Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summertime, and the livin' is easy.

Those who know me well know that I'm kind of a judgmental bastard. (Okay, those who don't know me all that well have probably figured it out as well.) Bearing this in mind, prepare yourself, gentle reader, to be ranted at.

Okay, so you know how you feel like punching non-academic people in the throat when they tell you how lucky you are that you get summers off? (Right. It's just me here, with the punching. Pft. Whatev.) Flexible schedule? Sure. Time off? Fuck off. Summers are when I can actually get some damn work done.

So I've been finding myself increasingly enraged lately by the few dipshit academics I come across who actually do take their summers off. This isn't just sour grapes; I think these assholes are giving the rest of us a bad name. You want summers off? Become a fucking elementary school teacher. (Lord knows, those people actually deserve their summers off--I'd lose my shit a week in if I had to spend 6+ hours a day coralling hordes of shrieking proto-persons.) But you wanna be a university professor, earn your fucking keep already and contribute to society. Take a few weeks off like all the other grownups. Then write something that doesn't suck.



holyoke said...

Wait, writing journal articles is "contributing to society"? Really?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, normally I'm a big PGOAT fan, but I have to agree here with holyoke. I feel like profs and all other people should contribute to society, in the sense of do their bits to make the world a better place, but publishing in journals really isn't it.

Prudentially, everyone ought to do what they need to get tenure. Ethically, I think we should all try to improve our teaching games. Personally, I'm in philosophy because I want to be an active part of this profession, so I think I ought to write over the summer. But if someone else is just happy getting tenure and being a teacher at a more advanced level than high school, why not?

Anonymous said...

My advice: let it go. People are dumb and don't know what you did to get finished with grad school. So, when they are impressed, no big deal. When people with a PhD meet you, they know, and you don't need their props.

Just tell people you are working on a book project instead of doing summer teaching or tell then that life is great and they should go to grad school and get a job like you. But here's the deal: they will never understand and just b/c you want to punch them in the neck, it won't make you feel better.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that you're mostly just bored and looking to stir up some reactions on the otherwise moribund PJMB. So I'll say this:

Summer, for academics, is about not having to do anything pressing and therefore not doing much but feeling too guilty about not doing the important-but-not-urgent things they should be doing to enjoy their "free" summers. So, like elementary school teachers, they typically don't do much work during the summers, but they take no joy in their sloth.

But I'm just guessing.

By the way, I enjoyed the image of punching irritating morons in the neck.

Anonymous said...

This makes me laugh in a way. I've been a professor now for 30 years and every spring my dad says to me, "So you've got your summer off now, eh?" I have not been able to convince him that I'm really working all summer in all this time... For people who really do or did have to go to work 9 to 5 every day (he worked Saturdays too actually), the thought of having several months of "free" or unstructured time is just hard to comprehend.

Anonymous said...

-1 for PGOAT. She's still my favorite though.

jj said...

I'm surprised at the reaction. I often wonder why people don't bother to ask themselves what might be right with a comment. Instead, everyone just seems to want to think about what's wrong with it.

Here's what I think is right:
1. To be a philosophy professor is, other things being equal, to make a contribution to society.
2. It's better if you are better (i.e., better contribution to the extent you are better skilled at what's involved, knowledgeable, etc).
3. Other things being equal, writing papers is a way to hone one's skills, stay in touch with major trends, etc. And it's linked to going to conferences, communicating with profs in other univesities/colleges and so on.

Of course, it isn't the only way. Spending the summer learning to use new technologies for teaching, etc, is also good.

BUT the deadwood, who have stopped being participants in philosophical/larger scholarly community are generally a drag on the department, the undergraduate, and, taken together, the whole institution.

All IMHO, of course.

Anonymous said...

Little appreciated fact: Most people with research teaching loads, and almost everyone in humanities, get paid for nine months. Of course, this is spread over 12 payments since even PhDs can't figure out how to to make 9 payments last 12 months :-)

People with grants pay themselves additional "summer salary" and this perk can sometimes be obtained by those without external grants.

The point is that when (most of us) profs work on writing over the summer, we are technically working without pay.

Anonymous said...

7:18am's point is important here -- there is a very real sense in which for most of us, when we're writing papers, etc. during the summer, we're doing so without pay. And I think that, in general... that's fine! I take it that part of the deal one is making, in becoming an academic, is that one's college/university gets the teaching, advising, etc. services of someone whose opportunity costs are _huge_. Gotta figure that your typical mid-tenure-stream junior faculty member would, had they gone into law school instead of a PhD program, would now be approaching making partner in a firm. So the school gets some very high-end labor for not very much money at all, and they are able to do that by making large amounts of unstructured time, in essence, part of the compensation package.

What we try very hard to do in managing the profession is to only bring people into tenure-track positions who will find writing papers, etc. over their summers _what they want to do anyway_. The university pays you, but the department hires you, and the department wants someone who really, really, really wants to do philosophy. And maybe figuring out who really, really, really wants to do philosophy right when they're fresh out of grad school isn't that hard. What's hard is figuring out who will continue to want to do it years down the line, and who moreover will have anything worth their doing of it. And, _pace_ jj, I don't think that it's good for the profession to have people writing papers that they just don't even really want to bother with. Given a choice between having someone who is pure deadwood, or someone who continues to churn out mediocre-to-bad articles, I'd rather have to deal with the former.

jj said...

Clarification re anon 9:09.

I'm less sure about it's being bad to write mediocre papers. Arguably, most published papers in philosophy are mediocre. The paper-writing I was concerned with included being an active member of the community, keeping up with major trends, and so on.

If you can't do that, then you can work on your teaching.

If you don't want to work on teaching or scholarship, then you become a liability, in my view, with probably a lot of power, because you are a senior professor who isn't very aware of issues either in the profession or in philosophy of the last twenty years.

Imagine this: a university with the most senior 30% who are unaware of - or at least fairly ignorant about - the major intellectual trends of the last 20 years. That's what it's like all too often.

Or I exaggerate.

Anonymous said...

"Time off? Fuck off. Summers are when I can actually get some damn work done."

I know this can be terribly hard on the ego of some philosophers, but your "damn work" is being a a teacher.

The research, while it might be a requirement for any teaching job worth having, is not what you are being paid for.

Prof. J. said...


The research, while it might be a requirement for any teaching job worth having, is not what you are being paid for.

That's a strange thing to say. What makes you think that's true? I'm paid for doing research, and I imagine lots of other philosophers are, too.

Anonymous said...

Why the assumption that more time working means more (or better) work?

If I didn't have summers off (or, at least, the better part of most summers off), I would have no energy left to come up with exciting new ideas, in research or teaching.

Some people work better when they're always working, others work better with lots of time off. That's one nice thing about a flexible schedule: you can set the pace that's best for you and never feel the need to look busy.

Anonymous said...

Faculty at my university are evaluated periodically, even after receiving tenure, and evaluations are based on three categories weighted this way: 40% teaching, 40% research, 20% service. This is a university at which the programs in Arts & Sciences are entirely undergrad. So, even my institution says that 40% of my job is research, and our salaries are a function of our evaluation scores. I am definitely paid in part for doing research.

mr. zero said...

The research, while it might be a requirement for any teaching job worth having, is not what you are being paid for.

Even if this is technically accurate, it's completely misguided in spirit. For most of us, even those of us who like teaching and take it seriously, it's a secondary part of our professional lives. Most of us, I think, became professional philosophers because we wanted to produce philosophical works, not just teach--even if we're paid only for our teaching.

Furthermore, producing and extending philosophical knowledge is a way of contributing to society. If you disagree, I'm pretty sure there's a position for you at the food bank. Put your money where your mouth is.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure you can have it both ways.

Either you're paid to do research or not. If you are paid to do research, then you lose the right to complain that you're doing it on your own time.

Anonymous said...

