Our abortive debate was to occur on the list-serve for the Toronto Animal Rights Society (TARS) in 2007. The opening moves are publicly accessible in the archives. He fled the debate, or so he told people on the list, because he said he did not realize it would be so much about my paper, which is of course about the issue. The analogous claim from me would be to end a debate saying I did not realize it would be about one of his books so much. Now he was told in advance that the discussion would involve my paper. Part of my purpose was to check it for accuracy before submitting it for consideration to publish. Also, he could have debated the issues without reference to my paper, giving me the burden of expressing my views anew, which I would have been willing to do. Indeed, I would have done that to some extent anyway as a courtesy to those unfamiliar with my essay.
He also said people would find it terribly boring for him to correct my misinterpretations of his work. Here we have a primed audience who seeks understanding of the issues as much as possible, intellectually powered animal rights advocates, and they would find that boring? I am a specialist and did him the honour of treating his remarks extensively, and he can't be bothered? Would he find it boring? That would be an attitude unworthy of a scholar, just as it was unprofessional never to address my supposed misconceptions. He never makes it clear why it is somehow not worth his time to correct my interpretations, even though my version of his theories literally reaches thousands of people in a peer-reviewed publication and through many other media. Certainly it would not be boring for me or any other intelligent reader of this debate. No, these are just feeble excuses.
It occurred to me for the first time today that his broad claims, without substantiation, that I "misinterpret" him is just a long-standing pattern of fleeing debate. You see, if he says this, people who assign credibility to his remarks because he is some sort of authority figure will discard or put on hold many or all of my critiques of his work. That would be based on the assumption that all of my criticisms are off-base, or premised upon a faulty analysis. And Gary does not need to do a thing. Just to say such a quick remark. And so he defers or avoids the duty of addressing the counter-arguments to his position, thus perpetually fleeing debate as he has done for years now. If he came forward and said what my supposed errors are, I could correct them, and then he'd have to face my critical arguments at last, which contain correct renderings. This he seems unwilling to do.
I'll tell you one thing. If I got his views wrong, he must have been pretty poor at expressing them, because my expert, text-based interpretations with full citations to relevant works generally meet peer-reviewed standards. I happen to be good at what I do, and his first reactions to my work--before he knew I oppose his anti-incrementalism--accord with that general opinion that I have more or less first-rate analytical skills. Indeed, one good thing that came out of the TARS discussion is that David Langlois made it clear to me that Francione's sense of "property" is not ordinary, i.e., not the dictionary definition which basically amounts to ownership. Francione does a poor job here because nowhere does he analyze his central concept of "property," even though he has said not being considered property is animals' sole right. Nor does he justify why we should accept this alternative usage. In my next blog entry I will critique Francione's supposed analysis of animals' property status as untenable.
For the proof that he ran away, join TARS for free, and in fact just do the following dozen or so steps exactly:
- Go to at http://groups.yahoo.com.
- Go to window prefaced by: “Find a Yahoo! Group”.
- Type in “tars general”.
- Click the “Search” button beside the box you just typed into.
- Click on TARS_General icon listed at top with membership info., etc. beside it.
- Click on button “Join this group!” on top of the TARS icon, on the right side of that image.
- Do "Create New Account with Yahoo!" if needed as the next step.
- You may need to reconnect with the initial website in step 1 and follow steps to join TARS_General.
- Click on "messages".
- Go into advanced search.
- Search between date of September 19, 2006 and that same date again
message #3842 “Signing off” message from Francione
- Read the plain truth.
When you really look at the debate, you do not see a professional leaving a debate because debates cannot legitimately make reference to participants' writings. Nor do you see a scholar leaving a debate because such activities do not involve correcting misconceptions of the fleer's or anyone else's scholarly work. Stuff and nonsense. The record shows he fled after he finished quoting himself, and right after he received my first tough and pointed questions about the issues themselves.
Honestly, it is hard for me to resist the following interpretation: intellectual cowardice. Ordinarily I would be too diplomatic to voice such an embarrassing assessment. If it were just another academic colleague, for example. But after Francione has libelled me as I have incontestably documented, and viciously insulted myself and my work with equal documentation having been given, among other considerations--all of this unrepentedly and without apology--I do not feel I owe it to Francione to sweet-talk about his various behaviours. People who live outside of my good books do not always get the same treatment as those who are in good esteem.
But then, maybe I'm wrong about the cowardice. I have no proof that Gary had a failure of nerve. I can't be expected to read Gary's mind. Yes, maybe I am mistaken. Furthermore, maybe I am out of line along the lines that he explicitly implied, that debates are somehow not about being literate (in the scholarly sense) or getting ideas right. Or maybe there is just some other, hidden reason that is overwhelming in its academic might which motivated Gary to flee. Maybe I am just too intellectually limited to perceive this hidden reason, if such there be.
Then again, maybe not.
FURTHER READING ON ANIMAL RIGHTS INCREMENTALISM
A Selection of Related Articles
Sztybel, David. "Animal Rights Law: Fundamentalism versus Pragmatism". Journal for Critical Animal Studies 5 (1) (2007): 1-37.
Short version of "Animal Rights Law".
Sztybel, David. "Incrementalist Animal Law: Welcome to the Real World".
Sztybel, David. "Sztybelian Pragmatism versus Francionist Pseudo-Pragmatism".
A Selection of Related Blog Entries