Cornell Seminar: Should We Keep Using ‘Rationality and Reason’?

For some on the left, logic and objectivity are no longer seen as things that are inherently valuable.

A summer seminar at Cornell University is reportedly going to ask its participants whether or not we should “continue to use concepts like ‘rationality’ and ‘reason.’”

According to an article in The College Fix, the course is titled “Decolonizing Epistemology” and will be taught by Linda Martin Alcoff of Hunter College — whose areas of research include race, philosophy, and feminism.

Although it may seem insane, this is not the only time that I’ve seen the value of logical, objective measures being questioned on a college campus. Just last summer, I wrote about a course at Hobart and William Smith Colleges that was planning to teach students that “objectivity” and “meritocracy” are examples of “social constructs” and “white mythologies.” Similarly, in 2017, a group of students at the University of Pomona wrote an open letter to the school’s outgoing president claiming that “the idea that there is a single truth . . . is a myth and white supremacy.” The summer of 2018, the University of Massachusetts–Amherst offered a “Feminist Health Politics” course, which promised to “question whether health and disease are objectively measured conditions or subjective states.”

It’s absurd, it’s terrifying, and its true: For some on the left, logic and objectivity — whose value seems like it would be self-explanatory, especially in an academic setting — are no longer seen as things that are inherently valuable.

To me, of course, this is a scary trend. To me, a course asking the question of whether or not we should keep using reason and rationality seems about as sensible as a course asking whether or not we should keep using toothpaste. Or drinking water. Or breathing air. In all of these instances, the clear answer to the question is “Of course we should.” We must.

It is obvious that we need reason and rationality. Or, at least, it should be obvious. Since it (apparently) isn’t to some, however, I will explain why. Why, for example, do we not run around our offices flipping over desks and throwing things, even when our feelings are telling us that that’s what we should do? Because reason and rationality tell us that, if we do do so, we will likely lose our jobs and be unable to afford the things we need and want. Reason and rationality keep us employed. They keep us free. They keep us alive. If it weren’t for my ability to engage in rational thought, I’d probably just lay in my bed eating Burger King all day — because that, after all, is all I pretty much ever really feel like doing. It’s my rationality, my reason that tell me that if I made those choices, then I’d probably be out on the street before too long. Honestly, it’s funny to me how often the left tries to brand the right as being anti-science, when I keep seeing more and more of these sorts of things from them.