"For most of us, even those of us who like teaching and take it seriously, it's a secondary part of our professional lives. Most of us, I think, became professional philosophers because we wanted to produce philosophical works, not just teach--even if we're paid only for our teaching."

9:09am commenter here -- this was very much what I had in mind, when I was talking about how the deal is that we get paid largely in free time, and with the expectation that we'll overwhelmingly spend that free in doing philosophy. Part of my point is that we really shouldn't begrudge those who have, after decades in the profession, simply run out of the philosophizing that was theirs to do. (I should note that I myself am at an early stage in my career, and I don't think that I'm near that situation myself -- at least, I hope I'm not!) If someone well into their career finds themselves preferring to consume that free time in non-philosophical ways, then over the course of their lifetime, they have still given the university a pretty good deal on their teaching.

Anonymous said...

Guess what folks, most of you won't have time to do good philosophy. I have a 3/3 load, and philosophy itself has become a "hobby" b/c I only get about 8 to 12 hours a week to do it during the school year. I am going up for tenure next year and I was talking with a few of the senior philosophers in my department and they agreed with my assessment that basically after you get a job teaching philosophy, philosophy itself becomes a sort of hobby that you don't get nearly enough time to do.

And don't have any other hobbies lest you want philosophy to suffer. And time off is essential, too bad many of us don't get it b/c we teach in the summers for that extra money to try to pay off some of the debt from grad school.

All the grad students that are complaining right now, just wait, you'll see if you are lucky enough to get a job. I cannot imagine how people get stuff (writing) done with a 4/4 load, a family, and other obligations.

So, yes the summer is for writing, but only if you don't keep teaching. Teaching is what the *majority* of philosophers are paid to do. Sorry Prof J, we aren't all as lucky as you, really.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of 'contributing to society' since when did bitchy, childish comments like this
deserve to be broadcast at large on a blog claiming to be about the philosophy "profession". I'm quite taken aback at the crassness of it.

Asstro said...

I think there's even a stronger reply to this that comes straight from the Dean and the Chancellor of my University. We're _not_ being paid to be teachers. In fact, even though we're supposedly paid and evaluated on a 40/40/20 scale just as Prof J says, much greater weight is placed on our research than on either our teaching or our service. I was told in no uncertain terms, both directly and more generally to an entire assembly of incoming faculty, by the highest mucketymucks in the administration of the university, (a) that I ought to leave most of the heavy service duties to the senior faculty and (b) that while it is true that I should strive to be a good teacher, I would be deluding myself if I spent too much time worrying about my teaching. The message, in short, is that I'm paid to be a researcher.

Granted, I'm at a Research I institution, so there may be different requirements for faculty at teaching schools. But I think it's not even technically true that we're paid to be teachers.

One might still bicker with this. One might say that this is wrong; that philosophers ought only ever to be teachers, since progress can't be made in philosophy (I don't believe this), or since philosophy research isn't of the same sort as physics research. If one says this, then one is making a normative claim. I hear this claim a lot from non-philosophers and from undergraduate and sometimes grad students. It's perhaps more reflective of frustrations with the current University punishment and reward structure. Maybe there's some merit to this. But it's just plain false to suggest that we're teachers first and foremost.

jr tt said...

The research, while it might be a requirement for any teaching job worth having, is not what you are being paid for.

I also disagree. I teach at a decent but not spectacular LAC, and research is definitely a requirement for getting the job. We have 5 jr faculty in my department, and all were hired with multiple publications. Furthermore, while teaching is the first criterion for tenure here, research is second (and becoming almost equal in weight with teaching). If any of us jr faculty want to recieve tenure, we should have at least 5-6 peer-reviewed articles. So continued research is necessary for keeping our jobs and getting paid in the future.

And finally, I've been told by my dean that the reason my merit pay (i.e., yearly raise) has been significantly over the average 3.5% yearly increase since I've been here has been due to my publication record. So while I certainly don't only get paid to research, I will continute to get paid more for doing more research. And I'm getting paid now for research I've done in years past.

Prof. J. said...

Sorry Prof J, we aren't all as lucky as you, really.

I didn't mean to suggest that everyone is. If it came off that way, then I'm the one who should be sorry. (Sorry.)

In fact, even though we're supposedly paid and evaluated on a 40/40/20 scale just as Prof J says, much greater weight is placed on our research than on either our teaching or our service.

For the record, I'm not the one who gave that scale (though my comment was in the same vein). The dean here is like yours in practice, but more up-front about the weighting. I forget exactly what the official weighting is, but the research component is heaviest.

Anonymous said...

I am in total agreement with Anonymous 6:48, that was completely disgusting, especially from someone who likes to advertise where he's going on his Italian coast vacation, how many libraries have his books, etc. (Clearly all things that he "appears to think" make him a better philosopher....) Let's just suppose he is envious for not having so many pictures of himself with prominent intellectuals. Hey, if I had a photo of myself with Seamus Heaney, I'd post it, too!

Anonymous said...

I've never met Leiter; I've heard from people that he is a nice person and generous to his students.

His public persona does not match this. That post was totally asinine. Worse, it was an abuse of power.

For better or for worse, Leiter's blog is widely read. I don't know this to be the case, but it would not surprise me if Leiter's blog were the most read blog in the profession. He has a dedicated audience, and he frequently hosts valuable and interesting discussions on his blog that attract further readers. It would be naive to deny that this is a kind of power.

To use that format to simply make fun of someone for the pictures he posts on his webpage is worse than uncalled for. It is an abuse of power.

One can't infer why that dude put pictures of himself up on the webpage. To suggest that he thinks that people will think he is a better philosopher when they see these pictures is just shitty.

And why single him out? Lots of people have pictures of themselves with other philosophers on their webpages. Ted Sider, for example, who is a fantastic philosopher and a terrific human being, has pictures of himself with Ed Gettier, David Lewis, etc. No one should (or does) even suggest that he does this to make people think he is a great philosopher.

Leiter owes that dude an apology.

Anonymous said...

Wholehearted agreement with 9:48. I've been thinking that I ought to remove the leiter report from my bookmarks and try to get my professional information the old-fashioned way for some time now. Seeing that inane and unfair jab at Kearney is deep confirmation of my impulses. Pulling the plug... now.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, what the hell prompted Leiter to write that post? Does anyone know if there's bad blood between him and that guy? That was such a small, petty thing to do.

Anonymous said...

I hope Leiter has someone he respects who will tell him to knock that childish shit off. What's next? Is he going to be telling us who he denied friendship to on facebook?

Anonymous said...

Maybe that guy should get a picture of him punching Leiter in the neck. He could put that on his web site.

Anonymous said...

Ditto 9:48.

Anonymous said...


To be honest, by the time graduation hits (yes, at my school all faculty are required to walk if you want your last paycheck) – most faculty I know take the month of May off – just to chill after a serious semester’s worth of teaching – it’s also a good time to tie up any administrative loose ends.

By early June – my colleagues and I are working on books or journals and spending the summer at our cottages scattered all over New England – we all manage to balance spending time with family, some fishing, some beach time along side writing and research.

No we don’t get paid – but it’s a lot better than just getting 2 weeks yr off.

Think about it.

Anonymous said...

Is it fair to say that Leiter, in virtue of his high degree of visibility (if not credibility) within the profession, wield an inordinate amount of influence and power within the profession? If so, why the hell are we - professors and graduate students alike - standing for it? There seems to be such a thing as "behavior unbefitting an academic," if not "behavior unbefitting a philosopher." In an official institutional context, Leiter would probably be censured or reprimanded for doing and saying some of the things he does. Why? Because he's a mean-spirited, hostile, abusive asshole, and professionals don't act that way - especially towards OTHER professionals. The fact that Leiter does this stuff ONLINE shouldn't matter. Every time ANY of us read his blogs(s), post to it, link to it, etc. we are implicitly condoning Leiter's behavior. Why not a massive informal CENSURE of Leiter? The only thing that is keeping him going is the belief - which is not entirely irrational - that people whom he respects respect HIM. I would suspect that plenty of the well-respected philosophers who post on the Leiter Reports value some of the conversations/information/etc. but contained therein but could do without Brian Leiter bringing disrepute upon philosophers. Well, why don't those people speak up? Someone should draft a petition. I'm sick of people whining about Leiter but not DOING anything about it.

