5 replies
  1. Michael Tooley
    Michael Tooley says:

    Ed Erwin – In Memoriam
    My wife, Sylvia, and I were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Ed Erwin – a colleague of mine when I was in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Miami (1981-83). Ed was an excellent philosopher, with a very fine critical mind, and he was also one of the most admirable persons I have known.
    When charges of misconduct were advanced against his colleague, Colin McGinn, Ed had the courage to volunteer to examine the relevant correspondence to see whether it supported the view that McGinn’s appointment should be terminated. When Ed concluded that it did not do so, he was subjected to outrageous abuse by several philosophers, and subsequently made one of the respondents in a lawsuit filed against him, Colin McGinn, and the University of Miami.
    News of the lawsuit was posted on a number of philosophy blogs, including Daily Nous, edited by Justin Weinberg, and the news of this lawsuit generated much ill will directed against Ed.
    What was the result of the lawsuit? It is still widely thought that, because of confidentiality agreements, the outcome is known only to the plaintiff and the respondents, This, however, is false, since Ed Erwin refused to be a party to any such agreement, and he subsequently described the outcome in a letter entitled “What Happened in the Colin McGinn Case?” This letter is posted on my home page at https://spot.colorado.edu/~tooley/Ed_Erwin,_Colin_McGinn,_and_the_University_of_Miami.html
    Also posted there is a discussion of Brian Leiter’s reaction to the posting of Ed Erwin’s letter, some subsequent correspondence concerning the matter, and my comments on Brian Leiter’s remarks: https://spot.colorado.edu/~tooley/Brian_Leiter%27s_Reaction_to_the_Posting.html
    The result of the lawsuit is also, of course, very relevant to the treatment of Colin McGinn, who has been blacklisted from the profession, and also prohibited from even going onto the University of Miami campus to hear talks by visiting speakers.
    The blacklisting of professors has now become widely accepted within the philosophy profession, and also within other disciplines – and very few academics have had the courage to speak out against it. Ed Erwin , however, was an admirable exception, writing, as he did, an essay entitled “The New McCarthyism: Blacklisting in Academia,” which was published in the online magazine Quillette in August 2018.
    A link to this article can be found on my website at https://spot.colorado.edu/~tooley/Ed_Erwin%27s_Essay_on_Blacklisting_in_the_Profession.html
    There I also discuss the fact that, aside from a brief reference and discussion of Ed’s essay by Brian Leiter in his Leiter Reports – A Philosophy Blog, Ed’s essay seems to have been more or less completely ignored by members of our profession. Thus, for example, if one searches Justin Weinberg’s Daily Nous blog using “Blacklisting, Erwin”, the result will be “Sorry, but nothing matched your search terms.”
    This result is not surprising, given that Ed in his essay describes the result of the lawsuit in the Colin McGinn case, and that Justin, when I asked him if he would inform his readers of Ed’s essay describing the outcome in that case, refused to do so.
    The question of the moral status of blacklisting is a very important one, and it is sad that philosophers appear unwilling to grapple with this topic. But then, as Ed says at the end of his essay, “ Moral courage in this domain is hard to find.”
    Ed Erwin was a notable and very admirable exception, and his death is a great loss.

    • Alan Goldman
      Alan Goldman says:

      Ed was a great friend and colleague, a fine philosopher with an astute critical mind, also one of the most moral people I have known. He was too moral for his own good and was punished for it by some bad people in the Miami department. In one sense I am glad I was no longer there; in another sense I wish I had been.


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