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Have you heard that language is violence and that science is sexist? Have you read that you shouldn’t practice yoga or cook Chinese food? Or been told that being obese is healthy, that there is no such thing as biological sex, or that only white people can be racist? Are you confused by these ideas and wonder how they have managed to challenge so quickly the very logic of Western society? In this probing and intrepid volume, Helen Pluckrose and James A. Lindsay document the evolution of this dogma, from its coarse origins in French postmodernism to its refinement within activist academic fields—specifically, in critical studies departments that by design produce and popularize politically actionable theories in the name of social justice. Today, this dogma is recognizable as much by its effects, such as cancel culture and social media dogpiles, as by its tenets, which are unquestioningly embraced as axiomatic in much of the media: knowledge is a social construct; science and reason are tools of oppression; all human interactions are sites of oppressive power play; and language is dangerous. As Pluckrose and Lindsay warn, the unchecked proliferation of these anti-Enlightenment beliefs presents a threat not only to liberal democracy but also to modernity itself. While acknowledging the need to challenge the complacency of those who think a just society has been fully achieved, Pluckrose and Lindsay break down how this often-radical activist scholarship does far more harm than good, not least to those marginalized communities it claims to champion. They also detail its alarmingly inconsistent ethics, which represent an illiberal return to evaluating individuals by their immutable characteristics. Only through a proper understanding of the evolution of these ideas can those who value science, reason, and consistently liberal ethics successfully challenge this dangerous and authoritarian orthodoxy—in the academy, in culture, and beyond.
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James A. Lindsay is a thinker, not a philosopher, with a doctorate in math and background in physics. His essays have appeared in TIME, Scientific American, and The Philosophers’ Magazine, and his books include Everyone Is Wrong about God, Life in Light of Death, and How to Have Impossible Conversations. He led the "grievance studies" probe that made international headlines in 2018. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. Helen Pluckrose is a liberal political and cultural writer and speaker. She is the editor of Areo Magazine and the author of many popular essays on postmodernism, critical theory, liberalism, secularism, and feminism. A participant in the "grievance studies" probe that highlighted problems in social justice scholarship, she is today an exile from the humanities, where she researched late medieval and early modern religious writing by and for women. She lives In England.
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