Friday, December 18, 2015

On the Leiter/Bruya Donnybrook

I've been trying to keep up with this back-and-forth between Brians Leiter and Bruya about Bruya's criticism the PGR. (Roundup: Bruya's paper in Metaphilosophy; initial discussion at Daily Nous; Leiter's first response; Bruya's reply at Daily Nous; David Wallace's "comment on Bruya"; Leiter's most recent follow-up. Bruya has written a longer reply to Wallace hereI haven't had a chance to read it at all.) I haven't been doing a good job. There's a lot to digest, and I'm not sure what to make of it all. I am not sure whether Bruya's criticisms, on the whole, hold up.

But I guess I am inclined to think that the criticism of the PGR's sampling technique is sound. This criticism has been around for a long timeZachary Ernst has been making it since at least 2009. Leiter says it's the it is "the correct method to use when what is wanted is expert, "insider" information," but as far as I can tell, this isn't really true. It's certainly much too strong to say it's the correct methodit is one way among several of identifying experts and insiders, any of which would potentially work as well or better. So at best it is a method.

And it is a method that has serious drawbacks that I have never seen Leiter acknowledge, let alone address adequately. These problems include: that the first participants will have a disproportionate impact on the rest of the sample; that the resulting sample is not random; and that it is not possible to know whether the sample is representative of the larger group it is attempting to emulate. To me, that seems bad, and like it might not be such a great method to use for this. To me, it seems like it might be better to use a different method. A method that would be less likely to introduce bias into the sample, and is more likely to generate a sample that can be known to be representative. To me, it seems like Leiter's claim that it is "the correct method" is somewhere in the range between misleading and totally wrong, depending on whether it is merely one of several correct methods or just not even a correct method at all. And it seems to me that Leiter's response to this criticism is somewhere in the range between inadequate and nonexistent.

Of course, I could be wrong, and if I'm wrong I hope one of y'all Smokers will set me straight.

I also wanted to ask about one of David Wallace's criticisms of Bruya's analysis. In comments at Daily Nous, Wallace writes:
Just to repeat from the other thread [the relevant material is here]: the correlation is not in fact between institutional PGR rank and number of evaluators at the institution. (That correlation is extremely weak.) It's between institutional PGR rank and number of evaluators with a PhD from the institution. That's only to be expected if placement record tracks faculty quality and faculty quality isn't too wildly varying in time.* 
I suppose I think that's what you'd expect if placement record tracks faculty quality
provided, of course, that the PGR measures faculty quality. But I don't think you'd want to affirm the consequent and infer that this correlation confirms that the PGR reliably measures faculty quality.** Because that's also what you'd expect if the pool of evaluators was disproportionately packed with people who studied at a particular set of institutions, who then vote one another's Ph.D.-granting institutions up. And I think that's what you'd expect if you started with a small group of elite evaluators, and then accumulated additional evaluators by getting current evaluators to nominate their friends. I mean, sure, maybe this correlation just confirms that the best researchers studied in the best departments. But it's not as though they use an independent procedure for identifying objectively qualified potential evaluators and assessing their competence, or have independently confirmed that the sample is representative.

So maybe this correlation just confirms that evaluators tend to have gone to grad school at high-ranking departments, and people who went to grad school at high-ranking departments have a lot of friends who also went to grad school at high-ranking departments, which is how they got nominated to become evaluators, and then they give that group of schools high ratings. If there was some sort of objective standard for being a qualified evaluator, and the pool of actual evaluators was selected in a way that was likely to generate a sample that is representative of the larger pool of research-active philosophers, and then you ended up with a correlation like that, then I'd be inclined to agree that it was evidence that things with the PGR were working more or less well. But that's not the situation.

Seriously. Wallace's result here is consistent with the hypothesis that the PGR's pool of evaluators is largely populated with people who studied at the highest-ranked schools, who then determine that those are the schools that are ranked the highest. Right? That's bad, right? This is a suspicious result, right? It's suspicious if a survey of an unrepresentative sample consistently shows that the departments that are overrepresented in the sample are the best, right? I realize it would have been better for Bruya to have been explicit about what 'from' means, but it's not any less problematic if it means "where you got your Ph.D." instead of "where you currently work," right? Am I wrong? Have I misunderstood? Help, please.

--Mr Zero

*Wallace's blog comment is a more succinct restatement of material he presents on page 6 of his critique.

**I do not take Wallace to be doing this. Wallace is clear on p. 6 of the longer piece that his point is that an argument based on this correlation for the conclusion that the PGR is unreliable is question-begging, not that the correlation confirms that the PGR is reliable.

113 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's rather sad how many of us concerned with just how far up Prestige Mountain we have all climbed.

vishy said...

Mr Z, the dialectical context is that Bruya was claiming the correlation in question was *not* what one would expect if the respondents (or whatever Leiter calls them) were neutral experts. So Wallace did the actual math in an honest way and discovered that, in fact, it *is*.
So you are agreeing with Wallace. You're quite right that this correlation does not prove that the pool of experts is neutral, but that wasn't the point.

Anonymous said...

The PGR publishes the full list of evaluators. It looks to me quite representative of excellent philosophers in many different fields. What precisely is deficient about the group? See the list here: http://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/reportdesc.asp

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if articles like Bruya's were made available without a paywall...Did I miss a link to a "self-archived" copy?

Anonymous said...





Well it seems you guess you are inclined to suppose you think.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi Vishy,

Thank you. That is helpful.

Hi 6:44,

There are a variety of demographic, sociological, and institutional dimensions along which one might want the sample to be representative.

Hi 10:35,

I suspect that I think that I am inclined to guess so.

Anonymous said...

As a statistician (who studied philosophy many years ago), this back and forth has been entertaining. None of the parties to this dispute seem to have any substantial knowledge of what they are talking about, methodologically speaking. Allegations from both sides seem to stem from sloppy and superficial familiarity with what "quantitative researchers" do, when it would be easy enough to call one up and have them weigh in on the matter directly. I have little interest in doing this myself, though it seems to me if I read something suspicious on a topic with which I was not myself expert, my first reaction wouldn't be "FRAUD!", but rather "this looks suspect--I will consult with one of the many experts from my institution on the matter."

Anonymous said...

An anonymous alleged statistician is dismissing, with no argument, the published analysis of David Wallace, an eminent philosopher of physics at Oxford? Do we have that right?

Anonymous said...

5:38 - The person whose first reaction was "FRAUD!" wasn't David Wallace. It was Brian Leiter, who, as usual, is either unable or unwilling to acknowledge his own shortcomings, and responds instead by attacking others.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I agree with 5:38. This sounds like bullshit to me.
I think a real statistician would give an actual argument, rather than simply claiming to be an authority and hoping everyone else believed him (the pronoun preferred by 92% of statisticians).

Also, Wallace didn't say "FRAUD" at all; this topic is overheated enough without an anonymous pretend expert lying about the temperature.

Anonymous said...

Here's the one place Leiter referred to Bruya's analysis as a "fraud":
http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2015/12/brian-bruyas-attack-on-the-pgr-is-even-a-bigger-fraud-than-it-first-appeared-to-be.html

It was not Leiter's first reaction, it was in response to Wallace unearthing yet another stunning problem with the analysis. Take a look at all of Wallace's criticisms of this paper. The word "fraud" doesn't seem unwarranted given the volume of mistakes and their severity. One begins to wonder whether these were honest errors.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous statistician from above here.

