I want to express my regret regarding the hurt caused by the recent Midwest meeting of the Society for Christian Philosophers. The views expressed in Professor Swinburne's keynote are not those of the SCP itself. Though our membership is broadly united by way of religious faith, the views of our members are otherwise diverse. As President of the SCP, I am committed to promoting the intellectual life of our philosophical community. Consequently (among other reasons), I am committed to the values of diversity and inclusion. As an organization, we have fallen short of those ideals before, and surely we will again. Nonetheless, I will strive for them going forward. If you have thoughts or feedback you would like to share with me, I would welcome hearing from you via email or private message.--Michael Rea@Facebook.
And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.--Isaiah 32:18
Because I was busy clearing out a home (I am in the midst of a move), I missed most of the philoso-blog-sphere brouhaha about two (what Justin Weinberg has dubbed) resonance conferences. I like the word resonance, which evokes sympathy, vibrating strings, and intensification of sounds (all concepts I play and publish around)--from the outside it's an apt term. But from within a resonance conference is also a home (recall my return to Hopos), where one does not have to justify one's scholarly commitments and can contribute without apology. But homes have dissonances, creaking sounds through the wooden corridor in the middle of night which wake us and co-cause the sleep-deprived nights that shorten tempers; they are places of suppressed memories as much as the harmonious pictures in the hall.
While cleaning I found an enormous number of working batteries and pens.
This post was prompted by remarks of a scholar and person I admire greatly, Professor Van Dyke, in her capacity as Executive Director of the Society of Christian Philosophy on Facebook:
As Executive Director of the SCP, I want to echo what Michael Rea says here. The SCP does not endorse the views expressed by Professor Swinburne (or any other speaker). It is also committed to being a diverse and inclusive organization where anyone not only *is* but *feels* welcome. Please (for serious!) feel free to share ideas you have about how we can make this happen.---Christina Van Dyke@Facebook [emphasis in original].
Van Dyke is right to stress that to be welcome formally somewhere is not the same as feeling welcome there (materially). She does not explain the distinction, but she may have in mind the following: the former is governed by objective considerations of justice, the latter is governed by the no less real, but also more subjective, considerations of co-living in a shared (even if temporary) dwelling space. That is to say, considerations of justice (equality, free speech, etc.) are constitutive of the shared activity, but an extra set of shared commitments (self-command, delicacy of taste, good judgment or phronesis, etc.) makes effective (occasional) co-effectivity possible. In the case of the SCP one of these shared subjective, but real commitments is a self-identification as Christian.
Van Dycke explicitly echoes Michael Rea's comments. Michael Rea, who has been both a personal mentor+ and (recall) a co-traveler on the path of reflecting on the ways professional philosophy can corrupt, relies on a contrast between (religious) faith* and (doctrinal) views. Such shared faith is compatible with a very broad multiplicity of doctrines. One way to be a "community" in which diverse perspectives are felt to be welcome is to avoid insisting on doctrinal agreement. But that's clearly not sufficient.
Remarkably, Rea's remarks set off a fire-storm on Facebook and also at Dailynous. I say 'remarkable' because his insistence that the SCP adheres "to values of diversity and inclusion" was neither an apology to those offended by nor a condemnation of the keynote address that set off the controversy (see here for J. Edward Hackett's eye witness testimony). To regret hurt done by others is a species of symbolic speech that falls short of censure. There are contexts in which I would describe such expressions of regret as a cop-out. But given the intense reaction it provoked, it is clear that this went well beyond empty symbolism.
For, it was not the feminist-cuddlers-of-students-who-hate-free-speech-cabal-that-runs-the-discipline that went after Rea (the President of the SCP) or the SCP, but folk, who are -- judging by their comments -- committed to the thought that Prof. Swinburne simply defends doctrinal orthodoxy (or are sympathetic to such doctrines on other grounds); these latter folk clearly felt betrayed by and outraged over the SCP President's remarks. Those outraged by Rea's comments clearly reject the faith vs doctrine contrast for the SCP. I suspect, but I am no insider, that they felt quite at home when the SCP was taken to be a place where the expression of certain doctrines could be taken for granted, and now they feel alienated or homeless. It is sad to read that the SCP "was organized in 1978 to promote fellowship among Christian Philosophers" because clearly this is not a moment of fellowship.
Interestingly enough, Christina Van Dyke clarified why the SCP said what it did by way of Michael Rea's statement:
This is a case of someone in a position of considerable authority advocating a position that compares homosexuality to disability and talks about "treating" or "curing" them both. Richard is welcome to hold and espouse that view. Michael Rea and I just want to be clear that his position is not that of the SCP, and that we acknowledge that considerable harm has been caused by well-meaning people who hold those views and deeply regret the harm caused by this particular iteration of that view.--Christina Van Dyke.
Notably, Van Dyke side-steps questions about truth and orthodoxy in her comments (for useful philosophical criticism see here). Rather she points out that views that have caused considerable harm to others in the past should not simply be reiterated (presumably without at least acknowledging those prior harms and more) because they continue to harm and run the risk of more harm. This is a doctrine about responsible (public) speech; responsible speech is not just evaluated in light of truth and intentions (these can be stipulated to be 'well-meaning'), but also on foreseeable consequences (in light of past experience, human nature, social institutions, etc.). Responsible speech requires good judgment and a sense of fellowship not just with the organization one is a member of but also with humanity.
In the verse before the one I quoted above, Isaiah claims that "the work of righteousness [הַצְּדָקָ֔ה] shall be peace and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever." Where justice rules, there is social peace and order. This view is not just Biblical political philosophy; it is also a core commitment of Spinozistic and Humean political philosophy. Conversely, the lack of quiet/peace is evidence for the defectiveness in הַצְּדָקָ֔ה. Generating true harms is by definition then evidence of a lack of righteousness. Whenever we see an invocation of the norms of responsible speech, we are asked to orient ourselves simultaneously to the political demands of peace [שָׁלוֹם] and righteousness [הַצְּדָקָה]. As the reactions to this invitation suggest, this dual-orientation is no easy matter and requires, also, the workings of grace and receptivity to it.
+About that some other time more. But it is connected to my desire to reinvent my blogging persona distinct from NewAPPS.
*I think all faith, including the faith in reason, is religious.