Tuesday, September 30, 2014

500 Signatures!!

The number of signatories of the September Statement, all of whom are declining to offer their services to the Philosophical Gourmet Report until and unless Brian Leiter ends his control of it, has grown to over five hundred (counting the original 21 signatories). [UPDATE (later that night): And now not even counting those.]

Discussions of Philosophy Rankings

In the wake of recent events, a long-overdue discussion is now beginning in earnest about whether philosophy needs "rankings" and, if so, what sorts of rankings we should have. I've set up a page where I will try to aggregate links to such discussions. If you know of more such, then please let me know, by email.

In case anyone is still confused about this, it does not follow that the PGR boycott is or was directed towards changing (let alone obliterating) the Gourmet Report. What follows is just that, since a whole lot of people are and long have been concerned about the PGR rankings anyway, and since Leiter has for a long time been an obstacle to genuine reform and now seems on the way out, it is a good time to have a discussion of both whether and how philosophy departments should be ranked.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Best Site For News on the Current Leiter Controversy

Leigh Johnson has been aggregating stories and blog posts from around the net on her blog. Not everything is there, but there's probably something you haven't seen.

And, apparently, we are all at code red again.


Zachary Ernst on "Our Naked Emperor"

As I've mentioned previously, I got out of the PGR criticism business a while ago. Hence, I missed this outstanding paper by Zachary Ernst. Anyone interested in the question what a post-PGR (or post-Leiter as editor of PGR) world might look like should read it. (The Afterthought is the best bit.)

I'll make just one point. Ernst writes:
It is my contention that the Report is not merely unsound as a ranking system and detrimental to the profession; it is obviously unsound as a ranking system and obviously detrimental to the profession.  (p. 1)
That's what's bothered me for so long as well. As any reasonably self-aware and self-critical person, it makes me wonder if I'm not just missing something. But then I read a paper like this one (which makes several of the objections I made, years ago, but in much more developed form), and it turns that, no, I'm not.

And I, for one, strongly suspect that the problems Ernst identifies with the Gourmet Report are not disconnected from the problems he identified in a different post with academic culture generally.

Great Post on the "September Statement" From Simon Cabulea May

Simon makes six main points (here):
  1. The September Statement is not an attack on Prof. Leiter’s moral character or on the PGR.
  2. The current issue cannot be divorced from that regarding the climate for women in philosophy.
  3. It does not matter that the PGR is not itself the vehicle of hostility.
  4. It does not matter who created the PGR.
  5. It does not matter whether the PGR is accurate.
  6. It does not matter whether signing the September Statement would be an "empty gesture".
What matters it that "...the particular behaviour detailed in the September Statement and the Recent Events list [is nothing] other than abysmal and utterly unacceptable".

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Day One...Part Two

From the wonderful Carrie Jenkins, here.

But this part seems wrong:
Some people have mistakenly attributed bravery to me.... I have been mostly just very scared.
since those are not incompatible. We are the bravest when we act in spite of the fact that we are scared, because we know what we are doing is right, not when we are too clueless to be scared.

I'll agree with this much, though, without meaning to boast: What the 21 of us who signed the original statement did was also brave, too, even if we were scared, and I know for sure I was.

No, Noelle McAfee Did Not "Spread Misinformation"

Over in the comment thread on the "fair and balanced"1 story that CHE did on Brian Leiter, someone claiming to be a former student of his asked Noelle McAfee: "...[W]hat is your response to his claim that you spread misinformation about the PGR?"2 This had nothing whatsoever to do with what Noelle had just said, but it will be entertaining to respond to it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Leiter's Mistreatment of Noelle McAfee

There's a really great comment by Laura Grams over at Feminist Philosophers about just why Leiter's telling Noelle McAfee that she is "a philosopher in a shit department" was such a horrible thing to do, in particular, what force the expletive has. Go read it, then come back.

A Clarification Re the Leiter Business

Unsurprisingly, the editor of the Philosophical Gourmet Report (PGR) is trying very hard to paint the recent criticisms of his [...] behavior as an "attack" on PGR itself. (No, I won't link to any of that. And no, don't find it yourself.) But this is wrong, and not just because so many of the people who have signed the pledge to boycott PGR until its current editor resigns have no general objections to PGR, including some who are (were?) actually on his "advisory board".

Publishing "Private" Emails

The question has been raised in several different venues with what right David Velleman and Sally Haslanger made public certain "private" emails from Brian Leiter to Carrie Jenkins and Noelle McAfee. The question was raised, in particular, in the comment thread on today's story about Leiter in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Velleman responded in that thread and has given me permission to excerpt his response here:
The emails we published contained serious and credible threats aimed at silencing the recipients. Such threats are not protected either by academic freedom or by confidentiality. The target of these threats may have no means of self-protection other than to expose them, and therefore cannot be obligated to suffer them in silence. If she responds that "insulting and threatening emails" may "get around", she is merely threatening to exercise her right of self-defense against prior, far more serious threats. To deny her the right to make this counter-threat would be to further empower a bully. His response that "other things will get around" has no similar justification.
Well said.

I Call Bullshit

So I haven't paid attention to the Gourmet Report for ages. But I have a few questions.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The More Things Change....

Thanks to whoever grabbed Leiter's latest words about me off the Google cache. And thanks to whoever got him to take them down. But I'm going to respond anyway.

Some Basic Facts About Carrie Jenkins's Now Famous Blog Post

Some elementary facts about Carrie Jenkins's now famous post and Brian Leiter's now infamous response to it, adapted from a comment I posted at Feminist Philosophers.
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.”

  5. 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.)

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. It is high time we put an end to this. And we should thank Carrie for getting us to do it.
It looks now as if something like that is going to happen. So thanks, Carrie. Sorry you had to go through hell to get us here.



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.

Wonderful Post by Paul Waldman on the Culture Wars

Over at the Prospect:
However the actual 1960s played out, in our memories, the hippies were definitely the good guys, and the winners in the end. (This is in no small part because liberals created all the novels, TV shows, and movies that chronicled the period.) They may have been a little silly, but there's one thing that's undeniably true: They had all the fun. While the squares were getting buzz cuts, convincing themselves that the Vietnam War was a great idea, and nodding along with Richard Nixon's encomiums to the Silent Majority, the hippies were getting high, dancing to cool music, and above all, getting laid.
Read the rest here: http://prospect.org/article/why-culture-war-will-never-die.

The Internet and the Mob Mentality

Really excellent discussion, largely motivated by the vicious and misogynistic response to Anita Sarkeesian, about the mob mentality on the Internet.