- Carrie’s post involved a general characterization of certain sorts of behaviors that are widespread in our profession but that she regards as unacceptable, and a pledge publicly to name such behaviors and to work to reduce or eliminate them. There is no way that making such a declaration can possibly be regarded as anything other than praiseworthy, given the sorry state of our field in this respect.
- Though hardly the only one, Leiter was at the time, and would have been at any time, a salient individual whose behavior is well known not to conform to Carrie’s standards.
- It follows that, at least in some weak sense,1 Carrie is implicating that she intends no longer to tolerate Leiter’s behavior—or that of others who violate the standards she had articulated.
- If you think this is a “threat”, then in response I quote Karate Bearfighter, who said over at Lawyers, Guns, and Money: “If Carrie Jenkins’ blog post was an unacceptable ‘attack’ on Leiter because it criticized behaviors Leiter has exhibited, then Leiter effectively immunizes behaviors from any criticism or discussion just by exhibiting them. Which, in terms of public displays of narcissism and thin skin, is just one small step up from that kid on the Twilight Zone who wishes people into the cornfield.”
- Power dynamics matter. Carrie was threatened with repeated public humiliation by someone who is arguably the most powerful single person in our profession and who has made it clear, by doing so repeatedly in the past, that he is absolutely prepared to carry out that threat. (Yeah, I would kind of know. And no, I won't link to that.) Why else would Leiter have needed to ‘reassure’ Carrie by writing: “P.S. Don’t worry I’m not going to embarrass you in public about this…”?
If this still isn’t clear, then please read the comment from Aimai over at Lawyers, Guns, and Money. (There are some minor factual inaccuracies, but the basic point is sound.)
- Proportionality matters. Even if Leiter, for some reason, rational or irrational, thought Carrie was “attacking” him, his response to her is so unbelievably over the top that it cannot possibly be regarded as appropriate, by any measure.
- Patterns of behavior matter. This is not, by a long shot, an isolated incident. It is one of at least half a dozen this year alone, all of which have targeted either women, junior faculty, or graduate students.* There have been boatloads of such incidents over the last fifteen years or so. It would not surprise me if the number of Leiter’s victims had reached triple digits at this point.
- It is high time we put an end to this. And we should thank Carrie for getting us to do it.
1 As it happens, I have written on this weak sense of implicature, in "Reason and Language". See especially §1.
UPDATE: Just to be clear, a speaker's implicating something in this sense doesn't require that the speaker have any intention to do so. That's why it's a very weak sense of implicature. So I am not at all saying that Carrie intended to be conveying anything at all about Leiter and his behavior.
* UPDATE: To clarify, this remark does not concern Leiter's habit of making derogatory comments about people. Part of what made the incidents recounted on the "Recent Events" website so troubling to many of us was how extreme they seemed: far beyond the sorry standard Leiter has previously set. So, while Lieter has, to be sure, made derogatory comments about a lot more than half a dozen people in recent months (as he pointed out on his blog), I am not talking about those sorts of incidents. I am specifically talking about cases in which Leiter threatened or insulted people or said extremely derogatory things about people over whom he has some sort of power. (Tom Stern, a junior philosopher who works on Nietzsche, would fall into this category.) See also this post for further discussion of this issue and Simon Cabuela May's second point here.