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Sunday, June 16, 2019


First things first.  Here is a picture I took this afternoon of Notre Dame as it presents itself now to the hordes of tourists who are drawn to the site of the disaster.  The cathedral will live, and two centuries from now, this will all be a footnote to its career.  A comforting thought, withal.

Much has happened during my silence.  I am afraid my self-imposed exile from the blogosphere did nothing to calm my nerves.  Of all the horrors that are now our daily bread, the most worrisome by far to me is the series of confrontations in the Strait of Hormuz.  Trump, I am pleased to say, has thus far shown no taste for actual military engagements, but I am, with no evidence, fearful that Bolton is stage managing an Incident designed to drag Trump into war.  We shall see.

My biggest personal disappointment [this will show you, if you had not already discerned it, how petty I am] is that before I went silent I neglected to post here a thought I had, that the House could impeach Trump and simply not forward that case to the Senate for trial, thus hanging the scarlet I around his neck but denying him the inevitable Senatorial acquittal.  Subsequently, some upstart named Lawrence Tribe said the same thing in a Washington Post Op Ed, stealing my thunder.  Rats!

Tonight I shall cook dorade royale, and tomorrow quail.

Oh, by the way, on Friday we shall dine at Brasserie Balzar with Brian Leiter!  I have never met Leiter, but he noted from my blog that we would be in Paris, wrote to tell me that he would be here giving talks, and suggested that we meet.

I think in my dotage I am coming up in the world.


David Palmeter said...

The Tribe article converted me from “don’t impeach” to “impeach.” You and he came up with a brilliant idea--sort of like Newton and Leibniz and the calculus.

Brian Leiter is the Karl Llewellyn Professor of Law at Chicago. When I was a first year student at Chicago, Llewellyn taught the first year course in Elements of the Law. He truly was unforgettable both as a showman (he’d sing in class about the glories of the Common Law) and as a teacher. “Mad Karl,” as we referred to him, had us mesmerized. He was a leader of the Legal Realist “school” of jurisprudence--“law” is whatever a court decides about a dispute, not something that is derived from syllogistic reasoning. After more than half a century, I can still remember his final exam. In the class, we had studied a group of contract cases decided in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by the New York Court of Appeals--up to and including the arrival on the Court of Benjamin Cardozo. The contracts in all of the cases suffered from imprecise drafting of important terms--that’s why they wound up in court. The challenge to the students was to try to figure out what was the “rule of law” being applied by the court in these seemingly (or actually) inconsistent cases. The exam question, based on the facts of a hypothetical case, asked us to outline the best arguments for the appellant, the best arguments for the appellee, to pick any judge on the court, outline the opinion that judge would write to get a majority--and name the other members of that majority.

Dean said...

I hope you and Brian have a lovely visit. After years corresponding with him, I finally met him a year or two ago on the Berkeley campus. As a prospective law school student, I found that he gave generously of his time and advice even though he had no idea who I was.

David Palmeter, that is some experience! I bet Llewellyn was a real character.

Judicial trivia: Despite its name, the NY Court of Appeals is in fact the state's highest court. Its Supreme Court is the state's trial court. This is the opposite of just about every US jurisdiction.

Dean said...

I'll have the ris de veau poêlés, crème aux Morilles.

Charles Pigden said...

I'm with Dean, Brian is a very agreeable dinner companion. Have good time together.

Carl said...

brian "jj hunsecker" leiter is a bad philosopher and a bad person, two things which have been clear for well over a decade, and it's absolutely shameful that he still occupies such a central position in academic philosophy.

Dean said...

I'm not sure whether Carl's comment @5:33PM is ipse dixit or ad hominem or both. I understand -- and I believe Brian himself understands -- why some people think he is on occasion too sharp-tongued. Frankly, I get a kick out of it. I also recognize that his forum, a blog, is appropriate to that sort of venting. In another forum, the more traditional one we call academia, he has been very supportive of a wide array of people. As I mentioned, he gave me helpful advice without knowing much about me at all. Professionally, he is among the most accomplished scholars of Nietzsche and Legal Realism by any acceptable measure.

Anonymous said...

Leiter is not merely "sharp-tongued". His online persona, at any rate, is just plain unkind. He is a bully on his blog. He delights in bringing people down, especially those who don't have far to fall. He'd probably say he does not suffer fools. But one need not make a display of it. And I find his obsession with academic status, credentials, and rankings creepy. Maybe he is pleasant in person. But based on what he writes, I cannot imagine wanting to have dinner with the guy.

Dean said...

Leiter's "obsession" with status, credentials, and rankings is a corrective response to academia's almost purely dysfunctional obsession with the same. If higher education wasn't so fixated on superficial, meaningless indicia of reputation, I suspect Brian wouldn't spend as much time as he does trying to produce more meaningful ones.

Dan Hicks said...

If Leiter were interested in producing meaningful data about the profession of academic philosophy, then we would expect him to welcome both (a) constructive methodological critiques that would improve the PGR, and (b) complementary data-collection projects.

