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Monday, March 09, 2009


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It might be helpful to say what you thought the "debatable social and political questions" were and how taking a stand on such issues is incompatible with the APA's charter. Since I don't know what the APA's charter says, I can't really comment on that. I don't see any obvious conflict between an organization being a professional organization and having rules about who gets to advertise in its publications that does not allow organizations who discriminate against members of the APA to enjoy the benefits of using the APA's publications. At any rate, let's get back to these alleged debatable social and political questions. Suppose you think (as the author of the original petition thinks) that the APA ought to either enforce its own anti-discrimination policy or admit that it won't and revise it. Are you suggesting that the APA could do this only by taking a stand on debatable social and political questions? I'm having a hard time seeing what the other side of this debate would be since logically that side would be the side that advocates the APA maintaining its current policy that prohibits discriminating against homosexuals and not acting on it. What an odd view for someone to take!

Perhaps you don't like that the APA has adopted the policy according to which it will not allow institutions that discriminate against its members to advertise in its publications (or advertise without some mark indicating that they are being censured), but even if that is your view that position is consistent with the view of the original petition.

You obviously didn't bother to read the whole post, or even the first paragraph. In the first paragraph I indicate that my reasons are supplied in the letter to the A. P. A. reproduced below. I also indicate what sorts of debatable social and political questions it is not appropriate for the A. P. A. to take a stand on. If you don't know what the A. P. A. charter says, then you are not competent to comment on this issue. It wouldn't involve much work to find out, especially if you are a member. In any case, I quoted from the charter in my letter. But you didn't bother to read it. Apparently you didn't read or understand the second sentence either, since I said I am here taking no stand on the petition or counterpetition.

It seems to me that there is some significant difference between this present case and the APA's statement on the Iraq war. This present case seems to be stemming more from an allegedly inconsistent application of one of the APA's own policies, the non-discriminatory policy. The cases dealing with the Iraq War and capital punishment seem to deal with something wholly different. This is not to take a side on this present issue, but it does seem to me to be significantly different from the earlier instances, even if the motives of petitioners/counter-petitioners are the same.

Jay Carlson
Spartanburg, SC


You're right: there is a difference. The present case concerns what the petitioners allege is an inconsistent application of the APA's existing nondiscrimination policy. The Iraq, capital punishhment, and other resolutions did not concern the application, inconsistent or otherwise, of an APA policy. But both are instances of the politicization by leftists of the APA -- which was my point. As I clearly stated, "the politicization of the A. P. A. is nothing new. . . ."

I understand that your point is that it is an instance of politicization of an allegedly apolitical group. It also seems clear to me that you're not taking a position on the issue but simply asking the questions "Why are we bothering with this issue?" and "Why should the APA take a stance on this issue?"

This may be outside the scope of your intentions for this post, but it seems to me that this issue has more legitimacy than the other instances and thus warrants some kind of examination in a way the others did not. I say it has more legitimacy because this actually concerns some of the standard practices of the APA, namely who gets to advertise in JFP.

The implication I seem to conclude from you on the other instances of politicization is that the APA functioning as the APA should not concern itself with these issues. I don't think that's the appropriate response to this present instance, as it does involve some of the functions of the APA as the APA. Let me know your thoughts.

Jay Carlson
Spartanburg, SC


Due to book-writing commitments, I have had little time to post, and I'm afraid that will continue, but I was pleased to see the opposition to the politicization of the APA. I thought you'd enjoy reading what Ayn Rand had to say about the first such instance: the "Putnam Resolution" against the Vietnam War, passed in 1970.

"No professional organization has the right to take an ideological stand in the name of its members. A man's ideas, including political convictions, are exclusively his to determine and cannot be delegated to or prescribed by anyone else. It is not a matter of 'professional ethics,' but of individual rights. The practice of passing ideological resolutions is a futile and immoral device of pressure-group warfare. For all the very reasons that a philosopher, as a thinking individual, should take a strong stand on political issues, he should not allow it to be taken for him by a collective: he, above all other men, should know that a man's convictions are not to be determined or prescribed by majority vote."

Harry Binswanger,

I am happy to find myself in complete agreement with you and Ayn Rand on this point.

So the first group resolution was the "Putnam Resolution" of 1970? I wonder if anyone has compiled a list of these resolutions. I'll bet they were all leftist resolutions. I would be surprised if there was ever a resolution proclaiming the moral superiority of capitalism over socialism, or a call for a group stand on the importance of Second Amendment rights.

