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God Is Dead, But Free Speech is Alive at Temple:

FIRE intervenes to protect a professor's right to post a Nietzsche quote, even though it offended religiously-oriented students. Good for FIRE and good for Temple for its quick response and recognition of the value of free speech even when it offends others. Story here and FIRE press release here.

Update:

Several commentators noted that I should have been more clear to note that this was Temple College in Temple, Texas, not Temple University. Sorry for any misunderstanding.

Steve:
Perhaps you should clarify that the institution involved was "Temple College," a community college in Texas, as opposed to the better-known Temple University in Philadelphia.
11.6.2008 3:21pm
Nietzsche ist tot (mail):
If speech is good, more speech is better. The obvious and timeworn solution to the infamous cliche
"God is dead" - Nietzsche
is for a counterpoint sign to go up right across the hall from this clod's office door:
"Nietzsche is dead" - God
Oh, wait, no. That second sign could be seen as an endorsement of religion in a public institution, and therefore in violation of the Establishment Clause. Horrors!
11.6.2008 3:29pm
Gramarye:
I think that quote is old enough that it may have predated Nietzsche's death.
11.6.2008 3:34pm
Hoosier:
I agree with TZ, and also with Steve. I thought we were talking about the public U. in Philly as well.

But we need to add an exception: Let's call it the "Hoosier Corollary". It provides that officials may remove any posted comment from any location in the university which espouses a quote or idea of Neitzsche's, but which spells his name wrong.

That might run to 75-80% of them. But it provides us all a "teachable moment."
11.6.2008 3:37pm
another john galt (mail):
Hoosier and Nietzsche ist tot:
right on target.
11.6.2008 3:41pm
Anderson (mail):
may remove any posted comment from any location in the university which espouses a quote or idea of Neitzsche's, but which spells his name wrong

That's a teachable Godel, Escher, Bach moment.
11.6.2008 3:45pm
Sarcastro (www):

Godel, Escher, Bach moment

I'm trying to get through that book now and it's killing me!
11.6.2008 3:48pm
Anderson (mail):
So when he started at Temple, he put a cartoon up showing Smokey the Bear, a girl scout and a boy scout and the tag line: “Kids — don’t fuck with God or bears will eat you.”

Note that the premise for this cartoon is perfectly sound in its scriptural basis. Second Kings:

23 Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” 24 When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. 25 And he went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.

I think Elisha should be played by Samuel L. Jackson in the movie, Pulp Scripture.
11.6.2008 3:48pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

Oh, wait, no. That second sign could be seen as an endorsement of religion in a public institution, and therefore in violation of the Establishment Clause. Horrors!


Actually it's just silly, but I generally support Christians demonstrating publicly how petty and easily offended they can be.
11.6.2008 3:50pm
Anderson (mail):
I'm trying to get through that book now and it's killing me!

I skipped doing the exercises &soon bogged down. Same thing happened in calculus, now that I think about it. Law school was definitely the right choice for me.

See if this helps lighten the struggle.
11.6.2008 3:50pm
zippypinhead:
Everyone knows the correct quote is "Nietzsche ist tot" Or so my pastor says.

The problem with Nietzsche is that the context of his quote is often misunderstood, and many people who bandy it about wouldn't do so if they understood where old Fred was really coming from when he penned it. I hate to quote Wikipedia, but [until somebody vandalizes it, at least] there's actually a good, concise description in Nietzsche's entry:

"Nietzsche claimed the 'death' of God would eventually lead to the loss of any universal perspective on things, and along with it any coherent sense of objective truth. Instead we would retain only our own multiple, diverse, and fluid perspectives. This view has acquired the name "perspectivism". Alternatively, the death of God may lead beyond bare perspectivism to outright nihilism, the belief that nothing has any importance and that life lacks purpose."

On another issue: Temple College is a public junior college in Texas. As a public institution, it obviously cannot infringe on speakers' First Amendment rights. Temple University in Philthydelphia (that spelling is correct, just ask any Steelers fan) is a hybrid institution that receives some state funding but is not technically a state university and remains under independent administrative control. Which would raise some interesting questions about the extent to which the First Amendment actually can be enforced against TU, had this occurred there.
11.6.2008 3:59pm
Waldensian (mail):
Anderson's reference to Scripture scared the crap out of me. I mean, what if it's really true that all morality comes from God, via the Holy Scriptures?

