Consequence, not cause

Stanley Fish’s explanation for the death of the academic intellectual life is interesting, but somehow manages to miss the significant point:

One vision, rooted in an “ethic of productivity” and efficiency, has, he tells us, already won the day; and the proof is that in the very colleges and universities where the life of the mind is routinely celebrated, the material conditions of the workplace are configured by the business model that scorns it.

The best evidence for this is the shrinking number of tenured and tenure-track faculty and the corresponding rise of adjuncts, part-timers more akin to itinerant workers than to embedded professionals.

Humanities professors like to think that this is a temporary imbalance and talk about ways of redressing it, but Donoghue insists that this development, planned by no one but now well under way, cannot be reversed. Universities under increasing financial pressure, he explains, do not “hire the most experienced teachers, but rather the cheapest teachers.” Tenured and tenure-track teachers now make up only 35 percent of the pedagogical workforce and “this number is steadily falling.”

What Fish fails to note is the effect of what Bloom described as “The Closing of the American Mind”. The reason there is no place for the traditional liberal arts education is that there is nothing liberal, in the original sense of the term, about the liberal arts anymore. Having abandoned their original purpose of offering a broad-based education to students in favor of attempting to instill left-wing ideologies into them, the university system no longer provides anything of value to anyone except technical training.

It should come as no surprise, then, that since the demand for technical training has replaced the demand for the illiberal arts, the supply has readjusted itself in line with the requirements of the market.

AD #2: Atheist logic

One of the most interesting things about all of the squawking and shrieking by various Internet atheists in response to The Irrational Atheist has been the way they have tended to complain about the contempt I show for their champions while failing to even try to refute the great majority of the charges. No one, for example, has serously attempted to defend any of Daniel Dennett’s logical blunders, which are particularly damning in an academic who is supposed to be a reasonably competent philosopher. At first I suspected this might due to the fact that they were so relieved I wasn’t blasting away at one of the New Atheists with both barrels for once that they didn’t even notice how the blatant errors in Dennett’s thinking tend to undermine the man’s reputation. However, after seeing the way one critic after another showed a near complete inability to competently address any of the many cases I have made, I was forced to conclude that merely seeing the words “division of doxastic labor” is enough to make their overheated little brains shut down and force them to skip ahead to the next chapter, which is a nice bit and also makes fun of the French.

Dennett’s rationale for not holding those who believe in science accountable for the same doxastic division of labor he calls “immoral” in religious individuals is not his only logical error in Breaking the Spell, but it is easily the least defensible. Perhaps if his editor had been capable of understanding the philosopher’s logic and done him the favor of it repeating it accurately to him, Dennett would have recognized the absurdity of his position and saved himself serious embarrassment.