Appeal to philosophers to come to the aid of fired Professor Jim Spiegel

Professor Jim Spiegel of Taylor University was summarily fired in August. The excuse was that he had pseudonymously posted on You-Tube a song about “Little Hitler”, a Tom-Lehrer-like jaunty melody about how you and me and all of us have little Hitlers inside of us. He has long been a thorn in the side of the Administration, criticizing its policies for many years. A September 4 The New York Post article has lots of detail. The most complete source is his September 17 Roys Report interview transcript. The Little Hitler video is at Brian Leiter writes on September 9 in Leiter Reports, Evangelical university, Taylor U in Indiana, fires tenured philosophy professor…”

Evangelical university, Taylor U in Indiana, fires tenured philosophy professor for what is clearly lawful, extramural speech that could not be sanctioned at any school with normal tenure and academic freedom standards. (A bit more detail here.) But Taylor’s rules provide that a tenured faculty member can be terminated for “[f]ailure to meet professional, moral, philosophical and/or spiritual standards for faculty.” … The bottom line is that no university with academic freedom or real tenure regulates faculty this way, and the result is the fiasco before us. It’s all the more startling because there was not even a semblance of due process before termination.

Justin Weinberg’s Daily Nous philosophy blog reported on this in the September 5 “Philosophy Professor Fired After Posting Song on YouTube”.

Taylor University is a Christian college with fundamentalist Methodist past that requires its faculty and students to abjure beer and dancing (except for certain carefully controlled school events). Jim Spiegel is a real scholar— perhaps the college’s best— something that needs special encouragement in “universities” with heavy teaching loads, low publishing expectations, and low salaries. Spiegel’s most-cited article is “Open-mindedness and intellectual humility,” James S. Spiegel (2012) Theory and Research in Education, 10: 27-38 (March 2012), with 99 citations on Google Scholar. The abstract says:

Among those who regard open-mindedness as a virtue, there is dispute over whether the trait is essentially an attitude toward particular beliefs or toward oneself as a believer. I defend William Hare’s account of open-mindedness as a first-order attitude toward one’s beliefs and critique Peter Gardner’s view of open-mindedness as a non-commital posture and Jonathan Adler’s claim that open-mindedness is a second-order recognition of one’s fallibility as a knower. While I reject Adler’s account of open-mindedness as a meta-attitude, I affirm his intuition that there is a closely related second-order intellectual virtue pertaining to the attitude we take toward ourselves as knowers. However, this trait is intellectual humility not open-mindedness. I explain why both of these traits are intellectual virtues and how they properly build off one another in the virtuous mind.

Ironically, Spiegel’s most recent publication is a 2020 reprint of his 1999 book, Hypocrisy: Moral Fraud and Other Vices.

I myself am an economist, a game theorist, but I met Jim when he was keynote speaker at a philosophy-of-religion conference. I was struck by how mild he was and how kind to me, an outsider naïve in trying to write academic philosophy. (The paper I presented is at, an attempt to apply game theory to conclude that we cannot prove God exists. Either it’s bad, and you’ll realize how kind Jim is, or it’s good, and I’ll get some readers.) I hope the philosophy profession will tell the Taylor University administrators they are acting like little Hitlers– they should know better than to get into a meta-duel with a philosopher. The bad guys include Interim President Paige Comstock Cunningham, Board of Trustees Chair Chris Goeglein, and Provost Michael D. Hammond ([email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]). I hope you will contact them.

There is a GofundMe campaign to raise money to keep Professor Spiegel going now that he’s lost his salary and health insurance. Taylor cut off his school email address immediately, but he can be reached at [email protected] I don’t know if he wants email, or if he’s overwhelmed.

Jim Spiegel is a conservative, and I know most academic philosophers are critical of such people. But keep in mind that from the point of view of many people who are increasingly influential, every single one of you is a conservative too. I’m looking at you, Professor Lafayette, and you, Professor Danton, and you, Professor Robespierre (although I must admit, Professors Fouche and Talleyrand, and Monsieur and Madame Thenardier, I’m sure you’ll come through fine.) I am very happy to see that Professors Leiter and Weinberg, scholars hardly known for Christian conservatism, have publicized what’s going on.

The American Philosophical Society is a different matter. I wrote the first version of this using my WordPress software and submitted it to the blog of the American Philosophical Society. I made a mistake, though, and though I thought I’d written it as Private, it was Public, so they could see it and they said they didn’t republish already-published material. I take this to mean that they’re not interested in helping Spiegel. That’s to be expected, I guess. What would have happened in 1933 if someone had submitted a post critical of the dismissal of the Jewish professors to the weblog of the German Philosophical Society? It’s notorious how German academia was almost universally silent when the new regime, not yet solidly in power, told universities to fire the Jewish professors. To be sure, Germany’s most famous philosopher, Martin Heidegger, was actually enthusiastic about the Nazis, but most professors were not, yet did nothing. Remember, the Nazis were an arriviste quasi-socialist party of weird, violent, and decidedly non-Establishment people led by a failed artist who didn’t even come from Germany and never attended university. As in America today, most German profesors were generally Establishment people, so they found Hitler distasteful– but they weren’t willing to stick their necks out and oppose him in public. The reaction of Professors Leiter and Weinberg shows that it’s safer to rely on individuals than institutions, however. They are me of the left, but they remind me of Fritz Haber, a man of the right, who was one of the only (the only?) German professor to resign in protest against the firing of the Jews in 1933. He was born Jewish himself, but as a convert to Christianity, a Nobel laureate, and a super-patriot (he was known for his enthusiasm for World War I and was the scientific genius and organizer behind poison gas warfare), he could have stayed as Professor and Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical and Electrochemistry. But he wouldn’t, after being ordered to fire his Jewish subordinates. He resigned, left Germany, and died a year later. Blogging criticism of firing professors isn’t at the resigning-your-livelihood level, but it’s something– and a step too far for the American Philosophical Association.

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