A Call For Submissions From Closeted Religion-Critics In Academia (Or in Goverment, Or In Business, etc.)

I just read Jen’s dispiriting blog post about how she needed to take down a blog post (one I very much liked) because she had to be wary about potential impacts on her relationships in her graduate school department and her potential to work in academia long term. And this reminded me of a plan I have had for a while that it’s time to act on.

I have essentially decided myself to take the risk of complete public transparency with respect to my views. This is a little easier for me in that I am a philosopher and so many of these are topics are germane to my academic work and opinions like mine on matters of philosophical substance are hardly outrageous or controversial among philosophers. There may be some risk of doing so much of my original thinking out loud in public and there may be risk in agitating against faith-based religion in relatively activist ways. I guess it is possible someone could steal a good idea I have and publish it through peer review channels before I do and it is possible that putting out all my thoughts in public exposes even my weak ones and might give a bad impression. And there are some who find all controversy radioactive and might never hire me for going beyond academic critiques of faith-based religion to outright advocacy against it.

I accept those various risks because to me philosophy should be a public endeavor. I am appalled by the amount of ignorance, misunderstanding, suspicion, and even antipathy people have to philosophical thinking. People are not adequately introduced to it young enough, in school. Religions do the most public teaching that many people ever get on philosophical topics and quite often this means people are miseducated not only in philosophical substance but in the skills, methods, and standards in philosophy. What is, or should be, a relatively rigorous method of reasoning about hard but unavoidable problems gets associated in most people’s minds with self-serving bullshitting.

In my view, philosophy, and that means trained philosophers—the more professional and rigorous and qualified the better—need to be everywhere educating the public in what we do and what insights we have to offer. I see all my efforts on behalf of atheism as just part of fulfilling this role.

I also am so public because I think philosophy is actually perfectly suited to the blogging medium. I think when the mechanisms for weeding out the wheat from the chaff and for establishing academic credibility in blogs are worked out, this is where philosophers should be. We should be online debating each other everyday because our ideas improve at drastically accelerated rates with the feedback. I do not see why vigorous input from one’s peers needs to be limited to peer review reports and conferences. Why not every day and at every incremental advance of your thought?

But, enough about that for now. The purpose of this post is to reach out to all those of you who are not as willing to stake your reputation on sharing and testing your every idea publicly as soon as you have it or not as able to come forward with what you think without jeopardizing your career or key relationships. If you have specialized critical insights into the nature, philosophy, politics, psychology, or practice of religion, based on your academic research (or from a career outside academia—in government, in psychological counseling, in business, etc.) which you would like to get out to a wider audience, submit them to me and as long as I like the quality of your work, can verify your credentials, and do not think you are using anonymity for primarily defamatory purposes, I would be eager to let you publish it here pseudonymously under the strictest confidence. And, of course, if you are happy to append your name to your ideas or to write up summarizations of your published work for a popular audience, then you are also most welcome to submit your ideas to Camels With Hammers. All submissions should be sent to camelswithhammers at gmail.

In fact, you can even use the comments section of this very post to get a head start on floating ideas you cannot publish under your own name.

Your Anonymous Thoughts?

If you enjoy reading my philosophical blog posts, consider taking one of my online philosophy classes! I earned my PhD and taught 93 university classes before I went into business for myself. My online classes involve live, interactive class discussions with me and your fellow students held over videoconference (using Google Hangout, which downloads in just seconds). Classes involve personalized attention to your own ideas and questions. Course content winds up tailored to your interests as lively and rigorous class discussions determine where exactly we go. Classes are flexible enough to meet the needs of both beginners and students with existing philosophical background

My classes require no outside reading or homework or grades–only a once weekly 2.5 hour commitment that fits the schedules of busy people. My classes are university quality but I can offer no university credit whatsoever. New classes start up every month and you can join existing groups of students if you want. Click on the classes that interest you below and find the course descriptions, up-to-date schedules, and self-registration. 1-on-1 classes can be arranged by appointment if you write me at camelswithhammers@gmail.com.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Physicalist

    Better to be pseudonymous than anonymous. In my case, I’ll probably drop the pseudonym if/when I get tenure . . .

  • Cuttlefish

    Physicalist–to play devil’s advocate a bit… the more you write with a pseudonym, the more credibility you build with that identity, yes, but also the more you are able to be tracked. I am under no illusion that I can’t be sussed, but as is, the onus is on them–I’m not going voluntarily.

    As such, for someone who has real concerns about departmental or institutional retaliation, I’d have to go with anonymity being better than pseudonymity. It’s a bit harder to tell if you are the same person who said X at this other place, for instance, which robs you of authority, but also makes your electronic trail more difficult to follow. (Probably not impossible… but that might just be my paranoia speaking.)

    • Physicalist

      That’s a good point. I guess it depends on one’s reasons for anonymity/pseudonymity, and how careful one wants to be about the possibility of being outed.

      The nice thing about pseudonymity is that one can build an online persona and reputation (as you have), whereas completely anonymous statements cannot be tied to a single individual. It’s good to have a consistent speaker, in general, but there’s often no compelling reason to identify that speaker with a real-life body.

      But you’re right; someone could almost certainly figure out my identity, for example. I’m not too worried about this b/c (a) I doubt anyone would put the effort into it, and (b) it wouldn’t be a big deal to me if they were to suss me out. But obviously this isn’t going to be true for everyone.

  • Kiwi Sauce

    What you’re proposing sounds like a good idea. And your final paragraph hits the nail on the head (pun intended!) for why I “choose” anonymity. My research practices lie in areas other than religion, anyways. :)


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