The point, of course, is that politicization is wrong whether from the Left or the Right or from any point on the political compass.

I do have some unfinished Rand entries, and one of them addresses some remarks of yours. So if you have time it would be good to hear from you again when I post them.


One more thought. You are of course well aware of the APA Guidelines for Non-Sexist Use of Language. It is interesting that Rand who uses the gender-neutral 'man' in every other sentence -- I exaggerate, but see the Rand quotation above -- was never hurt by the alleged 'sexism' of standard English.

I deny that standard English is 'sexist.' The Guideline obviously enshrines leftist values and assumptions and is another example of the politicization of the APA by the Left.

And now a personal question you are free to ignore: Are you an APA member?

Jay Carlson writes, "The implication I seem to conclude from you on the other instances of politicization is that the APA functioning as the APA should not concern itself with these issues. I don't think that's the appropriate response to this present instance, as it does involve some of the functions of the APA as the APA."

Here is the Nondiscrimination Policy from the APA website (http://www.apaonline.org/governance/statements/nondiscrimination.aspx):

The American Philosophical Association rejects as unethical all forms of discrimination based on race, color, religion, political convictions, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identification or age, whether in graduate admissions, appointments, retention, promotion and tenure, manuscript evaluation, salary determination, or other professional activities in which APA members characteristically participate. At the same time, the APA recognizes the special commitments and roles of institutions with a religious affiliation; and it is not inconsistent with the APA's position against discrimination to adopt religious affiliation as a criterion in graduate admissions or employment policies when this is directly related to the school's religious affiliation or purpose, so long as these policies are made known to members of the philosophical community and so long as the criteria for such religious affiliation do not discriminate against persons according to the other attributes listed in this statement. Advertisers in Jobs for Philosophers are expected to comply with this fundamental commitment of the APA, which is not to be taken to preclude explicitly stated affirmative action initiatives.

I would make two points. First, there is a distinction between sexual orientation and engaging in acts that express that orientation. To quote from the counterpetition:

>>Institutions can require their faculty to agree to abide by ethical standards that forbid homosexual acts while not ipso facto discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. The conceptual distinction between a certain kind of act and a disposition to perform that kind of act is one that no philosopher would fail to acknowledge in other ethical contexts. We fail to see why it should be ignored in this one.<<

Thus my first point is that there is no logical inconsistency between the prohibition of homosexual acts by certain religious institutions and the APA nondiscrimination policy. My second point is that the policy includes this sentence: "At the same time, the APA recognizes the special commitments and roles of institutions with a religious affiliation; and it is not inconsistent with the APA's position against discrimination to adopt religious affiliation as a criterion in graduate admissions or employment policies when this is directly related to the school's religious affiliation or purpose, so long as these policies are made known to members of the philosophical community and so long as the criteria for such religious affiliation do not discriminate against persons according to the other attributes listed in this statement."

Suppose candidate A is selected over (otherwise equally qualified) candidate B on the basis of religious affiliation. Calvin College, let us suppose, chooses a Christian over a militant atheist. The militant atheist has been discriminated against on the basis of religion or rather the lack thereof. The APA policy allows such discrimination. (A deeper concern is whether the APA policy is self-contradictory: in the first sentence we read that discrimination based on religion is disallowed, but in the next sentence it is allowed when practiced by religious institutions. Now anything follows from a contradiction; so if there is indeed a contradiction in the policy, and it certainly looks as if there is, then we can infer anything we want from it.) Now given that the militant atheist has been discriminated against by Calvin College (in our hypothetical example) and given that that discrimination is allowable under the APA policy, then consistently with that it must also be allowable for Calvin College to discriminate both against candidates who espouse the moral acceptability of homosexual practices (whether or not these candidates are themselves homosexuals)and those who engage in such practices.

So, Jay, that is a rough outline of what I would say were I to write a post on this topic. The petition is nothing but another attempt to politicize the APA along leftist lines. I do grant you, thought, that this form of politicization is different from the 'resolution' form.

Hi Bill,
Thanks for the post and you thoughts (it’s nice to see someone who agrees with me on the who “gender-neutral language” fuss). I agree with you that the original petition is “politicization” disguised as a call for consistency. But we need to push further: sometimes (!) the orientation vs. behavior distinction is moot. Alister Norcross complains that any job that required “peeing standing up” behavior would obviously constitute gender discrimination because one gender is certainly not naturally oriented to this behavior. Others have noted that landlords, businesses, etc. who prohibit homosexual behavior from tennants and employees would obviously be immorally targeting those with homosexual orientations.

