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An embarrassed Brian Leiter frantically updates his post yet again, and devotes 194 words to ridiculing my “lengthy” (360 word) “cyber-treatise.”
Coming soon: A new post from Leiter explaining why I am beneath his attention!
Even though more public de-pantsing would be good for his soul, perhaps it would be charitable to let him go away quietly with a little dignity. If he wants to know where there is a sure supply of the stuff he should have a private chat with his mate Dr Steve Burton - sucking up to the “I will give you all the kingdoms . . .” is beneath our dignity as sons of the King.
Continuing the theme of 'Christs and Nothings' Dr McGrew’s Boston Globe article has BL telling of Sartre’s seminal influence in him. I’m reminded by Fr Neuhaus Sartre “was a fervent communist to the end, denying or belittling the atrocities committed by Stalin, Mao, and their lesser imitators.”
“[Sartre] might have known that he was debarred by nature from telling the truth for long about anything that mattered, because telling the truth was something that ordinary men did, and his urge to be extraordinary was, for him, more of a motive force than merely to see the world as it was.”
“Working by a sure instinct for bogus language, a non-philosopher like George Orwell could call Sartre’s political writings a heap of beans, but there were few professional thinkers anywhere who found it advisable to dismiss Sartre’s air of intelligence: there was too great a risk of being called unintelligent themselves. Effectivement—to resurrect a French word that was worked to death at the time—Sartre was called profound because he sounded as if he was either that or nothing, and few cared to say that they thought him nothing.”
BL’s striving to be a something and becoming a nothing, from this petition thing you can tell he's not an arch strategist.
And by the way how many of his silly points would he have given to Sartre?
Global events look like pushing him into a corner, he should have a chat with Dr Steve Burton soon, no one has to know.
March 8, 2009 11:30 PM
Personally I find myself kind of embarrassed for the field of academic philosophy, assuming I've properly grokked the situation as told in the Boston Globe, a situation which is entirely new to me: that academic philosophy happens to actually have a Paula Abdul, famous for being famous and for that very reason sitting in the seat of judgment.
I mean good grief, what have we come to? I'd assumed the guy was someone actually important though perhaps controversial in the field, like Edward Witten is to physics or something. Is he well known in academic philosophy for some actual achievements in the field? Wikipedia isn't particularly helpful: he seems to have founded a department or program at a university or something, and has written on Nietzche (probably even knows how to spell 'Nietzsche'). So he probably isn't a complete moron. But what is there that really stands out? Would anyone in academic philosophy know his name if it wasn't for his school rankings?
I'd love for this impression I have to be proven wrong, even though the man is obviously an ass, not for his sake but for the sake of academic philosophy generally. It is one thing for a jerk who has made major accomplishments to be held in wide respect bordering on awe, even though he is a jerk. It is another thing entirely to have the kind of "famous for being famous" vacuousness in academic philosophy as there is on American Idol.
March 9, 2009 12:09 AM
I'd love for this impression I have to be proven wrong, even though the man is obviously an ass, not for his sake but for the sake of academic philosophy generally.
Or I'd put it--Remember kids, House is just a character on a TV show.
Scott W. |
March 9, 2009 8:28 AM
I've actually met Leiter at a philosophical conference. He's very different in an academic setting, almost to the point where sometimes when I read his blog I wonder if this could really be the same person.
March 9, 2009 11:55 AM
Martin: I don't think that I'm quite clear on your point.
Zippy: Brian is a smart guy (I'd peg his IQ at about 160) and a solid Nietzsche scholar.
But, yes - he's best known in the profession for his gossip-mongering. Still, to be fair, his assessments of the passing scene are usually reasonably accurate & occasionally even useful.
He's a political radical, of course - but I can't complain much about that - 'cause so am I, in my very different way.
What I can, and do, complain about, is the way that he takes advantage of his position to abuse & defame people in positions of relative professional weakness.
*That* disgusts me. It disgusts me more than I can say.
Blackadder: for better or worse, the internet erases normal human inhibitions.
steve burton |
March 9, 2009 5:06 PM
I can't speak to the quality of Leiter's work as a philosopher, not being a Nietsche scholar myself, and I wouldn't try. What I do know is that
--people who take Leiter's opinions very seriously indeed often do not worry nearly enough about standing up to his biases. A philosopher who would say, "We can't do X, or we should discourage Y, because otherwise our department might be lowered in the Leiter rankings" will very rarely be very interested if someone responds, "But X or Y is a good thing anyway, so to heck with the Leiter rankings,"
--way too many people in philosophy, especially the young and vulnerable, are afraid of his and his followers' negative opinion and power to harm their careers, and Leiter does (to understate) nothing to discourage this increasing climate of politicized intimidation,
--he is seriously wrong about important things, especially in his hostility to Christianity and his pro-homosexual activism, and he is using the influence already mentioned to pull the profession radically in those directions,
--his penchant for personal attack lowers the quality of discourse.
