Respected ethicist Brian Leiter wrote about the incident on his blog Leiter Reports at the request of fellow ethicist Torbjorn Tannsjo. Tannsjo was allegedly reached out to by Vox editor Dylan Matthews to write a more philosophical piece than the site’s standard explainers and op-eds.
“I’m an editor for the US news site Vox.com, and we’re trying to start a new series where philosophers and other thinkers argue for provocative and/or counterintuitive propositions that our readers might find intriguing,” Matthews wrote. “I’m a big fan of your work from my undergraduate years…”
Tannsjo wrote a piece which, true to Matthews’ wishes, was provocative. “You Should Have Kids,” he wrote, arguing that from a utilitarian outlook, arguing that we have an ethical obligation to future generations and it would be unethical to deny them existence.
But the piece was spiked. Matthews let Tannsjo know the reason why in an email:
Afraid I have to be the bearer of bad news, Torbjörn. I ran the piece by some other editors and they weren’t comfortable running it; I think the concern is that people will misinterpret it as implying opposition to abortion rights and birth control, which, while I know it’s not your intent, is a real concern.
I’m sorry to waste your time; I really am a big fan of your work and appreciate your willingness to work with me.
Leiter disapprovingly notes in his blog post how a wonkblog like Vox “apparently is more concerned with taking the ‘correct’ view than with the reasoning.”
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