for it to come together with many collaborators and commentators. i remember being dissatisfied with when i left off. but when i dug it up again, i was quite surprised: i do think it is the best translation of the tao te ching into english, and i don't have the sense that i could have done it at all.
i've published a book called 'waterway' on kindle and paper.
it includes my translation of the tao te ching, which i've worked on for twenty-five years or so. it started with chinese-reading grad students at vanderbilt, and underwent many phases; sometimes i taught it along with mitchell or red pine's translations. a version published on my web site in the early 2000s got a little bit of a following on new-agey websites and such.
it presents a very distinctive translation into what i hope is notably unstilted english; it is as different from stephen mitchell's (which i love) as mitchell's is from, say, witter bynner's (which i like). i think you will understand the text differently when you read it.
This book can tell you nothing;
the Tao leaves you where you began.
A maiden can leave things nameless;
a mother must name her children.
Perfectly empty or carrying ten thousand words, you still return,
and return, and return.
Naming things loses what unites them.
Failing to name things loses them into what unites them.
Words are limits that make experience possible.
But form and formlessness are the same.
Tao and the world are the same,
though we call them by different names.
This unity is dark and deep, but on the other hand it is deep and dark.
It opens into the center of everything.
the second part of waterway is what i hope will be a fundamentally new classical taoist text. i've dubbed it the wu wei ching or book of non-action; it is drawn from kuo hsiang's commentary on the chuang tzu. i really think that kuo hsiang's version of taoism gives the deepest statement of taoist metaphysics and of wu wei as a guide to practical action.
Not only is it impossible for not-being to become being, it is impossible for being to become not-being. So from where and how do things and for that matter the absence of things arise? What came first?
If we say yin and yang came first, how did they come? From where; from what?
Maybe nature came first. But nature is only another name for beings.
Suppose I say the Tao came first. But the Tao is only another name for not-being, so how can it arise? There must be another thing or not-thing and so on infinitely.
When you get down to it, we cannot say anything except that things just are, that they arise spontaneously and spontaneously disappear.
This is how my students appropriate, when they do: they cut and paste off Wikipedia (or whatever it may be), then replace a few synonyms with synonyms, recast slightly, etc. Both Jones and Zagzebski do that with my discussion.
But I call Zagzebski's plagiarism and not Jones's. Jones does introduce the argument with a quote from me, and I feel he does enough to avoid plagiarism. For one thing, someone interested in this argument or this question would naturally be directed to my papers by Jones's discussion.
Now it is just possible that Zagzebski cribbed the discussion from Jones. But then, she does not footnote Jones at all, so that would also be misconduct. And I will say again that though Zagzebski does give a reference to my papers, it is just a wave that indicates no connection at all to the relevant argument. I feel she does directly misuse the material, either mine (pretty obviously, I think) or Jones's. Either way...
In Marian David's "Truth as the Epistemic Goal" (which is in a collection of papers on normative epistemology and truth, wherein the swamping problem is already central, or in some sense gives rise to the questions [Knowledge, Truth, and Duty: Essays on Epistemic Justification, Responsibility, and Virtue (Oxford 2001)]), she formulates the swamping problem:
Given the truth-goal-oriented approach to justification with justification understood as a means to that goal . . . it is now hard to see how justification could be anything but a constitutive means to that goal, which will make justification collapse into truth. (161)
footnote: More or less related argument are found in Sartwell (1992) (although he handles these issues rather oddly, by my lights); Depaul (1993), chap. 2.4; and Maitzen (1995).
So again, I seem first here, odd though I am. I'm going to have a look at Depaul. Also she discusses Richard Foley around these issues, and if I recall correctly Foley and I corresponded some about this in the early '90s. So I'll have a look there too. I am telling you that all roads lead back, though.
Just for the hell of it: David's wedge is to assert that it's not plausible that truth is always the ultimate goal in believing. My answer to that was in the first chapter of my unpublished book (written in '91 as I was also writing the papers). Truth as a goal is built into the nature of belief. You believe p iff you take p to be true. That's why epistemology is fundamentally 'teleological' or 'instrumentalist.'