Don't take my word for it. As I said, I'm not really interested in delving deeply into this debate. I'm not asking you to respect my authority--as I'm anonymous, I wouldn't expect you to do so. My point is that I collaborate with hundreds of non-statisticians at my university every year, and no matter how much expertise I have, or my colleagues have, when we submit our publications we invariably receive critiques by editors alleging improper methodology. When the editor is actually a statistician, or some variant thereof (epidemiologist, econometrician, etc.), they usually frame it as "it would be interesting to see whether the results continue to hold using my preferred alternative methodology..." which means they want to see a "robustness check". On the other hand, non-statisticians routinely lob much harsher criticisms based on putative deviations from what they think they learned in stat 101, which they didn't fully understand and have mostly now forgotten. "Totally inappropriate", "dubious", and "suspicious" are common adjectives used, often by very distinguished researchers in their own field, who fancy themselves part-time statisticians.

The point is that while there are many settled matters in statistics, a tremendous amount of judgment is involved, since reasonable people disagree about the best approach. Desiring robustness is often reasonable, but what robustness means in particular contexts is often far from clear, and often sets too high a bar to reasonably be met. Consequently, when I see a specialist in Chinese philosophy carrying out a statistical analysis, and a philosopher of physics calling for a withdrawal on grounds of methodological indefensibility, I begin to wonder why no one bothers to ask the statistician down the hall whether this is really all that unusual, and whether the critiques are really all that damning.

Anonymous said...

Leiter thinks that "the defamatory content [of the Bruya article] will also require retraction and public apology" The allegedly defamatory claim is this: "one cannot help but wonder whether the PGR's hidden biases are based in sexism, racism, ethnocentrism and xenophobia." (p. 679)

Except, that's not defamatory, at least not in the United States. It would be pretty odd if Leiter didn't know that. My opinion is that Leiter is full of shit.

Anonymous said...

Errors or no errors in the recent Bruya criticism, there is a problem with *any* ranking of this nature - and Leiter's only illustrates it tragically: less able candidates from highly-ranked schools get the jobs deserved by better candidates from lower-ranked schools. One doesn't need any numbers to realize that the speciality rankings are clique-ish and the general ranking is gossip-generated.

Here are two facts that I rarely saw discussed TOGETHER. Sympathisers of the reputation-ranking idea accept both of them without realizing the problem they lead to:

Fact 1: Famous philosophy professors are not more moral than the average population (on the contrary, perhaps!); they, too, lie, exagerate, follow their own interest, etc. This behavior is presumably reflected in the way they they behave in the profession, ie. in the way they write the letters of recommendation.

Fact 2: Famous philosophy professors' word - ie., letters of recommendation - are the main element of one's job dossier. Very good letters from famous people are the key to getting interviews -- and jobs.

Anonymous said...

"I begin to wonder why no one bothers to ask the statistician down the hall whether this is really all that unusual, and whether the critiques are really all that damning."

Have you met philosophers?

Anonymous said...

9:17 am: a quick google search reveals this,
http://whatisdefamation.org/callling-someone-racist-defamatory/

Good try, though.

Anonymous said...

"It was not Leiter's first reaction, it was in response to Wallace unearthing yet another stunning problem with the analysis."

It seems to me that whether Leiter's language was in response to the problems Wallace points to, or justified by those problems, is irrelevant. Why? Because Leiter routinely employs such rhetorical moves whether he has justification for them or not. He's *always* the victim, "defending himself" against those he attacks. That's his (all too obvious) m.o. And yes, it's bullshit.

Anonymous said...

Can you name a time Leiter employed "such rhetorical moves" when it was not justified? Links appreciated.

Anonymous said...

10:08,

Evidently you did not read the allegedly defamatory statement very carefully. If you had, you would have realized that Bruya did not call Leiter a racist. He did not say anything about Leiter. He said something about what one cannot help but wonder. He raised the possibility that some problems with the PGR have a basis in some kind of racism (among other things). As a trained lawyer, Leiter would know that legally in the US there is a wide gulf between asserting that someone is a racist and asserting that one cannot help but wonder whether some institution's defects are based in racism.

Next time you might want to google a little slower. Good try, though.

Anonymous said...

12:42 - Leiter's attacks are never appropriate, and seldom justified. If you can't see the pattern by this point, links won't help you.

Anonymous said...

12:47, as Wallace said at DN, "Very strong accusations against individuals or groups are not somehow insulated from criticism by wrapping them in a 'one cannot help but wonder that' operator." I assume the same goes for libel. But I'm not a lawyer, and I don't have the sense you are either. In context, it is also very clearly a criticism of Leiter.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I think David Wallace is more trustworthy on this kind of thing than the statistician down the hall.
For one thing, Wallace has read Bruya's analysis and found perfectly comprehensible and pretty devastating problems. The statistician down the hall can't be bothered to read either, and does seem to be bullshitting.

Anonymous said...

@1:20 pm: in other words, you don't have any evidence. I thought that might be the case.

Anonymous said...

as Wallace said at DN, "Very strong accusations against individuals or groups are not somehow insulated from criticism by wrapping them in a 'one cannot help but wonder that' operator." I assume the same goes for libel.

"David Wallace's remarks about criticism probably also apply to libel." What a great legal argument! Just kidding. It sucks.

American defamation/libel law distinguishes between statements of opinion and statements of fact, in that statements of opinion are not possibly defamatory/libelous. (Because defamatory/libelous statements must be known by the utterer to be false at the time of utterance, and statements of opinion are inherently neither true nor false. Legally.) Even if one cannot insulate oneself from criticism by pointing out that one's shitty or stupid opinion is merely an opinion (and I acknowledge that this is true, and would cite your opinions about libel law as a case in point), one can insulate oneself from a successful accusation of defamation/libel by pointing out the shitty or stupid thing one has said was merely an opinion.

But don't take my word for it. I'm just some anonymous internet commenter. Look it up. Seriously--look it up. Just, be careful this time.

Anonymous said...

Jesus, people, does no one read CVs? Wallace got a PhD (DPhil) in Physics before he switched to philosophy. And he works among other things on foundations of QM, so I'm betting he knows more stats than some bullshit rando.

Anonymous said...

5:26, why are you assuming a defamation claim would be brought in the US rather than the UK? Publisher is Wiley-Blackwell, UK-based. Also original link supplied, above, shows that a defamation action for being called a racist can be brought in US too. It's not simply a matter of opinion.

Anonymous said...

6:24, Leiter and Bruya both live in the United States. If I'm a lawyer, and I tell you that something is defamatory, and it's defamatory because it satisfies the legal definition of defamation in some foreign country, I have misled you. It's possible that I have told you a lie, depending on the details. But I have not told you the level truth.

Also, and I hate to have to keep mentioning this, but Bruya plainly did not call Leiter a racist. He raised the possibility that the PGR's biases are based in part in racism. That's not the same thing.

Now look. That is not the best sentence. I would not have included it myself. I would have advised against including it if I were an editor or referee. But the idea that this sentence is defamatory in a way that would require--in any interesting sense of that word--retraction of the entire article is silly. It's not close to being true. And cannot see how Leiter wouldn't know that. So my opinion is he's full of shit.

Anonymous said...

Someone is full of shit, but so far it has not been explained why it's Leiter. I assume it isn' worth the time or money to sue Bruya. Wiley-Blackwell, on the other hand, seems like a great defendant. They are the publisher. They are liable for publishing defamation. The article clearly implies that Leiter, who is equated with the PGR throughout the Bruya article, is motivated by racism, sexism. That much is obvious without being a lawyer. Leiter never wrote (not that I saw anyway) that the article should be retracted because of the defamation alone.

Anonymous said...

Someone is full of shit, but so far it has not been explained why it's Leiter

Yes, it has. Thoroughly. And anyways, I didn't say he is full of shit, I said it was my opinion that he is. Big difference, legally speaking.

