What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.

About

What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Not that there's anything wrong with that....

(Update: I just remembered that I had done this before, finding just the right poses in the four photos in question. Here it is, from 2008.)

I just took down a WWWtW entry in which I placed a poster that included Seinfeld and Newman next to each other, with me and Brian Leiter below. And the title was "Is Brian Leiter my Newman?"

Because, as all Seinfeld fans know, Jerry and Newman (not to mention Elaine, Kramer, and George) are jerks, I thought it would bring a little levity to the discussion by the parallel as well as our similar appearances.

In any event, my colleague, Jon Kvanvig, raised an objection to my entry on the Leiter blog. After thinking about it, I thought it best to take my entry down. Here are comments that I submitted to the Leiter blog, that may or may not be posted:

My colleague, Jon, makes a good point. And for that reason, I will take the poster down. I chose the photo of Brian because of the hand-folding that corresponded roughly to Neman's. This is why I cropped out the water bottles and the slouching. Aesthetic concerns were not foremost in my mind when putting this together. What I was looking for was similar poses.

In any event, it was not intended to offend but draw a humorous parallel between the rivals on the 90s sitcom and the bantering between Brian and me. It was all intended for good fun. I am from a family of comedic types, including a sister who has a book coming out in October: Raising the Perfect Child Through Guilt and Manipulation

Nevertheless, I apologize for needless offense. My hope is that Brian and I can become friends. As I have noted on several occasions, I think his work in philosophy of law--especially a recent piece I linked to on southernappeal.org--is illuminating and insightful.

Comments (25)

It seems to me that Leiter must be tremendously insecure and clearly can't laugh at himself. It probably comes from being the self-appointed gate-keeper of prestige in philosophy. I read the Leiter blog regularly but for a long time it depressed me because I interpreted it as condemning me; I'm not teaching at a top 20 institution (by his count, anyway).

Of course, I still read it that way, but now I no longer tale offense. I teach at a good school with wonderful students, I'm comfortable with my many successes (and my numerous failures),and I accept that fact that for Leiter and many of his readers, the vast majority of philosophers don't really count because they aren't one of the noble few. He will likely object to this interpretation of his professional life but one need only look at the blog and the gourmet as evidence of its accuracy.

His objection is pathetic. It is nothing more than a perfect of example of the prissy, stuffy way in which a lot of academics comport themselves in public. Debates and arguments are to the mind, what a sparring match is to the body. A well-placed barb or even a witty, well-deserved ad hominem is nothing more than the intellectual equivalent of a sucker punch.

If Leiter were as mature as he considers himself to be, he would certainly have better control over his emotions and better analytical skills. All I have seen of him is behavior that makes him look like a libel-loving harridan with a penis.

Why do people read what this guy writes?

In my opinion, there was no reason to apologize and no reason to take the picture down. It was clearly lighthearted humor, and any reasonable person could see that. This is just more of the petty, hyper-sensitive grievance-mongering that the Left likes to engage in, even as they set out to destroy other peoples' entire careers, and it shouldn't be given any quarter whatsoever. It'll just be seen as a sign of weakness that they'll take as an invitation to wring more out of you later.

"It'll just be seen as a sign of weakness that they'll take as an invitation to wring more out of you later."

Probably so, as some of the follow-up comments on the Leiter blog clearly show.

But I don't have the power to make people write things pleasing to my eyes. The best I can do is be honest and open. That, of course, carries a risk, since, as has been pointed out, some will take advantage of that knowing that I can't really defend myself at that point without seeming to take back my initial olive branch. So, I just have to suck it up and trust that fair-minded people will be, well, fair-minded.

Let that be a lesson to you, Mr. Beckwith, for assuming people have a sense of humor about themselves.

It's almost an iron clad law of nature but it seems those of a particular political persuasion have have both a marked aggressiveness towards others joined with an overwrought sensitivity towards themselves.

It's almost an iron clad law of nature but it seems those of a particular political persuasion have have both a marked aggressiveness towards others joined with an overwrought sensitivity towards themselves.

Really? It seems an iron clad law of nature that that those of a particular political persuasion have the extraordinary tendency to not recognize themselves in the very criticisms they pose to others. I agree to a certain extent that Leiter has been hard on W4, but to not recognize this is most definitely a two-to-tango-situation is laughable.

I'm new to this blog -- I found it because of the Leiter link. But if you think this attitude is unique to the left, you are kidding yourselves. The right is just as guilty (in fact, you are all guilty by arguing that Leiter = The Left rather than Leiter = Leiter.)

I stand by my comments above, but if all this blog turns out to be is Left bashing than I won't read it. I wanted another view of professional philosophy and its a joy to read well thought out arguments from all sides, but if this blog becomes a partisan love fest, then count me out.

Both sides have irresponsible people, both sides have geniuses. If you respect that, you set a moral example for ideal discourse.

