Peter Boghossian, who has taught philosophy at Portland State University for the past decade, resigned last week in a letter to the university’s provost. His letter was published at Bari Weiss’s website at substack, where so many progressives and other commentators of integrity and principle have fled. What he describes sounds typical of what is going on a the vast majority of colleges and universities. If the academic profession had any integrity as a whole, it would have halted this rot before it corrupted the young and damaged society as much as it already has.
In Boghossian’s case, late is better than never, but it is still damning. I was considering designating him an ethics hero, but I am uncertain that one who tolerates the intolerable in his own organization while it becomes part of a national movement to crush free thought deserves too many accolades for finally doing what he should have done years before. I am open to debate on this point.
His letter is long and excellent, so please read it yourself. I will post, with only a few comments, some illustrative and especially notable excerpts below.
“I never once believed — nor do I now — that the purpose of instruction was to lead my students to a particular conclusion. Rather, I sought to create the conditions for rigorous thought; to help them gain the tools to hunt and furrow for their own conclusions. This is why I became a teacher and why I love teaching. But brick by brick, the university has made this kind of intellectual exploration impossible. It has transformed a bastion of free inquiry into a Social Justice factory whose only inputs were race, gender, and victimhood and whose only outputs were grievance and division.”
Comment: I may quote this entire passage in my essay for my 50th class reunion book. It applies to Harvard.
- “Students at Portland State are not being taught to think. Rather, they are being trained to mimic the moral certainty of ideologues…This has created a culture of offense where students are now afraid to speak openly and honestly. “
- “I noticed signs of the illiberalism that has now fully swallowed the academy quite early during my time at Portland State. I witnessed students refusing to engage with different points of view. Questions from faculty at diversity trainings that challenged approved narratives were instantly dismissed. Those who asked for evidence to justify new institutional policies were accused of microaggressions. And professors were accused of bigotry for assigning canonical texts written by philosophers who happened to have been European and male”
Comment: And why didn’t you start fighting then?
- “The more I read the primary source material produced by critical theorists, the more I suspected that their conclusions reflected the postulates of an ideology, not insights based on evidence.”
Comment: Ya think???
- I eventually became convinced that corrupted bodies of scholarship were responsible for justifying radical departures from the traditional role of liberal arts schools and basic civility on campus. There was an urgent need to demonstrate that morally fashionable papers — no matter how absurd — could be published….So…In 2018 I co-published a series of absurd or morally repugnant peer-reviewed articles in journals that focused on issues of race and gender. In one of them we argued that there was an epidemic of dog rape at dog parks and proposed that we leash men the way we leash dogs. Our purpose was to show that certain kinds of “scholarship” are based not on finding truth but on advancing social grievances. This worldview is not scientific, and it is not rigorous. Administrators and faculty were so angered by the papers that they …filed formal charges against me. Their accusation? “Research misconduct” based on the absurd premise that the journal editors who accepted our intentionally deranged articles were “human subjects.” I was found guilty of not receiving approval to experiment on human subjects.”
- “For me, the years that followed were marked by continued harassment. I’d find flyers around campus of me with a Pinocchio nose. I was spit on and threatened by passersby while walking to class. I was informed by students that my colleagues were telling them to avoid my classes. And, of course, I was subjected to more investigation.”
“As individuals, we often seem incapable of remembering this lesson, but …the freedom to question is our fundamental right. Educational institutions should remind us that that right is also our duty…it has become clear to me that this institution is no place for people who intend to think freely and explore ideas.”
Comment: And what institution run by progressive ideologues—that is, the vast majority of our institutions–is such a place?
17 thoughts on “And Another Distinguished Liberal Finally Realizes What Progressivism Has Become: Philosophy Professor And Ethicist Peter Boghossian”
I almost mentioned this in Friday’s open forum but I also think it’s too little too late. Perhaps many of these people in different professions that have resigned recently tried to hold out thinking things would get better. Then after waiting and waiting it was too late, nothing changed, then resigned.
One point in the opening paragraph – “Peter Boghossian, who has taught philosophy at Portland State University for the past decade, resigned this morning in a letter to the university’s provost.” – The article was posted on Sept. 8 – so, I think the resignation was at that time.
I should have checked the date. Thanks, I’ll fix it.
I remember reading about this guy, related to his pranking some publications by getting them to publish bogus research articles, i.e., ‘experimenting on humans’.
His letter obviously was intended for publication, not just for the provost. (He has to explain his teaching background to her after at least a few years working under her?) I saw no indication he had previously addressed his concerns directly to the provost, something I would expect of a professional. Still, his letter works very well as an apologia and as a critique of the educational philosophy at PSU.
I might not rate him an ethics hero based on this action; after all, we’re just getting one side of the story here. But I certainly credit him for having the gumption to resign in protest, assuming he truly believed he could not be effective working for his beliefs on the inside.
I seem to recall that the earlier publications were covered here.
Good Gawd; if we’ve lost Portland State………….
I would like to hear your thoughts on his false research. On its face it seems unethical, but I see no way to prove the point without intentionally keeping its true purpose hidden.
I’m curious how some of my Facebook friends react to Peter Boghossian’s resignation letter. I posted it on Facebook and made it a public post so everyone could read it and it included this section…
I look forward to some interesting replies on Facebook if anyone there has the intellectual fortitude to step up and challenge what I wrote.
You’re a braver man than I. Few people like to be confronted with irrefutable evidence that they are gullible fools, and will lash out rather than having the guts to say, “Yup. You were right all along about this.”
