Ed Driscoll

A Leiter Shade of Fail

On Monday, James Taranto quoted from Brian Leiter of the University of Chicago:

On a lighter note, here’s a Leiter note–a blog post from Brian Leiter, a left-liberal philosopher who teaches at the University of Chicago. Leiter is unhappy with the “attack on workers’ rights” by “the Republican criminals in Wisconsin” and also with plans in Pennsylvania to cut funding for public universities. He writes:

At some point these acts of brazen viciousness are going to lead to a renewed philosophical interest in the question of when acts of political violence are morally justified.

Bobby Kennedy, call your office!

Taranto followed up on Thursday with more:

As we noted in January, the hard-left sociologist Frances Fox Piven has expressly advocated political violence and is at no legal risk for it. Leiter doesn’t even advocate violence; he merely says that “at some point” (not imminently!) there will be “renewed philosophical interest in the question.”We find this amusing rather than menacing because it is so pathetically weak. Again, contrast Piven with Leiter. She came right out and called for “something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece”–a despicable sentiment, but one that at least has the virtue of clarity, in contrast with Leiter’s coy insinuation that there may be challenging academic papers in the offing if his political foes aren’t careful. