The following statement, drafted by the Committee on Public Philosophy and the Committee on the Status of Black Philosophers, was approved by the board of officers on February 10, 2016.
The American Philosophical Association appreciates the work of philosophers who bring their philosophical expertise to the public by way of op-ed essays, public forums, teach-ins, and other venues. We see this increased public engagement by philosophers as important to the health of the profession and to the well-being of our community.
Recently several authors of high-profile public essays have been subjected to vilification, racist and/or sexist verbal abuse, and outright threats of bodily harm. In the past few weeks, Professor George Yancy, in response to his essay “Dear White America” (New York Times, 24 Dec. 2015), has received harassing emails, phone calls, and letters containing racist slurs and threats of violence. This is one very egregious example of bullying and harassment that philosophers who speak out publicly endure, and there are many more, often taking racist, sexist, homophobic, and/or ableist forms.
Philosophers are gadflies, at least some of the time, and we must support those who take intellectual, ethical, and social risks in their work, including their public presentations. Bullying and harassment that target a person’s race, gender, class, sexual orientation or other status are especially abhorrent. We unequivocally condemn such behavior and stand in solidarity with our members who are subjected to this deplorable and discriminatory abuse.
Abusive speech directed at philosophers is not limited to responses by the public to published op-eds. A look at some of the anonymous philosophy blogs also reveals a host of examples of abusive speech by philosophers directed against other philosophers. Disagreement is fine and is not the issue. But bullying and ad hominem harassment of philosophers by other philosophers undermines civil disagreement and discourse and has no place in our community. Attacks that focus on a philosopher’s race, gender, or other status are unacceptable and in violation of the APA Statement on Nondiscrimination. We call upon any member who has engaged in such behaviors in the past to cease and desist.
The APA condemns the activities of those who seek to silence philosophers through bullying, abusive speech, intimidation, or threats of violence. We also call upon our membership to speak out against such attacks, whether from within the academy or from the public sphere.