As members of the Executive Committee of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy, we have wondered whether we should publicly respond to the U.S. presidential election and the events that have followed it. We hesitated to write this statement partly because we disagreed about how to write it, partly because we are concerned about the potential ineffectiveness of statements of this sort, but most importantly because we are cognizant of the difficulties that come with presuming to speak on behalf of our diverse membership. We nonetheless feel compelled to speak out, for silence in dark times is a form of capitulation.
What can we say that can support vulnerable populations on the college campuses where our members serve, and more broadly in the United States and across the world? During the electoral campaign and in its aftermath, we witnessed the amplification and even normalization of racism, sexism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, LGBTQ-bashing, and ableism (to name a few, in an enumeration that will not be complete). We condemn the bigotry and hatred mobilized and emboldened by the election as ethically repugnant, politically damaging, and at odds with SPEP’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness. We affirm SPEP’s commitment to a world that cares for those rendered vulnerable and that does not unjustly pit one group of them against another. We lament the inability and/or unwillingness of many people to listen to one another in a spirit at once generous and critical. We are committed to SPEP’s being an organization that provides opportunities for such conversations and engagements. We are committed to SPEP’s being an organization that can invoke a principled and passionate opposition to injustice. Politically motivated dangers to the pursuit of knowledge are today very real and directly related to our continued existence as an academic society. Finally, we reaffirm SPEP’s commitment to being an organization that opposes any and all forces that seek to restrict academic freedom and undermine the spirit of philosophical inquiry.
The SPEP Executive Committee