Let's face it, there's some f-d up morality in them Scriptures.

Consider this old chestnut: thanks Dad!!
11.6.2008 3:59pm
DiversityHire:
Had he just replaced the Gott ist tott. posting with an abyss for everyone to stare into…
11.6.2008 4:01pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Godel, Escher, Bach moment


"I'm trying to get through that book now and it's killing me!"

It's an old and pretty disappointing book. If you want an elementary introduction to Godel work get Godels's Proof (Nagel and Newman). Short, well written, and to the point. Requires no background.
11.6.2008 4:04pm
DiversityHire:

Godel, Escher, Bach moment


I'm trying to get through that book now and it's killing me!


Of course, that's how God feels reading Nietzsche.
11.6.2008 4:04pm
Anderson (mail):
It's an old and pretty disappointing book. If you want an elementary introduction to Godel work get Godels's Proof

It's disappointing as a treatment of Godel (Goedel?), but that's not what Hofstadter is up to. My friends who've actually finished it had high praises.

But yes, Nagel/Newman is good for the proof. I understood it for about 10 minutes after I finished it. (See "law school," supra.)

DiversityHire: LOL. Well, if I didn't have this headache, I would be.
11.6.2008 4:07pm
Happyshooter:
I was typing something snarky about the ACLU and gun owners/Christers....but it wasn't really funny.

Good for FIRE.
11.6.2008 4:18pm
MarkField (mail):

I'm trying to get through that book now and it's killing me!


Read it again; it's recursive.

Personally, I thought GEB was one of the great books of all time.

If you want a really good book on Godel, I recommend Rebecca Goldstein.
11.6.2008 4:24pm
Hoosier:
Godel, Escher, Bach moment

I think you mean Godle, Esher, Bach. Try to be more careful next time.
11.6.2008 4:55pm
Hoosier:
DiversityHire:
Had he just replaced the Gott ist tott. posting with an abyss for everyone to stare into…

But didn't Sartre say that wehn you stare into the abyss, the abyss is really staring into ESPN. Or was it ESPN II? I can't say for sure: Existentialism always confused me.
11.6.2008 4:57pm
MCM (mail):
"Nietzsche is dead" - God

Oh, wait, no. That second sign could be seen as an endorsement of religion in a public institution, and therefore in violation of the Establishment Clause. Horrors!

I always wondered what about "Nietzsche is dead - God" was so compelling to Christians. Did Nietzsche ever claim he wouldn't die?

More importantly, did God actually write a book announcing the death of Nietzsche? Did He hold a press conference? No? Then you're telling me a mortal man wrote "Nietzsche is dead - God"? So Nietzsche was right all along.
11.6.2008 4:58pm
Hoosier:
Sorry to break it to you. But all morality that is incumbent upon us comes from God (envisioned in whatever way), or else it is meaningless.

Which sucks for those of us who want to believe, but don't. Because, y'know, I'd kind of like to think that there's some Greater Purpose served when I refrain from kicking many of my colleagues in the balls.
11.6.2008 5:02pm
Hoosier:
So Nietzsche was right all along.

Only if I freely choose that he was right. And I haven't decided yet.
11.6.2008 5:03pm
Locomotive Breath:
Let's imagine this incident if the Professor had posted a quote that said "Allah is dead". In the modern university it all depends on who is being offended.
11.6.2008 5:17pm
wooga:
Which sucks for those of us who want to believe, but don't. Because, y'know, I'd kind of like to think that there's some Greater Purpose served when I refrain from kicking many of my colleagues in the balls.

Insightful and hilarious.
11.6.2008 5:17pm
The Cabbage (mail):
It must rankle Brian Leiter that the uneducated plebs on VC are daring to discuss his beloved.
11.6.2008 5:18pm
zippypinhead:
...sucks for those of us who want to believe, but don't. Because, y'know, I'd kind of like to think that there's some Greater Purpose served when I refrain from kicking many of my colleagues in the balls.
LOL! Too bad it's too early to declare a winner of this thread, but based on the early exit polls, Hoosier's got a strong lead.

