Thursday, September 25, 2014

On This Leiter/Jenkins Stuff

There's another brouhaha involving Brian Leiter this week. I'm too lazy to rehash the details, but if you're reading this you probably have a pretty good idea of what happened. (However, I suppose I should probably tell you to look at this, and then go see the discussion here.) I've been somewhat reluctant to wade into this issue, for a variety of reasons. (Not the least of which is that I don't like hearing from Brian Leiter.) But this seems like it's actually a pretty big deal, and a couple of people have asked us to say something, and I have grading to do, so I thought I'd make a couple of points and open things up for discussion.

1. I would like to express broad agreement with the things Jon Cogburn says here.

2. I think it's quite clear that Jenkins did not threaten Leiter in her blog post. I think it's pretty clear that she is reacting to Leiter--in particular, to his shall we say high-handed criticisms of Carolyn Dicey Jennings--but she is not threatening him. Of course, it's possible that I'm wrong, and I don't understand the concept of a threat as well as I think I do, but it seems to me that in order to threaten someone, you have to indicate an intention (possibly conditional) to do something that you think the person will find genuinely harmful. And I don't see where Jenkins is doing that, especially since the first thing she says is that she will treat other philosophers with respect.

3. It therefore seems to me that Leiter's response, which is nasty ("Are you going to spit at me if I see you at the APA or chase me from the room with a bat?"), mocking ("Does this mean I can’t list you as a reference?"), and much more clearly threatening ("calling me “unprofessional” is probably defamatory per se in Canada... It may be in the US too, I haven’t asked my lawyer yet, but I will."), is completely uncalled-for and inappropriate.

3a. I'd like to suggest that it would have been more constructive if he had done what I did when I found myself in a similar situation. I was in touch with Leiter (or, rather, he was in touch with me) throughout this past July regarding my own contributions to the discussion of the Jennings placement data and the associated Smoker comment threads. Near the end of that exchange, Leiter said some stuff that I took to be vaguely threatening. So, what I did was, I wrote back and asked him if he had, in fact, threatened me. He replied that no, he had not threatened me, and we were able to arrive at what I believe was a more-or-less mutually satisfactory resolution of our disagreement. Not to toot my own horn, but I think my strategy worked well (I was happy with it, at least), and I recommend it to others.

What say you, Smokers?

--Mr. Zero


zombie said...

There is a lot of discussion on Facebook, including this from David Chalmers et al: "Over the past day or so, 24 members of the advisory board of the Philosophical Gourmet Report have signed a letter saying that they value the extraordinary service that Leiter has provided with the PGR, and that they now urge him to turn over the PGR to new management. The letter (drafted by David Chalmers, Jonathan Schaffer, Susanna Siegel, and Jason Stanley) has been delivered to Brian Leiter, who received it with good grace. We are in the process of collecting more signatures, and will soon make the letter public."

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

Been tweeting about this a bit .

Anonymous said...

I see that Leiter has now invoked the "New Yorker Defense" Oh well, ain't no fun when the rabbit gots the gun!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for changing the title of this post. A situation where an individual speaks up for themselves in the face of abuse is not a “feud,” a “spat,” or an “imbroglio.” Labeling it as such is a misrepresentation.

Unfortunately, for similar reasons the fact that Leiter is currently attacking Jenkins does not make this "Leiter/Jenkins Stuff."

It's "Leiter Stuff." The problem, and issue, begins and ends there.

Anonymous said...