You haven’t seen Chris around lately, have you?
Jack wrote, “Few people like to be confronted with irrefutable evidence that they are gullible fools, and will lash out rather than having the guts to say, “Yup. You were right all along about this.””
Yup, I’ve seen it so many times from progressives that the pattern has become undeniable. I’ve never shied away from sticking my neck out so our “progressive” friends can walk themselves straight into a self evident moral conflict with themself, you’d think that they would learn from their blatant hypocrisy and character revealing mistakes but it’s been pretty clear that they don’t.
Jack asked, “You haven’t seen Chris around lately, have you?”
Nope. I completely wrote him off as a morally deficient “progressive” internet troll and the only way he will disconnect himself from the hive mind cult is to be deprogrammed. The last time I crossed his path was over on Windypundit’s blog in December 2020 right before Mark told me that I was “…no longer welcome on [his] blog”.
Mark has become the Ethics Alarms version of Jennifer Rubin.
Update on my Facebook post related to this blog post; I also linked to this Ethics Alarm blog post.
No one has challenged anything I wrote in the post. The only comment I got was “Wow…..very good read!!”.
Personally I think most, if not all, of my political left friends have either unfollowed me or completely ignore what I post, in that regard Jack’s political left Facebook friends at least have the rhetorical fortitude to engage others.
No, they don’t! I estimate that my posts are “silenced” by 90% of my FBFs, and that they also keep their posts off my feed, since I have a tendency to call out bullshit.
I guess I hadn’t considered that 90% of your Facebook friends didn’t engage because I’ve seen “some” engagement from on some of your threads from a few people, it’s usually the same individuals, but I literally get nothing from my political left leaning FBF’s anymore, my Facebook thread has become a bubble. I guess my tunnel vision perception about the engagement on your Facebook profile was a bit off.
The last political left FBF that engaged me on told me back in April 2020 “political posts are dividing our great country, and everyone that posts them, is helping make that divide bigger in my opinion” and “no more politics between us” after he launched into pure ad hominem attacks aimed at both you and I when I shared this blog post of yours, No A Study Did Not Prove That Trump’s “Touted” Drug Didn’t Work. Not Exactly Fake News, But Close Enough. The guy actually falsely claimed that you were a Trump supporter giving medical advice to take hydroxychloroquine even after I pointed out that you clearly stated in the blog that “I have no idea if the stuff is any good or not” he continued to make the same claims which inspired me to point out to him that he was closed minded partisan and actual facts that disprove his partisan beliefs have become irrelevant to him. The guy is a blatant partisan hypocritical hack, he constantly complained to me when I post something political that he disagreed with saying that “political posts are dividing our great country, and everyone that posts them, is helping make that divide bigger in my opinion” but yet he was constantly posting political things and when I quoted his own words that “political posts are dividing our great country” on his political posts he actually deleted my posts that pointed out his hypocrisy. After Biden was inaugurated he completely stopped posting anything political.
An interesting observation; I’ve noticed that almost all of my political left FBF’s have completely stopped posting political stuff since Biden was inaugurated.
By the way; the person I was talking about above isn’t the only one that reacted in almost exactly the same way to that post. I think that’s when I confirmed that the political left really had become a hive mind, attacks the same ways, using the same words, protesting the same ways, showing the same hypocrisy, reacting the same ways when I point out their hypocrisy, etc, etc. It’s really weird, it’s like they swallowed the same red pill that was filled with a concoction that completely brainwashed them in a cultish way.
“An interesting observation; I’ve noticed that almost all of my political left FBF’s have completely stopped posting political stuff since Biden was inaugurated.”
I have noticed this as well, though since I am blocked from seeing most of my Deranged friends’ posts om my feed and my sock drawer stops me from checking their pages individually, my impression may be wrong.
I talked to Peter at a conference recently. Definitely a nice guy, but a little naive. I got the vibe from talking to him that although friendly, he’s not entirely sure what he’s trying to do. He told me that he didn’t think academia could be saved, but when I pressed him, he seemed to have no positive vision of the way out.
I will quote another progressive who has awakened to the reality of the death of free speech, Professor Jonathan Turley wrote:
:Free speech is dying in the Western world. While most people still enjoy considerable freedom of expression, this right, once a near-absolute, has become less defined and less dependable for those espousing controversial social, political or religious views. The decline of free speech has come not from any single blow but rather from thousands of paper cuts of well-intentioned exceptions designed to maintain social harmony. …
“… A willingness to confine free speech in the name of social pluralism can be seen at various levels of authority and government. In February, for instance, Pennsylvania Judge Mark Martin heard a case in which a Muslim man was charged with attacking an atheist marching in a Halloween parade as a “zombie Muhammed.” Martin castigated not the defendant but the victim, Ernie Perce, lecturing him that “our forefathers intended to use the First Amendment so we can speak with our mind, not to piss off other people and cultures — which is what you did.”
“Of course, free speech is often precisely about pissing off other people — challenging social taboos or political values.
“… Such efforts focus not on the right to speak but on the possible reaction to speech — a fundamental change in the treatment of free speech in the West. The much-misconstrued statement of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes that free speech does not give you the right to shout fire in a crowded theater is now being used to curtail speech that might provoke a violence-prone minority. Our entire society is being treated as a crowded theater, and talking about whole subjects is now akin to shouting “fire!”
“The new restrictions are forcing people to meet the demands of the lowest common denominator of accepted speech, usually using one of four rationales.