2024 Resolutions

2024 Resolutions

I don’t have any, except one I can’t implement. I would like to ban all teaching of my work in American philosophy departments. Why should I let the products of my labor be used for free by people who refuse to employ me? Shouldn’t there be a law against this? Shouldn’t I have the right to prohibit this kind of exploitation? But it isn’t so: people can use my work in their teaching completely against my wishes, and be paid to do so! Why should people who have been cancelled have to accept that other people can use their work for profit? Suppose someone uses my writing on the mind-body problem in a couple of classes but would refuse to invite me to give a talk, or even have me on campus: is that morally acceptable? It is not acceptable to me—I don’t want someone like that teaching my work. So, please desist. Moreover, I don’t want philosophers in America to use my work for research purposes—discussing me in print, citing me, or otherwise benefitting from my labors. I wish they would stop, because I have no desire to be part of the conversation in this country. Read me if you must, but don’t take my name in vain. There may be exceptions to this rule, where I would be willing to relax my ban—I may grant special permission to teach and cite me—but in general I forbid people to make use of my work, all fifty years of it. I must be the first academic in history who doesn’t want his work discussed by a large section of the academic community (sic). It’s a pity I can’t bring the weight of the law upon violators.[1]

[1] I have no objection to the rest of the world making use of my work. I particularly resent being taught at the University of Miami, where I am banned from the campus, though there is probably no danger of that.

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12 replies
  1. Colin McGinn
    Colin McGinn says:

    Imagine if someone decided to teach one of my books in a graduate seminar, say Philosophical Provocations, but refused to have me as a guest at the seminar. What if the seminar was a huge success?

    Reply
  2. Free Logic
    Free Logic says:

    If your work would have been used in a for-profit context you could have sued just like NYT just did with OpenAI the developers of ChatGPT… But I think you would be much better off if you write a novella on the subject matter that clearly bothers you as unfair. It would have more impact and could contribute to a psychological closure. If you throw in the current absurdities and injustices that rule US liberal arts world — plagiarism at top academic level (the case of Gay as an example), antisemitism, support of home grown pro-terror student groups etc — given the force and elegance of your writing you might also profit from this noble work on top of the other things I just mentioned. In any event, happy 2024 to your and yours!

    Reply
    • Colin McGinn
      Colin McGinn says:

      I don’t have much interest in writing a novella about such a dismal and depressing subject matter, devoid of artistic content. I’d rather spend my time on something more interesting. Closure? I have acquired an unquenchable hatred of Americans, with a small number of exceptions, so I’m afraid that won’t be possible.

      Reply
  3. Henry Cohen
    Henry Cohen says:

    Let’s distinguish among three classes of people. (1) The people who refuse to employ you are administrators. They are not using the products of your labor. (2) The people who use the products of your labor yet refuse to invite you to give talks are professors, but to what extent are they stopped from inviting you by administrators? (I have never worked in academia so I don’t know how these things work.) (3) The third class of people are students, who would be innocent victims of your ban, if you could implement it, because they would be deprived of learning of your contributions to philosophy.

    Reply
    • Colin McGinn
      Colin McGinn says:

      The people not inviting me are professors; they also decline to employ me. Students would be innocent victims of the ban, but the responsibility lies with those who choose to keep me out of academia. They are already victims because many professors now avoid teaching me or using my books. It’s a sick situation.

      Reply
    • Colin McGinn
      Colin McGinn says:

      I wonder what graduate students do who are writing dissertations to which my work is relevant. If they decline to cite me, they may be accused of not knowing the literature or of scholarly malpractice; if they do, they may worry that they will be criticized for “supporting” such a miscreant, and may risk future employment. What would have happened to physics if Einstein had been cancelled?

