The Marketplace of Ideas

The Marketplace of Ideas and the Importance of

Epistemic Liberalism

The past few decades have seen waves of challenges to how the marketplace of ideas works in universities and in

society more generally. Critical theory has presented repeated challenges to the epistemic liberalism. This

course seeks to facilitate a deeper understanding of critical theory, while offering participants an opportunity to

consider the characteristics of our (beleaguered) liberal epistemic system.

Professor Brian Russell Graham is currently teaching this course live on Mondays. A slightly shortened version

of this course will be available online in late spring. To find out more about this course and his other live

courses, sign up for our newsletter.

Course Outline 

  • Applied Postmodernism: A Turn for the Worse 

This week we discuss chapter 2 of Cynical Theories. Even if it’s chapter 2 of Pluckrose and Lindsay that we will be focused on, you should also read chapter 1, as understanding the second chapter depends on knowing the first.


I am also inviting you to read (skim read, at least) one of the essays discussed in this chapter: ‘Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality’ by Kimberlé Crenshaw. 


This will allow us to consider the following: Having read an actual example of ‘applied postmodernism’, how perspicacious do you think Pluckrose and Lindsays’s criticisms are? 



‘Postmodernism’s Applied Turn’, chapter 2 of Pluckrose and Lindsay’s Cynical Theories. (Please read chapter 1 as well. If you haven’t read the ‘Introduction’, please also read the definition of liberalism provided on pages 11 and 12.)


‘Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women’ by Kimberlé Crenshaw.



  • Social Justice Academia: Another Turn for the Worse

This week we discuss chapter 8 of Cynical Theories. Because chapter 8 picks up from where chapter 2 left off, you can certainly skip the intervening chapters. That said, if you have time, why not read some of the chapters we are jumping over? It will be revealing to read more about particular schools of critical theory.


I am also inviting you to read an extract from one of the books discussed in this chapter: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. Again: having read an example of social justice scholarship and thought, how perspicacious do you think Pluckrose and Lindsay’s criticisms are? 



‘Social Justice Scholarship and Thought’, chapter 8 of Pluckrose and Lindsay’s Cynical Theories


Extract from White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo


  • Liberalism: Getting Epistemology Back on Track.

This week’s extra reading, an essay by Northrop Frye, bears a different kind of relationship to the Pluckrose/Lindsay chapter. Thus far, theory has come in for a lot of criticism. But what if the theory is liberal? Frye’s essay is theoretical, but it is also liberal. What do you make of liberal theory?



‘An Alternative to the Ideology of Social Justice’, chapter 10 of Pluckrose and Lindsay’s Cynical Theories 


Edited version of ‘The Social Context of Literary Criticism’ by Northrop Frye.



  • The Evolution of the Constitution of Knowledge: The Emergence of a System 


‘Booting Reality: The Rise of Networked Knowledge’, chapter 3 of Rauch’s The Constitution of Knowledge



  • The Constitution of Knowledge: A Quantum Leap 


‘The Constitution of Knowledge’, chapter 4 of Rauch’s The Constitution of Knowledge

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