I assume it isn' worth the time or money to sue Bruya. Wiley-Blackwell, on the other hand, seems like a great defendant. They are the publisher.

They will also have the resources to defend themselves. You really have no idea how this stuff works, do you?

And anyways, if what you mean is you're going to sue someone in a foreign country where 'defamation' means something different than it does in the country where you have lived your entire life, that's what you say. Just saying something is "defamatory" full stop doesn't mean that.

The article clearly implies that Leiter, who is equated with the PGR throughout the Bruya article, is motivated by racism, sexism.

Maybe that's what Bruya meant, or what he really thinks, but it's not what he said. The allegedly defamatory sentence does not say anything about Leiter, and it doesn't say anything about anyone's motivation. You just had to add in two things not contained in the text to get from what Bruya wrote to something that would count as defamatory.

Leiter never wrote (not that I saw anyway) that the article should be retracted because of the defamation alone.

I quoted him saying so above at 9:17(a): "the defamatory content [of the Bruya article] will also require retraction and public apology". That means that the defamatory content requires retraction, considered independently from the paper's other problems.

Anonymous said...

One person can sue another in the UK for defamation even if both have lived their lives in the US. Where you've lived your life doesn't have much to do with it, actually.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, find it extremely easy to believe that Bruya's criticisms are fatally flawed - for the exact same reason i find it easy to believe that the PGR is also fatally flawed. Just looking at what both of those guys have been trained in, and where their expertise lies, it would be amazing if either one of them got it even approximately right.

Anonymous said...

Where you've lived your life doesn't have much to do with it, actually.

That would be relevant if Leiter had said he was going to sue somebody, which he didn't. If you've followed Leiter's activities over the past couple of years, you'd know what it looks like when he's actually threatening to sue someone. He just said it *was defamatory.* Where you've lived your life *does* have a lot to do with what it means when you use various words.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that, if Leiter were going to sue, he would have to show how this statement damages his person or his reputation. From where I sit, this does neither. I can't see where he will suffer any material damages (potential loss of income, for instance) or how this will change anyone's opinion of him in the field (given that the article does not bring any charges that have not been levied against him and the PGR before).

Though I do appreciate that any conversation regarding Leiter very quickly devolves into a discussion of legal action.

Anonymous said...

It has seemed to me for a while that the PGR does a pretty good job at reflecting the ranking of philosophy departments for much the same reason that Kripke's metre stick does a good job at telling us how long a metre is.

kripkenstein said...

I think the meter stick analogy is pretty good. As Kripke explains, the stick could have been longer, in which case it would not have been a meter long -- it serves as a public, shared source so that everyone can know for sure (if they bother) how long a meter is. And Leiter's service has been to make the rankings a public thing, instead of exotic knowledge.
Some critics seem to have the confused Wittgensteinian view. (Not all, but some!)

Anonymous said...

"@1:20 pm: in other words, you don't have any evidence. I thought that might be the case."

No, that's not what I said. I said I have no evidence that you will recognize as evidence, if (as appears to be the case) you have a blindspot when it comes to Leiter and his conduct. Barring such a blindspot, all the evidence you might need is readily available on a routine basis on Leiter's blog.

Anonymous said...

8:05 am: Leiter's use of harsh rhetoric is familiar, but all the cases I can think of were ones, as with Bruya, where it seemed basically justified. If you can not supply a clear example where it was not in your opinion justfied, then my conclusion is there are not any such exampls and you are just blowing smoke.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE BRIAN LEITER AND ANYONE WHO SPEAKS AGAINST HIM IS GUILTY OF LIBEL AND DEFAMATION PER SE

Anonymous said...

Continental philosophy is all bullshit. All the evidence anyone needs for this is to be found in Continental philosophy journals, so I don't have to give any. If you don't already recognize that all Continental philosophy is bullshit, you have a blind spot and there is nothing you will count as evidence.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE CONTINENTAL PHILOSOPHY AND ANYONE WHO SPEAKS AGAINST IT IS A POSITIVIST.

Anonymous said...

Problems with the PGR:1. It may have been useful to students and some faculty in the beginning, but now it harms both because it creates “winners” and “losers” in our profession. The problem is that there is no objective way to justify who are the “winners” and “losers.” 2.The PGR is a self-fulfilling prophecy: it leads to the creation of tiers, and its existence perpetuates these tiers because faculty and graduate students aspire to the higher ranked schools, and this then keeps these schools in the higher ranks (in terms of perception)! The situation is even worse because the rankings are produced by a hand chosen group of philosophers, who end up basically ranking themselves, or people very like themselves (in terms of research interests, position in the profession, ideology). So naturally they put themselves and others doing similar work, especially their friends and colleagues, at the top. 3.There are several general problems with the use of rankings in philosophy. One is that the profession is infected with a number of vices that compromise any pretense at objectivity. Chief among these, but by no means the only one, is arrogance (there is also jealously, envy, pettiness, insecurity). Philosophers are notorious for their arrogance, for their sense of their own importance, for their belief that they are intellectually (and usually morally) superior to others, and for their desire for recognition. This problem means most are incapable of judging work objectively. (It is sad to see graduate students indoctrinated in the elitism of the PGR, and perpetuating it for the next generation. It is also sad, but understandable, to see individuals and programs that should know better being obsessed with PGR rankings, allowing them to determine their hiring, and the direction of their programs. 4.An even deeper problem for producing rankings in philosophy is that there is a very narrow line between “the best” work and “good” work. Excellent work can be found at all levels of the profession, and work of less value at all levels. Institutional prestige can take one very far, even if one is of average ability. Rankings make no sense given this reality. An undesirable consequence of the PGR is that many good students do not get into the profession, many ordinary professors are given the aura of being better than they are, and many schools doing excellent work are judged mistakenly as inferior. 5.Another problem that makes objective rankings very difficult to achieve is the role ideology and politics plays in the results. It is practically impossible in the current climate where our discipline has been significantly, if not largely, politicized to judge work objectively according to “neutral standards.” The PGR ranks lower, and indirectly denigrates, various types and styles of philosophy based on the subjective preferences of the rankers, an argument philosophers recognize in every other area of the discipline (even the philosophy of science), with the exception of the PGR! 8. What would happen if the PGR were abolished? Good students and faculty would go everywhere, and all programs would be better off for this. The “elite” programs would no longer be “elite, a welcome development given that they are undeserving of this description, the “lesser” programs would no longer be “lesser,” and most programs could compete for all of those excellent students out there. Job prospects for a much higher number of students would greatly improve over time because all schools would be presumed innocent in terms of judging their quality until proved otherwise. How liberating it would be if a prospective graduate student regarded Arizona State University with just as much (high) regard as New York University, and if Departments thought the same when hiring. And if faculty and students at each school held their counterparts in similar (high) regard. These developments would only benefit our profession.

Anonymous said...

6pm: Thank you for saying what needed to be said. After some of the inane comments above it was quite refreshing to see someone actually cut through the real 'bullshit' for once. I'm on my way out of the profession because of the issues you've raised (the scarcity of jobs has certainly helped, too). I don't really have the energy or inclination to debate these matters anymore. But you've certainly articulated very well many of the misgivings I've had over the past few years, and for that, again, thank you!

Anonymous said...

6:00,

The PGR is not the cause of any of these problems. It is merely the clearest example of them.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 7;00. (Hey, 7:00 replying to 6:00, what were the odds of that? I'm starting to come around to this theism thing now.)
For the same reason, I think 6:00's last point is badly wrong:

What would happen if the PGR were abolished? Good students and faculty would go everywhere, and all programs would be better off for this.

Sorry, if you think students who got their BA from Stanford would go to Arizona State instead of NYU, if the PGR disappeared, then you're delusional. Just think about it. Exactly which students would be deprived of information about the philosophical reputation of different universities?