Now, really, I think I succeeded in wording all of that pretty mildly.
March 9, 2009 5:37 PM
Prof. Burton apologies for my obscurity.
My point was only one of basic soteriology.
You wrote that he was sadly a hypertrophied adolescent (which explains his attraction to the doctrines of the religion of the Self) – a victim of success, clever but not wise.
Nil sapientiae odiosius acumine nimio" (Nothing is more hateful to wisdom than excessive cleverness)
So the ultimate concern is “Tribulations must not cease until God sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless”. CSLewis
As a spruiker for the culture of death, he won’t see well when its about to topple. For example a catastrophe of Biblical proportions is growing and he is organizing a petition against Christian schools.
One wouldn’t trust the judgment of The Infanticidal President’s to steer the US safely through these dangerous times, so when things get bad the suggestion was to turn to someone he knows who didn’t offer sacrifice to the idols.
I thought you could be that source of wisdom.
I mean we all know being anti-Christian is a really bad long-term strategy, the cultural revolution is teetering, people are going to want to get into the Barque of Peter, they’ll look for people who had the courage to nail their colours to the mast during difficult times.
I see BL and the petitioners simply as craven careerists. Its hard not to feel contempt, but I’m trying.
You seem to be beyond that.
March 10, 2009 3:44 AM
Lydia - I certainly agree that none should worry about their "Leiter rankings" when making decisions about personnel, or anything else - and it's terribly sad that they do.
And this that you say is *so* important: "way too many people in philosophy, especially the young and vulnerable, are afraid of his and his followers' negative opinion and power to harm their careers, and Leiter does (to understate) nothing to discourage this increasing climate of politicized intimidation..."
And this is all too mild: "his penchant for personal attack lowers the quality of discourse."
I know that there are other former colleagues of his & mine who feel about all this more or less as I do. If only some of them would speak out.
But they, unlike me, are people who still have something left to lose. So I cannot blame them, too much.
steve burton |
March 10, 2009 7:43 PM
Brian & his acolytes are notorious for sending out weird messages of praise, under assumed internet identities, to his critics, and then making fun of said critics, if & when those messages receive a civil response.
I assume that you're familiar with the stupid practical joke that he/they played on Prof. Feser, some years ago?
Anyway: whenever I receive what strikes me as a weird message of praise, immediately after I've criticized Brian...
...well, I take it with several grains of salt. Especially when it comes from a commenter I haven't heard from before.
I have to admit that I find your second message even weirder than your first.
So I hope that you will understand if I still refuse to take the bait.
steve burton |
March 10, 2009 8:08 PM
I went searching and understand better now about the practical 'joke'. I'd still humour people who seem 'weird' or 'simple-minded'. He/they were themselves made to look silly/adolescent I thought the joke was on them.
In a comment you wrote BL was a victim of his own success, that he hadn't grown up. That failure often is a surer road to self-possession than success made me think of the CS Lewis quote and its scary implications. What if a person goes through life without any crises that might spur a change of heart, and growth in wisdom? Does God know the tribulation would have no effect so doesn't allow it?
If economic tribulations cause massive socio-cultural change, and we hope a change of heart in BL and the gang, then it might be the case BL needs some Christian friends. (I assume you're Christian). And you were his friend.
The Infanticidal President's latest efforts are deliberately creating human embryos to destroy them for research.
Isn't it a matter of justice that God put a stop to the culture of death? Don't things move fast these days? Everything is interconnected. Stable civilisation creating structures like the Catholic Church will need to handle the influx of responsibility and leadership.
Those who nail their colours to the mast now, when it might not be politically correct is important.
Those who put their name to a petition that is nakedly anti-Christian I think isn't a good long-term strategy.
I hope you still don't think I'm weird, the confusion probably arises because I'm a little simple minded compared with you. But I like who I am.
You should still humour people, its a good opportunity to evangelise.
Ceslaw Milosz "The true opium of the masses is that huge solace of thought that after all our betrayals, greed and murders we will not be judged"
March 12, 2009 5:20 AM
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