16 thoughts on “A statement of concern

  1. Despite my great respect for both authors of this statement, this particular “statement of concern” leaves me more concerned about its authors than about the object of their present concern.

    I follow their interesting convention of not using anyone’s name.

  2. The person who says “Things get around” in that transcript is “NM”, not “the editor of the philosophical gourmet report.” The authors have accidentally exposed a threat made by an ally, in their attempt to expose the editor’s threat (which is “stop making this personal, or you won’t like how it ends”). Maybe this wasn’t ready for prime time.

  3. Jean, this is a direct quote from Brian Leiter’s email: “If my e-mails to you “get around,” rest assured that other things will get around.” That is what the organizers are referencing.

  4. Jean, this is a direct quote from Brian Leiter’s email: “If my e-mails to you “get around,” rest assured that other things will get around.” That is what the organizers are referencing.

    It’s clear from the quotation marks that Leiter’s is repeating NM’s own phrase here.

  5. Yes, he’s repeating her phrase, but with a new implication. She says the emails may ‘get around’. He says that if the emails get around, ‘other things will get around’. That appears to be implying or suggestions that there will be bad consequences should she share the emails. She has shared the emails. The organizers are asking that we work to help protect her from these bad consequences (whatever they may be), which are suggested in Leiter’s email.

  6. Is there a reason we should protect either of the interlocutors here? Both seem to be engaged in what one might, for lack of a better term, call “bad behavior”, at least on the public evidence. I’m not privy to backstage aspects of what has gone on here, but BL’s recent post seems to indicate that NM is not fully blameless either.

  7. Got it, sorry. Her “Things get around” stood out more and came first, so I thought that was it. Now I see what’s being quoted, further down.

  8. NM’s “things get around” was clearly meant as shorthand for something like “It is professionally unwise to be this much of an asshat in emails to other philosophers, since we all talk to one another and I see no reason not to mention this to some of my colleagues.” That seems just straightforwardly true, and perfectly defensible. BL is threatening some kind of vague, probably much less defensible retribution with “If my e-mails to you “get around,” rest assured that other things will get around.” That is why we’re “concerned” about BL, and not NM — that, and how close to actually “unhinged” these emails appear to be…

  9. Incidentally, has anyone collected a list of all of the people whose professional reputations Leiter has publicly impugned on his own blog over the years? Perhaps they should sue.

  10. B.H.: I’d say if there’s one thing we should learn from the exchange linked here – and from other exchanges on this blog and various other blogs – it’s that philosophers should probably quit tossing around frivolous lawsuit threats. Unless it’s their goal to publicly look silly.

  11. Anon, at #7: What Leiter is alleging is that Noelle McAfee made some false claims about his puppy. He is the one who makes it nasty, and personal. In his first comment on her blog post, he calls Noelle “a disgrace”. Then, when she said in response to a student, that he was “not a philosopher” at Chicago, clearly meaning that he did not hold a position in the philosophy department (which is true), he threatened her with legal action, on the ground that she had defamed him.

    There is *absolutely no way* that anything Noelle did merited that kind of response. Frankly, you are blaming the victim, in a way that is depressing familiar to those of us who are victims of violence. Are you going to mention next how short her skirt was?

    I personally think it is amazing how civil, relatively speaking, McAfee remains, even in her emails, though that can probably be explained, in part, by the power differential. Of course he holds power over almost everyone in the profession. But Leiter, apparently, was in charge of “placing” McAffe, as well.

  12. ‘Of course he holds power over almost everyone in the profession’

    Does he? I mean, my impression was that even in the precincts of anti or non-feminist views, M and E, and stereotypical ‘close-minded’ analytic philosophy Leiter was widely regarded as a fairly unpleasant person who’s opinions shouldn’t be taken very seriously, but who’s blog was a useful source of gossip.. Certainly, i’ve heard this again and again from people who are not particularly sympathetic to the views of this blog, and probably agree with a lot of Leiter’s judgments about what the good departments are (though, as it typical in the profession with more sympathy for analytic metaphysics and ethics). I suppose editing the Gourmet report gives him a fair amount of power, but it’s hard to see how he could use it to take vengeance on individuals.

    There’s a genuine debate about the Gourmet report itself which partly runs along predictable political lines about issues of representation, racism, sexism, etc., but I wouldn’t assume that everyone who’s tone-deaf about those things, or approves of the report (I think it’s possible to not be tone-deaf about those things, but still think the report is useful but imperfect, but I don’t want to do that argument now) likes Leiter or takes his bullying denunciations of various people who disagree with him terribly seriously. That’s certainly not my experience, but maybe it is other people’s.

  13. David Mathers: Carolyn Dicey Jennings made this point over well (http://www.newappsblog.com/2014/07/intelligence-as-a-criticism.html):

    I would ask that you refrain from turning the criticisms at your blog to my mental state, capacity, etc. At least, when your post ends with “This does raise a serious question about her judgment,” you appear to be making a claim about my mental capacities, in general. This also appears to be at work earlier in your post (“I would think philosophers are smart enough…”). You may not have meant to make such sweeping claims, but many of your readers will be happy to accept your authority on such points as they are stated. I am not asking that you remove the criticisms, but just that you phrase them in a way that they do not appear to reflect on my intellectual capacities. That could obviously be damaging to my career.

    The Gourmet Report proves nothing if not that reputation matters in this profession, and Leiter has set himself up as a major arbiter of reputation.

  14. I am not a philosopher, but I am married to a philosopher, and have attended talks given by my spouse as well as by other philosophers, and I am interested in various philosophical topics and so follow a number of philosophy blogs closely, though this is my first posting on one. So, as someone who is at least partially looking in from the outside, and who also has knocked around other disciplines in academia for a long time, I have long noticed, and commented to my spouse and other philosophers, about the nastiness that seems to me to be rampant in the way philosophers engage with one another. Much of it seems to stem from some weird need to one-up each other publicly (self-esteem issues, much?), but there’s a level of aggressiveness to it that I find deeply disturbing. There have been times during the question time after talks when I’ve had to bite my tongue to keep from speaking up to ask what the hell is wrong with people that they would behave that way in public toward one another. Far too many philosophers exhibit this sort of ill behavior, including on social media and via blogs, but also even in ordinary conversation. It’s extreme, and, as Carrie’s pledge suggested, it’s not “normal” and shouldn’t be treated as such. But somewhere along the line it must have been (and continue to be) because it’s far too often what passes for the norm, without any consternation about it at all. There’s something quite wrong about that. And that’s the main reason that I found Carrie’s pledge so refreshing and necessary. I applaud her courage, as well as the efforts of those who are calling out Brian Leiter specifically for his behavior. I can confidently say that many of us in other professions are appalled at the things that tenured academics get away with and in the power differential that is too often abused.

  15. Comparing this blog to the Salem Witch Trials violates our policies. I’ve deleted a series of comments related to that. And I’m closing comments now.

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