Fair Questions: Are philosophers engaging in ideological policing?

Over at Daily Nous, there was a post about an incident of the rejection of a paper during the peer-review process being brought up by the submitter as an instance of ideological policing.  I went to read the source material provided, and I found good evidence of the following:

  1. One of the peer reviewers felt that it was offensive.
  2. Both peer reviewers failed to read the article and/or respond adequately to it.
  3. The article did not provide a comprehensive survey of the literature relevant to the topic.
  4. The article explicitly asks us to reconsider how we think about the nature of being transgender.

It’s worth considering that peer reviewers often fail to read philosophy which is not their own or which explicitly challenges their analytical framework in such a way that they don’t end up making sloppy mistakes (e.g. straw man attacks), regardless of whether it’s written on a hot-button topic on which academics are likely to engage in ideological policing in other contexts.  And it’s worth considering that papers are commonly rejected for lacking a serious engagement with existing literature, regardless of the same.

It’s certainly possible that this is a case of ideological policing that just happened to have typical excuses as cover for it, but because the given reasons (and lack thereof) are so common in other cases, it’s difficult to know whether or not the underlying motivation was ideological.  Unless the author re-submits the paper with an extensive literature review and the exact same peer reviewers bother to read it correctly even though it challenges their current understanding of what it means to be transgender, we have no way of knowing whether it comes down to ideology or not.

What I do know is that the author of the paper is correct to worry about both conservative and progressive attempts to homogenize the views that are allowed into their spheres of influence.  The last thing we need in philosophy specifically and in the world more generally is a bunch of self-selected groups of people who almost always agree with one another.

If we accomplish that, then we may as well take critical thinking out back and shoot it with our confirmation bias gun before burying it on the hillside.

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