Philosophizing With Guns

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

NYT:

In a matter of months, the offices, libraries and classrooms where I work, study and teach at the University of Texas at Austin will become “concealed carry zones” — areas in which people with concealed handgun licenses may carry their weapons. The “campus carry” bill that brought about this situation represents a 50th anniversary gift of sorts from Texas state legislators. For when the law comes into effect on August 1, it will be 50 years to the day since a heavily armed young man ascended the clock tower on campus and shot 45 people, killing 14 of them, in the first mass shooting at an American college.

Following the signing of the bill into law last June, university administrators began to carve my daily environment into armed and unarmed zones: Guns in classrooms? Yes. Guns at sporting events? No. Appalled by this spectacle, I proceeded to do the two things that I have been trained to do as a philosopher: I debated with my colleagues and I wrote a critical essay. Then, having had my little scream into the abyss, I experienced a period of peace.

But now, as August 1 approaches, I find myself drawn back to the problems, both practical and philosophical, that are posed by campus carry. It seems to me that if we care about the future of American education, we must inquire after those things of value that stand at risk on armed campuses. The campus carry bill is, after all, not a peculiarly Texan piece of legislation. It has precedent in other states and, given the political climate, may be emulated elsewhere.

Much of the debate around campus carry has focused on physical risk — on the enhanced likelihood of suicide, domestic violence, assault or accidental discharge. Indeed, it was advice concerning the risk of accidental discharge that persuaded university administrators that it would be better to have students wear their guns into classrooms than to have them deposit them in lockers outside. The working group assigned by the president of our university with the task of providing recommendations about the implementation of campus carry determined that: “A policy that increases the number of instances in which a handgun must be stored multiplies the danger of an accidental discharge.” So now, people who cannot be trusted to safely transfer their weapons to lockers will instead carry them into spaces of learning.

In order to assess the physical risks of campus carry, we must rely on quantitative studies. But as philosophers, my colleagues and I can speak to some of the less explicit threats that campus carry poses by turning to our own long tradition of the qualitative study of violence and its role in human affairs. Consider the classroom, for example. What happens to it when its occupants suspect that someone has brought a gun inside? Campus carry poses a threat to the classroom as a space of discourse and learning even if no concealed carrier ever discharges their gun.

In general, we do not feel apprehension about the presence of strong people in spaces reserved for intellectual debate (although we might in other contexts — a boxing ring, say, or a darkened alley), but we do feel apprehension about the presence of a gun. This is because the gun is not there to contribute to the debate. It exists primarily as a tool for killing and maiming. Its presence tacitly relates the threat of physical harm.

But the gun in the classroom also communicates the dehumanizing attitude to other human beings that belongs to the use of violence …

[ … ]

In addition to these relatively abstract considerations, there remains a need for more concrete philosophical work concerning campus carry — situated work that draws on gender, race and labor theory. We need to ask: What bodies are at greatest risk? What disproportionate harms might the law visit on people of color? What sorts of psychological and physical threats can employees be subjected to in the workplace? And what is the significance of this law for academic freedom?

Finally, those of us who teach on armed campuses will need to confront pedagogical problems. As a philosopher, I work with questions that are challenging, controversial and even upsetting. As a teacher of philosophy, I try to animate these questions for students, and to provide them with the critical tools to pursue independent inquiry.

And see, based on my own philosophy and apologetics course work, I thought philosophizing was supposed to be about epistemology, cosmology, logic and questions of world view.  When I think of philosophy, I think of men like Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff and Gordon Clark, and before them Frederick Copleston (you know, people who actually think and write about philosophy).

I see that the author’s criticism eventually devolves into issues of race and gender.  How sad.  The most helpless among her colleagues are women who are under threat of assault and rape.  Yet according to Ms. Gubler the mere policy against guns in the classroom (and by extension, a woman cannot carry from her class to her car because she cannot have one in the classroom) will prevent guns from being in the classroom.  Criminals will read and follow the policy – or perhaps she really does think about things, and knows that she cannot effect behavior with policies, and doesn’t care about her female colleagues after all.  Perhaps her tribute to issues of feminism are merely for academic credibility.  Same with race.

