Research What Are You Reading? (February 15–21)

What Are You Reading? (February 15–21)

Given the recent flurry of news surrounding the firing of a tenured associate professor of philosophy at Mount St. Mary’s University, and that the APA just recently released a statement on bullying and harassment, I decided to focus this week on essays I’ve read that epitomize the philosopher’s role as a gadfly. While not all are written by philosophers, each essay brings out an idea that I believe to be a core part of the philosophical discipline: that philosophy cannot and should not be neutral with regard to the systems in which it finds itself. These essays have influenced how I do research, conduct myself in class, and frame my relationship with society at large. For those of you looking for inspiration or insight with regard to these recent attacks on philosophers, I recommend Howard Zinn’s “A University Should Not Be a Democracy,” Noam Chomsky’s “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” Cornel West’s “On My Intellectual Vocation,” and Foucault’s and Deleuze’s “Intellectuals and Power.”

In addition to the usual roundup of people’s reading lists, we would be particularly interested in hearing about what essays on being an intellectual gadfly inspire each of you. What are you reading?


  1. A relevant iconoclastic essay describing the influence of phillosophic ideas on a culture and the proper role of the intellectual is the title essay of Ayn Rand’s 1961 book “For the New Intellectual.”

    “Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World” is a speech Ms. Rand gave in 1960–which I think is wonderfully contrarian by comparison to mainstream epistemic, ethical and political views–and was subsequently published posthumously in the anthology “Philosophy: Who Needs It” (1982).

    Finally, I will mention “Who is the Final Authority in Ethics?” (1965). This is one of Ms. Rand’s essays where she discusses the metaphysical and epistemological aspects of the cognitive norm known as ‘objectivity’.

    One can find excerpts of many of Rand’s works at the Ayn Rand Lexicon website.


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