Eric Schleisser has a thought-provoking post over at Digessions & Impressions, 'On Casualty Cruelty in Philosophy' discussing Elizabeth Barnes' moving post at Philosoph-her on what it is like to be a person with a disability in philosophy. Barnes writes:
I have sat in philosophy seminars where it was asserted that I should be left to die on a desert island if the choice was between saving me and saving an arbitrary non-disabled person. I have been told it would be wrong for me to have my biological children because of my disability. I have been told that, while it isn’t bad for me to exist, it would’ve been better if my mother could’ve had a non-disabled child instead. I’ve even been told that it would’ve been better, had she known, for my mother to have an abortion and try again in hopes of conceiving a non-disabled child. I have been told that it is obvious that my life is less valuable when compared to the lives of arbitrary non-disabled people. And these things weren’t said as the conclusions of careful, extended argument. They were casual assertions. They were the kind of thing you skip over without pause because it’s the uncontroversial part of your talk.
Schliesser then examines this kind of casual cruelty, as well as how people tend to reply when called out for it:
There may be nothing more comical within professional philosophy than witnessing purported hyper-caution about one’s premises and inferential steps that are conjoined with an utter lack of judgment about, say, the nature of the issue at hand. Odds are that if cruelty is the consequence of a careful, extended argument then something has gone wrong somewhere; the lack of reserve in sharing the argument is a further sign that something is amiss.*
Now, most folk don't knowingly exhibit cruelty (one assumes, although sometimes I wonder). But it is not uncommon that when somebody is confronted with the impact of his/her casual cruelty (or carefully argued for cruelty) one often does not encounter a dispassionate attempt at exploring previously accepted norms of superiority, but one receives eloquent statements on the evils of 'political correctness,' the importance of 'freedom of speech,' or the deplorable state of 'call out culture' (or unwillingness to tolerate satire, hypersensitivity, etc.).
Barnes and Schliesser are, I believe, rightly questioning something I have questioned here before: namely, the entire view that philosophy should be about 'principled argument' setting aside emotions. We see this view--and its disastrous implications--as far back as Plato's works. In The Republic, Socrates defends a conception of a "just city" that is utterly obtuse to human nature and emotions. In Phaedo, Socrates has his weeping wife, Xanthippe, summarily escorted away so that he can sit around talking metaphysics with his disciples. Moral philosophy without emotional sensitivity has a real tendency to be monstrous, giving rise to monstrous doctrines (e.g. eugenics) and monstrous behavior (see again Barnes' post). There are, broadly speaking, two types of people in this world who 'reason about moral issues' on 'purely principled grounds', trying to set emotions aside: philosophers and psychopaths. It's high time we better appreciated the (disturbing) implications of this.