1Priggish points

August 6, 1999

Jon Turney's review of Haack's Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate and Harding's Is Science Multicultural? is a strange and confusing read.

It begins by contrasting their epistemologies, with Haack endorsing truth and objectivity and Harding questioning them. Instead of providing an exposition of these rival commitments, Turney asks, "But how different are these writers?" His answer is that "they have more in common than either is inclined to admit", an assertion pitting them in a personal conflict and casting Turney as diagnostician of their motives.

Though Turney personalises his subjects, he ignores the central persona of Manifesto, the "old-fashioned prig", ironically defined by Haack (after Richard Rorty) as a philosopher who still cares about truth. Turney alludes to Haack's discussions of Rorty, affirmative action and scholarly publishing, but he fails even to outline the "priggish" position from which Haack broaches her subjects. That is the epistemological point of Manifesto: to defend honest truth-seeking against those who problematise, politicise, and historicise truth.

But Turney blinks at Haack's priggish position. His feeble assertion of commonality trails off into weak or misrepresentative judgements. Rather than presenting a competent argument about the books at hand, Turney opts to stage a contest between two female professors, with the reviewer intervening here and there with trifling judgements. He fails to articulate the arguments of either of these very different books, let alone to offer a thoughtful judgement of their epistemological efforts.

Mark Bauerlein, Emory University

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