Fiery Filosofer said...

Agreed on Leiter. He has engaged in borderline unprofessional conduct in the past, but the Kearny post crosses a big line.

RE: whether Leiter's the most widely read blog in the discipline. Almost indisputably. I poked around on Technorati, and Leiter Reports has a ranking of 15,930 (that's like the top 1/10 of 1% 0f all blogs) and an authority ranking of 282. I looked up some of the older, more established philosophy blogs (PEA Soup, etc.) and none of them had rankings or authority numbers anywhere near that.

Anonymous said...

I think I am done with Leiter too. I try to be charitable in interpreting some of the ish he pulls. But the best interpretation of that post is that he's just being mean.

Anonymous said...

"That dude" is Richard Kearney, a very distinguished name in the field of contemporary French philosophy. For many of us not on the Anglophone bandwagon, Kearney is at least as important and respected as - oh, I don't know - Tyler Burge or Ernest Sosa or whatever. Imagine if Brian Leiter talked about Jaegwon Kim with such a contemptuous and dismissive attitude simply because Professor Kim's website had pictures of himself with other famous analytic philosophers! Having a hard time? Of course you are - because Brian Leiter reserves his mean-spirited, childish vitriol for those philosophers who don't do HIS kind of philosophy (or for any analytic philosopher who has the balls to publicly diss him - and there aren't many, amazingly). Not only would a Richard Kearney, a Simon Critchley, Leonard Lawlor, a John Caputo, a Daniel Smith, a Todd May - etc. etc. - NOT engage in such behavior, but if one did, I'd like to think folks in so-called "Continental" circles would be a bit less accommodating (if not slavishly ingratiating) toward the perp. I'd like to think we'd take that person to task, regardless of what "power" he or she had garnered for him/herself.

Anonymous said...

We need a new professional blog. Who can help?

P.G.O.A.T. said...

What, Anon 3:37? We're not professional enough for ya? Jesus Fucking Christ. Why the fuck not?

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:27 PM here. PGOAT, you are once again my fave.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back PGOAT. I've missed the ranting and cursing. Second Suitor is too damn polite. I mean, what's up with that?

Philosophy Prof said...

The person who said that we are not paid for research -- this is a stupid person. Either the person is not putting things together, or else they are making a judgment in the absence of any information. Either way you are being stupid. Stop that! It's bad enough to have to deal with the talk radio people who make claims on the basis of no information. We are trying to do a job here, and it doesn't help to have people saying that we work 10-20 hours per week (if that's how much we are in the classroom), when we also write papers and serve on committees. Do you know how much time it takes to write a research paper that appears in a good journal? Of course you don't, otherwise you would not have said such a stupid thing.

VAP said...

Leiter pisses people off. He regularly attacks those whom he believes do shoddy work. He may very well be a dick, but that is part of the reason why we read him. He is always interesting and well-informed. Part of that is being so very critical of others.

Many people on this blog talk shit about the profession and do so behind the veil of anonymity. I think it is a bit hypocritical to single Leiter out simply because people read him and he owns his views.

The attack on Kearney was weird and unprovoked. Yet, I suspect we all do this to people we think suck. Usually, just to friends over a couple of beers. So why is it different when people actually pay attention to what we say? Does Leiter have a greater responsibility because we read him? I am not sure. I want to hate him, but I think that may be professional jealousy.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Let me jump in to amplify some of what VAP says. I didn't really get the snarky post, either. But WTF? I don't have to get it. And at the end of the day, those of us here who like to throw a little snark ourselves aren't exactly in a position to complain when someone else does it.

Besides, for the issues I care *most* about (at least with my blog-hat on), Leiter's one of the better guys. (E.g.: he's a *lot* more honest than many about how to think about the horrors of the job market when considering going to grad school.)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 3:15 makes it sound as if Leiter singled out Kearney because Kearney is a Continental philosopher. To be fair, so is Leiter. How many diehard analytic philosophers have done so much work on Nietzsche? Leiter also tags posts concerning Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche with "hermeutics of suspicion". This Kearney thing is, in the parlance of our times, a rather dick move on Leiter's part but I'm not so sure that the issue is as simple as "Leiter hates Continental philosophy". Remember a few days ago when Leiter excoriated Jonathan Barnes for a derisive comment about Continental philosophy?

9.48 said...


This is 9.48.
First of all, I've never attacked anyone because of the pictures on his homepage. It's not hypocritical of me to say that this is is a shitty thing to do.
Second, Leiter didn't attack Kearney because of his work, something that I agree would be unobjectionable, but because of the pictures he has on his webpage. Third, there obviously is a difference between you and your 2 friends making fun of people over beer and Leiter, who has an audience over 10,000 times larger, publicly mocking someone because of the pictures on his homepage.

Look, I'm not being snarky here. It's not snarky to think that, if someone has taken upon oneself to play a certain role in the profession (and I agree with PGS, that on the whole, we should be glad that Leiter has done this), then that person should should play that role responsibly.

(And note that I am not saying the same thing about his going after Critchely's interview: there Leiter is attacking a person's uniformed and potentially misleading statements about philosophy and the history of philosophy-- not the pictures on that person's homepage.)

Anonymous said...

As I recall, a few months ago several of you douchebags bitched and moaned about the extravagances found in well-established philosophy professor's CV. Many of you were all too eager to heap shitpile after shitpile on this guy. Apparently, all of those idiots have stopped posting and PJMB is left with only righteous do-gooders, who are quick to point out Leiter's wrong-doings but would never themselves stoop to such tactics.

Like Leiter's methods or not, the guy attaches his name to his smears. Too bad you good folks can't do the same. Suck it!

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:00:

Leiter has an axe to grind with the establishment of Continental philosophers. That he works on Nietzsche does not qualify him as a Continental philosopher. Instead, he's behind a movement set on dismantling a way of approaching philosophical questions that is captured under the masthead of Continental philosophy (even though he denies that such a distinction exists). The Continental approach to philosophy isn't to the taste of many so-called analytics, event though there is, in fact, a sizable contingent of APA members who are interested in this Continental approach.

Notably, the vitriol cuts both ways. Not only is Leiter interested in seeing central European figures like Nietzsche treated more analytically (because he thinks Continental philosophers are full of shit), but many Continental Nietzschians think Leiter doesn't understand the first damned thing about Nietzsche. Attend a SPEP meeting and you'll witness an entirely different crew of philosophers, almost all of whom think Leiter is a hack.

Anonymous said...

PGS and 8:41 -

I detect two distinct fallacies of irrelevance in your respectice defenses of Leiter - viz., tu quoque and appeal to motives. The fact that various people on this blog may be guilty of the same crimes they are ascribing to Leiter does not mean that Leiter is any less guilty. The same is true of the fact that some people may castigate Leiter partly, or even mostly, because they are jealous of him in some way. None of this speaks to the claims being advanced.

I also think it is misleading to describe Leiter's conduct in terms of "snarkiness." While it is probably unreasonable to impugn "snarky" people, it is certainly reasonable to impugn wantonly malicious people. It seems to me that no one who has followed Brian Leiter's career closely enough can reasonably conclude that he is merely "snarky," "grumpy," "cantankerous," or anything else of that sort. On the contrary, one can only reasonably conclude that Brian Leiter is incredibly abusive, vicious, mean-spirited - perhaps even sadistic.

