Peter Baehr: “The Unmasking Temptation: A Critique”

Peter Baehr (Lingnan University) will be presenting as part of the Seminar Series.


This talk examines a destructive, though common, form of social criticism. I call it unmasking. Unmasking is not the same as scientific refutation or principled disagreement. When people unmask they claim to rip off a disguise, revealing the true beneath the feigned or imaginary. Two kinds of unmasking are prominent in western societies. The first, aimed at persons or groups, exposes enmity and hypocrisy. The second, aimed at ideas, exposes illusions and ideologies.This talk describes the techniques of unmasking practiced by intellectuals and revolutionary social movements. It contrasts the peculiarities of unmasking in vernacular and academic contexts. And it discusses the contribution of sociology to unmasking. The talk will suggest that unmasking is a style of thought harmful both to political argument and to sociological theory. It should and can be avoided.