But from having read your posts on past threads, Hoosier, I strongly suspect your colleagues' tender parts will remain safe, regardless of the source of your personal belief system. And I won't go into the extent to which ball-busting (either literal or figurative) has been carried out in the name of various religions over the last several thousands of years.
11.6.2008 5:19pm
wooga:
Let's face it, there's some f-d up morality in them Scriptures.

Yes, the old testament viewed sodomy as much worse than hetero-rape. But dad was still a vile man for failing to recognize the difference between sins of omission and commission (i.e., trading his daughters for the safety of his male guests).
11.6.2008 5:22pm
Fub:
Hoosier wrote at 11.6.2008 4:57pm:
Existentialism always confused me.
Me too, despite Hubert Dreyfus' best efforts in my misspent youth.

So if I were a professor, the sign on my door would be:
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate.
And I don't even speak Italian.
11.6.2008 5:33pm
DiversityHire:
As far as I know, the only Sartre said about ESPN2 was "...born without reason, prolonged out of weakness, dies by chance..." Or maybe he was talking about the CW?

The abyss Nietzsche was writing about—--as even the casual reader should easily infer—--is cable news.
11.6.2008 5:43pm
Arkady:
Obviously, someone has not taken the time to read that passage in The Joyful Wisdom. For those who have never read the passage, but often use the quote, "God is Dead", without understanding for a moment Nietsche's intent, here it is:


The Madman

Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market-place, and cried incessantly: "I am looking for God! I am looking for God!"

As many of those who did not believe in God were standing together there, he excited considerable laughter. Have you lost him, then? said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? or emigrated? Thus they shouted and laughed. The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances.

"Where has God gone?" he cried. "I shall tell you. We have killed him - you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God's decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us - for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto."

Here the madman fell silent and again regarded his listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern to the ground, and it broke and went out. "I have come too early," he said then; "my time has not come yet. The tremendous event is still on its way, still travelling - it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the distant stars - and yet they have done it themselves."

It has been further related that on that same day the madman entered divers churches and there sang a requiem. Led out and quietened, he is said to have retorted each time: "what are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchres of God?"
11.6.2008 5:52pm
Arkady:
Obviously, someone has not taken the time to read that passage in The Joyful Wisdom. For those who have never read the passage, but often use the quote, "God is Dead", without understanding for a moment Nietsche's intent, here it is:


The Madman

Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market-place, and cried incessantly: "I am looking for God! I am looking for God!"

As many of those who did not believe in God were standing together there, he excited considerable laughter. Have you lost him, then? said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? or emigrated? Thus they shouted and laughed. The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances.

"Where has God gone?" he cried. "I shall tell you. We have killed him - you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God's decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us - for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto."

Here the madman fell silent and again regarded his listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern to the ground, and it broke and went out. "I have come too early," he said then; "my time has not come yet. The tremendous event is still on its way, still travelling - it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the distant stars - and yet they have done it themselves."

It has been further related that on that same day the madman entered divers churches and there sang a requiem. Led out and quietened, he is said to have retorted each time: "what are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchres of God?"
11.6.2008 5:53pm
Arkady:
Ooops, sorry for the double post.
11.6.2008 5:55pm
Hoosier:
Arkady:
Ooops, sorry for the double post.

No problem. But in the future, please translate Die fröhliche Wissenschaft as The Gay Science. It's so much funnier that way.
11.6.2008 5:58pm
Arkady:

But in the future, please translate Die fröhliche Wissenschaft as The Gay Science.


I never liked that translation, though accurate. "Joyful Wisdom" falls with a better cadence on my ear.
11.6.2008 6:06pm
whit:

So when he started at Temple, he put a cartoon up showing Smokey the Bear, a girl scout and a boy scout and the tag line


pet peeve of mine.

Smokey Bear not Smokey THE Bear.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smokey_Bear
otoh, I'm pretty sure it's "Charlie the Tuna"

also. Godel, Escher, Bach is a phenomenal book. Every teen nerd needs to read it. Having read GEB is right up there with being able to quote monty python lines for nerd cred.
11.6.2008 6:16pm
DiversityHire:
I've always wanted to have big-ass versions of the very seventies wood-block letters depicted on the cover of Gödel, Escher, Bach as lawn ornaments.
11.6.2008 6:36pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
Hoosier: Damn right. Those who did their undergrad philos training out of the Walter Kauffman translations in the early '70's will recall (not even "sophomoric", more, well, "freshmanic") undergraduate mirth at the juxtaposition of "The Gay Science" with the following volume, "Ecce Homo".

