Abusive Speech vs. Edgy Speech: Professional Philosophy’s Fanny Squeers and Professional Philosophy’s Lenny Bruce. (APP's Non-Readers Talk Back! Again, and EotS Re-Post)

APP Editors’ Note: FS is a tenured full professor of philosophy at a state university somewhere in Texas, and Crispin Sartwell is a tenured associate professor of philosophy at Dickinson College.

If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If both the facts and the law are against you, abuse the other side’s attorney.*

Dotheboys Hall,
Thursday Morning.
My pa requests me to write to you. The doctors considering it doubtful whether he will ever recuvver the use of his legs which prevents his holding a pen.
We are in a state of mind beyond everything, and my pa is one-mask of brooses both blue and green likewise two forms are steepled in his Goar. We were kimpelled to have him carried down into the kitchen where he now lays. You will judge from this that he has been brought very low.
When your nevew that you recommended for a teacher had done this to my pa and jumped upon his body with his feet and also langwedge which I will not pollewt my pen with describing, he assaulted my ma with dreadful violence, dashed her to the earth, and drove her back comb several inches into her head. A very little more and it must have entered her skull. We have a medical certifiket that if it had, the tortershell would have affected the brain.
Me and my brother were then the victims of his feury since which we have suffered very much which leads us to the arrowing belief that we have received some injury in our insides, especially as no marks of violence are visible externally. I am screaming out loud all the time I write and so is my brother which takes off my attention rather, and I hope will excuse mistakes.
The monster having satiated his thirst for blood ran away, taking with him a boy of desperate caracter that he had excited to rebellyon, and a garnet ring belonging to my ma, and not having been apprehended by the constables is supposed to have been took up by some stage-coach. My pa begs that if he comes to you the ring may be returned, and that you will let the thief and assassin go, as if we prosecuted him he would only be transported, and if he is let go he is sure to be hung before long, which will save us trouble, and be much more satisfactory.
Hoping to hear from you when convenient
I remain
Yours and cetrer
Fanny Squeers.
P.S. I pity his ignorance and despise him.**
**Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby, ch. 15.

1. What FS wrote to APP, and My Reply.

FS:  [APP is] presumptuous, condescending, sophomoric twaddle about a field a great majority of whose members display to a significant degree the virtues required to make serious contributions to any field of intellectual endeavor.

Your abysmal ignorance of that profoundly important fact is appalling – even more appalling than your spouting off on the subject.

Z: Wow. Those are the worst kinds of twaddle and ignorance, aren’t they?

More seriously, however, by abusive speech, I mean speech whose primary intent is to be nasty, which covers everything from mild insults and obnoxious insults, to slander, incitement to violence against its target, and coercive threats.

Except for slander, incitement to violence, and coercive threats, abusive speech is both morally permissible and also permitted under current interpretations of the First Amendment.

For example, FS’s comments were abusive, although possibly also intended as some sort of ad hominem argument.

Nevertheless, whatever their nasty motivation, they were by no means either immoral or First-Amendment-unprotected.

But they were also, like Fanny Squeers’s abusive comments, unintentionally funny.

By edgy speech, by contrast, I mean speech whose primary intent is to be dissenting, disobedient, resistant, and transgressive, for aesthetic or moral reasons.

Edgy speech is never abusive and always morally permissible and First-Amendment-protected.

For example, this reply to FS is edgy, but not abusive. You’ll notice. e.g., that I haven’t named FS’s real name.

Indeed, the overall rhetorical aim of APP is to be edgy for the sake of real philosophy.

But edgy speech can be, and often is, offensive to people who are either authoritarians (aka assholes, fuckers) or over-sensitive (aka crybabies, weenies).

And then there’s the hybrid category of “fuckweenies,” i.e., over-sensitive authoritarians.

In the ideologically-disciplined context of professional life, edgy speech usually scares good little professionals shitless; and it also not infrequently triggers them into a coercive moralist, witch-hunting frenzy.

It also enrages their administrators and political overlords.

Edgy speech is unprofessional, therefore “bad.”

This is particularly true in the ideologically hyper-disciplined context of contemporary professional academic philosophy.

2. Lenny Bruce and Crispin Sartwell.

The comedian Lenny Bruce was verbally brilliant, outstandingly edgy, and extremely (intentionally) funny:

Lenny Bruce.jpg

Leonard Alfred Schneider (October 13, 1925 – August 3, 1966), better known by his stage name Lenny Bruce, was an American stand-up comedian, social critic, satirist, and screenwriter. He was renowned for his open, free-style and critical form of comedy which integrated satire, politics, religion, sex, and vulgarity. His 1964 conviction in an obscenity trial was followed by a posthumous pardon, the first in New York State history, by then-Governor George Pataki in 2003. He paved the way for future outspoken counterculture-era comedians, and his trial for obscenity is seen as a landmark for freedom of speech in the United States. (Wikipedia)

We think that Crispin Sartwell is professional philosophy’s Lenny Bruce.

God knows they need one; more than one.

Stop the presses.

W1 just sent me a link to this new Sartwellian post, from Saturday the 27th, “Out.”

Synchronicity-istically, it’s amazing–just like CS had read my Friday the 26th APP post down to the last line, and then shouted:

“to philosophy professors (i’ve got some nice exceptions, but i’m going to skip them): fuck all y’all, you fucking mediocrities,

now I’m out of this gulag archipelago!”

Anyhow, if you haven’t already read this so totally lenny-esque essay from last Wednesday the 24th, enjoy….

Crispin Sartwell, “Bully for You.”

Eye of the Storm, 24 February 2016

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About Z

Z is a 50-something cosmopolitan anarcho-philosopher, and previously was a tenured full professor of philosophy at a public university somewhere in North America, but still managed to escape with his life.