So as I catch up, a couple of bald assertions: (1) Anything that could plausibly count as an epistemic virtue will have be truth-conducive; (2) Social factors such as being authorized within a community or engaging its consensus are neither here nor there: irrelevant to truth and to knowledge. Here's my paper "Anti-Social Epistemology" (2015).
Responding to the idea that God the Father demands capital punishment, Rogers writes as follows.
What would one of these fathers, here on earth, think of his family of children, who should set up such an institution, out of his door-yard where they go to play, and should string up little Charley or Anna or whoever by the neck, for some childish misdemeanor, done without permission of the majority of them? How would he feel - the depraved old gentleman - coming out, some time, to enjoy the glee of the young ones, to find one of them dangling by the neck, and older brother Sam, or Jim, standing dismally by, as Chaplain? And then Jim or Sam roll up the white of their eyes, and charge him with having ordained what they had been about.
If the family are of a gibbety temper and character, why let them have gibbets and be hanged to them. And if they don't hate one another quite bad enough for that, and do, for shutting up in dungeons for life or for years - let them have dungeons. Or fine or whip or crop ears, or whatever the family are malignant and hateful enough, to do. When they come to love one another, they will leave it off. Cross children will snap at each other and quarrel. Deprave them sufficiently, make them bad enough, and they will strangle one another.
i wrote three completely separate book-length manuscripts under rorty. it took awhile, though i am the fastest, easiest writer you ever saw. overall comment on my first draft (i've got em all with his comments of course): 'notably well written.' that was definitely the high point, though he was generous and fast getting stuff back with elaborate comments; he did it on the plane as he went to debate his old buddy, jurgen haberas; right when i knew him he was at his most meteoric rise. and he was always a deeply sweet man, which you might not know. richard rorty was a pretty damn good writer for a philosopher. (egads i have spent my whole life reading literally some of the worst writing our species has every produced: both the classics and, most excruciatingly, the average release from oxford. then you get to the end and it does not amount to a hill of beans.) anyway, that was enough to keep me going through the next draft; i might have cared more about that than anything.
let's say he brought more critical acuity to attacks on than to defenses of him. although most of the attacks were silly, or just rage or envy or 'you said the wrong thing'. swear to god he loved them. he was on contingency, irony, and solidarity when i was working with him. one day in the middle of lunch in his office the phone rang and he said 'hold on a second.' then he launched into an elaborate description of the project and a lovely assessment of where his work was at and how wildly it was changing, and how he was so far beyond mirror of nature, ready to kill the world. i did not know what he was actually working on at the time. it took me literally 15 minutes to spin out that it was richard bernstein. ok, not a lot of grad students get that experience! then he's off and i started arguing with him about this 'literary turn' nonsense. he did not respond to my attacks except to give me the in-process bibliography. i read it all. i can't find that one! i must have chucked it when i was done.
one thing he did: read aloud a couple of the most vicious criticisms of himself, which were on his desk, as he and bernstein cackled.
anyway, lord the rort had some critical acuity when he wasn't just shrugging at an auditorium full of people. he kicked my ass all day every day for what? like six years. in doing that, he showed me exactly what the highest level really was, what you had to know to toss off apparently casual provocations, how much machinery was underneath his performance art. i had been reading harder than anyone i ever knew since i started. i didn't hardly see how knowing what he knew was even possible. but i knew it would take me a long time. he actually hated academic philosophy.
'yo dick, i found something we agree on! carnap was totally wrong!' a: 'yup and he was kind of seeing that partly when i studied with him.' heavens! i have never even told some of these stories, because at meetings people only wanted to confront me about rorty and how stupid he was. then they didn't hear it when i said: stupid? whatever, dude. definitely wrong though. ok you can be in our group! but you make no sense. yes i do, man, i am a disciple of richard rorty.
my best friend was a junior prof, and on my committee (well, i was 30). rorty: 'if we don't let this one go, he'll just write another.' that, i am told, was more or less the entirety of the meeting after my defense. and that assessment, i'm also told, was reflected in his letter for me, long since abandoned on the road by pointed advice, never seen. i never wanted to publish anything from my dissertation or see it again. i swore i would, if nothing else, write the way i wanted for the rest of my life. i have come pretty close. but i have paid a hideous price.