G.E.B., btw, was only revelatory to those raised for several years on a diet of Martin Gardner columns....
11.6.2008 6:44pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Actually I thought the rebuttals of Goethe and Jung to Nietzsche...

Goethe, replying to the "God is Dead" bit said, "What horror shall then befall the superman!"

Jung points out that in his experience, repressed sexual desire generally manifests as a will to power, thus at the same time negatively portraying Nietzsche and also applying Nietzsche's own question ("what does the philosophy say about the philosopher") with deadly accuracy....
11.6.2008 7:02pm
DiversityHire:
Die fröhlicher Wissenschaft would make a great name for a dance club. Just like The Sickness Unto Death and Concluding Unscientific Postscript would be totally awesome names for Joy Division albums.
11.6.2008 7:03pm
True Philosopher:
... a quote or idea of Neitzsche's, but which spells his name wrong.


If you can't remember how to spell >Nitschke, then just remember that Ray wore number 66 on his jersey. That was the fourth number to be officially retired by the Green Bay Packers.
11.6.2008 7:04pm
dsn:
In addition to being a great writer,
11.6.2008 8:00pm
Peter Porcupine (mail) (www):
The thing I found most disturbing about this case was that from his email messages, the vice president of this college appears to be semi-literate. Look at what he wrote:


Temple College as a public institution cannot be represented as showing preference toward any religious philosophy/perspective or toward the opposite, being atheism. The same practice goes for politics. The decision to have the quote removed was that the quote can be considered very controversial and offensive to others.


FIRE also quotes a message from him that reads, "Simply posting a cartoon or note on a door that can be considered offensive, insightful [sic], and/or controversial is not a part of academic freedom and does not reflect well on Temple College...." A cartoon that is insightful? I suspect he means inciting, but I'm not sure. These are not just the usual email typos we all make; they are signs of marginal literacy in someone identified as the chief academic officer of this college.
11.6.2008 8:16pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Peter Porcupine:

I think you have it exactly right. It seems to go down the road where putting something on one's door like "TIMAEUS" would be enough to get reprimanded....
11.6.2008 9:11pm
Mark Rockwell (mail):
It has always thrilled me a little bit when fundies quote the "Nietzsche is dead" jab, failing to realize that Nietzsche was saying vibrantly the same thing that their pastor banally drones on about each Sunday morning.

Good times.
11.6.2008 9:33pm
Hoosier:
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
Hoosier: Damn right. Those who did their undergrad philos training out of the Walter Kauffman translations in the early '70's will recall (not even "sophomoric", more, well, "freshmanic") undergraduate mirth at the juxtaposition of "The Gay Science" with the following volume, "Ecce Homo".

They were still in use in the late '80s, when I was studying philosophy. And also reading Nietzsche in phil courses for some reason. "I bring you the Overman!" Swell, Walter.

Even worse were the Straussian translations of Plato: "What you say is very fine, Socrates." Um, yeah.

And of course we all know that Ecce Homo is simply Latin for "Behold the Homo."

einhverfr

Goethe was brilliant, but I doubt he had a time machine. What's the source of that quote? I can't find it.
11.6.2008 9:35pm
DiversityHire:
He's talking about Chuck Goethe and Jung Li, they used to sit next to me in Existentialism 101. Chuck always talked that way, you should have heard him order at Wendy's: "Let us quench our glowing passions in the depths of sensuality: two frosties shall forthwith replace the vile sorcery of common fizzed water in those Old Fashioned Combos Number Two. Oh, believe me Jung Li, no human being digests the old leaven, these Combos are made for a god!"
11.6.2008 9:58pm
Hoosier:
DiversityHire

"Oh, believe me Jung Li, no human being digests the old leaven, these Combos are made for a god!"

Is that the Chuck Goethe who wrote Sorrows of Young Werther's Original Caramels? Because they both seem to pack away the groceries, if you know what I mean.
11.6.2008 10:26pm
AJS (mail):
Wow, I actually went to high school in that town (Temple, TX). I can say this doesn't surprise me very much at all. Thank God I got out of Bell County.