Now, some might argue that philosophy professors do not have any SPECIAL obligation to refrain from engaging in abusive behavior. In other words, philosophy professors have just as many, if not the same, reasons to refrain from engaging in abusive behavior as do other people, and the fact of their being philosophy professors doesn't necessarily provide them any ADDITIONAL reasons to refrain from engaging in such behavior.

This seems mistaken for the simple reason that philosophers are members of a profession, and professions have internal standards of conduct. This explains, in part, why Leiter doesn't abuse his students or his colleagues (in face-to-face contexts). Someone as status-conscious, ambitious, etc. as Leiter knows better than to behave abusively "in real life" - i.e., in his capacity as a teacher, faculty member, etc. He knows that such behavior will more likely than not lead to deleterious consequences - ones which, moreover, can not necessarily be avoided merely because one has tenure.

One might say, then, that by the internal standards of the University of Texas at Austin Brian Leiter is exculpated. But this is not what I meant when I suggested that philosophers are members of a profession which has internal standards. As professionals, we are not only judged by the particular standards of our particular institutions, but by the general standards of the profession as a whole. I would suggest that "the profession" here can be understood broadly as the professoriate and more specifically as "the philosophical profession" (or something like that). I would further suggest that this profession, in both senses of the term, has internal standards which Brian Leiter has repeatedly and recklessly flouted.

Maybe such standards aren't codified anywhere, and maybe they aren't enforceable in any formal sense, but then again, maybe they don't need to be. Surely all of us understand that when we are acting in our capacities as MEMBERS OF THE PROFESSORIATE, OR AS MEMBERS OF THE PHILOSOPHICAL PROFESSION, there are certain thing we should NOT DO. The point is that Brian Leiter has repeatedly done things in his capacity as a professor and a philosopher which professors and philosophers should not be doing. It is not simply a matter of Brian Leiter being an "asshole." For worse or for ware, Brian Leiter wields a great deal of power and influence within the profession. Consequently he has often been seen, and has seen himself, as a representative of the profession. Is it not obviously true that we should hold the most powerful, influential, and representative among us to the highest standards of conduct??? And is it not obviously true that Brian Leiter repeatedly fails to abide by even the most generous and forgiving interpretations of our professional standards? I think it is, and I fail to see how it could be otherwise. What confounds me is why so many intelligent people continue to countenance Leiter's inexcusable delinquency.

I have no doubt it is due to the "helpfulness," etc. of the Leiter Reports. Make no mistake: I agree that Leiter provides an excellent forum for useful discussions, information sharing, etc. But this is SCARCELY a reason to ignore Leiter's grossly unprofessional conduct. Nothing is stopping any of us from starting our own version of the Leiter Report.

Many, if not most, of the people who complain about Leiter continue to read and comment on the Leiter Reports - in some cases religiously. THIS is the problem. Brian Leiter thrives on the recognition of his peers (or people he regards as his peers). If his peers took a firm stand against him, he would in all likelihood make his rhetoric and conduct conform to the standards of our profession. (If he didn't, this would merely confirm my longstanding belief that Leiter is psychotic.)

Point: If you want to knock Leiter off his pedestal - and MANY, MANY, MANY folks at NYU, Michigan, Princeton, the APA, etc. DO - then STOP PAYING ATTENTION TO HIM. Don't read his blog. Don't comment on it. He only has power because WE HAVE GIVEN IT TO HIM. And if we are all agreed that a person who acts the way Brian Leiter acts doesn't DESERVE that power, we are OBLIGED to take it away from him.

Anonymous said...

"Kearney because of his work, something that I agree would be unobjectionable, but because of the pictures he has on his webpage."

True, Leiter didn't EXPLICITLY attack Kearney because of his work. But anyone who is familiar enough with Brian Leiter knows well that he would NOT have committed such an offense against a well-respected analytic philosopher.

Leiter is obsessed with the Continental/analytic divide. Everyone who reads him knows it. Furthermore, Leiter is obsessed with demonstrating (unsuccessfully, I might add) that this divide is illusory, that there are only 'good' and 'bad' philosophers, etc. What Leiter presupposes, if he not outright states, is that people who 'do' philosophy IN EXACTLY THE WAY he does philosophy are all right, whereas people who deviate from Leiter's expectations are worthy of nothing but scorn, ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY ACHIEVE SUCCESS, RESPECT, AND RENOWN (witness Critchley, Lawlor, Smith, May, Protevi, Caputo, Capaldi, Derrida, etc. etc.)

So, considered IN CONTEXT, it is obvious that Leiter's attack on Kearney goes beyond Kearney the man to Kearney the philosopher, whether Leiter *says* it or not.

"Look, I'm not being snarky here. It's not snarky to think that, if someone has taken upon oneself to play a certain role in the profession (and I agree with PGS, that on the whole, we should be glad that Leiter has done this), then that person should should play that role responsibly."

Agreed with all of this, except the idea that "we should be glad that Leiter [has taken it upon himself to take a certain role in the profession]." Why should we be "glad" about this exactly? And what exactly is this "certain role"? To my mind, Leiter is little more than a self-appointed fashionista. And because he has balls - something which philosophers SORELY lack - people heap praise on him?? "Well, I'm glad Leiter is doing it, cuz God knows I wouldn't..." COME ON!

"(And note that I am not saying the same thing about his going after Critchely's interview: there Leiter is attacking a person's uniformed and potentially misleading statements about philosophy and the history of philosophy-- not the pictures on that person's homepage.)"

Pfft. Here's a question to ask yourself: would such a review ever pass muster in a peer-reviewed journal in our profession? NO! Why? Because, whether or not Critchley's 'ideas' ultimately pass muster, Leiter criticizes Critchley is such an offensive, insulting, and deeply PERSONAL way that no reasonable person could distinguish his PERSONAL animus from his purely intellectual misgivings.

And by the way, care to back up your assertions about Critchley? No? Well, then again, you're defending Leiter - doesn't surprise me.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous 3:15 makes it sound as if Leiter singled out Kearney because Kearney is a Continental philosopher. To be fair, so is Leiter. How many diehard analytic philosophers have done so much work on Nietzsche?"

Interestingly, none of the Nietzsche scholars who've heard of Leiter take him seriously. At best Leiter's trying to be 'edgy' among his analytic peers by trying, fruitlessly, to apply a reductive analytic methodology to the study of Nietzsche. Maybe that gets THEIR attantion, but he's not fooling us.

And let's not pretend that Leiter is exculpated just because he went after someone even more pompous and full of shit than HE is (Barnes).

Anonymous said...

Since this thread is not going in a useful direction -- don't you folks know that attacking Leiter, especially anonymously, simply plays to his strengths? (whomof one despairs of shutting up by speaking, thereof one must be silent) -- I'd like to second philosophy prof's 7:54 comment. And add this: for almost all of us, every promotion depends nearly exclusively on our research. Yes, once you get tenure you can avoid being fired if your teaching and service are up to snuff. But most of us don't want to spend the rest of our careers as associate profs making a thousand or two more than new t-track hires. So we have to publish, and publish reasonably well. Even if your state legislators or regents or the like have not mandated that half or more of your salary is for research, the reality is that research is what your job -- on any reasonable conception of it -- requires of you.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Anon. 8:13 --

Oy. I just deleted what I'd intended to be a lengthy response to your comment. But it was way, way, way off topic, so I'll save that rant for another day.

So, let me just say I agree with you that I can't see the purpose of this discussion.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Hm, let me put my point another way.

"Man takes shot at other man on blog."

To me, the most interesting thing about that sentence is the misplaced modifier.

Anonymous said...