This is why I'm suspicious of the motives of people who want the PGR to go away.

Anonymous said...

"It may have been useful to students and some faculty in the beginning, but now it harms both because it creates “winners” and “losers” in our profession."

Shakes head. Stops reading.

Anonymous said...

What Lichtenberg once said of books now seems true of even comments on boards like this - 'A book is like a mirror - if an ass peers into it one can hardly expect an apostle to gaze back out'. 6pm may not be right that the PGR has created the broken system we are currently navigating (or, in my case, escaping), but one could, I don't know, be a little charitable - the PGR certainly reinforces and lends institutional support to the broken system. And there's a lot of harsh truth in 6pm's other remarks. Reputation, ranking, pedigree, blah blah blah. Folks who speak in such terms and purport to be philosophers should consider transitioning to an alt-ac career in the NCAA, where they truly belong. Anyone with their head screwed on straight rather than planted in their posterior should recognize that the measure of a philosopher's worth is the work they've done, not who they know or where they've been.

Anonymous said...

There's no need to eliminate the PGR. It only needs to be ignored. But given that even its detractors seem to be so heavily invested in it, that's not likely to happen.

The PGR only has value because people place value in it. (And yes, pointing to it as an institution that needs to change reinforces the fact that it has value in the field.)

Just ignore it. When you advise students in applying to graduate schools, don't refer to it. When you serve on search committees, don't refer to it. When you go on the job market, don't refer to it.

Ignore it.

Anonymous said...

@2:22am

Consider this. As you correctly imply, to get into the "best" graduate schools it is necessary to get a BA from one of the "best" institutions (this is a fact that has been studied, in addition to just being common knowledge). And how does one get into one of those places? By coming from an advantageous social background and/or doing very well in high school. Philosophy is not typically taught at high school, and obviously social background has nothing to do with philosophical talent. So what we have is a system where your chances of going to the "best" philosophy departments (and thus getting to be a teacher at the "best" places and, let's be honest here, your chances of being published) are determined, in large part, by things that have nothing to do with philosophical talent. And this is partly why I am suspicious of the whole "prestige" metric.

Anonymous said...

As you correctly imply, to get into the "best" graduate schools it is necessary to get a BA from one of the "best" institutions (this is a fact that has been studied, in addition to just being common knowledge).

Uh, no. It is obviously not necessary. Just look at the current grad students at the top programs.

Why do people make up shit like this? Is it a pathology or do they have some ulterior motive?

Anonymous said...

"Why do people make up shit like this?"

All our successes are due to our merits, resulting from our hard work and intelligence.

All our failures are the result of forces outside of our control.

Anonymous said...

"8:05 am: Leiter's use of harsh rhetoric is familiar, but all the cases I can think of were ones, as with Bruya, where it seemed basically justified. If you can not supply a clear example where it was not in your opinion justfied, then my conclusion is there are not any such exampls and you are just blowing smoke."

I don't agree that I'm just blowing smoke. I'm fundamentally disagreeing with you that Leiter's use of harsh rhetoric is ever appropriate or justified. It is my claim that you (and those like you) are blind. Leiter is sick. It's obvious to anyone who is reasonably socially adept and well-adjusted. If it's not obvious to you, you have a problem.

I'm being *very* blunt here. I don't expect agreement. But I do think its time we all got clear about the nature of the issues, and of our disagreements about them.

Anonymous said...

Just look at the current grad students at the top programs.

The writer may be referring to this:

http://schwitzsplinters.blogspot.com/2011/10/sorry-cal-state-students-no-princeton.html

Schwitzgebel did look a few years ago and the results weren't encouraging. Has someone done a more recent version of this?

michaela said...

"to get into the "best" graduate schools it is necessary to get a BA from one of the "best" institutions (this is a fact that has been studied, in addition to just being common knowledge)"

This is false. I probably agree with some of the sentiment here, but it's not helpful to put forward false theses in order to prove the point.

Sincerely,

A grad student at Princeton who has a BA from an institution that is nowhere near the "best".

(There are more of us, too. Feel free to poke around the Princeton website if you don't believe me.)

Anonymous said...

It is my claim that you (and those like you) are blind.

Right, but you've given no evidence and no argument.
There really is a whole lot of making shit up in this thread.

Anonymous said...

(There are more of us, too. Feel free to poke around the Princeton website if you don't believe me.)

I believe you. Why shouldn't I? I know some people who have done it too. I might even make the same claim myself, depending on just where we're drawing the lines. And I agree that the original claim is too strong. But a slightly weaker claim could be true, your own examples notwithstanding, and that would be an interesting thing. (I think, from your post, that you agree that this weaker claim is the one worth investigating, so why spend your time on the overly strong claim? What's the point of that?)

Of course, I don't know if such a weaker claim is true, so I was wondering if anyone had followed up on Schwitzgebel's provocative post. I don't know what weight to give the anecdotes. Maybe they tip the scales, maybe they don't.

Anyway, let me recommend this:

http://www.inthemedievalmiddle.com/2013/12/this-is-not-my-or-our-time-so-please.html

michaela said...

Sometimes, hyperbole serves to further make invisible those of us who already are struggling with so many things about our place in the profession, whether we belong, how we got here, how we should and shouldn't make our presence known, and so on. Perhaps I'm a little sensitive about this issue. But that is because people keep painting a picture of the way things are in elite grad programs which serves to make people like me invisible, and furthers a stereotype that we were all born with silver spoons in our mouths. And in the end I think that perpetuating that stereotype directly harms people like me in various unjust ways (it may also harm those who in fact were born with silver spoons in their mouths, but it's not clear to me that that harm is unjust or undeserved).

Charitable reading is important. But so is being thoughtful about the way what you say might affect people who are already struggling with their place in the profession, and whose voices are already silenced in various ways. I think exaggerating the elitism pipeline issue (which, yes, is a huge issue--one which makes it very hard for me, and I think many other people, to have enough confidence to think we are not flukes, accidents, and so on, and one which is a much more severe harm to those who don't get lucky and "make it" like I did) is dangerous, just as I think not pointing it out is dangerous. I think we need to be careful when we talk about these things. I think we should be focused on fixing the issue (as well as the glaring race and gender problems in philosophy), and I actually believe that not being careful, in the public realm, about accuracy in what we say runs counter to that goal, for various reasons that I won't get into because I assume they are fairly obvious and because I have no interest in becoming the mouthpiece for or token example of a person who comes from a different world than most of the philosophy elite. I will just say this: I feel similarly about things people say about gender issues in philosophy. But for me personally, even though I've dealt with a lot of gender-based crap (discrimination, harassment, etc.) and care deeply about trying to make things better for women in the profession, this issue is much, much worse, and it's much harder to deal with being so out of place with respect to socioeconomic/educational background than it is to deal with gender stuff. So I'd just personally appreciate some kind of heuristic like not saying hyperbolic/exaggerated things if they could conceivably do damage to members of underrepresented groups. That is why I responded.

I hope you can see a bit more where I'm coming from. I won't comment here again, since I'm not good at the emotional involvement of blog conversations, and, perhaps more so, because I think the system is so broken (and because this is so tied to a much more global political issue to do with the unhealthy intersection of capitalism and education) that there's not much point in squabbling over the details. I'm sorry that I raised a point of contention and caused such a squabble. I hope to have explained, though, why it's personally important to me. Not a day goes by that I don't think that I'm basically an alien in this world, and one of the few things that helps is when people recognize that people like me do, in fact, exist here, and that there are enough of us to find some solidarity even if there are not nearly as many of us as there should be.

Sorry for any typos/sloppiness--as you can perhaps tell, I am very tired on very many levels.

Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

"I'm fundamentally disagreeing with you that Leiter's use of harsh rhetoric is ever appropriate or justified. It is my claim that you (and those like you) are blind. Leiter is sick. It's obvious to anyone who is reasonably socially adept and well-adjusted. If it's not obvious to you, you have a problem."

I think on the evidence one might debate who is "sick" and who isn't.

Anonymous said...

"I think on the evidence one might debate who is "sick" and who isn't."

I agree. One might debate that. But I'm not sure why one would do so, aside from having some need to dismiss and discredit one's interlocutor.

As for the earlier claim that I've provided no evidence in support of my view, I disagree. As I've pointed out on this thread, the evidence is readily and routinely available. One can easily witness the conduct to which I'm referring on Leiter's blog. That said, if the conduct which I'm pointing out doesn't show up for a particular person, or a particular group of people, *as evidence* (i.e., if one simply doesn't notice that Leiter's public conduct is grossly vicious and inappropriate), then there's nothing I can do.

Once again, my point here is primarily to be as clear as possible about the source of disagreement, not to resolve the issue.

Anonymous said...

6:44 am: give your BL obsession a rest. No one appears to share your view that harsh rhetoric is never justified, let alone that it counts as evidence of sickness. Why not just stop reading his blog if it is too upsetting for you?

Anonymous said...

“As for the earlier claim that I've provided no evidence in support of my view, I disagree. As I've pointed out on this thread, the evidence is readily and routinely available.”

Heh.
Baldly claiming that evidence is readily available isn't providing evidence.
Obviously you know that, but I'm playing along.

I think it's fair to say that if you had evidence you would have provided it by now.

Anonymous said...

"6:44 am: give your BL obsession a rest. No one appears to share your view that harsh rhetoric is never justified, let alone that it counts as evidence of sickness. Why not just stop reading his blog if it is too upsetting for you?"

Mostly, because your take is a grossly distorted/hostile/threatened understanding of what I've said, to say nothing of where I'm coming from. I didn't say harsh rhetoric is never justified. I've indulged in it myself on this very thread. I didn't say it counts as evidence of sickness. And I don't find any of this upsetting (despite your rather obvious efforts). I just disagree with with the view that Leiter's conduct is appropriate, or justified.

But I can't "prove it." Which is interesting.

I mean think about it. Let’s say I do as one interlocutor requested earlier in the thread. Let’s say I choose some examples from Leiter’s blog, and provide links to them. Let’s say I put these links forward as evidence of the pattern of conduct in question.

Either (1) you will be able to see the specific examples as evidence of a pattern of inappropriate conduct or (2) you won’t.

If (1), you would see the pattern *already* (and hence wouldn’t need the additional evidence). Why? Because the pattern is there for all to see. Leiter is open and unapologetic in his public attacks on others. Nothing is hidden. And were not having a disagreement because something is.

If (2), on the other hand, specific examples of the pattern won’t make the pattern visible to you. Why? Because (once again) nothing is hidden. Whatever is preventing you from seeing the pattern is something internal to you.

Either way, there’s no point to providing specific examples (i.e., above and beyond once again noting Leiter’s long, public history of abusing others). It won’t move the debate forward. If anything, it will only serve as a distraction.

The kind of disagreement we’re having here is, I think, a philosophically interesting one. But I’m not at all sure how to resolve it, or the many debates like it.

Anonymous said...

Based on the number of comments, this is the most popular post since June.

If the moderators want to increase traffic, spend more time bickering about Leiter, and less time on nonsense issues like the job market.

Anonymous said...

11:28 am: to sum up, you're sick. Happy New Year everyone else.

Anonymous said...

"Baldly claiming that evidence is readily available isn't providing evidence.
Obviously you know that, but I'm playing along.

I think it's fair to say that if you had evidence you would have provided it by now."

Agreed. As I said, I don't have anything that will count for you as evidence.

The closest I appear to be able to come is to provide as clear an account as I can of the problem I see with the kind of conduct in which Leiter indulges.

The problem, for lack of a better word, is that the conduct is dishonorable. It’s the kind of conduct one is liable to witness in middle school, among middle school age children, but not in adult society. Why? Because everyone over the age of roughly 14 years old knows better.

To be very blunt, and harsh, my view is that with the exception of small pockets in society, like that currently found among some (but by no means all) philosophers, everybody knows that the kind conduct in which Leiter indulges is dishonorable, and is not be met with social approbation or approval.

Once again, I don't expect agreement on this matter.

Anonymous said...

5:36 am: since what you assert is untrue, you are correct not to expect disagreement. Adults utilize harsh rhetoric all the time. So do intellectuals. Only children are upset by it, as you are.

Anonymous said...

"5:36 am: since what you assert is untrue, you are correct not to expect disagreement. Adults utilize harsh rhetoric all the time. So do intellectuals. Only children are upset by it, as you are."

Once again, I didn't say that adults don't utilize harsh rhetoric. Rather, I said that adults don't utilize harsh rhetoric in the way that Brian does.

I can also tell you that there are a lot of departments in the discipline where if you show up with a history of acting like Brian, your chances of getting offered a job are slim to none.

Anonymous said...

"Rather, I said that adults don't utilize harsh rhetoric in the way that Brian does."

This is the sort of claim that someone might give evidence for, if there were any. You don't have a very good history with this sort of thing, though, so I won't embarrass you by asking. Still, philosophers tend to think arguments are important. Do you think you could give some kind of argument for your claim about what adults do and don't 'utilize'?

"I can also tell you that there are a lot of departments in the discipline where if you show up with a history of acting like Brian, your chances of getting offered a job are slim to none."

Maybe (although I doubt you know this to be true). There are lots of departments where if you've been outspoken about Israeli politics you have no chance of being hired, lots of departments where you have no chance of being hired if you write about Nietzsche, lots of departments where you have no chance of being hired if you're openly gay.
So, what's your point?

Anonymous said...

"I can also tell you that there are a lot of departments in the discipline where if you show up with a history of acting like Brian, your chances of getting offered a job are slim to none."

In a lot of departments, if you show up acting the way many tenured faculty act, your chances of getting a job a slim to none.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't the most straightforward survey method just be to send out surveys to faculty members at all universities that grant PhDs in philosophy (in English-speaking countries)? Why don't we just do that? Leiter developed his method before the internet made such mass-surveys relatively cheap and easy. If someone was developing a survey of philosophy department quality today they would never develop a method like Leiter's, because of the real possibility that it introduces significant bias. And that possibility undermines the validity of the survey. At least no survey methodologist would utilize the sort of method used by the PGR.

Anonymous said...

I find myself wondering how many people in this world I would anonymously defend on the Internet against ad hominem charges that they were assholes or even mentally ill. My immediate family? Nah. I have better things to do than engage with haters anonymously. (Wouldn't you?) My close friend who is a semi-public figure? Nah: he can defend himself, and if he knew I were anonymously going after his detractors it would embarrass him to no end: awkward conversation, that. A colleague whom I believe to be morally upright and intellectually irreproachable? Typing out, over the course of days, "I am still waiting for evidence that my colleague is as terrible as you say"? I gotta say, again: no, there's no one I would ever feel the need to go to bat for like that; and in every case I can think of, if the person found out I was doing it, s/he would be mortified and think I was very, very weird and probably inappropriately attached to him/her. Hence doing it anonymously, perhaps, but still: I'd know in my heart that this was a weird kind of tribute to pay someone, and that would be inhibiting enough.

So the Leiter defenders-- and there always are Leiter defenders who more or less adopt his self-defense and propagate it across the blogosphere-- fascinate me. It's such a psychologically odd thing to do. This is the particular manifestation of Truth and Reason that you want to spend hours of your life defending? Really? Brian Leiter's blog posts? For days? The psychology of the attackers seems less weird: it's common enough to have a negative fixation on someone and want to take them down (not saying it's defensible as such, but it's a behavior type that's extensively documented and attested and we've all seen it, right?). This kind of positive fixation, though... what's the benefit?

Anonymous said...

"This kind of positive fixation, though... what's the benefit?"

Well, 2:48 gives us one answer: "Still, philosophers tend to think arguments are important."

For far too many philosophy students, the argument is the goal, and not merely the means to the goal. Students like this always pissed me off when I had to sit in class with them. The goal is to win the argument, not advance anything worthwhile.

Personally, I'm curious to see how long this discussion gets, with both sides vehemently - but unsuccessfully - defending claims that, I think many would agree, don't mean much of anything.

Anonymous said...

This is the sort of claim that someone might give evidence for, if there were any.

Honestly, I find it hard to take this kind of request for evidence seriously. you can't think of a time when Brian's "harsh rhetoric" crossed the line? you don't see the pattern on your own? Then it's reasonable to conclude that either you haven't been paying attention to him over the past I would say 10 or 15 years, or you have a hard time recognizing abusive behavior when you see it. Either way, I can understand why a person wouldn't bother with the pointless exercise of making an argument for you.

Anonymous said...

This is the particular manifestation of Truth and Reason that you want to spend hours of your life defending?

Right, I definitely wouldn't do it if it took hours. But it just takes a couple of minutes to type a comment. You know, kind of like you just spent a couple of minutes typing a blog comment that makes a small psychological observation of very little consequence, even though presumably you could have been doing something else much more important.

you can't think of a time when Brian's "harsh rhetoric" crossed the line?

I know of lots of examples of his harsh rhetoric. "Crosses the line" is very vague. The claim was that Brian Leiter is sick. So, no, I am not able to think of any examples that demonstrate that he's sick.
I could ask you for some, but I'm pretty sure you aren't going to give any.

Anonymous said...

For far too many philosophy students, the argument is the goal, and not merely the means to the goal. Students like this always pissed me off when I had to sit in class with them. The goal is to win the argument, not advance anything worthwhile.

Sorry, I guess I could have been more clear. The sense of 'argument' I meant was the kind of argument that has premises that support its conclusion. This is not the kind of argument that can be 'won', so I assume you must have meant the kind of argument that is a dispute.
Philosophers usually mean the first, in my experience, and tend to take other philosophers to mean the first. And I would have thought that in context it was pretty clear that I meant the first. So it does seem as if you're being deliberately uncharitable.

Anyway, now I assume it's clear. Philosophers tend to think arguments are important, in the sense of reasons supporting the conclusion, when the conclusion is controversial in the context. Okay?

Anonymous said...

The claim was that Brian Leiter is sick. So, no, I am not able to think of any examples that demonstrate that he's sick.

I'm not the one who made that claim, but I largely agree with it. He's sick in that he is consistently abusive. you're a better authority on what you are or are not able to think of than I am, so I won't dispute that part of your claim. But if that's true, then (i reiterate that) either you haven't been paying attention or you are not able to recognize habitually abusive behavior when you see it. (or you are not able, after the fact, to think of examples of abusive behavior you have witnessed. whatever.)

The sense of 'argument' I meant was the kind of argument that has premises that support its conclusion.

Understood that way, an argument is an attempt to convince somebody of something. But your interlocutor (I'm not that person) already explained that he/she wasn't going to try to convince you, and why. So it's kind of fatuous to keep insisting that he/she provide the evidence.

Philosophers tend to think arguments are important, in the sense of reasons supporting the conclusion, when the conclusion is controversial in the context

But your interlocutor has already admitted, several times over, that he/she does not have any evidence that you will recognize as evidence. He/she thinks that if you can't already see the evidence/argument/reasons on your own, you must have a blindspot that prevents you from seeing it. Again, it's kind of fatuous in this context to keep insisting that he/she give an argument. I can think of a couple of ways one might go about rebutting this claim that you have a bindspot with regard to this kind of evidence. But claiming that the evidence doesn't exist because he/she didn't provide it and you can't think of any on your own is not one of them.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, honestly, as written (I'm sure largely in good faith!) this is a mindboggling "debate."

A: Leiter's an asshole.
B: Give examples or you're all talk.
A: If you don't think the public record shows it, I can't convince you.
B: You can't convince me.
A: Right, I can't convince you.
B: Thumb-sucker!
A: Sociopath!

Etc.

IT MAY BE BEST TO MOVE ON.

Anonymous said...

"Sorry, I guess I could have been more clear."

No, you're quite clear.

"The sense of 'argument' I meant was the kind of argument that has premises that support its conclusion. This is not the kind of argument that can be 'won', so I assume you must have meant the kind of argument that is a dispute."

The kind of argument that is a dispute is what you are engaged in.

"Philosophers usually mean the first, in my experience, and tend to take other philosophers to mean the first."

And bad philosophers get into disputes, and then when the opposition fails to "provide evidence," declare themselves victors of the "argument."

"And I would have thought that in context it was pretty clear that I meant the first. So it does seem as if you're being deliberately uncharitable."

Well, yes, I am being deliberately uncharitable. But in my defense, you are your opposition are being deliberately uncharitable with each other (in addition to being deliberately boring and obtuse).

"Anyway, now I assume it's clear. Philosophers tend to think arguments are important, in the sense of reasons supporting the conclusion, when the conclusion is controversial in the context. Okay?"

Yes, thanks for defining simple terms for me. I didn't realize until right now that you were not, in fact, engaged in a petty dispute over a relatively pointless matter. Keep on defending the field!

Anonymous said...

There's only one sick person on this thread, and it's the person who keeps insisting with out evidence or argument or even explanation that he know someone whose blog he doesn't like is "sick." Mr. Zero, how about bringing this to an end? Those obsessed with Leiter can go to one of the metablogs to rave about him, isn't that what they are for?

Anonymous said...


I can think of a couple of ways one might go about rebutting this claim that you have a bindspot with regard to this kind of evidence.

Are you really a philosopher? It’s hard to believe. Do you do this in philosophy seminars? The Gorgias is Plato's most important work. I am not going to give any evidence for this because all the evidence is readily available in the Gorgias and the other dialogues, and if you can't see this you are not going to accept anything I say as evidence. Nor will I give any other argument. You who disagree with me have a blind spot. I can think of a couple of ways you can rebut my claim that you have a blind spot.



And bad philosophers get into disputes, and then when the opposition fails to "provide evidence," declare themselves victors of the "argument."

All philosophers get into disputes.

I didn’t declare myself the victor of the “argument”.

I swear to god, some of the Smoker commenters are among the dumbest philosophers on the planet.

Anonymous said...

Are you really a philosopher?

Yes. Although I'm not sure I can provide anything you'd be willing to accept as evidence in support.

It’s hard to believe.

you have a difficult time believing things in general, then, not just wrt Brian.

Do you do this in philosophy seminars?

I didn't realize this was a philosophy seminar. If you're going to have a philosophy seminar, you might announce it ahead of time, and I'm not sure blog comments are the proper venue.