i thought he'd kind of despise the followers who were trying to get him on their committee. but i thought i was emulating him: bold provocateur, bad boy of philosophy. i thought he'd see himself in me as soon as i started disagreeing with him; just the right person to carry on. but at least i did really disagree with him: each iteration was an attempt to subtilize, deepen, make irrefutable the critique. all indirectly, of course. i didn't mention him except in the effusive acknowledgements. i did try to destroy some of his heroes - gadamer, for instance - on aesthetic matters: the image, representation, realism in the visual arts. i was not ready to do that with any effectiveness.
while i was doing that, hans-georg gadamer puts in a surprise appearance in rorty's seminar. we watched as rorty and gadamer sparred with absolute pleasure over rorty's interpretation of gadamer. it started 'dick! sounds great! makes sense! you've got me completely wrong!' rorty laughed until i thought he'd cry, maybe a high point of his life, come to think of it. then he said 'yes, hans, but that's what you should have said." then gadamer started guffawing.
now i am richard rorty. man you definitely don't know what that takes. and you definitely don't know what that takes when you're working at six different schools with no sabbaticals, not a single person who agrees with you about anything, and no support or social back-up at all. i hit it between 52 and 54, while in the middle of the most absurd meaningless academic nightmare of my career, during which i got tenure somehow. big new theories of all sorts of things were falling into my hands like plums from the tree i'd planted. it was an excruciating period, and an ecstatic one, the first attributable only to them, the second only to me.
anyway, he's dead; it was oedipal; ok we heard a grad student say that one time as we walked around cabell hall! rorty punched me in the ribs. who cares? well i still do. i knew i could get where i am now as a philosopher if i never stopped writing, reading, working. (i am actually not a particularly fast reader.)
i thought he'd be delighted by my disagreement. he was, intermittently; we ended up having the best philosophical debates i ever had, through seminars, convention appearances, dozens of one-on-one hours. one thing he did clearly let me know: i was no robert brandom. my first vague hint was sitting at the big meeting with the pile of paper = second dissertation. he looked up at me with his oddly shy smile and said 'well, you're no robert brandom.' ok just going to admit it, i've been reading robert brandom enviously ever since. i think i've never footnoted him? vengeance is mine! i'll give him that. but who is an rb? and rorty one way or another taught me an incredible amount. you might not know this but he was incredibly learned. how many times are you going to make me say it? in so many things. i was not going to win the argument when i was 25! and boy he killed that continental-analytic thing completely. i thought he'd also admire my wide-openness. i was really seriously trying to read everything as i worked on drafts, so i could kick his ass next time. i found all sorts of stuff to love on both sides.
if you read my books with that in mind, you'll see that i probably turned that corner in end of story. it was really quickly written and kind of disintegrated at the end. but i definitely wasn't worried about actually refuting the view after that. or macintyre's, or ricouer's. they were, i thought, baldly false views, not seriously entertainable ( i had been killing them in my head for years; i wasn't really going to try the full 400 pager. no one was listening anyway.)
since dick's death there has been a reassesment of the man who came to be called both the best-known philosopher of the late twentieth century, and the person i fucking never heard anything positive said about until the tribute at the apa. but man, i will not hear reverence either. that is a deep betrayal. i have never heard anyone say anything positive about rorty (or not till whenever that was); i have never known how to talk to philosophy people about him or my relation to him. i told my non-philosophical romantic partners or whatever. there was no way i could talk about him honestly and make sense to philosophers. but i have sat through three-hour banquets where people were ranting about how wrong he had dewey. the next morning, it's at the coffee table. how did i just not run or attack? after that gadamer thing, how do you take that? what if the senior person in what you take to be your field (mcdermott, to be precise) does that specifically in your face for years because...you were a student or rorty's? what is the response? all those years i tried a knowing smile. it was like i didn't even know rorty. and then i forgot some of these stories or repressed them because survival.
so say you were listening to people spit the worst sort of bile at your mentor/greatest enemy, and the most they got to was the first couple of things that had occurred to you that were too lame to even try on him? right on, brother? or do you expect me to sit here and engage in a defense? i have actually been caught in the vice at damn near every conference i have gone to since 1984 or whatever it was.
but whatever the joys and burdens of being dick rorty's student, i'll always be incredibly grateful to the man for myriad dimensions of my development. i think he was wrong about everything. but at least he was wrong in an interesting, provocative, fun way. that's better than being right in a laborious monotone.
