Harris: Don’t justify humanities

April 24, 2009
How to justify the humanities has fueled a popular debate recently. There has been a fad of writing about the topic in newspaper articles, editorial columns and books by prominent (and Yale-affiliated) public intellectuals, such as “Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life,” by former Yale Law »

Harris: Better arguments needed

October 16, 2008
Stephen Silva’s recent column (“A right means we can choose”) contains what has become a typical argumentative move by those advocating one’s right to marry a member of the same sex: the assertion that homosexuals are not granted the “equal” rights that heterosexuals enjoy. (The necessity of scare quotes will quickly become apparent.) It is »

Harris: Bigotry not a mental illness

October 2, 2008
One of the problems I have with terms like racism, sexism, “bigotry” and “ignorance” (these last two deserve scare quotes because they are the most problematic) is that they are too frequently cashed out in terms of mental illness. Far too often, the rhetoric surrounding these issues includes words like “cure” and “-phobia,” decidedly scientific »

Race dialogue stalled when views are ‘delegitimized’

December 5, 2007
Frantz Fanon, a psychiatrist in French-colonized Algeria, said this about racism: “I sincerely believe that a subjective experience can be understood by others… But it does seem to me that [others have] not tried to feel [themselves] into the despair of the man of color confronting the white man.” Fanon sets the bar very high; »

Anti-blackface columnists lacked rational argument

November 9, 2007
These days, argument ad hominim is, unfortunately, how work gets done in the realm of debate. It’s been around forever, and our ability to disguise it with reason and rhetoric has outpaced our ability to recognize it. In order to work, ad homonims must not be recognized, for as soon as they are, they lose »

In pursuit of profit, press censors internally

October 8, 2007
Patrick Ward (“From Yale to U. Florida, free speech sinking,” Oct. 4) makes two claims: our nation’s commitment to freedom of speech is tenuous, and that’s a shame. He also make two errors: the nation’s commitment to freedom of speech is nonexistent, and that’s the most desirable choice. This is not to say that the »

Co-op is using flag issue to push for power

April 19, 2007
I do not argue that altering the LGBT Co-op’s sign from “Yale Pride” to “Yale Gluttony” is a non-issue. Rather, I observe that if the LGBT Co-op itself had put up a sign saying “Yale Gluttony,” it would not be an attempt at humor made at the expense of a minority group (to borrow the »

Choice of words tells much about dialogue

February 26, 2007
I’m convinced by Zahreen Ghaznavi and Altaf Saadi’s recent op-ed column (“Students should fight stereotyping of Muslims,” 2/23). I agreed with their points: Muslims are often inaccurately stereotyped, knowledge of Islamic history is painfully lacking, and interfaith dialogue is critical in building a mutually supportive community. They challenge Yalies to “challenge their assumptions.” I now »

In poster debate, intention is fundamental

January 24, 2007
When someone asks if you can pass the salt, you do not simply respond with “yes” and nothing more. You needn’t even respond with “yes” at all; you could pass the salt without saying anything. You understand that the person’s intention is not to inquire about your salt-passing ability but to get you to pass »