Well, we’ve dealt with the notion of man being made in God’s image, and that itself being not just justification for self defense but connoting duty to self preservation.  I seriously doubt that the author’s appeal to the dehumanizing attitude towards other humans will be an impressive argument for would-be criminals.  I recall a conversation I had one time with Dr. Richard Pratt on the issue of cognitive rest.  I doubt the author’s lectures will wake a criminal from his cognitive rest in the necessity of doing what he intends to do.  On the other hand, if you follow my advice, the criminal will be much more impressed.

As for Ms. Gubler, who is currently writing a dissertation on the role of forgiveness in secular ethics and public life, good luck with that.  Better philosophers (e.g., Bertrand Russell) were unsuccessful at developing ethics without God.  Russell is in hell now so he can’t tell her to adjust her thinking, and I don’t really believe in luck since I’m a Calvinist.  But readers already knew that.


Comments

  1. On April 12, 2016 at 7:50 am, Fred said:

    I’m reminded of the Apostles and Desciples in Greece from the book of Acts.

    Ma’am, your idols are showing. You might want to do something about that.

  2. On April 12, 2016 at 10:54 am, PawPaw said:

    Concealed carry, done properly, who is going to know? There is an interesting philosophical question…. how many guns are in the classroom today?

  3. On April 12, 2016 at 11:10 am, Frank_in_Spokane said:

    I know very little about philosophy proper. But in my humble opinion, Jeff Snyder is one of THE BEST gun rights” philosophers out there, hands down. (And that is IN SPITE of his being a non-Christian who mistakenly insists that Christians must be pacifists — you know, like Jesus.)

    The guy is just LIGHT YEARS out front of the NRA.

  4. On April 12, 2016 at 11:54 am, Archer said:

    She’s making the same authoritarian mistake that every “gun control” supporter makes: she assumes that if a rule/policy/law forbids something, that it can never happen.

    I’ve said before, the philosophy of “gun control” is based on two base assumptions:
    1. That peaceable, law-abiding people cannot be trusted to obey laws (and so must be disarmed for the safety of society); and
    2. That criminals can be so trusted (so “one more law” will fix everything).
    “Gun control” fails in practice because its base assumptions are patently ridiculous.

    Ms. Gubler is expecting the policy to be physically binding, that forbidding guns in classrooms will always and forever prevent guns from being brought into classrooms. Here’s a newsflash: The Almighty God Himself gave us 10 Commandments — not “10 Guidelines”, not “10 Suggestions”; 10 Commandments — which are nonetheless routinely ignored, disregarded, or willfully violated by humanity. Does she really think a university professor’s classroom policy carries any more divine power to trump human free will?

  5. On April 14, 2016 at 1:32 am, Mark Dietzler said:

    I’ve yet had one of these credentialed people tell me or anyone else why a permit holder is so much more dangerous on campus property than off. That property line just drives people crazy, don’t it? /sarc

  6. On April 15, 2016 at 2:17 pm, theBuckWheat said:

    For some one hundred years, “intellectuals” have busied themselves destroying the very moral and spiritual attributes whereby a raw human becomes a peaceful person who is willing to debate and discuss ideas rather than to settle a mater by force. Now we have #BakeTheCake and #BlackLivesMatter, where people who whose religion is the post-modern society are happy to use coercion and compulsion via the armed agents of the State, a kind of vicarious sanitized form of violence.

    Liberals have also been in charge of institutions of higher learning for so many decades that they now can have any Utopia they want. So look at their hell-holes now. What pu$$ywhipped wimps. Given how these institutions are controlled by feminists I mean that literally as well as figuratively. Special snowflakes who cannot take any heat. These people make me sick.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Religion and was published April 11th, 2016 by Herschel Smith.

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