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Academic relativism

June 23rd, 2003

Just when we thought Windschuttle had been blogged to death, the issue has been taken up on the other side of the Pacific. First, Erin O’Connor posted a long piece derived from an uncritically pro-Windschuttle source, taking at face value his claims to be a critic, rather than a practioner, of cultural relativism. Then Henry Farrell at Gallowglass responded with some of the many critical links including mine, and O’Connor posted an update (Thanks to Ehud Rostoker for the alert).

There’s a lot of other interesting stuff on O’Connor’s blog, Critical Mass. In the same post, there’s a link to Eugene Volokh, who links to and slams this (nearly six months old) press release from Gun Control Australia attacking the University of Adelaide for “supporting” pro-gun academic John Whitley. As Volokh points out

the group is essentially trying to pressure a university to shut up a faculty member who is making law reform proposals with which it disagrees.

(Obligatory Voltaire (mis)quote and allusion to JS Mill On Liberty here). I haven’t heard anything about this and Whitley is still at Adelaide and still involved in the debate. Still, statements of the kind made by Gun Control Australia have a chilling effect on debate and are always to be deplored.

Back at Critical Mass, O’Connor gives a personal account of how she came to be so down on academic relativism, after spending eight years becoming a “resident Body Critic” (every top English department must have one, she informs us). Great reading.

Finally, a little quibble. I know the spelling of my name is not obvious from its pronunciation, and I always take care to spell it out when I’m talking to someone. But how can people get it so consistently wrong when they’re taking it from a printed source? O’Connor has it right in one sentence and wrong in the very next one, and she’s not alone in this.

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  1. Dave Ricardo
    June 23rd, 2003 at 13:31 | #1

    It’s not just Voltaire.

    The more these gun nuts say, the more stupid they look, and the easier it is to make politically saleable arguments for gun control.

    Whitley should not merely be permitted to put forward his argments. He should be encouraged to do so, often and loudly.

    John, you seem to know your way around the ARC grant process. Any chance you could organise a bag of money for John Whitley?

  2. John Quiggin
    June 23rd, 2003 at 15:01 | #2

    You’re quite right, Dave – I forgot the compulsory citation of Mill on the importance of allowing error to be disseminated and publicly refuted.

    Sadly for Whitley, I think anyone associated with John Lott is going to have a hard time getting ARC money or anything else that involves research cred. Lott’s disgraceful antics have been particularly damaging to his co-authors, including Whitley Tim Lambert has all the gory details.

  3. cs
    June 23rd, 2003 at 15:26 | #3

    Gimme a break Johnno. I should be so lucky. Try living with ‘Sheil’ [Shiel, Sheils, Shields, Shell, and on and …]. The AFR once got it wrong in three of my own columns running!

  4. June 23rd, 2003 at 15:33 | #4

    I already mentioned that News Weekly was recently consistently citing someone called Quiggan [sic].

    As for Gun lobbyists, on this matter I can use some first hand knowledge. At the time of the post-Port Arthur gun control rallies that were widely reported in the press, I took the trouble of attending both the pro and anti gun control marches in Melbourne. The media WERE distorting; there were about three times as many anti gun control marchers, a fact which the media no doubt deliberately obscured. When the anti gun control march got to Spring Street, the eddying of the crowd trapped me in a local hostelry for some three quarters of an hour, making me late for the film I wanted to get to next.

  5. June 23rd, 2003 at 16:35 | #5

    This World Today report is the definitive misspeller: it refers to Quigan, Quiggan and Qiggan, but never once to Quiggin.

  6. June 23rd, 2003 at 18:44 | #6

    Pr Q,

    May I suggest that you change your name to Professor Bloggin?
    It suits you more.
    And do something about that beard.

  7. June 23rd, 2003 at 18:52 | #7

    Apologies for the misspelling of “Quiggin.” I’ve fixed it and won’t err again. People butcher both my first and last names all the time, so I understand the annoyance.

  8. June 23rd, 2003 at 19:39 | #8

    And do something about that beard.

    I agree. The beard needs to be enlarged to tick off Jack even further 🙂

  9. June 24th, 2003 at 09:26 | #9

    Perhaps the definitive beard dictum comes from one of Edward Lear’s very own limericks:-

    There was an Old Man with a beard,
    Who said, “It is just as I feared!
    Two Owls and a Hen,
    four Larks and a Wren,
    Have all built their nests in my beard.”

  10. John
    June 24th, 2003 at 22:14 | #10

    Thanks for the correction, Erin

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