Main content start

Faculty Research Fellows Talk with Wendy Salkin

Thu October 19th 2023, 12:00 - 1:00pm

Wendy Salkin: "'Writers Are Not Congressmen.'"

Many willingly take it upon themselves to speak and write publicly about the plights of others. Some, like artists, authors, researchers, and journalists, structure their lives’ works around doing so. Frequently, parties who inhabit this social role, call them “public-facing theoretical authorities” (PFTAs), come to be regarded by audiences to be not merely speaking about the social group at issue but, further, to be speaking for the group as its informal political representative (see Salkin, Speaking for Others, forthcoming). Although it is foreseeable that PFTAs will often be taken to speak for the groups they document, it would be inapt to say that they intend to be regarded as so doing. In fact, commonly, the institutional roles inhabited by PFTAs are mediated by professional ethics that counsel impartiality, neutrality, objectivity—principles prima facie at odds with the expectation that they do or even may serve as representatives for the groups about which they write or speak. How should we understand the difficult moral position such parties inhabit—who have voluntarily undertaken the role of speaking or writing publicly about particular groups but who did necessarily sign up for the unintended (although arguably foreseeable) consequent role of informal political representative for these same groups?

Wendy Salkin is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and, by courtesy, of Law.

Clayman Faculty Affiliates are welcome to attend the lunch seminars.  All Stanford academics are eligible to become Clayman Institute Faculty Affiliates. Please RSVP to Lea Gottlieb (lgottlie [at] (lgottlie[at]stanford[dot]edu)) if you wish to attend.