PGS, et al. -

8:13 here. I think we need to distinguish here between Brian Leiter's professional behavior and what we might call his "personal behavior." It goes without saying that one can be engage in all sorts of inappropriate personal behavior which is not inappropriate professional behavior. For example, if a professor has a personal blog wherein he/she simply opines on matters that are mostly, if not completely, unrelated to the profession, and if that professor writes execrable things about other people in said blog, we might be within our rights to say that he/she is an asshole, or that a person of his/her apparent intelligence could probably do better than insult people personally, etc. Indeed, many who disagree (and many who agree) with Leiter's *political* views, for example, might be right to say this in light of Leiter's tendency to express said views in an abusive, ad hominem manner. The same would be true, I submit, if Leiter were talking about sports, or movies, or most anything else under the sun that could qualify as "general interest."

It might be the case, moreover, that Brian Leiter's colleagues, his dean, etc. might be somewhat EMBARRASSED by Leiter's online screeds, they might look on him poorly on a personal level, etc. But it would be somewhat odd to suggest that Leiter is acting "unprofessionally" when he hurls vicious, nasty invective at baseball players, movie stars, politicians, etc. - at least if we understand "unprofessionally" in a fairly strict sense. As unsavory as such behavior might be on a personal level, it doesn't necessarily imply delinquency qua membership in the professoriate, or better, membership in the philosophical profession.

The problem, as I see it, is that when Leiter posts on the Leiter Reports he is acting AS a philosopher - indeed, as a powerful and influential philosopher who sees himself (and whom many others see) as a representative of the American philosophical profession. As I said, in other contexts Leiter's conduct might be forgivable, regardless of how obnoxious it is viewed on a personal level. When he is speaking "ex cathedra" - that is, in his capacity as a philosophy professor and an influential (if not completely respected) member of our profession, we should hold him to the very same professional standards that we hold ourselves.

I suspect, though I cannot prove it, that if I - a no-name assistant professor at a no-name school in Texas - were to publish a blog in which I REPEATEDLY level malicious personal attacks against my philosophical colleagues at other schools, and if this were brought to the attention of my chair (maybe even my dean), that I would be reprimanded. Why? Because I am doing something that members of our profession shouldn't be doing WHEN we are acting AS members of our profession. Such behavior not only reflects badly on our departments, our divisions, our institutions, etc. - it reflects badly on the philosophical profession as a whole.

A lot of anti-Leiter material on the net is directed toward Leiter's off-the-cuff commentary on politics, culture, etc. As obnoxious and untoward as said commentary tends to be, I cannot fault Leiter AS a philosopher for making it. He is obviously fully within his rights to be a complete dick. As a so-called "lawyer," however, Leiter knows full well that there are certain things lawyers cannot or shouldn't do solely in virtue of their being lawyers (i.e., members of the philosophy profession). Obviously we don't have anything like the ABA in philosophy, but we DO have professional standards. One of the most important, I submit, is that when we are acting in our capacity as philosophers we should abide by the same standards of decorum, argumentation, etc. to which we hold our colleagues when they so act. Just as no journal, conference, etc. should or would countenance such conduct from a philosopher QUA philosopher, so should we, AS PHILOSOPHERS, not tolerate Brian Leiter's behavior, at least when he is acting AS A PHILOSOPHER. (It is obvious, moreover, when he is acting as a philosopher and when he isn't.)

Not all of us have as much contempt for other scholars as Leiter does. I not only suspect, but know in fact, that members of other professions have encountered Leiter's blog(s) and wondered openly how someone like that ever achieved such prestige, both institutionally and within the profession at large. The answer, sadly, is we have - every time we say "well, Leiter is an ass and he goes off half-cocked, but look, his work in thus-and-such is really good, he provides helpful information on his website, he initiates important conversations, he's very nice in person," etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam. All of this is irrelevant. Leiter should be blackballed. He's an embarrassment to all of us.

Anonymous said...

8:13 here, again:

On a (hopefully) more productive note, I think that much of the jabber here misses the (implied) point of the original comment - namely, that 'philosophical research' doesn't seem to have any obvious social value.

This claim is not obviously wrong. Perhaps it needs to be finessed somewhat - e.g., we have to be clear on what we mean by 'contributing to society - but it is simply not the case that philosophical research 'contributes to society' in the same way that, say, cancer research does.

Opining here, but I think it is fair to say that philosophers (at least in the Anglophone world) are somewhat unreflective on the nature and history of their own profession, such as it is. It goes without saying that much of what could reasonably be called 'analytic philosophy' is completely and totally uninteresting and irrelevant to scholars in other liberal arts/humanities fields. Saying "so what? philosophy these days has more to do with science and math" etc. doesn't help much, since there is PRECIOUS little evidence that our colleagues in mathematics and the natural sciences AS A WHOLE pay attention to what's going on in philosophy. As a result, philosophy in the U.S. (and, arguably, Canada, the UK, etc.) has become deeply marginalized. We are really and truly an island unto ourselves.

I think it is fair to infer that a discipline so deeply marginalized within academia - itself already deeply alienated from 'public' discourse - doesn't make much of a contribution to society. If it does that contribution must be very slight and is in no way obvious.

(Incidentally, the same seems to be mostly true of American/English/Canadian philosophers who work on 'Continental' philosophy within the Continental tradition. Since the vast majority of us simply comment on what others have written, much of our commentary is ignored. People prefer to go directly to the source, especially when they are not English-speakers.)

As far as the prudential value of research is concerned, let's be fair - this is going to differ, in some cases enormously, from institution to institution. It will also differ from individual to individual. Some people, mirabile dictu, have no problem balancing a 3/3 or 3/4 or 4/4 load with prolific research, a family life, non-philosophical life. It seems unfair to suggest, or even form a prima facie suspicion, that such a person's research is mediocre. I think the point here is to avoid generalizations. Unfortunately, people on this blog seem to hunger after generalizations, hard-and-fast advice, etc. My experience - which, admittedly, is not vast - suggests that the academic life is far more nuanced and idiosyncratic than people on this blog make it out to be.

Anonymous said...

I'm definitely one who thinks that the power Leiter wields in virtue of his blog made it inappropriate and also unprofessional to mock the pictures on someone else's website, (and in particular, to suggest in doing so that the other person was somehow professional lacking, or immature).

So in light of various comments about professionalism, and to hit another favorite target on this blog, perhaps the APA should censure Leiter. It's time to break out the fearsome asterisk!!!!

Usually lurks said...

Wow, some folks here pay way too much attention to Brian Leiter. I guess that's up to you, but I think it's clear that PGS et al. would rather not have these bizarre BLOCK LETTER crusades played out on their blog. So, please stop. Go write letters to the APA or something.

Anonymous said...

Every time you YELL, a puppy cries.

Anonymous said...

There are always calls for someone or other to do what Leiter does, i.e. news and perhaps a PGR type thing, but I suspect no one will step up to the plate for fear of being abused at the hands of...Brian Leiter!

Anonymous said...

Most of the posts so far have accused Leiter of being unprofessional, but I have absolutely no clear idea of what it is to be professional. What vaguely comes to mind are a set of attributes that don’t add up to anything I’d call a virtuous character, or at least not a one that I’d aspire to. Perhaps to be professional is to be calm, moderate, polite, and generally bland. But I’m not so sure.

Perhaps, his attack on Kearney is petty, but the thing is, he didn’t have to say much. The silly pictures speak for themselves. I’d sure like to have met Borges, but posting a photo next to the fraud Critchley is hilarious.

And saying that Nietzsche scholars think that Leiter is a hack is absurd. Um, for starters, Clark and Reginster don’t seem to think so. Who the hell are you talking about? I think that Leiter makes several mistakes in his interpretation of Nietzsche, but at least he has ideas and presents them with great clarity. Is the issue with his clarity and style?

Anonymous said...

"I am definitely paid in part for doing research."

But undergraduates and professional students never look to research productivity and quality when selecting schools. They pay to be taught. Grad students don't pay for their education (usually) though they do care about research qualifications of faculty. So yes, in one sense you're right that research is for many a part of their job description. But virtually no money comes into a university because of its humanities research, so I'd argue that in an important sense you really aren't being paid for your research. That it's part of your job description has more to do with internal accounting for faculty labor within the university than anything else. Remember faculty governance: you aren't just an employee of the university, you're really PART OF the university and its governance, thought it may not always feel that way.

