A Philosophy Blogger Resigns

September 5, 2018

Amy Olberding, the Presidential Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oklahoma and expert in Chinese ethics and civility who blogs under the pseudonym Prof. Manners, resigned from the popular Feminist Philosophers blog over the summer and shared her reasons for doing so this week on her personal blog, Department of Deviance. Olberding didn’t cite a specific issue or controversy that drove her from blogging, but said that reading “both social media and blog conversations among philosophers, I often feel demoralized. The people who speak most and most insistently seem not only to be absolutely clear about what they think, but think there is no other legitimate, respectable, or even moral way to think.” 

Until she began blogging, she said, "I avoided online conversations, not eager to enter the fray when conversations could so often be heated, inhumane and unpleasant. So too, online discussions often favor the quick and agile, the aggressive and insistent, people who like (or at least can ably engage) the rough and tumble of agonistic back and forth -- and most of all those who are confidently certain. Honestly, the rough and tumble mostly makes me sad and I often have a shortage of certainty." Most of the time, she said, not knowing what to think "is itself sometimes cast as shameful. In too many contexts, to confess confusion or uncertainty is to confess deficiency -- sometimes in philosophical acumen, sometimes in ‘smarts,’ sometimes in moral clarity, sometimes even in basic humanity.” 
Reached via email, Olberding again declined to share any details about what prompted her departure from blogging, but said that the responses she’s seen thus far “have been positive.”  Yet, “I have to say that I’ve been avoiding looking anywhere other than my email and my Facebook messages,” she said. Jennifer Mather Saul, a professor of philosophy at the University of Sheffield in Britain and other contributor at Feminist Philosophers, said she thought Olberding’s post “beautifully describes some of the deep problems of online discussions. I now think that online discussions of difficult issues tend to do more harm than good."

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