I don't see the relevance. I don't pattern my philosophy seminars on blog comment threads, and I don't pattern the other parts of my life after philosophy seminars. Do you think you're doing philosophy? Do you think this a philosophical discussion? Do you think there's a philosophical question as to whether Brian Leiter exhibits an emotionally unhealthy pattern of abuse? Do you devote time in philosophy seminars to the discussion of Brian Leiter's personality and general emotional health? Are you sure you're a philosopher?

it's also easy to imagine a situation in which it would be appropriate to do this, even in a seminar. Not wrt the Gorgias thing you went on about up there--that is very stupid. But maybe i'd do this with a supposedly educated philosopher who claimed to have studied the Euthyphro carefully but was sure there isn't any discussion of moral upstandingness or whatever. Of course, I'm more generous with my actual students than this. But if it was you, and not one of my students, I might not be willing to provide any evidence for the claim that such a discussion exists. That seems pretty obvious, and if you really couldn't tell it was there, I might presume that if you can't see it there's something wrong with you that's preventing that from happening, and that it wasn't worthy my time to try to convince you. I probably would not be willing to devote valuable seminar time to something so dumb.

Or if I said I did or did not believe in god. I presume that all educated philosophers are well aware of whatever evidence there is. Some philosophers think it warrants theism, some think it warrants atheism, and others think it's inconclusive. A person might be willing to affirm theism or atheism or whatever, even if she knew that her interlocutors would not find her evidence persuasive, or perhaps even recognize it as evidence. A person might decline to defend her view in that environment. I don't have any evidence you'd recognize as evidence, so why bother giving it?, she might say. It would be kind of fatuous to then continually pester that person to provide the evidence.

I'm pretty sure I've seen both Peter van Inwagen and Alvin Plantinga do exactly that, in fact. But maybe you don't think they're philosophers, either.

Whatever. In philosophy seminar rooms, a certain set of rules apply--although one obviously isn't obligated to provide evidence for literally everything you might say (it would be stupid to expect anyone who quantifies over minds other than her own to have a convincing solution to the problem of other minds. you have to be able to set some things aside or else it will be impossible to have the discussion you're trying to have). But in real life, it can sometimes make sense to make a claim, and to believe it, even if you know there's no point in trying to convince (some of) the other person(s) that the claim is true.

In summation, I think you do have a blindspot about this, and I think it stems from the fact that you're a bit of a hostile jerk yourself.

Happy new year!

Anonymous said...

Please, dear God, let this stupidity end and cast out the obsessed to an appropriate metablog.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Things have developed since I last checked in. I’m the one who initially observed that Leiter’s conduct is sick. For the record, by “sick” I meant ‘morally vicious and abusive in ways that suggest mental illness or a deep character flaw.’ (Nb: I intend this as a definition, not as hyperbole or vitriol.)

Here are some further contributions and responses, for what they might be worth:


“Adults utilize harsh rhetoric all the time. So do intellectuals. Only children are upset by it, as you are.”

Reply: This is unsubstantiated armchair psychology, at best. It reads to me like a heavy-handed way of dismissing what one doesn’t want to hear – namely, that one’s conduct is coming across to others as shameless and dishonorable.


“There are lots of departments where if you've been outspoken about Israeli politics you have no chance of being hired, lots of departments where you have no chance of being hired if you write about Nietzsche, lots of departments where you have no chance of being hired if you're openly gay. So, what's your point?”

Reply: My point was that a having a history of shamelessly belittling and abusing others will impact your job prospects.


"So the Leiter defenders-- and there always are Leiter defenders who more or less adopt his self-defense and propagate it across the blogosphere-- fascinate me. It's such a psychologically odd thing to do. … The psychology of the attackers seems less weird: it's common enough to have a negative fixation on someone and want to take them down."

I don’t understand the Leiter-defenders either. I can only assume they want to be free to conduct themselves in a comparably petty and belligerent manner.

As for the Leiter-critics, here are some other possible motives beyond the one you mention (i.e., a negative fixation with Leiter):

1) One wants to talk about problems one sees in the profession, and hopes other like-minded individuals will want to talk also.
2) One is fed up with the philosothugs, and wants to pick a fight with the Leiter-defenders.
3) One is tired of the culture of silence surrounding abusive and inappropriate conduct in the profession.

For my part, I don’t understand what is supposed to be intellectually respectable about abusive and disrespectful conduct. And I don’t understand what is supposed to justify it. Why the need to belittle and disparage others in order to show where they’re wrong? It seems to me that a need to belittle and disparage others has no bearing on the truth or falsity of the views they espouse. If anything, such rhetorical moves are more likely to be provoked in response to claims that are unwelcome *but true* as to those that are false.

Anonymous said...

5:49 am: you're really not getting the message. You are the sick and obsessed person. Go back to kindergarten or your asylum. Your prissiness is not welcome n cyberspace. Mr. Zero, please put an end to this.

Anonymous said...

"you're really not getting the message."

Yup. I'm not getting the message. Or perhaps I'm ignoring it. But either way, the fact that you find discussion of these topics so upsetting is very telling.

Anonymous said...

Upsetting? It's just a sad spectacle and a waste of time, as several different commenters have tried to tell you. Mr. Zero, can we have a new post on the upcoming APA?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Zero, we need another post to get largely ignored while the important work of dick-swinging continues here.

Anonymous said...

Huh? Zero's posts haven't been ignored.
Oh, I get it, you just wanted to use the term 'dick-swinging'. Nice, haha.

Anonymous said...

"Upsetting? It's just a sad spectacle and a waste of time, as several different commenters have tried to tell you."

Several commentators have said they see this thread as a waste of time. Others have indicated that they find the discussion upsetting. And yet others have found it valuable. Not everyone has to find it valuable for it to be valuable. Nor does everyone have share the same perspective.

Anonymous said...

The Leiter discussion is a waste of time, but, what the hell, I'm unemployed right now anyway. Let's be clear from the outset: Leiter is an asshole in the precise sense of the term. According to recent philosophical research on the widespread phenomenon of assholery in the English-speaking world, an asshole is someone who "systematically allows himself to enjoy special advantages in interpersonal relations out of an entrenched sense of entitlement that immunizes him against the complaints of other people" ('Assholes: A Theory', pp. 4-5). Now, if this kind of behavior is not evident after even a quick perusal of Leiter's posts, then as Aristotle would put it (in my rough paraphrase), you ain't been raised right and wouldn't recognize an asshole even were your head crammed so far up one that only the tips of your toes were still poking out. Why all his anonymous trolling henchman fill the blogosphere with their pathetic attempts at justifying his crappy conduct is a matter for social psychologists (and psychiatrists) to ponder, but if a thousand angels used to be able to dance on the head of a pin, I suppose it shouldn't be surprising to see a thousand dingleberries sprout up around philosophy's Head Asshole in Charge.

Anonymous said...

"Why all his anonymous trolling henchman fill the blogosphere with their pathetic attempts at justifying his crappy conduct"

Right, except nobody here attempted to justify his crappy conduct.
So, you had to lie to make your point. You are clinically speaking a douche bag, in the most precise meaning of the term ("Lying douche bags and the snot-suckers who enable them", p. 8).

Anonymous said...

Well said, 2:45.

Anonymous said...

You precious pearl clutchers, you should all go straight over to the Daily Snooze where you'll be protected from that big bad meanie.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at January 6, 2016 at 2:57 AM writes, "Right, except nobody here attempted to justify his crappy conduct. So, you had to lie to make your point."

Anonymous at December 22, 2015 at 1:18 PM writes, "Leiter's use of harsh rhetoric is familiar, but all the cases I can think of were ones, as with Bruya, where it seemed basically justified."

hmmmmmmmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

Uhhh.
You think that's justifying his behaviour?
And you're a philosopher????

I think you are refuted. Hey, look, I just refuted you!

heyitspeter said...

"An anonymous alleged statistician is dismissing, with no argument, the published analysis of David Wallace, an eminent philosopher of physics at Oxford? Do we have that right?"

