Re: Brian Leiter is Two Inches Tall


Petty, sure. But what I found most striking was Leiters seeming inability to understand the points Cherniss made against him. In the peice you link there's an embarrasing error. Cherniss basically argued (paraphrase): "I'm not sure that Strauss has Plato, exactly right, but since Burnyeat doesn't show this conclusively, Leiter seems to have no basis for wholesale dismissal of Strauss' scholarship." That's what Leiter gleefully takes as 'conceding the whole point." What a maroon.

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Doesn't anyone read anymore?

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I thought we had already definitively established that Brian Leiter is a jackass. That little post has so many insecurities and neuroses wrapped up in it, it would be difficult to even start unpacking it.

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No argument about Leiter's pettiness is complete without a link to his replies to Richard Heck (and the long list of respected philosophers who signed on) re the faults of the Gourmet report. Yes, you're very clever to call them 'Heck-lers,' my man.

The thing that gets me about Leiter is that he could say all of the important stuff ("my report is good; Strauss is bad") without the silliness, and then he might be mistaken for a grownup.

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Fontana, you are exactly right! The gourmet report *is* a wonderful, wonderful service, and has done no end of good for philsophy education in the US. I found it very valubale when applying to grad school myself.

But -- the guy is clearly a jerk. He can't disagree without sneering, and, much worse, seems to led ill will cloud his peceptions of his opponents.

On the merits, his response to Cherniss is an embarrassment. And his tone -- belittling Cherniss' credentials -- is almost a caricature of unbecoming academic behavior. If this is Leiter's habitual manner, it makes the opposition to the Gourmet report (which previously I found somewhat baffling) quite explicable.

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Well, I was tipped off to the fact that you anonymous fellows had definitely put me in my place. I hope you feel better about things now.

Let me suggest that your irritation may, perhaps, have more to do with the fact that you don't share my substantive view of Chomsky or Cherniss's insluting remarks about Chomsky, and not, as it were, with questions of maturity.

I'm glad you find the PGR useful.

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No, actually, it's really about your consistently nasty tone combined with your misreading and trivialization of your opponents. You come off horribly.

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You think this is about Chomsky? Long live the indispensable Mr. Chomsky! I care not a whit about Joshua Cherniss's remarks about him.

I've made this point on the blog before. Why would you, a prominent professor, stoop to describe someone as "a navel-gazing recent Yale graduate of no obvious intellectual accomplishment or depth"? Why do you interject thus, while quoting Cherniss, "But, first of all, I have problems [indeed!]...?" It's not funny or clever and doesn't advance the argument or win any converts.

As baa says, many people find the Gourmet Report invaluable. I think your assault on the Texas Taliban is noble and important. But, seriously--no matter what your fans tell you--you diminish your cause and make an ass of yourself by being so snide.

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I confess there seems something slightly peculiar about being lectured about good manners by two anonymous fellows who have called me an ass, a jackass, and so on.

Baa: Trivial opponents should be trivialized, and demonic opponents should be demonized. You may disagree with my substantive judgment about who is trivial and who a demon, but that is a substantive dispute, not a dispute about tone. If you want to discuss the issue in the daylight, e-mail me.

Ogged: I shall have to live with my diminution in your eyes. It may be that you overestimate how representative your reactions are. Again, I'd be happy to discuss this with you via e-mail in an open way. I'm glad to learn that you like Chomsky, but sorry that you don't find his being demeaned as an idiot by a know-nothing offensive.

Farewell, and good wishes.


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I did not say that you are an ass, but that you make an ass of yourself by being snide. I think that's true.

You note that we are anonymous. I would lose my job very quickly if this blog came to the attention of my employers. That's likely true for fontana and baa too. I don't think we've abused our anonymity. We haven't made false statements of fact and this is a public forum where you are free to respond, as you have.

Your assertion that "Trivial opponents should be trivialized, and demonic opponents should be demonized," is the substance of our disagreement. I don't understand your "should." To what end? Who is the audience for the trivialization and demonization? You may enjoy a bit of sport with your regular readers by making fun, but you won't win anyone to your side. I understand you're no longer engaging here, so I'll stop. But this, it seems to me, is the heart of the matter.

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As the student who called your childish insults to Prof. Leiter's attention, I have some questions for you:

How do you think you guys look, hiding behind your cloak of anonymity and hurling insults? (Ogged, your rationale for your rudeness is ridiculous.)

Who looks more grown up, you anonymous guys or a professor who at least owns up to his critical remarks publically when he makes them? (And compare how you look, hiding behind your veil, compared to Prof. Leiter's restrained response?)

Do you really think the Texas Taliban, or any of the others who get smacked around on his blog, are really going to be convinced by rational argument? Why do you assume he wants to convince people like you?

Who's the real jackass here? It isn't leiter.

One final thought: if you guys knew anything about philosophy, you'd know leiter was totally right about both cherniss and about strauss. (Baa doesn't read too well.)

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Philosophy student says:

Do you really think the Texas Taliban, or any of the others who get smacked around on his blog, are really going to be convinced by rational argument? Why do you assume he wants to convince people like you?

I highly doubt that the TT is the main audience of Leiter's blog, or that, rational argument having failed, mockery and demonization is likely to convince them of their error. I don't know Cherniss and am unfamiliar with his blog, but, based on the two or three posts I have read, he seems like he could be convinced or at least satisfied by a rational argument and a clear explanation of why Leiter or anyone else finds his reasoning unsound.

