In Q&A after a talk folk trained at Oxbridge (and those imitating them) often use the expression "I am confused," (or "I am puzzled," etc.) by which they generally mean something like, "you're an idiot." (This becomes clear because the sentence is often followed by an objection and a smug look.) [I welcome learning the origins of the use. Maybe it started in Ithaca, NY?] Now, I find this way of operating obnoxious: (a) through its insincerity it tends to make shared intellectual inquiry impossible; (b) it asserts social superiority; (c) and when you (thinking you understand the game) try to use the same expression, you will surely be interrupted by the chorus confirming your confusion. Of course, in practice (a-b) are not even in the speaker's mind; s/he is often not even conscious of active participation in a philosophically corrupt practice. [Once, when Peter Hacker came to give a seminar in Utrecht, I was so fed up with his overuse of the expression, I called him on it, and the exchange quickly degenerated into lots of unpleasantness. Over lunch our hosts try to keep us separate (fearing we/I would ruin everybody's day), even though by that time Peter and I had gotten to talk civilly about the issues.] Now, all the criticism in the world will not make me able to change the norm that permits this fake-genteel crap to operate in the discipline. For, it will just confirm the Oxbridge types in their sense of superiority. Maybe systematic ridicule would work to change it, but, of course, by exhibiting the ridiculer's obsession with the practice, again it confirms the superiority of the Oxbridge type.
Now, consider another example. If I say to some graduate student after a talk on Hume, "that's fake scholarship," I am not being constructive, failing to do justice to the effort put in, and just being an all around jerk. (I have been this kind of bully; it's very bad!) But if I say this to, say, Roger Ariew, I must be joking because Roger is the gold-standard for scholarship in Early Modern. A half year ago, I did say it (or something like it) to Roger after a paper presentation of his (co-written with Joanne Waugh). Everybody in the room could tell I was not joking because I proceed to defend the claim in very hostile fashion. (Mea Culpa, Roger!) Of course, the scholarship was not fake, but the underlying methodological-moral issue that divided us that day -- what we owe to the philosophical dead and the traditions we speak with -- goes to a core of our self-identity as scholars and the way we understand how philosophy is also, in part, a moral community. Hostility will not create a shared intellectual inquiry. That day and in the weeks that followed the other people in the room (that is many of the peers I admire and respect most) let me know in clear fashion I had gone too far. Some did it jokingly, others, including my super-gentle and encouraging supervisor (and still one of my referees) more critically. Because we all know how hard it is to do history of early modern philosophy (the required mastery of languages, weird vocabulary, enormous number of texts, the intermixing of moral, scientific, theological, metaphysical (etc.) issues (many of which our training as philosophers do not prepare us well for), we pride ourselves (rightly or not) in early modern on our inclusive and friendly atmosphere that can incorporate a transnational intellectual culture. Our intellectual leaders work hard at setting good examples and subtly and, as I discovered painfully, less subtly, enforcing the norm. If I turn into a repeat-violator of the norm I risk being ostracized or will succeed in corroding the norm. Either way it will be very unpleasant.