HG, this is indeed a conservative blog, not a "non-partisan" blog, but that doesn't apply to every individual entry, as the content of entries will vary, and some might be more pure philosophy. I think your comments above are actually fairly astute about "top 20 schools." I know of philosophers who would imply that a graduate student should, in effect, starve, be without a position at all for a year or two, rather than take a bird in the hand offer from a PhD program that is not in the top 20. This same mindset leads philosophers to regard graduate students as "failures" who accept such offers and, perversely, as "successes" or more nearly "successes" if they turn them down and wait around with nothing in the hopes of something from a ranked school. By that same reasoning, students applying to graduate school should apply only narrowly, regarding it as worse than nothing to receive and take an offer from a non-ranked school. This is particularly suicidal in today's economy, I believe, unless the student is simply going to look at the economic handwriting on the wall and quit philosophy altogether. But that would hardly make him a "success." A prestige-mad focus on the ranking of schools (by one person, I might add, which makes it particularly silly) leads to very bad advice to students to constrain their options entirely unnecessarily at a time when they need to keep as many options open as possible.

"A prestige-mad focus on the ranking of schools (by one person, I might add, which makes it particularly silly)..."

Actually, Leiter's rankings are a tally of rankings made by about 300 philosophers.

"By that same reasoning, students applying to graduate school should apply only narrowly, regarding it as worse than nothing to receive and take an offer from a non-ranked school. This is particularly suicidal in today's economy..."

What's really suicidal is attending a non-ranked school and ending up unable to land a job after 6 years of pain.

Well, in that case, Casey, just have no safety net and give up on moving ahead towards a job-qualifying degree in philosophy if or when you can't land that coveted fellowship at a ranked school. Good luck to you, but I think your strategy is poor. If you think that mere personal stubbornness on the question--ranked school or nothing--somehow raises your odds of getting a funded education at a ranked school, I think you are dead wrong.

What's really suicidal is attending a non-ranked school and ending up unable to land a job after 6 years of pain.

Call me a Philistine, but I would argue that in today's economy it is economically suicidal to go into debt for any subject that doesn't educate you in how to produce wealth or provide a service that people need. One need only compare the unemployment rate for software engineers (1.8%) to the general population (9-10%) to see the truth of that.

I'm afraid you are misinformed about the current job market in philosophy. I am on a fellowship at a top-twenty department, and am justifiably concerned about landing any kind of philosophy job, given the current state of the market and the placement of our department's job candidates this year.

Given the current job climate, the rationale for seeking a top-20 Ph.D. program is not grounded in the pursuit of prestige, but in having a justified hope of receiving a job offer when one is done.

Mike, yes really. I would have thought by now the ambulance would have take you away, not so. All the worst for Western Civilization.

Casey, I think what you are saying (in this most recent comment only) and what I am saying are compatible. Look, it's like this: If you don't get a degree at all, you certainly can't get a job. Certainly you're right that even people with degrees from Leiter-ranked schools have to worry about jobs. You don't have to tell me that. But it hardly makes your chances better to get no degree at all by sitting around not entering a program (and living on what?) for some unspecified number of years, hoping that "next year" that big offer will come around. I'm perfectly happy to agree that the most rational thing might be to enter a different field altogether. What seems irrational to me is to continue regarding oneself as going for a philosophy career while at the same time _turning down_ the only offers you have on the grounds that they come from unranked schools, or refusing to apply to unranked schools in the first place. "Better dead than at an unranked school" is not going to make you more likely to get a ranked offer, but it may get you dead. As far as progress towards a degree, that is.

""Better dead than at an unranked school" is not going to make you more likely to get a ranked offer.."

I have never heard anyone argue in favor of the point that you are rejecting. If anything, someone would reject an unranked program, then work on improving their CV, and then reapply. No one thinks that the very act of rejecting an unranked program in itself improves one's chances for the next year.


Well, I know that when it's put that way, no one is going to think it. But strategically, it sure looks to me like people sometimes advise students to act as if they think it. Part of the question is how reasonable it is to do the "improve your CV" move, especially given that in the meanwhile...you have no job, not even a GA-ship. And even if you are independently wealthy, if there is a big gap between undergrad (or MA program) and grad school, that itself looks bad, as when a person is out of the profession for a while.

Well, I thought the post you took down was pretty funny.

All it lacked was an older photo of Brian, from back when he still had hair. He looked a lot more like Newman, then.

I don't read this blog, and it's rare that Leiter directs traffic to blogs and news sources he has political disagreements with, but I made it here, so cheers! I just thought I'd comment that while when I found the offending photo-montage archived on Google, it was, to my lights, neither funny nor objectionable. It was cute, but nothing to guffaw about or get worked up over.

But I suppose it behooves the power-structure (Leiter) to craft a myth of martyrdom. The comments and posts on his site are always so vicious, yet always claiming to be taking the high road. To wit: http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2009/06/is-francis-beckwith-a-grownup.html . Note at the bottom Leiter saying he "has not approved" comments with personal attacks, and also notice both the post title, and the fourth comment, e.g., calling Beckwith a "douchebag."

That must have slipped through.

And to clarify, I like Leiter's sites and he provides a useful service, and being a captive audience to his low-brow political shilling is a small price to pay.

That must have slipped through.

Either that or Leiter just thought the commenter was complimenting Beckwith on his exceptionally hygienic lifestyle...

Am I the only one that didn't find the picture of Mr Leiter posted to be unflattering? He looks like a normal guy. I couldn't figure out why he was so incensed by that.

calling Beckwith a "douchebag."

That's an inaccurate metaphor. Brian and I are water and oil. :-)

"Am I the only one that didn't find the picture of Mr Leiter posted to be unflattering?"

Judge for yourself:

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/15918?in=00:00&out=67:51

Post a comment


Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.