Regarding (a), Brian Bruya systematically documented numerous methodological and analytical problems with the PGR in this article: Leiter's response was to ignore most of the concerns, misrepresent Bruya's discussion of pro-PG arguments (for the purpose of replying to them) as concessions, and to accuse Bruya of "fabricating" analytical categories:

Regarding (b), Leiter has been dismissive and derogatory towards Carolyn Dicey Jenning's APDA project, which collects job market placement data from recent PhDs and program placement chairs. Shortly after the first APDA project report was released, he said that Jennings had an "uneven track record," apparently because she used statistics in a blog thread: Then, a few days later, he criticized one of several alternative "ranking" scales produced using the project's data: This was a criticism of one way of presenting the APDA data, not the data itself; but Leiter has linked back to this post to dismiss appeals to the data:

(As I note in the linked Twitter thread, I have a project with Jennings and APDA. Also, I will be starting a position at UC Merced in the fall, in the same department as Jennings.)

Since Leiter has been actively hostile towards both constructive criticism and complementary projects, I infer that he is not actually interested in producing meaningful data about the profession of academic philosophy.

And that's entirely aside from Leiter's long history of publicly intimidating graduate students and junior scholars. I am disappointed in RPW's decision to have dinner with him.

Dean said...

I'm not equipped to judge the merits of these competing studies, and so I won't even try. That Brian doesn't embrace the suggestions of these particular projects does not mean he doesn't generally heed constructive criticism. As for the young scholars whom he has criticized on his blog, well, they are adults capable of dishing out as well as taking invective. The students involved in the recent dust-ups over feminism and gender identity, for example, hardly seem intimidated to me.

s. wallerstein said...

I've exchanged emails with Leiter from time to time and even argued with him online.

He is invariably courteous, takes the trouble to answer someone like me (who is not a philosopher nor even has an academic position) and unlike so many academics, does not pull rank or cite articles and books I could not possibly have read when arguing with me.

I hope that you have a great dinner with him, Professor Wolff and please give him my regards if you read this before your dinner time.

I'm glad to see you back blogging.

Brian Leiter said...

Here's a question for Dan Hicks: what's wrong with you? Why would you decide to attack Robert Paul Wolff for having dinner with me, a person you've never met? Seriously, are you such a bitter and impotent person that you have to launch this kind of attack just because I'm a real human being having dinner with another real human being?

I'm glad you at least included the links to my criticisms. Bruya's essay was a fraud, and critqiued in detail by David Wallace. As to your future colleague Carolyn Jennings, the record speaks for itself.

To all the other anonymous cry-babies here: bon chance! I hope you grow up soon. Thanks to the normal people commenting here. No need to defend me, however, against the cyber-bottom feeders!

s. wallerstein said...

Professor Leiter,

I'm not so sure which side are the "normal" people and which side are the "freaks in this argument, but this freak genuinely hopes that you and Professor Wolff enjoy your dinner together.

Dan Hicks said...

s. wallerstein, in light of Leiter's comment above, do you still think of him as someone who is "invariably courteous" and takes the time to respond to his interlocutors?

s. wallerstein said...

Dan Hicks,

I said that he is "invariably courteous" in his interactions with me.

You and several others suggested that RPW ought not to have dinner with Leiter because of his alleged moral flaws.

Now Leiter, whatever his flaws may be, is not Pinochet, is not Charles Manson, is not Henry Kissinger. He has no blood on his hands nor on his conscience. So it is very insulting to group him with people with whom one ought not to associate, ought not to even share a dinner table with. Naturally, he reacts with anger: he is not Buddha nor is there any reason for him to be so. I think that all of us would react with anger if we are considered, without good reason, to be someone so morally flawed that a decent person should not have dinner with us.

Carl said...

Leiter's comment is not merely angry. It is vicious and petulant. QED

TheDudeDiogenes said...

I laughed out loud when I read Prof. Leiter's comment.

s. wallerstein said...

Affirming that Professor Wolff ought not to have dinner with Leiter is vicious too.

I don't even see why we're even discussing Leiter's character. That is weird.

I've read Leiter's blog daily for at least 10 years, but I don't follow all the polemics there, so I may have missed some details. He likes to argue and maybe in the heat of argumentation has said a few things that were unnecessarily nasty, as have most of us who argue. I have. If you haven't, I congratulate you.

It takes two to tango and to argue and as far as I can see, Leiter argues with people who can dish it out, but simply can't take it. People insult him all the time, call him "transphobic" (which he isn't), accuse him of all kinds of sins against political correctness, when actually, he is a coherent voice for left politics.

That does not imply that Leiter is above criticism, but to suggest that Professor Wolff should not eat dinner with him for ethical reasons is absurd. You're losing your ethical sense of proportion.

Brian Leiter said...

Hi S. Wallerstein, you must have the patience of a saint to engage with these people! Can you imagine what must be going on in Dan Hicks's head that he thinks of himself as an "interlodcutor" and is still, even after David Wallace's demolition, defending Brian Bruya's fraudulent work? I think my biggest fault is I'm not nasty and harsh enough with these absurd people, so I'm going to try to rectify that going forward! It's an important part of multicultural diversity, after all, not to let the timidity and cowardice of certain regions of America crowd out good old-fashioned NYC "in your face" candor. Cheers, Brian

s. wallerstein said...

There's something to be said for your distinction between NYC and the rest of the U.S.

I'm from New Jersey, an easy to commute to NYC and I lived in Berkeley, California for a while in the 70's. I found the political correctness hard to take and they found me hard to take too. My lifelong friend, Anne, from pre-gentrified Brooklyn and now a lawyer, took up smoking in Berkeley as a protest against political correctness.