Anonymous said...

"There are always calls for someone or other to do what Leiter does, i.e. news and perhaps a PGR type thing, but I suspect no one will step up to the plate" . . .

. . . because it takes a hell of a lot of work to do all that. And whatever your complaints about Leiter, he does a pretty good job. I'm not a fan of his personally or professionally, but I am a fan of PGR and even (the gossip and the thoughful links in) Leiter Reports.

Anonymous said...

I can't agree with 8:48. First, let's say it's true that humanities research does not bring money into a university. It still doesn't follow that my institution can't or doesn't pay me to do humanities research. For instance, it surely pays me to do research when it gives me a paid sabbatical--which I'm granted only if I apply with a viable research project and which I'm forbidden to use for preparing courses. But doesn't having research-active faculty (in all fields) boost the stature and reputation of even undergrad institutions, which in turn attracts more and better student applicants and more generous donors? So doesn't humanities research contribute to the wealth of a university in that respect? When *U.S. News & World Report* does its annual university and college rankings, which many undergrads look to, it considers a factor called "faculty resources," which I *believe* takes into account research support for faculty. When students choose a university for its overall quality, the research productivity of faculty enters into that assessment, even if the students are not aware of it.

I have to say that I'd be hard pressed to convince my colleagues who have gotten poor raises in some periods for lack of research productivity that we are not paid in part for doing research.

Anonymous said...

Contributing to society must be an afterthought (if it's anything) for any professional philosopher, much as or more than it is for almost anyone who does something for pay. Let's be honest, if our interest was even marginally in contributing to society, we probably wouldn't have taken up philosophy in the first place. Given the excessive amounts of privilege and leisure we all have (yes, even those of us who "work" during the summers), there's a hell of a lot more every one of us could be doing if we had even the slightest interest in contributing to society, and almost zero of it would involving doing philosophy. Consider first of all the fact that you're reading this, and possibly thinking of replying to it with some no doubt very clever and/or well-thought-out response. Get real, and go back to "work"!

Anonymous said...

From Leiter's most recent post:

"Philosophical excellence is not a natural kind; to the extent it exists, it emerges from the consensus of philosophers."

What a crazily false dilemma!

But beyond that, consider what this "consensus of philosophers" amounts to. It's certainly not nearly a consensus of all philosophers, but (perhaps) something approaching a consensus of philosophers of "excellence". But, according to Leiter, what makes these philosophers excellent is that there is a consensus that they are. But if this consensus just amounts to a consensus of philosophers of "excellence", then excellence is nothing beyond a self-applied label.

holyoke said...

I'm sure we can all accept that research is "part of the job" so to speak, even if the paycheques aren't itemized (although "paid better if you do research" is not exactly the same claim as "paid to do research.")

One of the reasons I got out of philosophy (and this speaks to the "contributing to society" issue) is that it seemed more and more like a game of interest only to the players.

This seemed true even for the sort of multi-disciplinary work I was doing (phil of psych), where the collaboration was almost all unidirectional (philosophers trying to get up to speed with current psych research, almost never the other way around.) It gets even worse in other multi-disciplinary field, like phil of math.

Anonymous said...

"And saying that Nietzsche scholars think that Leiter is a hack is absurd. Um, for starters, Clark and Reginster don’t seem to think so. Who the hell are you talking about? I think that Leiter makes several mistakes in his interpretation of Nietzsche, but at least he has ideas and presents them with great clarity. Is the issue with his clarity and style?"

Agreed. We can add Acampora, Guay, Janaway, Brobjer, Risse, et cetera.

"There are always calls for someone or other to do what Leiter does, i.e. news and perhaps a PGR type thing, but I suspect no one will step up to the plate" . . .

". . . because it takes a hell of a lot of work to do all that."

By the way, Brian Leiter is an exceptional Nietzsche scholar. His work has changed the discipline for the better. If you haven't read Nietzsche on Morality or, the more recent edited volume, Nietzsche and Morality, you should.

Lastly, i could care less what Leiter does on his own blog. He can do whatever he likes. I can choose to check it out or go to one of the other numerous philosophy blogs.

Furthermore, everyone here is full of shit. If you want to have an alternate professional blog on par with Leiter, start it yourself. If not, stfu. Too lazy, are we?

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who found Leiter's attempt at defending his "Rising Stars" post ridiculous and embarassing?

He argues that people wanted information, but he didn't give us much information at all. How many offers the candidates got and from what schools would have been helpful. And there was no need for the "rising star" label if giving information is all Leiter was about.

And I don't think anyone denies that the rising stars' talent was being tracked. No doubt they're talented. But that's consistent with the claim that other very talented - perhaps comparably - talented people coming from lesser ranked departments don't have a fair shake at having their talent tracked. That's a significant cause for all the ruckus and one Leiter simply ignores.

And I suppose Leiter has some cause to question his critics' motivations given that there's been a lot of criticism of his own. But that makes his concluding ad hominem attacks no more acceptable. You can't just dismiss people by calling them envious. Leiter should know better.

Anonymous said...

Leiter's response here:

He's referring to you people. Everyone should just get back to work so you can be a rising star. It doesn't make sense to gripe on and on and on ad infinitum.

Anonymous said...

I found Leiter's comment on all the anonymous alleged abuse interesting.

First, I don't see what's wrong with anonymity - especially given the way Leiter treated Kearney the other day (notice Leiter changed the title with a weak excuse and no hint of an apology - what. a. jerk.). Few young philosophers with a healthy sense of self-preservation would be willing to take Leiter on given the risk of retaliation.

Second, why the focus on alleged "abuse"? I don't know if Leiter has been abused. I suppose some comments here could have been framed more diplomatically. But the comments here - even many of those that might be taken to contain some abusive content - contain a lot of concerned criticism which Leiter just ignored.

Also, let me note how awesome it is that this blog can function as a check on Leiter's remarks and behavior (did comments on PJMB have anything to do with the Kearney revision?). Leiter provides a lot of useful info. With the threat of a check, maybe he'll stick to doing just that (or at least restrain himself a little more). Then there'll be no need for someone else to take up the task of providing that info in a more palatable form.

Anonymous said...

A meta-question:

I really don't understand the frequent references to the issue of "anonymity." Leiter complains about it in his recent post, and it always comes up in the comments here. Why is this an ethical issue? This is an honest question. I really just don't understand the normative stance people so often take regarding whether you make anonymous comments, or whether you sign your name to them. Is it driven by some sort of virtue ethics, where signing your name is a mark of Courage? That seems really old-fashioned to me.

Anonymous said...

Why did you sign anonymous? There's your answer.

Anonymous said...

first, i highly, highly doubt this site provides any "check" on leiter. why should the whining of low-status grad students hating on their more successful cohorts give leiter pause about his own writing? you think it would? really?

second--as i'm sure ppl keep saying to you all again and again--philosophy is just as hierarchical as any field, and bitching about your low status isn't an effective way to improve your lot. get back to writing!!! philosophy is just meritocratic enough that you really can write yourself up from the bottom.

Anonymous said...

I "sign" anonymous because I'm a grad student and I don't want to piss people off, since it might hurt my future job prospects (such as they are). Is that really cowardly? To me it's just practical. Is there some better ethical argument against anonymity that I'm missing?

Anonymous said...

As for the ethical concerns regarding anonymity, I suspect it's got less to do with Courage and more to do with the fact that most of us aren't angels, and so will tend to behave better, ceteris paribus, when our reputations are at stake, morally unworthy as such motivations might be.

Anonymous said...

