Should Academics Stay Out of Political Activism?
(By a curious chance, I came across this post by Massimo Pigliucci less than three hours after posting the most politically partisan of all my own posts to date.)
The dispassionate scientist is a myth (or perhaps a Stoic’s ideal). We all show personal involvement in our theories and research programmes, and confirmation bias when evaluating them. But if we stay out of political activism, that will deprive the public of the best informed opinion.
And when we indulge in activism, then of course we should aim to do so competently. I consider public understanding of major issues to be a precondition for sane policy-making, and for this reason I regard my own efforts at public education as a form of activism.
That’s the question I tackled in a recent essay at The Philosophers’ Magazine online, prompted by a conversation over coffee with Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at NYU with whom I’ve had a number of disagreements about the intersection of social science, politics, and philosophy.
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