Monday, September 29, 2014

Rewritten, expanded, and more links. This is getting interesting.

Repeats: What's the proper relation, if any, of the search for wisdom to the desire for status? What's prestige? What's the purpose of academic bed-hopping?

The odds of the events/arguments described below taking place in physics and biology departments or in history and literature departments are equally slim. Philosophy is betwixt and between, a literary form engaged in the search for "truth"; truth commands authority and Leiter speaks from the chair. The "Philosophical Gourmet Report" is model of scholastic decadence.
Since Gourman was close to Gourmand, and since I wasn't catering to Gourmands, but Gourmets, I settled on....
Leiter is the sort of prelate who defends the faith less than he defends the institution -he'll stand up for "philosophers" of any stripe who shade their absurd arguments in the appropriate academic form- and what no one below recognizes it that it's the institution itself that's falling apart. The power claimed of philosophy is the power of prescription. As description it's just another form of literature, and no philosopher will accept what by their own definition would be a drop in status. In the name both of idealism and relativism, authority and equality, Leiter's opponents defend philosophy as others defend religion, [repeats] as Sheilaism.

As I wrote in a comment elsewhere that I doubt will be published, Leiter’s authoritarianism is founded in insecurity, and their defense of civility is founded in fluff.

Leiter's troubles, by Leiter (and again), in the CHE, both with links, including one to this:
A serious issue has arisen that impacts Professor Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins.

Professor Jenkins has been targeted by Professor Brian Leiter (University of Chicago) with derogatory and intimidating remarks privately by email in July, and recently with further derogatory remarks publicly on Twitter.

Professor Jenkins wrote the following blog post in July:
in response to which Professor Leiter sent her an email saying that she comes across as a “sanctimonious asshole” (and indicating that he is not sure whether "in real life" she is a sanctimonious asshole or a "civilized person"). The email also intimates that Professor Leiter is contemplating litigation against Professor Jenkins, states that he is wondering "what she is 'thinking' if anything", and asks if she plans to spit at him at the APA or chase him with a bat.

He has now followed this up by saying publicly on Twitter that he has called Carrie a “sanctimonious arse”. He sent her another email in an attempt to apologise for 'upsetting her', which only succeeded in causing further harm.

The effects of this on Professor Jenkins since July have been very serious, impacting her health, her capacity to work, and her ability to contribute to public discourse as a member of the profession. In the light of this recent incident on Professor Leiter's public Twitter feed, we feel compelled to act. We are now standing with Carrie publicly, as colleagues and friends.

Professor Leiter has the power to have this kind of impact on Professor Jenkins in part because of his control over the Philosophical Gourmet Report. We don't find what has happened to our colleague acceptable, and don't wish voluntarily to help provide Professor Leiter the power that makes it possible.

It is up to each of us individually to decide what we will volunteer to do. The undersigned members of the philosophical community have decided to decline to volunteer our services to Leiter's PGR. While we recognise that there are other ways to condemn Professor Leiter's behaviour and to support our colleague, we think the best choice for us involves publicly declining to assist with the PGR. We cannot continue to volunteer services in support of the PGR in good conscience as long as Brian Leiter continues to behave in this way. We therefore decline to take the PGR survey, we decline to serve on the PGR advisory board, and we decline to send Professor Leiter information to help him compile the survey (e.g. updated faculty lists and corrections). We are only declining to volunteer our services to the PGR while it is under the control of Brian Leiter. With a different leadership structure, the benefits of the guide might be achieved without detriment to our colleague.

We feel that we need to consider very carefully what kind of example we are setting for graduate students, and for philosophers across the whole discipline, when something like this happens. Tolerating this kind of behaviour signals to them that they can expect the same in their own professional lives. We wish to set a clear example of how to respond appropriately but firmly.
The list of signatories as of now is 452.

From Jenkins' post linked above:
In my professional capacity, I will treat other philosophers with respect.
In particular, I will treat other philosophers more junior and/or professionally vulnerable than myself with respect.
I will not make negative personal comments about individual philosophers in professional contexts.
If I disagree with someone’s work or ideas, I will find ways to express that disagreement without suggesting the person is unintelligent, lacking in credibility, unfit to be a philosopher, or otherwise undeserving of respect.
I will not treat other philosophers or their work in ways that are belittling, trivialising, and/or exclusionary.
I will not react to behaviour that does not meet the basic standards described in 1 as if it were normal or acceptable within my discipline.
I will make clear, in public, that in my opinion behaviour which does not meet the basic standards described in 1 is both unprofessional and unethical.**
I will not accept or treat those whose behaviour regularly fails to meet these standards as normal or representative members of my profession.
I will not lend my professional authority or support to such behaviour or to the people who regularly engage in it.
Leiter's a very smart man and most of the people he argues with are idiots, but he's also a powerful man in a field with claims both grand and groundless. Yet Jenkins' arguments render all serious debate as friendly conversation, and the point of academic freedom and tenure is that it's not. John Yoo is an idiot and an asshole, but he has tenure. Jenkins' call for civility mirrors Phyllis Wise on Salaita. (repeats)
Wise argues, “What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them.” Of course, this standard is ridiculous: individuals should be free to say personal and “disrespectful” things about others (for example, everyone should be free to say that Wise’s argument here is both stupid and evil, without facing punishment from the respect police). Respect is not a fundamental value of any university, and being “disrespectful” is not an academic crime.
Leiter's authoritarianism, Jenkins' neutered civility, or none of the above.

And I always add, academic "freedom" is a misnomer. Academic independence means once past the post, however you got there, it's hard to get you out. Everything is political; the only break on politics -and it's limited- is formalism. That's why we have the rule of law and not the rule of reason. The first is merely corrupt; the second devolves to barbarism.

Jason Stanley on Facebook
Over the past day or so, 24 members of the advisory board of the Philosophical Gourmet Report have signed a letter saying that they value the extraordinary service that Leiter has provided with the PGR, and that they now urge him to turn over the PGR to new management. The letter (drafted by David Chalmers, Jonathan Schaffer, Susanna Siegel, and Jason Stanley) has been delivered to Brian Leiter, who received it with good grace. We are in the process of collecting more signatures, and will soon make the letter public.

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