Does this blog provide a check on Leiter? Well, he's obviously quite concerned with his reputation and has taken pains to respond - however poorly - to criticisms leveled here. That shows that he at least takes the criticisms as threatening even if not correct. In responding, though, he seems to be digging himself into a deeper hole, given how lousy his response is. Also, there's no way to know if all the criticism about the Kearney debacle influenced Leiter to change the title of his post, but it's certainly possible. If he has a sense of decency, the criticism at least made him do a double take.

As for any alleged grad student "whining" - I don't know if that's supposed to be a representation of how Leiter views the criticisms leveled here or how the poster views them, buts it's just more name calling nonsense. For one thing, professors post here too. For another, the charge of whining is a really clumsy way of trying to trivialize serious complaints that have been made here (admittedly not always in the most mature manner, but serious nontheless).

Anonymous said...

Who knows if Leiter reads this blog, but obviously some of his pals do. Be careful not to offend the "Leiterati"!

Anonymous said...

Are there any public posts, essays, or letters written by Leiter before tenure that are critical of those who might have had power over him (or of friends of such people)? If not, he should shut his piehole.

keith burgess-jackson said...

Can I start the alternate blog?

Anonymous said...

Look on the bright side. We could all have gone into Communications or Organazational Management or Academic Administration, where the entire discipline is not much more than leitertalk. I suppose the same applies to some of the Education departments too. It could be worse.

Then again, if we had all gone into these fields, we'd be earning a fair bit more money for a lighter load, where publishing is easy and promotion all but guaranteed. I guess it could be better too.

Anonymous said...

4:28 (predictably) misunderstands my point. I don't deny that there's a sense most professors get paid for research: their pay is a direct (though not linear) function of research productivity, etc. But my point was this: we should think about where the money's coming from. Mostly tuition, or state support for tuition. And students don't pay 30k a year or whatever to be in the same building as someone who does good research. They pay for an education, and they get that mostly through the courses they take.

So really we're paid to be teachers. Universities might not understand this, and account for faculty labor in a way that doesn't reflect the true economics of the industry, but that doesn't mean we should be complicit in this self-serving charade.

I'm research active, by the way. But being proud of your research doesn't justify self-delusion, esp. considering the earlier discussion on the forum about the social responsibility of professors.

Cowardly Lion said...

I "sign" anonymous because I'm a grad student and I don't want to piss people off, since it might hurt my future job prospects (such as they are). Is that really cowardly? To me it's just practical.

Of course it's cowardly. Are you kidding? If you were brave, you'd sign your name even knowing that it might piss people off. Saying it's "practical" (as if that were in contrast to "cowardly") is like the guy who left France rather than fight for the resistance pointing out that it was merely practical -- he didn't want to piss off the Germans, since it might hurt his future continuing-to-live prospects.

Anonymous said...

Posting Anonymously isn't itself cowardly. Posting anonymously when the content of the post is pissy lil' potshots that you otherwise wouldn't make if your name was attached is in fact cowardly. Of course, sometimes (most of the time I suppose) being a coward is the practical choice. So in the spirit of practicality and cowardice, fuck all y'all! Yeeehawww!

Asstro said...

Anon 8:13:

Students pay tuition at our schools because they want to go to good schools, which are determined in part by the quality of the faculty and the research coming out of the faculty. Graduate students want to come to our programs because they see that we have influence in the field, because we have connections. Sure, they want to be taught, but more than anything, I bet every one of them will acknowledge that they want their degree from a name institution. That's what they want. That's what their parents want. And that's what we want for them. Even kids at SLAC (teaching schools) would probably prefer to go to Bowdoin or Amherst over EBF rinky-dink SLAC, though it is possibly true that the teaching at EBF SLAC is maybe even better than it is at the better known schools. More true is that teaching at EBF SLAC is probably far superior to big schools like the University of Michigan or even Harvard, though I bet many students would prefer to go to UofM or Harvard over EBF; and one might even say (though this is probably less true) that they would prefer even Harvard over Amherst.

All that to say, I think the idea that students come for the teaching is too narrow. Sure, they want good teaching. But they want to be taught be recognizable and informed figures in the field. That comes from our research.

Anonymous said...

And students don't pay 30k a year or whatever to be in the same building as someone who does good research. They pay for an education, and they get that mostly through the courses they take.

They pay a fortune so they can take courses from people who do good research. At least that's why they pay to come to the university where I teach. If you teach at St. John's it could be different.

Nobody's misunderstanding your point, by the way. Everyone understands it. It's just that your point isn't true.

Anonymous said...

Are there any public posts, essays, or letters written by Leiter before tenure that are critical of those who might have had power over him (or of friends of such people)? If not, he should shut his piehole.

Let us all bask in the glory of one of the stupidest anti-Leiter statements ever expressed by someone who is not KBJ.

Anonymous said...

Look on the bright side. We could all have gone into Communications or Organazational Management or Academic Administration, where the entire discipline is not much more than leitertalk. I suppose the same applies to some of the Education departments too. It could be worse.

Then again, if we had all gone into these fields, we'd be earning a fair bit more money for a lighter load, where publishing is easy and promotion all but guaranteed. I guess it could be better too.

This is only tangentially related to the current thread, but I've heard this kind of thing a lot of this blog: we could all have gone to (law school / business school / administration / education / etc.), blown the competition out of the water, and be making big bucks.

Look, that's just not true. Law school is hard. It requires a different skill set than philosophy grad school, and just because you have the one doesn't mean you have the other. Ditto for business school and administration: you really need some amazing people skills and a certain kind of mind. (I don't know much about education, but I'm assuming the same thing is true.) Perhaps people mean it in a more subtle way, like, we could all get by at some middling business school and someone would give us a 60K job afterwards. But that's not how it comes across, and it's really insulting to the smart people who do these things.

Anonymous said...

Undergrads go to institutions because of the research?! Ha ha ha. When you were a junior/senior in high school and looking at colleges, how many philosophers could you name that were alive and teaching? And how many of them were teaching undergrads?

UG Lover said...


and one might even say (though this is probably less true) that they would prefer even Harvard over Amherst.

You're right. I don't know a lot about college admissions, but I happen to know that of students accepted to both Amherst and Harvard, very close to 0% go to Amherst. (Many go elsewhere, of course; and I'm sure plenty of students prefer Amherst and don't apply or aren't admitted to Harvard.)

Obviously, 1:29, high school students don't have first hand opinions about philosophical research. But ask any admissions officer; prospective students are definitely influenced by research success, even if that influence is indirect.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this will resolve things a little (or maybe just piss some bad teachers off):

The vast majority of undergrads only care about the prestige of the school, which is largely caused by the research. So they are paying big bucks to go to a school where a lot of research is done, not because they care about the research, but because they'll get more money due to that piece of paper than if it was from a less prestigious university.

After that, there is a sizable group of students that actually want to learn, and for them the most important thing is to have good teachers.

Lastly, there are those who actually plan to to some research as undergrads.

Except at the very top institutions, the last group is tiny. At a normal school, by the end of their stay the students will get a piece of paper and possibly an education. The cynic will say they're paying for the piece of paper, and thus justify being a bad teacher and not trying to improve, and focusing on research. Of course, doing so also fucks over the ones who actually want to learn.

Asstro said...

Anon 1:29:

When you were in high school, how many excellent teachers could you name?

Now ask yourself: did you make your decision to go to your college based on the kind of attention that you were likely to get or on the prestige of your University? In my case (perhaps demonstrating the claim I don't want to demonstrate), I can say that I actually based my decision on the kind of attention I was going to get. I was accepted to several other more prestigious schools, but turned them down.

I can also say that I've been paying for that decision ever since then; and that, I now believe myself to have been in the minority with regard to my college decisions. Most of my peers, and I think certainly my peers at colleges of more prestige than my own, made their decisions to attend their schools based on the perceived reputation of the school, not on the teaching.

