Nathan Cofnas is the Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. He joins the podcast to talk about his latest essay, “Why We Need to Discuss the Right’s Stupidity Problem”, which is framed as a response to Chris Rufo’s America’s Cultural Revolution and my The Origins of Woke.
The topic of how honest society should be about group differences is something I’ve been thinking a lot about, and my views have developed even since my conversation with Amy Wax last month. The more I debate this with people and ask them how exactly individuals will behave and talk in a society more honest about race, the harder it is for me to see how it can work, at least without deeper changes in our culture. That said, it’s fair to point out that I don’t necessarily have a great alternative, even though I can point to the French example to argue that different laws can at least make things somewhat better.
People who want us to “talk about HBD” often imply you could do that and not change everything else about our society. I get Cofnas to acknowledge that it would require something of a cultural revolution for such ideas to be accepted. Maybe it’s worth it, but like all cultural revolutions this one is bound to have unforeseen consequences. I want a society that puts more value on truth, but would hesitate before demanding unfiltered truth in this one area of life without thinking more carefully about what we’re doing. Part of me feels that going straight to the science puts the cart in front of the horse. People are attracted to certain values, which lead them to accept particular social science theories, not the other way around.
We also touch on Cofnas’ experience on college campuses, attempts to cancel him, and the differences between American and British academia. I express surprise that someone with a history of writing about biorealism could receive a prestigious fellowship, which I take as confirming what I’ve heard about there being more right-wing representation at elite British universities, particularly in areas like philosophy and classics.
The video and transcript of our conversation are below. Note that the transcript is AI-generated and has not been checked for accuracy.