But even if that were not the case, and Cherniss is a totally unreasonable goon, why should Leiter trivialize and mock him? It obviously won't amend Cherniss' behavior ("ah ... I see where I went wrong--I'm an idiot!") and, as ogged and unf have observed, it makes Leiter seem ... well, less than even-tempered. And that reflects poorly on him. (And there's a big difference between noting that when a person does something, he looks like an ass, and calling him an ass.)

One final thought: if you guys knew anything about philosophy, you'd know leiter was totally right about both cherniss and about strauss.

Dude, I totally don't even think they disagree about Strauss; at least, that is not even close to being the substance of the dispute (which I think ogged described well).

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Just like a tall man (Ogged) to belittle (intended!) someone by calling him short.

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That Scanlon thread was *amazing.* And don't worry fontana, bad philosophers can find homes in other industries...

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Many thanks to Ogged and those others who have taken umbrage at Brian Leiter's latest post about me (to which I've now responded on my blog, incidentally).

I of course am too personally involved to offer any reliable judgments on this matter. Once one has been called both 'trivial' (which is probably true) and 'demonic' (which is really laughable -- I may be many bad things, but I hardly achieve the sinister forcefulness to qualify for that adjective), unless one has a far thicker skin than I, one can't really look at things with clear eyes. Several points, though, seem to me worth making, even if I'm ill-equiped to make them:

1. Brian Leiter and the philosophy student attack Ogged and baa for hiding behind the cloak of anonymity. In the case of 'philosophy student', this is simply and richly laughable (a personal note to 'philosophy student': my name, and e-mail, are on my blog. If you have substantive criticisms to make of something I say, you can take it up with me, under your own name or not. You don't need to engage in both anonymous and second-hand onslaughts.). In either case, it seems to me beside the point. What does writing under one's own name accomplish? How does posting under a pseudonym protect one in a debate? Surely words wound as well when they're directed at one's nom de guerre as against one's actual name? And surely that's all that's being risked here -- having criticisms hurled at one before the blog-reading public?

2.As I've also argued on my blog, I think that Leiter is wrong to see the animus against him as being based on opposition to his political views. I suspect that, when it comes down to current US politics, Leiter and I would wind up coming down on much the same side on many issues (or would if I, too, were in Texas among the fundamentalists). There are plenty of bloggers out there who have similar views to Leiter, or who have views that are different from his but equally opposed to mine. I quite respect and like some of them, and have no problem with others, because they conduct themselves honourably and civilly, and make substantive arguments that force me to reconsider my own views. What bothers me about Leiter, and what first led me to take issue with him, is the scorn and utter lack of charity or intellectual openess towards those with whom he disagrees at the moment that he sometimes displays.

3.Another reason for the anger Leiter has provoked, I think, is this: There's just something about someone accusing other people of being petty, immature, without intellectual merit, pathetic, etc. (I am, of course, paraphrasing here, so sorry for any imprecision), while offering the nastiest of ad hominem attacks unaccompanied by serious argument, that just makes people angry. I think that it's because it involves holding others to a different standard than oneself -- or, more specifically, condemning others for offences that one is oneself committing even as one condemns them.

This seems to me unjust, and thus worthy of anger. And it also seems to me to display a richly comical lack of self-awareness and perspective, and is thus worthy of derision.

Anyway, thanks again to Ogged. And I'm pleased to see that my blogging has prompted a conversation such as this. I'm just sorry that the conversation should not be a terribly profitable or rewarding one -- that it should consist so heavily of such mudslinging. Clearly the fault is at least partially mine, and I'll certainly try in the future to foster more civil and fruitful conversations. Whether Professor Leiter will, in future, respond in more civil and fruitful ways is, of course, his business.

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Searching for Leiter's blog, found you jokers. Cherniss, man, you are a long-winded buffoon. And the rest of you are "in a fog." Don't you have anything better to do with your time?

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"Searching for Leiter's blog, found you jokers."

Made my day.

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"He can't disagree without sneering, and, much worse, seems to led ill will cloud his peceptions of his opponents."


As if that's not what you folks are about. I have yet to see a substantive criticism of anything by either 'baa' or 'ogged'.

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"... Derrida makes a lot of sense."

--on ogged's site.

Now I see why you're such an asshat ogged.

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Ah, the forces of light have returned to vindicate the good professor. I'm afraid I can't help you, not Leiter, if you're unable to see the substance in what baa, or I, or Derrida, write. You may be able to help relieve my curiosity however, by telling me why (oh why) you need to point out that you're not Leiter, when, clearly, if the comment doesn't say Brian Leiter, we can assume it's not Brian Leiter. Right?

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As long as this post is back in view on the main page thanks to the recent comments, I'll just point out that attacking a person for posting under a pseudonym is a pretty common move of idiots and trolls on Usenet.

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Please indicate the sentence, phrase or word where I attempted to "... vindicate the good professor."

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This thread has been good for me. I'm not at a school that's exactly what you might call renowned for it's philosophy department, and thought my education might be suffering from being there, as I was possibly missing out on dialectic with other majors. It's good to know there are bigger idiots studying philosophy out there than have surfaced in any of my classes. Cheers, oh you anonymous philosophy students. Don't quit your day jobs.

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