with Spencer Greenberg
the podcast about ideas that matter

Episode 085: The clash between social justice and anti-wokeness (with Amber Dawn and Holly Elmore)

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December 23, 2021

Is it okay for anyone to have opinions about marginalized communities even if they're not a part of those communities? Do people in marginalized groups have special knowledge (especially tacit knowledge) about their groups that can't be known or experienced from the outside? To what extent can we know and empathize with others' experiences regardless of differences in race, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, etc.? Do oppression and discrimination tend to be caused more by active bigotry or by mere lack of care and awareness? What information (if any) does intersectionality fail to capture about people? Is describing someone intersectionally an end in itself, or is it just a way of correcting (or over-correcting) for the suppression of marginalized voices? Should ideas be discussed absent their context or implications (see: decoupling norms vs. contextualizing norms)? To what extent should we focus on individuals versus groups when attempting to fix inequities? Are individuals or groups responsible for redressing the atrocities of their ancestors? Should people be "cancelled" for their views (including their past views, even if their current views are different)? To what extent is the shifting of moral ground around social justice issues unpredictable and/or disorienting? How can democratic societies balance the need to debate difficult ideas with the risk of giving reprehensible ideas a platform? Should rules about offensiveness be enforced from the top down (e.g., from a government, a school administration, a company's board of directors, or even parents)? Is offense only "in the eye of the beholder"?

Amber Dawn is an itinerant UChicago PhD student working on Plato and Lucretius. She is interested in philosophy, emotions, mental health and therapy, effective altruism, ethics, gender, sex, anarchism, and social justice. You can find more about Amber on Facebook, Twitter, or Medium, or you can email her at

Holly Elmore is an effective altruist with a background in evolutionary biology. After organizing EA groups at Harvard throughout her PhD, she left academia and conducts EA-style wild animal welfare research. She witnessed the rise of wokism from within American universities, and has followed developments in social justice culture both as an adversary and an interested amateur sociologist. You can find more about her at her blog.

Amber and Holly would like for us to remind you that the views they express in this conversation are their own and do not reflect the views held by their employers.




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