Thursday, October 02, 2014

On Leiter, from 2003.

Corey Robin -as always, finding a way to pat himself on the back- quotes a friend
Typically in the past the public intellectual, on the model of Susan Sontag, for example, or Norman Mailer, or Gore Vidal, lived in New York and published in esoteric journals, such as The New York Review of Books, or The Nation, and occasionally appeared on the Tonight Show. A friend of mine, Corey Robin, a professor at Brooklyn College who has written several books and fits the role of public intellectual perfectly, in my opinion, told me recently that he originally moved to New York City hoping to discover just such a vibrant pool of committed intellectuals to join and was disappointed when he couldn’t find it. It wasn’t until he started blogging and created his own website that he found that group of individuals he’d been looking for—on the Internet.
One of the commenters singles out Duncan Black for praise.

Sontag was an aesthete more than anything, except maybe a narcissist; "Mailer was a Left Conservative. So he had his own point of view. To himself he would suggest that he tried to think in the style of Marx in order to attain certain values suggested by Edmund Burke"; Vidal was a Mandarin, and proud of it; Didion should be on the list and she began as a Goldwater Girl. etc. etc. all repeats.

The web since the start has been self-selecting for engineers and tech-geeks and those who imagine intellectualism in technical terms. It amazed me when I first saw references the The Hugo and Nebula awards on academic websites.

Sahlins was going to publish this, even though he and his managing editor couldn't get a single reader even to respond after they'd read it. After all the delays, and more to come, I pulled it. That was stupid.
If the intellectual model of fine art remains intellectual design (and the logic of original intent) the popular model is now theatrical design. There’s a relation: the children of conceptualists have returned to an art-making process the only way they could, as furniture makers. There’s a similar culture of “crafting” in academia, of grad school knitting circles, economist coffee connoisseurs, philosopher illustrators and wood carvers. None of this amounts to much, or won’t until the preoccupations outpace the ideas. The best example of this, going back to the beginnings of conceptualism, is Adrian Piper, who has had careers both as an artist and as an academic philosopher. But her best, most tortured, work documents the sleep of reason, undermining all of her ideological pretensions. Her work is the poetry of confused rage. The new culture of crafting by comparison is another form of naïve decadence. For crafters, knitting circles are the closest they’ll come to hammering out scenarios for The Wire.
Change is slow. Philosophy professors are now lousy filmmakers.

previous post
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, as Sheilaism.
My comment at Feminist Philosophers
You claim to search for truths. If you want to argue from principles as principles you’re going to get in fights. There’s a reason the first rule of a barroom is there’s no discussing religion or politics.

The first anonymous made two statements that are in absolute contradiction “It is high time that meeker voices inherited the philosophical earth” “Fortune favours the brave!”

If you want to argue feminism, do it in context. Argue the feminism of the women of the IDF vs the feminism of the women of Hamas.
The author’s a Quaker.

Leiter’s authoritarianism is only possible in a field where people proclaim the existence of absolutes founded on nothing but grammar and hot air. The cultures of mathematics and engineering are bubbles, but there’s no harm in that; there’s no contentious debate over ranking mathematics and engineering departments. At the other end of the spectrum, literature and history departments are diverse by definition. But philosophy professors make claims for “technical philosophy” You want all the clarity of engineering and all the license of poetry. What you end up with is the authoritarianism of the Roman Catholic Church and the metaphysics of hippies.
Rationalists struggling to become practicing and not theoretical empiricists. People weaned on academic anti-humanism, intellectualism as technics, discovering humanism for themselves outside the library. Maybe once they've discovered it they'll realize it has a long history.

Watching slow change and my arguments haven't, over 30 years if not longer. I'll be dead before I'm able to have intelligent conversations on culture and politics with those who claim to have intelligent conversations on culture and politics in the language of my birth, still the only one I speak.

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