      Reply
  4. Paul Reinicke
    Paul Reinicke says:

    I’m truly sorry to hear you feel that way about the teaching of your work (or about the non-teaching of your work). And about Americans in general (hatred is a very strong word). Let me try this. Does this change your perspective at all (I’m quoting Einstein): “Schopenhauer’s saying — “A man can surely do what he wills to do, but he cannot determine what he wills” — impressed itself upon me in youth and has always consoled me when I have witnessed or suffered life’s hardships. This conviction is a perpetual breeder of tolerance, for it does not allow us to take ourselves or others too seriously; it makes rather for a sense of humor.”

    Reply
    • Colin McGinn
      Colin McGinn says:

      Yes, it is a strong word and I don’t use it lightly. I have to live with anger, hatred, and bitterness every day (and it’s not something I relish). Einstein and Schopenhauer don’t help, I’m afraid. Justice is precious; injustice is vicious.

      Reply
  5. Timothy Beneke
    Timothy Beneke says:

    I feel compelled to say that I am a great admirer of your work, have read several of your books and regard you as in possession of a first-rate philosophical mind. I’m very grateful for your website and your continued ventures into the philosophical. I tend to think that those rare people who can carry philosophical conversations forward, should. I’m saddened that I no longer see your reviews in the New York Review of Books.

    I can’t claim to know what happened in your relationship with academia, but I sense that you were treated unfairly and that many people are being treated unfairly in American universities. I gave many talks in universities between 1980 and 2007 on matters related to men, sexism, rape, violence against women; homophobia, etc. and never heard a word about trigger warnings or safe spaces; I’ve read about claims of Jonathan Haidt and others that something began to happen in US colleges around 2013-2014 where students began speaking the rigid language of clinical depression and were quick to demonize anyone who was in slight disagreement with them..Haidt claims that this correlates with women born after 1995 who were attached to cell phones and social media and lacking social support.This led to the call for trigger warnings and safe spaces. And a certain oversimplistic cognition.

    Good luck to you….

    Reply
    • Colin McGinn
      Colin McGinn says:

      The NYRB is a shadow of its former self. Since Robert Silvers died they have not asked me to contribute, and there has been very little real philosophy in its pages. I have asked them about this and been given the runaround. It seems to have got onto the diversity bandwagon. I find it not worth reading anymore. Certainly something bad happened around 2013. My contributions to philosophy are no longer welcomed and I am a persona non grata. It is sick and quite evil.

      Reply
  6. Greg Klebanoff
    Greg Klebanoff says:

    I’m not sure I understand the basis of your objection. Many writings are used without compensating the authors. Indeed, some are used solely to demonize them—Marquis DeSade, Hitler, and arguably even such diverse figures as Nietzsche and H.P. Lovecraft come to mind here—and I’ve never heard anyone cry foul about that. Sure, all the people I mentioned are dead and unable to cash royalty checks, though I don’t imagine many would see the situation differently were they still living. Moreover, unlike the “villains” I mentioned, your writings are deservedly acclaimed. So acclaimed that I imagine even most who disagree with them will acknowledge their value. Further still, honoring wishes such as yours would greatly impoverish our intellectual history.

    Personally, I think anyone such as yourself, who has made significant contributions to our understanding of the world has a moral duty to make their work available to everyone. What a tragedy it would be if Einstein thought of the matter as you do and in 1947 another brilliant but impoverished physicist wanted to publish a revolutionary extension of the master’s theories but couldn’t do so because he couldn’t afford the royalties!

    In my humble opinion, your comment about Miami University is frankly beneath a man of your stature. I concede that the institution treated you unfairly, but singling it out seems like sour grapes.

    Reply
    • Colin McGinn
      Colin McGinn says:

      I appreciate the tone of your comment, but you seem to have missed the thrust of my complaint. I’m not asking for compensation or criticizing the lack of it; I am complaining about my work being used by people who have refused to invite me to give a talk, or invite me to a conference, and otherwise blacklisted me (or passively sat by as others blacklisted me). The analogy with Einstein would be teaching his work but refusing to extend him the usual professional courtesies.

      I cannot for legal reasons discuss the actions of the University of Miami, but what distinguishes that university is banning me from campus in perpetuity; no other university has done that.

      Reply

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