Perhaps you'll take my input more seriously as a statistician whose work can be examined for example here - https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Peter_Phalen - and here - https://github.com/peopletrees/Survey-data-analyses-using-R/blob/master/National%20Health%20Interview%20Survey%20(NHIS)/Load%20and%20analyze%20NHIS%20data.R

I received my undergraduate degree in philosophy from Reed College and I occasionally read these early career philosopher blogs out of morbid curiosity. I have read Bruya's article, Wallace's response, Leiter's response, and Bruya's rejoinder. Bruya's work is about as airtight as it could possibly be given the quality of the data and his analyses speak for themselves. Anyone who reads his article and remains unconvinced that the PGR requires anything other than a massive design overhaul either doesn't understand his article or refuses to. Bruya provides mathematical evidence that the PGR should be reformed, and the standard bearers of the field of philosophy need to take this more seriously.

Wallace displays a curious ignorance of what quantitative science actually looks like, his criticisms are not well-founded, and his accusations are needlessly inflammatory. I won't even bother addressing Leiter. His conduct is embarrassing and his public stature damages the reputation of academic philosophy.

By the way, some people seem to think that Bruya's article is hidden behind a paywall. That's not the case. Here is a link to a pdf: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/meta.12161/epdf

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

I just want to clear something up. Peter Phalen, a PhD student in psychology at the University of Indianapolis (not Indiana University, but the University of Indianapolis), wants us to take on his authority that Bruya is right, Wallace's actual arguments and analysis notwithstanding? Is that correct?

There are so many anons here, it is hard to know who is claiming what. Some anons, myself included, do think BL's harsh rhetoric is almost always perfectly appropriate, and is often quite amusing and satisfying. His takedown of Carlin Romano, for example? Or Edward Feser? The objectors have yet to cite a single example of something even arguably inappropriate. There are too many "precious pearl clutchers" here indeed.

heyitspeter said...

I receive a steady paycheck for doing statistical programming within the IU department of neuroscience, and have delivered invited lectures to faculty at IUPUI on methods for analyzing complex datasets. Believe it or not, when you don't attend a name brand school, it is still possible to achieve the respect of your peers provided that your field hasn't been usurped by an arbitrary rating system produced by someone with a bone to pick.

Anonymous said...

It is kind of weird that heyitspeter won't give an actual argument. Wallace did.

Anonymous said...

“Why all his anonymous trolling henchman fill the blogosphere with their pathetic attempts at justifying his crappy conduct is a matter for social psychologists (and psychiatrists) to ponder.”

I agree, 2:45. But here’s one reason why philosophers might want to ponder this question also (it’s also one reason why this whole discussion may not be a waste of time): It seems to me that people who routinely abuse others are epistemically compromised in important respects that call into question their intellectual competence. They’re epistemically compromised because there are too many false things they need to believe about themselves and the world around them in order to justify their abusive conduct. (They need to self-deceive to too great an extent. Their view of the social world is fundamentally distorted.) Such a state of affairs, it seems to me, can reasonably be expected to leave any individual it affects unable to think clearly, accurately, and responsibly about issues of human concern—e.g., like ethics, moral psychology, and social-political philosophy. Assuming that’s right, the problem is not merely that such people are assholes (in the technical sense of the term). Rather, the problem is also that they’re intellectually incompetent.

Similar concerns could be raised about anyone who can see nothing wrong with the kind of conduct routinely exhibited by Leiter.

Anonymous said...

Thanks 4:10 am, this really advances the ball. Leiter and his supporters are sick and now also intellectually incompetent. You do realize you are becoming a parody of a philosophy professor? Meanwhile, could you apply your analysis to Leiter's critique of Carlin Romano? What facts did he miss?

Anonymous said...

I've already explained why I can't provide anything you will see as evidence. And I'm not committed to the claim that Leiter's critiques are never substantive.

As for the parody part, I have no regard for people who abuse, belittle, and needlessly disparage others. None. At all. Hence, I’m not moved by the protests and insults of such people when they find their conduct is being confronted.

Anonymous said...

"I've already explained why I can't provide anything you will see as evidence. "

You could give evidence and then people with different views about whether it is evidence could give arguments. But, you won't.

You seem to have an inhumanly bloated opinion of your own ability to see things as evidence. Those who disagree with you, you think, are sick. For some reason I keep expecting philosophers to have more intellectual humility; I should learn better from repeated demonstrations that my expectation is false.

Anonymous said...

This thread is exactly how I want to introduce students to the profession. Nothing but endless rounds of "you need to provide an argument" countered with "if you don't already see it, you never will." Punctuated every now and again by a salient point or the actual work of philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Right, teach them that asking for an argument is equivalent to saying that you'll never see it if you don't see it already.
Good teacher!

Anonymous said...

"Leiter and his supporters are sick and now also intellectually incompetent."

Look – All I’m saying is don't expect someone who is habitually abusive to understand or represent the social world correctly. They can’t do it. And they won’t recognize that they’re failing.

"You seem to have an inhumanly bloated opinion of your own ability to see things as evidence. Those who disagree with you, you think, are sick. For some reason I keep expecting philosophers to have more intellectual humility; I should learn better from repeated demonstrations that my expectation is false."

It’s ok if I’m coming off to some people as a parody, a pearl-clutcher, inhumanly bloated, etc.. Even if true, it’s irrelevant to the point I’m making.

And I’m not committed to Leiter being incompetent in every respect. Far from it. For example, I happen to think he’s an outstanding Nietzsche scholar. He’s probably a far better philosopher than I am overall. And when he’s making substantive points, there are many times when I agree with him.

But the way he conducts himself is a serious problem.

I don’t know what to do about that problem. But I do know that something has to be done. Leiter’s behavior is a very public and ongoing embarrassment to the profession at a time when the profession can least afford it. It’s not just female undergrads who are turned off by such behavior (as some have suggested elsewhere). Rather, most people are. If we want others to take us seriously – both inside the academy, and out – Brian’s brand of grotesquely abusive and juvenile conduct can’t be the face we show to the world.

So, it’s time to stop endorsing such conduct.

And that’s my entire point: It’s time to stop endorsing such conduct.

It’s bad philosophy, and it’s bad for philosophy.

Think about it.

(And with that, I think I’ll go back to the kindergarten or asylum from whence I come.)

Anonymous said...

So, it’s time to stop endorsing such conduct.

Excellent.
The self-appointed police have arrived.
There will be no trial ("Sorry, nobody except the self-appointed police would recognize the evidence as evidence, so there's no point"). No arguments necessary. The criminals are declared sick and incompetent and they and their endorsers are guilty as charged.

Anonymous said...

That's not what was said, 5:42.

Anonymous said...

Rise up against the oppressor! Stop empowering Leiter! Don't, uh, read his blog anymore. Or talk about it. Together we are powerful!

Worst. Movement. Ever.

Anonymous said...

"Right, teach them that asking for an argument is equivalent to saying that you'll never see it if you don't see it already.
Good teacher!"

You do realize that they were not being equated, right? Saying that two things exist does not equate them. Both can be annoying without being equally annoying.

Anonymous said...

"Rise up against the oppressor! Stop empowering Leiter! Don't, uh, read his blog anymore. Or talk about it. Together we are powerful!"

Ha ha -- only that's not what was said, either.

Anonymous said...

We need to stop empowering the anti-Leiter troll by responding further to him. I'm signing off and will boycott the Smoker blog until this stupidity stops.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, 3:15, that needed to be said.
I would like to hereby add my name to the January Pledge.

-Anonymous

Anonymous said...

"Leiter’s behavior is a very public and ongoing embarrassment to the profession at a time when the profession can least afford it."

Yes. And if this isn't a sufficient example of the issue, I don't know what is:

http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2016/03/have-you-been-bullied-or-harassed-by-mark-lance-georgetown-on-social-media.html