EDGY SPEECH DOUBLE FEATURE 1. The Leiter-Motif in the Sartwell Debate, and the Double-Edged Sword.

FK: I’ve read the recent post on Sartwell by W1 and X1, and they’re right of course, especially with respect to the sanctimonious silence from those who usually shout at every opportunity.

But it might also be good to point out that Brian Leiter at least is on the right side by defending Sartwell’s fundamental right to say what he said, and not to be disciplined for it– although Leiter also makes the weird mental illness reference, but then declares that Sartwell strikes him as ‘sane’.

In any case, the students at Dickinson aren’t holding back. This passage in particular is striking:

Sartwell’s case represents the last phase of this cleansing. His buffoonish caricature of anarchism was never a threat to the Dickinson administration. But, like the other pariahed professors, his record of published works and academic papers are impressive. Ultimately, the crux of this witch hunt centers on removing professors with the greatest ability to affect their students. The quality of the research matters, and good professors with alternative political views represent a specific threat to neoliberal academic orthodoxy.

See more here and also here, referred to by Leiter.

Z: Yes. But I also think that the leiter-motif in the Sartwell debate is APP-interesting for various reasons.

This especially includes the fact that it’s highly ironic that Leiter, who for the last two years or so has been feeling the keen sharpness of the other side of the double-edged professional-academic-philosophy sword he always lived by and created his career by, under attack by even bigger hyper-disciplined, coercive moralist professional philosophy assholes than himself, many of them currently residing at The Daily Arse, now places himself, for a change, on the side of the anarchist free-thinking and free-speaking angels, epitomized by Sartwell.

For these are the Frankenstein monsters that Leiter substantially helped to create.

So, even granting that on this point, Leiter is on the right side, I do think that those anti-Leiter attacks by Leiter’s monsters constitute some sort of Socratic anarcho-philosophical poetic justice.

And more generally, I also heartily agree with V’s recent verdict: the real Nietzsche would curse Leiter’s unbearable being.

W1: I should say that I don’t dislike Leiter as much as most who claim to dislike him.
I think he’s an ass behind the keyboard and that his little experiment 20 years ago—The Philosophy Gourmet Report—snowballed, then he didn’t take adequate personal control of it, or of himself.

So when I see him on the right side of things now, I tend to think it’s for real, and not just him being a self-preserving ninny.

Z: “His little experiment 20 years ago”! That’s an ironic massive understatement, yes?

–Like, “Dr Frankenstein’s little experiment 200 years ago.”

OK, I totally agree that The Philosophy Gourmet Report and the “leiterization” of professional academic philosophy emerged from deeper, wider ideological processes that were already fully in place and relentlessly chugging away in the 1980s.

But let’s face it, Leiter personally super-charged those processes, and for a long time he also personally benefited substantially from them; and it’s also true that professional academic philosophy wouldn’t be nearly as awful as it currently is, without him.

In that sense, Leiter’s got a lot to answer to Socrates and the real Nietzsche for.

FK: I concur with W1 regarding Leiter; I have no real opinion about his Gourmet report, mostly because it’s an American thing and it’s of no real concern to me — I agree though that it is to some extent responsible for the totale Verwaltung of academia in the US (and to a lesser extent the UK) (someone should write a Soziologie des Rackets of professional Anglophone philosophy, and its destructive influence on European philosophy).

Leiter doesn’t suffer fools gladly, which I like — I think, in general, that’s a good character trait for a philosopher (à la Nietzsche), especially in the current puritanical climate, and is not necessarily interchangeable with “professional”; in fact, I think Leiter’s character is quite at odds with the moralism of the weakling-maoists in current professional philosophy; Leiter wouldn’t get a job if he were to apply for one today!

What I find disappointing about Leiter is that he panders to those puritanical weaklings, now and then.

But that’s probably Leiter’s paradox: somehow he needs consistently to sustain the monster that he himself helped create.

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About Z

Z is a 50-something cosmopolitan anarcho-philosopher, and previously was a tenured full professor of philosophy at a public university somewhere in North America, but still managed to escape with his life.

About W

W is a 20-something, 30-something, 40-something, or even 50-something non-tenure track philosopher currently teaching at a private or public institution of higher education somewhere in North America. Different people will contribute to W’s diary. Like X, W is a philosophical persona composed by several real persons.