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Thursday, June 20, 2019


Folks, do me a favor.  Don't use the comment section of my blog to insult someone I am going to have dinner with tomorrow.  Lord knows, Professor Leiter doesn't need me to defend him, and if you want to mix it up with him, go to his vastly more popular blog.  But it is just bad manners to do it here.  If you are so outraged by him that you cannot bring yourself to comment there, then you probably shouldn't be visiting this blog either.

Now, for heaven's sake, let's all calm down.  America is threatening war with Iran, the government is separating babies from their mothers, women are being threatened with the removal of the last remaining protections to their reproductive freedom, the rich are getting super rich while half the country stagnates.  Let us mainain some sense of proportion regarding what is worth arguing about.


Carl said...

Leiter's blog doesn't allow comments. (I wonder why!)

Brian Leiter said...

Because people like you have nothing to say, Carl, but the Dunning-Kruger effect guarntees that you will want to say it anyway.

I told Prof. Wolff that I rarely open comments after he had posted this. But honor his request, this is his blog he really doesn't care about your petty grievances with my imagined sins.

Chris said...

I just want to add my $.02 to the PRO Leiter collective. I e-mailed him recently about some problems I was having with academic journals and he was more than considerate in his responses. (And although I fundamentally disagree with his reading of Marx) I find his blog to be a pretty consistent bastion of left-wing sanity that is equal parts critical and respectful.

Carl said...

Actually, Brian, my comment above is quite substantive and to the point.

Carl said...

Wolff allows comments and never has to fend off hordes of people calling him a jerk. But if you allowed (unmoderated) comments, Brian, that's what you'd have to do. That's why you don't allow them. (On Twitter, where you cannot prevent people from calling you a jerk, you simply block them rather than attempt to defend yourself.) What do you think accounts for this difference? The likeliest answer, it seems to me, is that you're a jerk and Wolff is not.

Dean said...

Actually, Carl, there is another possibility. When popular discourse descends to an unacceptable level of gratuitous ad hominem and name-calling, lacking any substance whatsoever (quoting you: "brian 'jj hunsecker' leiter is a bad philosopher and a bad person...," and here, "you're a jerk"), then moderation becomes salutary.

Sonic said...


I don't know you or your politics, but it sounds like you have a wonderful opportunity! Dinner with Professor Wolff! We're all very jealous.

I won't delve too much further into your blog right now. I can't tell how much of it is satire, and since I am really close friends with a lot of transgender people, I probably don't want to know. But I will check back in a few days, because if you're going to receive valuable wisdom from Wolff, I want to hear about it!

The academic world sure is funny.

Chris said...

"What do you think accounts for this difference? The likeliest answer, it seems to me, is that you're a jerk and Wolff is not."

That's HARDLY the likeliest answer. Have you seen the comments section of twitter and youtube in general?

s. wallerstein said...

As Chris says above, Leiter is a "bastion of left-wing sanity". There are other bastions online, such as our Professor Wolff, but Leiter gets more readers for one or another reason.

I'm not a philosopher, but from what I can see, philosophical ethics often turns around the trolley-problem or how much money one should give to charity (never how much money one should give to left-wing candidates or movements) and Leiter, correctly I believe, emphasizes that ethics is about how we face exploitation and oppression.

So it is weird that representatives of an oppressed group, trans-people, should single out Leiter for attack.

Leiter is not transphobic: he has criticized the tactics of some
transactivists who probably do not represent all trans-people. Criticizing the tactics of some radical transactivists no more makes one transphobic than criticizing the Red Guards of the Chinese cultural revolution or Stalin make one anti-Marxist or even anti-communist.

Marxism, combined with feminist, environmental and gay consciousness, remains the best global criticism of our oppressive system. Hence, one wonders why an exponent of Marxism, Leiter, is the target of such virulent criticism, from people who claim to be on the left. If I believed in conspiracy theories, I would speculate on who is financing the attacks on Leiter and I would conclude that those behind the attacks come from the 1%.

However, I do not believe in conspiracy theories. I believe that those who attack Leiter are well-intentioned, but they should reflect on the damage they will do to the rational left if they destroy Leiter and his blog, a blog which has become something of an institution, a very worthwhile institution for left causes.

Trans-people have legitimate grievances and demands and perhaps all of us, including Leiter and myself, should pay more attention to their grievances and demands, but those grievances and demands should not be a pretext for attacking a rational voice of leftwing sanity.

Sonic said...

S. Wallerstein,

I'm not an academic, and like I said, I don't know Leiter at all. I took a brief look at his blog and there's a poem about people deciding their identity for themselves that made me a little uncomfortable.

But just like how we should be careful to throw Maoists and Marxists into one baf, I don't think we should throw "leftists" and transgender people in together neither.

In fact, this seems to be an issue a lot of people here are missing. There's a split in the left. It's not establishment neo-liberals and social democrats though. The spaces I participate in have a really strong split between new anti-capitalists who used to be liberals, and new anti-capitalists who used to hate liberals. It's the identity politics issue all over again.

All I'm trying to say is that there's a strong rhetoric going around right now. "Cancel culture is bad and we shouldn't use it against other radical leftists, even if they say the N word." Again, the excuse of "leftist unity" seems to excuse any behavior. I don't know if Leiter should be criticized or not, but I've developed a flinch reaction to "he's a leftist, don't criticize him" that makes me instantly suspicious.

By the way, I think you're the one who recommended that machiavelli podcast recently. I've been really enjoying it! Thanks for the suggestion.

s. wallerstein said...


I'm glad that you enjoy the Machiavelli podcast.

Besides the one I linked to, there are two prior episodes about Machiavelli (which you can find in the same website) where Toby Buckle talks about Machiavelli's life and the differing trends in Machiavelli scholarship.

If you enjoy Buckle's talks, the long series about libertarianism is very good and is found by clicking on session 2 on his website, while the Machiavelli episodes are on season 3.

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