I came across a book written by Stove the other day, and it was utterly horrifying. I know some of my readers are well enough informed to question why this should be any surprise; surely he only wrote bad books, I can hear them thinking. Indeed, my very first encounter with Stove was when I examined his attempted refutation of Hume's inductive skepticism. That attempted refutation is sufficiently awful that I feel a little guilty about shooting fish in a barrel when I wrote a term paper criticizing it. However, the book I just found was a collection of Stove's attempts at writing more popular essays, and disturbingly they do seem to have been somewhat popular. It disturbed me enormously that the back cover had a favorable blurb from David Armstrong. The two were apparently friends, but still, I don't see how anyone with a shred of self-respect could even hint at endorsement of the contents of the book.
I think one of the most revealing essays in the book, at least for philosophers, is Stove's criticism of Nozick. Nozick was, of course, a well-known right-leaning philosopher, and the usual practice of right-wing nuts is to embrace anyone intellectually respectable who seems to agree with them in part, so it seems on the surface odd that Stove should bother to write an essay against someone who was in any way allied with him, when his enemies were so plentiful. The explanation, however, is relatively straightforward.
Nozick really believed that coercion was wrong, indeed that it was pretty much the worst thing possible. His libertarian views were founded on that basic principle, that coercion is just not acceptable, when it is performed by anyone for any reason, and so governments, like all other people and institutions, should be stripped of their coercive power as much as possible. He was, in other words, clearly not one of the typical internet libertarians with wet dreams about how he'd lord it over everyone else with his arsenal of guns once the government stopped pestering him.
As a result, Stove thought Nozick was a pussy. Admittedly, Stove didn't put it in (quite) such crude terms, but the terminology perfectly captures his intent; Stove was extremely misogynistic. One of his essays in Against the Idols argues vigorously for the intellectual inferiority of women, and his prudishness (which also comes up in his criticism of Nozick) is also a common trait of misogynists (for those who think women are only for sex, "women are bad" and "sex is bad" tend to get bundled together). Stove thought feminists and hippies and various other nefarious characters were corrupting the pure, manly intellectual standards of the academy and of political institutions, and clearly thought Nozick had too many such soft-headed, feminine inclinations. Sure, Nozick said he liked free markets, but he was unaccountably squeamish about sending tens of thousands of soldiers to die and killing hundreds of thousands of foreigners in a dubious effort to slightly weaken the forces of communism worldwide. Real anti-communists favored having a huge military and using it often, even if the military was hardly a bastion of free market practices and it was paid for by high, market-distortion-inducing taxes. Real anti-communists were real men, you see. Nobody who opposed the Vietnam War, as Nozick did, could have been a real man, and so no such person could be a real anti-communist.
I didn't intend this to be such a long post. Still, it's clearly more relevant to the blogosphere than most of my writings, so maybe it's OK to ramble on a bit.