The below email was sent by Professor Walter Block to Rev. Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., Ph.D., president of Loyola University New Orleans.
Dear Fr. Wildes, SJ:
In the last few minutes of your speech on Friday, 1/22/16 at the convocation, you said something to the effect that (in my paraphrase) you would “strive mightily to always interpret other people’s statements in the most positive way possible and reasonable; you would give a sympathetic interpretation of what others say or write.” I applaud you for this statement. I always try to do this in my own writings and speeches, and, often, I even succeed. I also greatly regret it when I do not. I think this principle you have today articulated is one all scholars should follow. Again, in my paraphrase, “Do not attack straw men.” When you criticize others, do so for their views in their most compelling versions, not their weakest. I think you have been “channeling” some of the words of a hero of mine, John Stuart Mill (from his “On Liberty), who said: “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion... Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them...he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.”
As you can see, this statement of yours moved me.
In view of this perspective of yours that you recently articulated, would you please consider making a public apology to me for publishing in the Maroon a statement to the effect that I favored slavery (based on hearsay “evidence” from the NYTimes); you did so without even first asking me about this.
I intend to share this letter, and any response you might give me, or none, with others.
Walter E. Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics
Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business
Loyola University New Orleans
6363 St. Charles Avenue, Box 15, Miller Hall 318
New Orleans, LA 70118
(-RW note: For more on the controversy see: Distorting A Champion of Liberty: The Walter Block Controversy)