Thursday, September 29, 2016

A nice little run of posts by Leiter, in order,  each separated on his site by one or two others.
Like his idol Nietzsche but at the level of pedantry, an exemplar of the decadence he claims to oppose. It's really pathetic.

1
Against Canary Mission, redux 
Following up on this (many of you signed), there is now a website with the letter and the full list of signatories. Someone really needs to create a list of faculty and students behind "Canary Mission," since a list of disgusting fascists would be useful!
2
Even if Clinton wins the election, we won't be done with Trump 
This is worth emphasizing: the Trump nightmare won't end with the election. Even if (as I still expect) Clinton wins, we know (he's told us) that Trump won't be a graceful loser, since he's psychologically incapable of that. The threat to the constitutional and democratic order will continue, as Trump hurls reckless accusatiosn of voter fraud and a stolen election, accusations that will be repeated by the increasingly openly fascist mass media--Fox on TV, Breitbart on-line--that threaten civilization. Like any broken clock, or psychopath, Trump is occasionally right, and one thing he may be right about is that our speech laws permit too much falsehoods (he is wrong about what is false, obviously, which is also telling). Until we can shut down Fox and Breitbart and Drudge, we are all in danger, not only in America, but in the world, since this benighted country continues to be the greatest threat to human well-being on the planet. I have no faith, alas, that this country is capable of closing down only the sociopathic morons, so the libertarian legal regime that sanctions 24-hour lies and stupidity may mark the future for this dying empire.
"I have no faith, alas," links again to his own paper,  "The Case Against Free Speech"
...I also argue for viewing "freedom of speech" like "freedom of action": speech, like everything else human beings do, can be for good or ill, benign or harmful, constructive or pernicious, and thus the central question in free speech jurisprudence should really be how to regulate speech effectively — to minimize its very real harms, without undue cost to its positive values — rather than rationalizing (often fancifully) the supposed special value of speech. In particular, I argue against autonomy-based defenses of a robust free speech principle. I conclude that the central issue in free speech jurisprudence is not about speech but about institutional competence; I offer some reasons — from the Marxist "left" and the public choice "right"— for being skeptical that capitalist democracies have the requisite competence; and make some suggestive but inconclusive remarks about how these defects might be remedied.
3
Another keynote speaker rebuked... 
...In the case of the other keynote speaker controversy du jour, Professor Shelby was asked by a Black woman in his Q&A why he had not cited or discussed any Black feminist authors; Professor Shelby, unsurprisingly, was dismissive of the question, calling it a request for a "bibliography" and indicating he was just trying to do philosophy. He, correctly, supposed that a question of the form, "Why didn't you mention authors with particular racial and gender attributes?" is not a serious philosophical question, in contrast to, say, the question, "Why didn't you address the following argument by author X [who is also a Black feminist]?", which is an appropriate question. (Readers should review the full statement by the aggrieved audience member at the end of this post.) Other audience members shared this aggrievement as well.
"...he was just trying to do philosophy. He, correctly, supposed that a question of the form, "Why didn't you mention authors with particular racial and gender attributes?" is not a serious philosophical question,..."

It's a metaphilosophical question.
If philosophy is technical it becomes necessary to invent a new sub-field.
This is nothing to do with claims that Shelby's arguments were hurtful. Those arguments and Leiter's are variations on a theme: the childish desire for safety.

4
Dick Cavett on Paul Weiss

From an interview with the former T.V. host about his undergraduate days at Yale:
Q: To what extent did Yale teach you the art of critical thinking? 
DC: Any critical thinking that I got from Yale was in my undergraduate courses, maybe in the true sense of the term, from the great Paul Weiss, Sterling professor of philosophy. Paul Weiss taught his class Socratically, asking to have questions fired at him, and he never failed to take down any five students simultaneously, if he needed to. I later put him on television, on the Jack Paar Tonight Show, and then I had Paul Weiss on my own show, as I did William F. Buckley, [whose] faculty advisor was Paul Weiss.
Weiss, by the way, was the first Jew hired with tenure in philosophy at Yale. (The episode is described in Neil Gross's biography of Richard Rorty: basically, Brand Blandshard championed the appointment, but it met with opposition from his anti-semitic colleagues and administrators, but Blandshard prevailed.) Fifty years on, the former Sterling Professor of Philosophy at Yale is now barely known or read. ...
repeats, with (some) credit to Corey Robin.

"Most college educated people and most academics have no idea who Paul Weiss is, but almost all know the name James Baldwin. That fact is important in any discussion not of philosophy but of philosophers, even in serious discussion of the subjects they claim to deal in."
I didn't mention the most glaringly obvious point about Baldwin's comments: "I don't know what most white people in this country feel, but I can only conclude what they feel from the state of their institutions". Debating ideas vs observing behavior.
It gave me an excuse to fix an old graphic I was never happy with.

"Doing philosophy"
Moral Realism as Moral Relativism
Raymond Klibansky,
and Richard Seaford

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