Fine as Harvard may be, it's not a teaching school. So too for a good number of extraordinarily large research institutions. People go to these schools because bad ass researchers are employed by them.

ug lover said...

That hasn't been my experience. I've found that undergrads are much more like graduate students than you seem to think. They want to study with really good philosophers, teachers who are also making a contribution to the field. I think they benefit from such study, but that's just my impression -- I probably haven't seen as many undergrads at as many institutions as you have.

Mr. Zero said...

Minor Leiter-related question. Why does he always have to mention that he thinks Derrida is a charlatan? As in this post, "the charlatan Jacques Derrida". I mean, I don't really think that much of him, either, but I don't have to say so every time his name comes up. Kind of weird, right?

Anonymous said...


EBF SLAC = Eastern Butt Fuck Small Liberal Arts School?

In any case, Anon 1:29 gets it. MAYBE a lot of potential undergrads try to go to a school that has good researchers, or at least they'll say so if asked, but they generally can't tell the good researchers from the charlatans as freshmen anyway, and in any case they haven't been exposed to much (or any) original research at that point so they have no way of judging the research ability of faculty at different schools.

MAYBE college rankings roughly track research productivity, but look at an example. Let's say a kid from St. Albans or somewhere gets introduced to philosophy and decides he wants to major in it. Is he going to consider Rutgers? More likely Harvard, which is still good but nothing like what it was in 1960. It's hard enough for incoming grad students to pick good schools, basically impossible for high school kids.

As for SLACs: many of them have faculty who don't represent the discipline. Their interests are systematically biased, they are 20 years behind the time. And no potential students are going to have any idea what education they're getting. Most St. John's grads think they got a good education, and while they're flaky as all hell over there in Annapolis, they aren't as atypical as some might think. You see the SLAC grads in the first year or two of grad school getting their asses kicked when they find out that a good knowledge of Leo Strauss doesn't get you very far.

Summary: undergrads pay for education and yes, reputation. Reputation might roughly map research quality, but only partially. And they can't judge research quality to the point where it will inform their judgment of teaching quality. So maybe they pay lip service to wanting to be around good researchers (I think most undergrads don't bother) but rally they're interested in the quality of teaching and not research. Pretending otherwise is self-serving and, I think, immoral.

Anonymous said...

Fine as Harvard may be, it's not a teaching school

Different people's mileage may vary, but in my own experience, it was an awesome place to be a philosophy undergraduate in the 1990s. I'd say that two of the courses I had there as an undergrad (Putnam/Cavell on Wittgenstein; Goldfarb on logical positivism) were as good or better than anything I had in grad school, and have continued to be valuable to me as a professional philosopher. And my senior honors thesis experience was tremendous.

Anonymous said...

I think the point is that undergraduate institutions are chosen largely based on prestige (general or specific field prestige). Prestige in this sense is almost entirely research prestige (whether the kids know it or not). Period.

Plus, the second someone tells me that I have been hired to be primarily an awesome teacher is the second I realize that I am talking to a Dean or have in fact just been hired at a crap school.

UG Lover said...

1:27 The contempt you display for undergraduates is disgusting. And then you add your hideous unqualified judgment about the immorality of other philosophers' views about this topic.

There are many, many undergraduates who actually do care about philosophical research. They generally don't have the experience to judge the quality of research themselves, so, yes, they largely rely on reputation. No doubt some are excessively concerned with status, but I've met dozens who have no conception at all that there is any such thing as academic status.

Anonymous said...

As for the ethical concerns regarding anonymity, I suspect it's got less to do with Courage and more to do with the fact that most of us aren't angels, and so will tend to behave better, ceteris paribus, when our reputations are at stake, morally unworthy as such motivations might be

Yeah, but we behave more honestly when we're anonymous, and honesty is sometimes considered a virtue too (I think).

Anonymous said...

I was an undergrad at a big, famed, public state university. I took several courses taught by world-famous professors where the professors largely presented their own ongoing research. An experience like that is worth a lot, I think.

It's charming to have a nice professor regurgitate what other people have been teaching for decades (centuries?). But it's exciting to hear people talk about what they consider their discoveries.

Anonymous said...

If you really want to know whether humanities professors are being paid for research or teaching try:

1. Stop doing any research, and see how long the University continues to pay you.

2. Stop doing any teaching, and see how long the University continues to pay you.

For those of use with tenure, the answer to (1) is "until we turn 65". Our raises may be smaller, etc., but we will still have a job. Even those without tenure can still stay with many universities for 3-6 years without doing any research.

On the other hand, if I were to really stop teaching (that is, stop teaching, not just start teaching badly), I expect that I'd be out of a job within a year unless I had a very good medical excuse or slid into some kind of administrative track. Unless really exceptional circumstances come up, most of us would be fired if we stopped teaching, but wouldn't be fired if we stopped doing research.

Anonymous said...

Who the fuck cares what Universities "pay" us to do! Look at it this way, do we refer to High school math teachers as mathematicians? Of course not. High schools hire folks to teach math, universities hire folks to do math. We may have to teach math along the way, but for fuck sake we aren't professional teachers. Teaching sure as fuck ain't my profession. Anyone here have a teaching degree? Anyone have any formal training in teaching methods? I sure don't. For all I care, the University could make it part of my contract that I shear sheep twice a week (in fact, I may prefer that over teaching 101 to a bunch of mouth-breathers).

Christopher Pynes said...

I am tired of the stupid anonymous posts like 7:23 AM.

People like chemists get paid to do research first and teach second. If you are really good, then you never have to teach. But the funding has to come from an outside source to get a teaching release.

As philosophers, *most* of us are paid to teach (notice how our nine month pay corresponds with the teaching calendar).

If your research is so great that it is worth getting paid to do 7:23 AM, then find yourself a King, Duke, or Company to fund it and let people that want to do philosophy at a college or university and teach it to other people have their place. Become something other than a philosophy teacher (Citgo Manager for all I care) and do your philosophy research on their dime. Because as far as I can tell, your view is the wrong view, and you shouldn't be in the classroom or taking up a tenure track line or TA stipend from someone else!

And one of the many reasons people care about why the university pays them is so that one can justify increases in pay and other matters. A bit of humility is warranted too I think. High school math teachers can be (and many are if you ask me) mathematicians. And teaching methods accreditation doesn't make one a teacher good or not either. Just look at your local college of ED for an example.

Now, not all college and universities are the same, but teaching is a big deal at most of them. Just look at faculty union contracts and tenure requirements and you will see that, we do in fact, get paid to teach. 12:34 had it right about how quickly a person that didn't teach would get fired.

I bet most philosophy teachers/professors do more good by teaching good classes to their students than they do writing a paper for _Journal of Philosophy_. We can have actual impact on people in the classroom in a way that our articles to an already informed/opinionated/biased audience will have.

Clearly there is a bit of a paradox in what we start doing and what we end up doing, but that's just the way the university works.

Anonymous said...

Why can't we just agree that those of us with research requirements as part of the job (e.g. people with 2-2 teaching loads) get paid to do research AND to teach? That not doing each is grounds for dismissal? (Of course, you would get dismissed faster for not teaching, but that's just because it's harder to objectively measure whether someone is getting research done in a short time-frame).

Presumably both elements are important, both to personal fulfillment and to contributing to society, though how they are weighed may be different for different people, or even for the same person at different times in his/her life.

And, in general, improving one will help with the other as well.

Anonymous said...

I just got the ultimate "professors don't do anything over the summer" comment from my mom. I finally finished my dissertation and landed the coveted tt job at an R-1 (in a non-philosophy humanities field). I was just on the phone trying to explain to her the stress and difficulty that will come along with being on the tenure clock and why it would be hard for me to bear and raise the grandchildren she so desperately desires. (Not to mention the fact that my husband and I have decided we don't want to have kids). She responded with, "oh, you'll be busy, but at least you'll have the summer off. You could have a baby over the summer and it would be no problem at all!"