Rant: Feser is a Nutbar

PZ over at Pharyngula links to the second part of Edward Feser’s inchoate screed:

_ “Whatever bland official statement of purpose might appear in the introduction to a modern university’s college catalog, its true raison d’etre is in practice nothing other than to destroy utterly whatever allegiance a young person might have to traditional conceptions in morality, religion, politics and culture, to “do dirt” on the faith of his fathers, on his country, and on what most human beings have historically understood to be the imperatives of decency. It is, in short, to propagate Leftism. " _

I commented on the forums there something along the lines of “Wow, Feser sure is a nutbar.” Someone else took me to task for not refuting his freakish diatribe point by point and otherwise treating him as a serious scholar. So part of me wants to respond to that innocent soul in more detail.

But I think the epithet “nutbar” is about all the response Feser deserves.

I’m not particularly trying to convince anyone of the “wrongness” of his position, because Feser doesn’t actually present any actual arguments in his two pages of urine-stained crayon scribblings. Sometimes – and surprisingly, I think Feser would agree with this point! – it’s important to stand up and use common sense and say out loud that the Emperor has no clothes (or, in this case, that the creepy homeless guy talking to himself in the subway doesn’t seem to have all of his faculties).

The issue isn’t disagreeing with the premise of the article, the issue is that the article doesn’t present anything at all. Feser states that the modern University’s raison d’etre is to destroy young people’s allegiance to decency, because Universities are anti-Western, and do not tolerate dissent from their hegemonic, communist, hedonistic, freud-believing, Christian-hating (blah blah blah pot-smoking, fornication having, Che-Guavara t-shirt wearing, my name is Edward Feser and I’m a complete nutbar) orthodoxy. Without going into the (crazy) details of his (crazy) justification for his (crazy) claims, let’s just look at the questions that are raised by his claims, prima facie.

(1) What is a “modern University?” I bet Oral Roberts University is surprised to know that they hate the Judeo-Christian tradition. Maybe Feser didn’t mean them, but we don’t know because he doesn’t say. What percentage of modern Universities are serving their Soviet masters? Feser’s rhetoric is sweepingly inclusive, so the reader has to assume he means “all of them,” which, surprise surprise, is insane.

(2) What does it mean to be “anti-Western”? If 95% of an essential Western institution is “anti-some-notion” and “pro-some-other-notion”, then isn’t maybe that an indication that, by definition, they’re not anti-Western? (This is kinda a distraction, because of course his nutbar claim that “Universities,” which he doesn’t define, are “anti-Western” is utterly unsupported by any evidence at all; he certainly doesn’t actually condescend to provide any.)

(3) Universities don’t tolerate dissent, except for this one courageous Professor at Loyola Marymount University, holed up in a bell tower with a rifle and a supply of Grape Ne-Hi and Powerbars. Well, ok, there are a few others. Well, ok, it turns out there are a lot of others. You said it yourself, Colin – you’ve had professors who were conservative. So have I. So, frankly, has everyone. Does anyone here remember taking the economics class where they talked about how capitalism sucked and communism was the only right economic system? Hey, me neither, because most economics classes in modern universities don’t hold the nutbar beliefs that Feser claims they indoctrinate their students with. Is there one professor out there that holds the positions Feser invents? Tell you what: find that guy, and I’ll call him a nutbar, too.

Feser’s entire point is not that “some professors are liberals.” I think all of us – and by “us” I mean “all of us that aren’t stupid and insane” – would agree that it is perfectly appropriate for there to be liberal – even hyper- liberal – professors at Universities, just as it is appropriate for there to be conservative – even hyper-conservative – professors at Universities. It is even possible to make a reasoned argument that the numbers of professors of a given political bent are predominant, or that there are so many that they crush dissent. Feser doesn’t even begin to try to make such an argument; from the very first sentence of the first part of his article, he assumes the conclusion he claims to be proving, and then rants about how awful it is.

An important part of the Western tradition is that academics should at least try to provide evidence for their arguments. Feser doesn’t. It bothers me that people are getting sidetracked saying things like “Oh yeah, he’s right because once I had this professor who was really really liberal,” when that’s not what he’s claiming- he’s claiming that the institutions are pervasively anti-Western and that their purpose is to corrupt young minds. That, I maintain, is observably false by anyone who actually bother to, y’know, observe.

In Pittsburgh, there used to be a woman who would hang out outside the stadium and say to everyone who walked past “Go inside – it’s going to rain fire in three days. Go inside! It’s going to rain fire in three days!” You couldn’t engage her in conversation. People would say “But you said that to me five days ago!” and she would just smile and say “Go inside!” In other words, arguing with her was pointless because as regards the very claims she was making we could look around and observe with our own eyes that they were egregiously, terribly, and pathetically false. So it is with Feser.

There. That’s the long version of “He’s a nutbar.”

it’s more than he deserves.