December 9th, 2016

kiri win

Some Thoughts on Academia

Quick and short rant:

I think it goes against the spirit of academia to undertake PhD research into a question for which you are already convinced of the answer, and so the purpose of the research is simply to reinforce your pre-existing convictions and beliefs. Academia should do more than that; it should do something entirely different. Researchers should go into their field with an open mind and be open to the possibility that what they believed was right is actually wrong; be open to the possibility of changing their minds.

I came across an article about why human beings should be treated better than animals. This was posted on Reddit. The author of the article has a PhD. He defended his views in the thread, and something that he said made me think that the purpose of his research was just to confirm, or find serious/credible support for, his prejudice against animal rights activists. He said something about how 'hatred of humans' hides behind the animal rights movement.

Apart from how it's just ridiculous, and how there is a difference between hating humans and hating what humans do to animals (and each other), that's just not a very scholarly comment, is it? You can disagree with the principles that these activists are committed to, but to call them human-hating reveals a lot of prejudice on the author's part.

Of course, I could be stretching a bit too far here. It could be a position that he came to hold during the course of his PhD. But somehow, I doubt that is the case.

It makes me wonder if I'm doing the same thing: embarking on research to confirm beliefs that I already hold. But I think this isn't the case, and I think so for two reasons. First, I don't think that, pre-PhD, I had such strongly entrenched views that they are not open to revision. While I highly doubt that I would do a complete 180 and say that human rights are unnecessary or worthless or nonsense upon stilts (Bentham), I am not so entrenched in my views about their philosophical justifications. To put it in another way, I think that they can be justified on non-liberal grounds - which is exactly the purpose of the research.

Second, I thought I was flaming liberal pre-PhD. Now that I am reading a lot of communitarian literature, I think some of it actually makes sense.

Okay, back to work.