APA The APA has released a statement on bullying and harassment

The APA has released a statement on bullying and harassment

The board of officers of the American Philosophical Association has released a statement in response to recent and pervasive incidents of bullying and harassment. This statement was drafted by the Committee on Public Philosophy and the Committee on the Status of Black Philosophers. Here is the statement in full:

The American Philosophical Association appreciates the work of philosophers who bring their philosophical expertise to the public by way of op-ed essays, public forums, teach-ins, and other venues. We see this increased public engagement by philosophers as important to the health of the profession and to the well-being of our community.

Recently several authors of high-profile public essays have been subjected to vilification, racist and/or sexist verbal abuse, and outright threats of bodily harm. In the past few weeks, Professor George Yancy, in response to his essay “Dear White America” (New York Times, 24 Dec. 2015), has received harassing emails, phone calls, and letters containing racist slurs and threats of violence. This is one very egregious example of bullying and harassment that philosophers who speak out publicly endure, and there are many more, often taking racist, sexist, homophobic, and/or ableist forms.

Philosophers are gadflies, at least some of the time, and we must support those who take intellectual, ethical, and social risks in their work, including their public presentations. Bullying and harassment that target a person’s race, gender, class, sexual orientation or other status are especially abhorrent. We unequivocally condemn such behavior and stand in solidarity with our members who are subjected to this deplorable and discriminatory abuse.

Abusive speech directed at philosophers is not limited to responses by the public to published op-eds. A look at some of the anonymous philosophy blogs also reveals a host of examples of abusive speech by philosophers directed against other philosophers. Disagreement is fine and is not the issue. But bullying and ad hominem harassment of philosophers by other philosophers undermines civil disagreement and discourse and has no place in our community. Attacks that focus on a philosopher’s race, gender, or other status are unacceptable and in violation of the APA Statement on Nondiscrimination. We call upon any member who has engaged in such behaviors in the past to cease and desist.

The APA condemns the activities of those who seek to silence philosophers through bullying, abusive speech, intimidation, or threats of violence. We also call upon our membership to speak out against such attacks, whether from within the academy or from the public sphere.


  1. After reading this statement, I have to confess that I’m glad I (i) did not renew my APA membership and (ii) no longer serve on the APA Public Philosophy committee. Uncivil speech is inevitably part of public discourse. Threats should not be. Call the police if you’re threatened with physical harm. Verbal attacks or insults directed at someone because of their race, sex/gender, age or disability status should be met with better arguments, not group censure or public shaming. Let the marketplace of ideas do it’s work. Cease and desist language is for lawyers, not philosophers.

    • With due respect, this problem has little to do with uncivil speech. The problem is one of sustained campaigns of harassment coordinated by social media influencers and their cohorts at volumes that typically render the victim unable to use that forum for discourse any longer. It’s not uncivil speech at all; it’s just a torrent of anonymous smearing with the single common goal of scapegoating and silencing capable voices. Cease and desist language are for anyone who actually needs it.

  2. Many thanks to the members of the Committee for Public Philosophy and the Committee on the Status of Black Philosophers for their clear, thoughtful statement. I know there are many who join me in finding in its contents a representation of our hopes for our profession.


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