)
Locomotive Breath:
Let's imagine this incident if the Professor had posted a quote that said "Allah is dead". In the modern university it all depends on who is being offended.


Given the scarcity of Islam in east Bell County, I don't think too many people would have really given a c**p. After all, the nearby Baptist university has the Crusader as its mascot.
11.6.2008 10:31pm
DiversityHire:
Yes, Hoosier, that's the one. Plus, Werther's Caramels is an autobiography that's not mind-numbingly dull, to cross threads here.
11.6.2008 10:37pm
Hoosier:
DON'T CROSS THE THREADS!

(It would be bad.)
11.6.2008 10:46pm
SenatorX (mail):
"einhverfr
Goethe was brilliant, but I doubt he had a time machine. What's the source of that quote? I can't find it."


Heh I was wondering that as well. For what its worth, Nietzsche was a fan of Goethe. He talked about him quite often in many of his books.
11.6.2008 11:41pm
dsn:
In addition to being a great writer, Hofstadter is a great guy. I had forgotten to bring my copy of his book to one of his lectures, and when I mentioned this to him, he gave me his phone number, told me to call him the next day, and he would sign my book. He ended up signing a copy for me, one for my girlfriend, and piece of paper for a student in one of my lab sections, and then giving me 20 minutes of advice and stories about academia. I reciprocated by introducing him to xkcd :)
11.7.2008 1:25am
David Warner:
Sarcastro,

"I'm trying to get through that book now and it's killing me!"

First God, then Nietzsche, now Sarcastro!

"We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one we love."

- De Stael
11.7.2008 2:13am
David Warner:
"The Gay Science"

I think Nietzsche just wrapped up the youth vote.
11.7.2008 2:14am
David Warner:
Gould-Saltman,

"G.E.B., btw, was only revelatory to those raised for several years on a diet of Martin Gardner columns...."

That may well be the key. My copy of GEB was a boon companion while traveling through Eastern Europe in 89-90.

Good times.

This thread wins this blog.
11.7.2008 2:14am
Bill Kilgore:
I'm fuzzy on the whole good-bad thing. What do you mean bad?

In any case, all this Walter Kauffman talk has me concerned. I read most of Kaufman's translations in the early nineties and, as my previous experience with Freddy were the early twentieth-century translation efforts, Kauffman has always been a hero of mine. Has he gone disco? Who am I supposed to be reading these days?
11.7.2008 3:26am
DiversityHire:
I'm fuzzy on the whole good-bad thing.
GEB, Nietzsche, and Echo &the Bunnymen—all in one thread…
11.7.2008 3:51am
Hoosier:
totally awesome names for Joy Division albums.

Uh, weren't you paying attention?

It's "Gay Division" on this thread.
11.7.2008 5:12am
Hoosier:
I've always wanted to have big-ass versions of the very seventies wood-block letters depicted on the cover of Gödel, Escher, Bach as lawn ornaments.

Cool. Or as furniture.
11.7.2008 5:13am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
60 comments, and nobody suggested that perhaps you should clarify that the institution involved was "Temple College," a community college in Texas, as opposed to e.g. Temple Emmanu-El.
11.7.2008 7:26am
geokstr:
Anyone want to bet that the outcome of this story might have been a tad different if the sign had read:

Allah is dead
11.7.2008 8:08am
DiversityHire:
You're just being clever, working the eternal recurrence of same into this thread.
11.7.2008 8:35am
Hoosier:
"Eternal recurrence? Does that mean I have to sit through the Ice Capdes again?"

[Woody Allen, though from memory. So probably not correct.]
11.7.2008 10:07am
Hoosier:
Capades
11.7.2008 10:42am
DiversityHire:
Such jejunosity before noon, Hoosier?
11.7.2008 1:05pm
Hoosier:
"Such jejunosity before noon, Hoosier?"

Oops! My bad.

Mom always told me not to post when I'm thinking about Bootsie Collins. Gets me into all sorts of trouble.
11.7.2008 11:10pm
David Warner:
Hoosier,

My hometown hero Bootsy is likely the most un-jejune human being to ever draw breath.
11.8.2008 1:29am