[this is pulled from out, the entry that got this whole ball of craziness rolling.]
just to begin the re-defense of 'knowledge is merely true belief': say you had some commitment to economy, ockham's razor, the simplest law-like explanation for apparently disparate phenomena. (that's supposedly stephen hawking's first criterion of theory choice, e.g.) don't you think you should see how far you can get with k=tb? not going to find a simpler among the proposed theories of knowledge, i believe (truly).
Again, I want to say that I haven't accused anyone except Zagzebski of plagiarism. Another person mentioned by Pritchard as a source of the swamping problem is Wayne Riggs, the chair at Oklahoma who according to Zagzebski said that I sent him a threatening email, which is demonstrably false. That got me threatened with arrest, fired, and held to be insane. That Riggs shows up again here as someone who's fundamental to the swamping problem is really quite the little coincidence.
Perhaps the massively excessive reaction begins to make sense. Either way, Dickinson College's response was truly disgusting, something that must disturb every member of its faculty.
At any rate, in Reliability and the Value of Knowledge (Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, January 2002), he attributes the problem to Ward Jones, who certainly got it from me, and to Zagzebski (however, to an earlier book [Virtues of the Mind] and paper ['From Reliabilism to Virtue Epistemology']), and to Kvanvig (see note, p. 80). Like everyone else, starting with me, he saw that it was a fundamental challenge to reliabilism.
But obviously Riggs could really have gotten it from Jones and Zagzebski, and I don't see any cut-and-paste, etc. Still there too it derives from me, I believe, because at a minimum it derives from Jones and Zagzebski, who got it from me.
One thing about the swamping problem: whatever you may think of the thesis that knowledge is merely true belief, I don't think that anyone could have come up with the problem unless they had been focused very critically on the function of justification, someone who was skeptical about regarding justification as necessary for knowledge. And I think that perverse as the position was, it has turned out to be of use to the profession!
That is what I do, I feel, better than anyone working, more or less. I'm not necessarily smarter than the average analytic epistemologist, and i do make mistakes. But I focus on counter-consensus moves kind of automatically. So, if you want to remake part of a discipline or a topic, try this: what are the first few ground-clearing intuitions/assumptions that make everything else possible? These are often inadequately or not even argued for, and often I find when I think about it a little, I don't think they're obvious or even true at all.
That's how I did the swamping problem in Cargile's seminar at UVA, probably '87. I was probing for the assumption that would give a lever (and show my cleverness and profundity, etc). So we did Alvin Goldman's reliabilism, and something just seemed sort of off to me, like that's really just redundant: knowledge is a true belief that is reached by a reliable method for reaching...true belief. Well, what are we after then? What's our goal? Obviously or explicitly just true belief, so the method is merely instrumental to the real admitted telos. Then I started trying to generalize it and that's how I found all those quotes from Bonjour, Moser, Armstrong that Zagzebski and Jones recycled. Without that sort of reasoning, or to save some pet version of justification, no one would ever have generated the swamping problem.
Also I would say you better get out of a narrow frame. Actually, what was driving me was Kierkegaard; I thought that analytic epistemology just deployed definitionally a cult of reason that was really impoverishing and unrealistic. That's why I wanted to delete the justification condition in the first place. No one conducts their epistemic lives in the way the analytic trad suggests we all ought to; and anyone who did would just be gross and inhuman. So that's what made me probe for weaknesses. Ask any of these other alleged originators how and why they thought of this...
So a more recent version of this move is that I assert that free will is not required for moral responsibility. I submitted it here and there with no luck; still getting the 'that's ridiculous' response. But it will be in the ethics chapter of Entanglements. If nothing else, it will really press people in the free will problem to think hard about the initial assumptions. I think it could make a positive difference and I think again that it will be vindicated.