Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Dissident Philosophers Voices against the Political Current of the Academy

Edited by T. Allan Hillman and Tully Borland

Philosophers since Socrates have thought of themselves as making provocative arguments about ideas that matter. But as Nathan Cofnas recently said after being publicly mobbed: “the philosophy establishment claims to trace its intellectual lineage to Socrates, but its true lineage goes back to the Athenians who killed him.” It is fitting, then, that one of the best articles in the recently published anthology, Dissident Philosophers, was penned by Cofnas’s mentor, Neven Sesardić.

Sesardić documents his life as an accidental dissident. He first earned the scorn of journalists and government agents when he refused to teach the communist propaganda that his home country of Croatia required of him in the 1980s. When he moved to Western Europe in the 1990s, Sesardić noticed different questions that couldn’t be asked—or questions for which there was only one acceptable answer—and proceeded to give the wrong answers to forbidden questions. These questions concerned the heritability of mental traits, especially with regard to group differences. While coming to the politically incorrect conclusion on these matters wouldn’t get you imprisoned, as denying the divinity of Marx could in Eastern Europe, it could get you defenestrated from the secular clergy that comprises modern academia in the West.

Dissident Philosophers is a collection of essays by philosophers with very different views. But two themes consistently emerge: (1) it is increasingly impossible to do interesting intellectual work on issues that matter in the social sciences and humanities; (2) in many cases the arguments considered “out of bounds” are precisely those that would undermine the intellectual foundations of the political culture in which we find ourselves. With the triumph of progressivism over the last 75 years, it is perhaps unsurprising that the corpus of the modern university is permeated with egalitarian assumptions that are increasingly at odds with observable reality.

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