Avalonian and the Courage of a Pseudonym

One of the primary reasons why anonymous and pseudonymous comments should be disallowed on Daily Nous is that such comments enable their crafters to avoid responsibility or repercussions for their remarks when they should instead face these consequences. The commenter to Daily Nous who uses the pseudonym “Avalonian” is a case in point. That is to say, Avalonian has repeatedly made dismissive, trivializing, and condescending comments to or about commenters to the blog who challenge the status quo of philosophy; for these (and other) comments on Daily Nous, Avalonian should be held accountable.

To take one example, in a comment on a recent post at Daily Nous, I drew attention to my legitimate concern that Jonathan Wolff did not acknowledge my early work on disability and Ronald Dworkin in comments that Wolff made about philosophy and disability in a recently published interview. In a subsequent comment on the post, Avalonian indirectly responded to me in a mocking and dismissive manner, derisively suggesting that I was on my “hobby-horse” about the underrepresentation of disabled philosophers and distracting from the important issues of the post. Avalonian’s recurring and condescending dismissals of me on Daily Nous could be retaliation for criticisms that I’ve directed at claims they’ve advanced about disability in some other context or for my arguments about the apparatus of disability more generally. So, I want to know who they are.

The incident that I describe above is not unique, however. Indeed, Avalonian regularly dismisses the claims of minoritized philosophers. I think, therefore, that the philosophers who read/listen to Daily Nous should be provided with the information that would allow them to associate Avalonian’s criticisms of minoritized scholars with the philosopher who makes them.

Consider, for instance, Avalonian’s comments on Daily Nous about remarks that Tommy Curry has made. In a recent post that highlighted Curry’s claim that white philosophers displayed feigned outrage about the violence inflicted on George Floyd and other Black men, Avalonian, claiming that philosophers are “very left” and do lots to combat anti-Black violence, said this: “I think it’s preposterous to call this ‘fake outrage'” (emphasis added). Do the aforementioned remarks exemplify respect for the interventions of minority philosophers? In that context, Avalonian ended their remark by sarcastically stating this: “But hey, maybe all of this is just my ‘white fragility’ talking…”. Funny, eh?

More recently, Avalonian took particular aim against an initiative created by Minorities and Philosophy (M.A.P.), namely, its “Working Against Anti-Blackness in Practice” guide. In a comment on the Daily Nous post about that initiative, Avalonian said: “there is simply no remotely direct connection whatsoever between a philosophy department’s policy concerning course credits and police/state violence against African-Americans….The structure of philosophy departments has little to do with the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.” I think that these remarks constitute a form of structural gaslighting that obscures the white supremacy that runs through these seemingly disparate and distant phenomena. The real name of the white philosopher who made these remarks should have been attached to them.

Avalonian claims to be “genuinely” concerned about and interested in diversifying the profession, that is, claims to be authentically concerned and interested about diversity and inclusivity in philosophy in ways that the Black, disabled, and other minority scholars that Avalonian continues to criticize are not. I think the latter’s condescending, arrogant, and facetious remarks to minoritized philosophers on the post on Daily Nous about “The Extending New Narratives” award indicate otherwise.

Thus, I hope that Justin Weinberg will no longer allow Avalonian to publish comments on his blog under a pseudonym, regardless of whether, or rather especially if, they are an influential and well-paid philosopher. Avalonian, more than most others, has by now forfeited that shield of protection and the sense of entitlement that it confers. If Avalonian’s cover isn’t to be lifted, then I hope that members of the profession will nevertheless begin to keep track of this philosopher’s comments, to whom they are directed, what they are designed to accomplish, and why.

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5 Responses

  1. Rest assured, Avalonian is not “an influential and well-paid philosopher”. He/she is at best a postgrad student. I had some interactions on Daily Nous with Avalonian – they need more time to grow (up). This is probably why they hide behind a pseudonym.

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  2. Kevin Joseph Harrelson

    Thanks, Shelley. Along with you, I was the target of Avalonian’s most recent dismissive comments. Apparently my suggestion that the New Histories grant recipients consult the work of Africana and other philosophical critiques of the canon . . . was proof that I am not genuinely interested in diversity and inclusion! [This is in a context in which I have nothing to gain, and something to lose, by raising concerns about senior scholars in my field]

    Now to calm myself this weekend about the issue, I went to Avalonian’s blog. There are some very thoughtful posts there, and I now feel strongly that Avalonian is a very smart, considerate thinker and scholar. This doesn’t excuse the patter you’re highlighting. But my frustration is now mixed with some collegial respect for Avalonian. Whoever it is, has some unorthodox views about diversity, some of which I find appealing. But as you imply, mockery comes easy under cover.

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