McCarthyism Redux: BDS and the Right to Boycott

I know how monomaniacal I sound on this topic, but I get this way when facing brazen, unapologetic McCarthyism. Some of this stuff has to be read or heard to be believed, so I simply draw these items to your attention in case you haven’t seen them, and in case, having read/seen them, you feel inclined to take appropriate action. Obviously, they’re not intended to be an exhaustive or comprehensive list of links on the subject, and not even meant as advocacy of BDS itself as the right tactic to adopt. Continue reading

Philosophy Journals: Who Needs Them

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2019 is to “get more organized.” To that end, I’ve decided to get rid of a bookshelf’s worth of philosophy journals that I (partly) inherited from my erstwhile officemate, Joe Biehl, now Executive Director of Young Philosophers of New York. I tried unsuccessfully to offload these on the university’s library, but got literally no response from them (although to be fair, that was a whole Library Director ago, so maybe I should try again). When I taught at elite institutions, it was customary for people in this situation to leave unwanted journals in the faculty lounge for eager graduate students to snap up, but I no longer teach at an elite institution, so that’s not an option. (Indeed, that’s how Joe and I acquired this useless collection in the first place.) Continue reading

It Sometimes Begins with Emerson

I just did this survey, “put together by the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization (PLATO) and the APA Committee on Pre-College Instruction in Philosophy.” (You have to be an APA member to take it.)

https://delaware.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_4McDN9ZhI7GVYCp

It was fun. It gave me a chance to reflect on my first encounter with philosophy, which, contrary to the old saw, didn’t begin with Ayn Rand. It began in a high school English class on American literature, where we read Emerson and Thoreau. I’m not sure contemporary analytic philosophers would regard either of the two as real philosophers, but whatever you call them, they were my first contact with anything describable as philosophy.* I found them pretty enthralling, and still do. As it happens, I’m re-reading Walden for the first time in a couple of decades, and enjoying it immensely. One of my undergraduate teachers, George Kateb, predicted to me back then that I would one day forsake Ayn Rand and return home to the American Transcendentalists. I was offended at the time, but by George, he was right. Continue reading

Against HIPPster Regulation

Consider this post a rant-by-proxy: I owe the basic idea for it to my therapist wife, Alison, but the issue occurred to me independently (though not with such clarity) a few years ago, after I took a professional ethics course for my counseling degree.

Psychotherapy is an odd vocation that’s hard to categorize in a straightforward way. A therapist is in some respects like a teacher, in some respects like a friend, in some like a parent, in some like a religious minister, and in some like a physician. But at the end of the day, therapy is a sui generis activity with its own internal standards and internal goods. Therapy may resemble pedagogy, friendship, parenting, spiritual counseling, and medicine in some respects, but isn’t any of those things. Nonetheless, the powers-that-be have decided nowadays that psychotherapy is a form of medicine, or if that strains credulity, that it ought to be medicalized as much as possible.    Continue reading

Not Born in the USA

I did the last of my immigration-enforcement events yesterday at Felician–this one really a mini-event, intended for my seminar-sized criminal justice class. The guest speaker this time was my former Felician student Maria Lopez-Delgado.

Quick intro: Maria graduated as a philosophy major from Felician in 2013 (thesis topic: “The Marxian Critique of Capitalism”; advisor: Khawaja), went on to law school at UNC School of Law, did a stint at the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, and for the past year or so has been back in North Carolina with North Carolina Legal Aid’s Battered Immigrant Project, where she works with victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.* Since she was in North Carolina and we were in Jersey, we spoke by Google Video Chat.  Continue reading

The Fragility of Badness

Due to a scheduling conflict, I missed my opportunity last week to see Jonathan Haidt plugging his most recent book, The Coddling of the American Mind (co-authored with Greg Lukianoff). In compensation, a colleague told me a story at lunch about a snowflake student she had to deal with.

The student, a military veteran, objected to the presence of Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice on the professor’s syllabus, the objection being that the book glorified abortion, and was in various and sundry respects hostile to men. Apparently, triggered by the book, the student cornered the professor in a small room, yelling at her about it, and demanding its exclusion from the syllabus. Continue reading

She Fights the Law and She Wins

Joyce Phipps, Esq. is the founder and director of Casa de Esperanza–a non-profit legal aid and social service organization in Bound Brook, New Jersey, created to serve immigrants and refugees. I met her last February at the vigil for immigrant detainees I described in an earlier post.

We met more or less by chance: lost in thought, I wandered away from the vigil to prowl around the perimeter of the facility, and poke at its edges; Joyce, who was doing the same thing, noticed me, and struck up a conversation. It took just a few minutes of conversation to convince me to invite her to Felician to talk about her work defending the rights of immigrants and refugees. It took less time for her to accept. Continue reading

Deportations with Benefits

I invited two agents from  ICE’s Newark, New Jersey Field Office to speak to my cross-listed Philosophy/Criminal Justice class today. The topic? “Enforcement and Removal Operations 101,” or less euphemistically put, “Deporting People in the Name of the Law: An Introduction.”

The two agents more or less made the arguments you would expect agents from ICE to make: ICE is empowered to search, seize, detain, and deport those who violate the nation’s immigration laws; some or many of these illegals are bad actors, whether of a criminal or terrorist variety; and though the media like to focus on the most problematic or controversial actions that ICE undertakes, media coverage doesn’t adequately explain the legal rationale or ICE’s enforcement/deportation operations, or give a balanced account of what it is that the average ICE agent does on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Continue reading