The FATAL reply to this type of thinking is that hiring practices that discriminate on the basis of behaviors (even naturally oriented ones) are permissible when the behavior affects job performance. For example, if a bizarre fetish-porn producer needed an actor who could pee standing up (I won’t go into the details of why!) then they certainly are not engaging in any culpable gender discrimination. And this point holds whether or not one has moral objections to such a production. Similarly, the military is not discriminating against women if it forbids 8 month pregnant paratroopers (although becoming pregnant is a behavior based on a natural orientation).

Similarly, whether one has moral objections to conservative Christian institutions or not the fact remains that part of the job requirement for those particular educators is “Christian-lifestyle-modeling/coaching.” To engage in behavior contrary to the lifestyle whose promotion is part of the purpose of that institution will go a great way towards defeating the purpose of that institution just as surely as having a non-vegetarian as the president of PETA. By contrast, tenancy and other forms of employment typically have no essential connection to obligations requiring superfluous restraints on behaviors; that is the reason why the orientation/behavior distinction is moot when behavior discrimination arises in those cases.

If this argument exhonorates a porn-producer, then it surely exhonorates a “preacher-factory.” And it is clear that the APA anti-discrimination statement did not overlook this general truth which, again, is obviously FATAL to the claims made in the original petition. Q.E.D.

Thanks, Troy. I agree with you.

Women are sedentary urinators by 'orientation' and by 'practice' in consequence of their orientation. Therefore, to discriminate against them on the basis of their practice is to discriminate against them on the basis of their orientation. But note that women must pee and cannot easily pee standing up. (There are female urinals, however, and contrivances which allow them to urinate while standing up.) Homosexuals, however, need not engage in homosexual practices. So right here we have a disanalogy.

But even if the analogy is good, your FATAL objection kicks in.

Only a leftist ideologue could think that the original petition was not a further move in the leftist politicization of the APA. The really findamental point is that leftists are totalitarians by nature and will not respect our distinction between the political and the nonpolitical.

A question for you: Don't you find that the Nondiscrimination Policy (link above) is self-contradictory?

Thanks Bill,
Is the policy self-contradictory? I think not. The objection seems to go "It says discrimination on the basis of religion is unethical, but then allows certain institutions to ethically do so." Fair enough...but why not read the exemption as a clarification? For example, suppose someone said to me "I think abortion unethical, but in cases involving a threat to the mother's health it may be permissible." Suppose I reply, "You say abortion is unethical, but then allow certain women to ethically do so." Suppose I go further and accuse the person to whom I speak of self-contradiction. That seems wrong; a charitable interpretation would take them to be clarifying their first statement, not foolishly contradicting it.

Imagine how this would go down in a court of law! "I know, your Honor, that the law says 'don't X, but Xing is OK in circumstances Y.' But you must find the defendant in circumstance Y guilty. Xing is Xing after all." Assume that this attorney goes further and accuses the judge of pretense and the law of inconsistency; that seems the analogue of the petition in question.

I see your point, but it is not that clear. 'Everybody is present except Tom' is not self-contradictory. But 'Everybody is present and Tom is not present' is self-contradictory. (Assuming that Tom falls within the scope of 'everybody.')

Fair point. It seems that the APA statement contained neither my term "except" (or rather "but") nor your term "and." Too bad; if either term had been used then we could settle the question of inconsistency quickly whether no or yes. But I think the wording suggests my interpretation. Second, I think interpretation must always take into account the authors intent: Mark Murphy has offered documentation to support the view that the APA at least intended an exception clause. And lastly I'd invoke the principle of charity; if the APA inadvertently stigmatized religious employers then by the analogy offered above it would have inadvertently stigmatized every employer who took behaviors of a "naturally oriented" sort into account. Readers should regard the APA as more prudent than that.

But suppose we agree with respect to this issue that "it is not that clear." My next question would be "Do inconsistencies follow from ambiguities?" I think not...or perhaps that matter is also unclear. However, it is apparent that the original petitions charge of inconsistency assumes that the APA statement was both clear and inconsistent. I disagree on the latter point. Perhaps your concern pertains mostly to the former. Either way, the charge made in the original petition cannot be sustained.

However, if the APA concludes that their policy is unclear, let's hope they aren't bullied into the revision that the petition suggests, specifically, by announcing that it will not protect homosexuals. It has always protected homosexuals. But it did not pretend to protect anybody from the possibility of having their ability to perform an essential job function taken into consideration in the course of hiring.

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