Benefits of Cancellation
Cancellation does have its upside. During the last ten years (it has been that long) I have had far more time to think, write philosophy, read (by choice), and pursue other interests. None of this would have been possible without ceasing to be a fulltime professor. This blog is one result. Not only that but I am no longer pestered with requests to give lectures, contribute to anthologies, review books, appear on panels, supervise theses, write references, help junior philosophers, travel to distant places, reply to professional emails, meet with people for lunch, and sign petitions: my time and energy are my own. This has enabled me to achieve results that would never have happened without the benefit of cancellation. No longer do I feel frustrated by lack of time to do what really matters to me. I am no longer on the academic treadmill. I don’t have to commute to work or attend faculty meetings or hold office hours. Less obviously, I now know who my true friends are: not those who ran for the hills at the slightest sign of trouble, despite the help I gave them over the years (one of whom I literally saved the life of), but those who were decent and steadfast—and I appreciate them all the more for it. So, for all these things I am thankful. But there is another question: who suffered by my cancellation? Who did it harm? Many people, especially those close me (family, in particular). What about all the students who never got to be taught by me? It didn’t benefit them (let’s assume the students I taught before were benefitted). I think it certainly harmed the department I used to belong to, and in myriad ways. It harmed my ex-colleagues (ex-friends). It also harmed academic philosophy in America for the simple reason that I have been excluded from contributing to the philosophical life of the country in which I still live. I flatter myself that this harm has been considerable. And there are other harms into which I won’t enter having to do with moral climate and academic freedom. So, there have been benefits to me and harms to others; considerable in both cases. I daresay this was not the intention of those who engineered the cancellation, or acquiesced in it, or simply turned a blind eye; but actions often have unexpected consequences.