Even far-left Princeton professor Peter Singer agrees that philosophers should not be censored by university officials for expressing views about sexuality and gender identity that go against the prevailing leftist orthodoxy.
In an open letter published on Inside Higher Ed, top scholars from Oxford to Princeton agreed that academic thinkers and members of the broader swath of society should be allowed to discuss controversial matters pertaining to sexuality without fear of reprisal. The scholars argued that censorship should only come if someone is directly inciting violence against a group of people.
“We, all scholars in philosophy at universities in Europe, North America and Australia, oppose such sanctioning,” says the letter. “The proposed measures, such as censuring philosophers who defend these controversial positions or preventing those positions from being advanced at professional conferences and in scholarly journals, violate the fundamental academic commitment to free inquiry. Moreover, the consequent narrowing of discussion would set a dangerous precedent, threatening the ability of philosophers to engage with the issues of the day.”
The scholars do not deny that such philosophical arguments could indeed be triggering to some people and only advocate for the silencing of academic speech if the person “expresses false and hateful attitudes or incites violence or harassment.” However, the scholars note the difference between a philosopher honestly seeking truth in matters of sexual identity and those who seek to cause pain.
“None of the arguments recently made by our colleagues can reasonably be regarded as incitement or hate speech,” the letter continues. “These discussions are of great importance, and philosophers can make an essential contribution to them, in part through academic debate. Philosophers who engage in this debate should wish for it to be pursued through rational dialogue, and should refuse to accept narrow constraints on the range of views receiving serious consideration.”
The scholarly letter concludes by affirming the following rights:
We affirm the right of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals to live free of harassment and abuse, and we welcome them enthusiastically as fellow participants in the profession of philosophy.
We reject calls for censuring or deplatforming any of our colleagues on the basis of their philosophical arguments about sex and gender identity, or their social and political advocacy for sex-based rights.
We condemn the too frequently cruel and abusive rhetoric, including accusations of hatred or transphobia, directed at these philosophers in response to their arguments and advocacy.
We urge that the philosophical discussion of sex, gender and related social and political issues be carried out in a collegial and mutually respectful manner, reflecting the full range of interests at stake and presuming the good faith of all parties.
Notable among the 12 professors who signed the document is Peter Singer of Princeton University — the bioethicist who has notoriously argued for outright infanticide.
“Newborn human babies have no sense of their own existence over time,” he said. “So killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living. That doesn’t mean that it is not almost always a terrible thing to do. It is, but that is because most infants are loved and cherished by their parents, and to kill an infant is usually to do a great wrong to its parents.”
If even Peter Singer can argue for a philosopher’s right to assert that men are men and women are women, the future of academic and intellectual freedom may be in safer hands, after all.