Colin McGinn, a high-profile philosophy professor at the University of Miami and author of a book called Mindfucking, was forced to resign from his post earlier this summer after a female doctoral student accused him of sexual harassment. McGinn has since tried to downplay the incident by trying to philosophically explain away the notion of sexual harassment and even the meaning of the term "handjob." It's not going over so well.
The student had been working as McGinn's research assistant. McGinn describes the relationship as an "intellectual romance" to The New York Times, despite the fact that the student had a long-term boyfriend. Apparently she took it more along the lines of intellectual creepiness.
The emails sent including indications that McGinn was thinking about the student while masturbating, jokes about the term "handjob"(McGinn is working on a book about the human hand), and one in which he suggested the two have sex exactly "three times" over the summer.
In a series of blog posts (some since deleted) and in an interview with the Times, McGinn has tried to explain away the accusations, philosophically of course.
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"Banter referring to sexual matters [isn't always] sexual banter," he told the Times. Yes, ceci n'est pas une pipe and what not.
"There was no propositioning," he said in the interview. Properly understanding another e-mail to the student that included the crude term for masturbation, he added later via e-mail, depended on a distinction between "logical implication and conversational implicature."
"Remember that I am a philosopher trying to teach a budding philosopher important logical distinctions," he said.
McGinn came to prominence with a group of philosophers who claimed that the human consciousness could never actually be fully explained. Well, I'm not sure anyone really can explain what's going on in his mind to try and excuse blatant sexual harassment away as nothing but important philosophical lessons.