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September 01, 2004

Saluting Susan Haack

Great news from Micheal Froomkin of Discourse.net:

My distinguished, articulate, and wry colleague Susan Haack, who holds a joint appointment in Philosophy and Law has been honored with inclusion in a book profiling One Hundred Philosophers : The Life and Work of the World’s Greatest Thinkers.

I'm so happy that Susan Haack has been inducted into such an exclusive club. In 1997 she changed my life with this address: Science, Scientism, and Anti-Science in the Age of Preposterism.

I was sixteen years old and a freshman at university when I hear Haack speak. She became living proof that a person could be clear enough, rational enough, and eloquent enough make anyone "get it". In just a few minutes, Haack distilled ten or fifteen ideas that I'd struggled to reconcile in my own mind. What's more, she did it with humor and consummate self confidence. Suddenly. I had a new role model and a new goal: to strive for that level of clarity in my own thinking and writing. For the first time, I wondered if my life's work might be something other than clinical medicine.

A few years later, Haack's Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate helped me figure out how to be a feminist and a critical thinker. Haack calls herself a moderate, but I consider her a radical in the best sense of the term. When relativism was the conventional wisdom of liberal academics, Haack patiently explained why relativism was a self-defeating intellectual fraud. She argued that human beings were objectively possessed of equal rights, and that anyone who claimed otherwise was wrong. She was denounced as a reactionary and and Aunt Tom, but she didn't relent. She took a radical line. She prevailed.

I'm thrilled that honors like these are securing Haack's place in the ranks of great philosophers. I hope her work will be influential for generations to come.

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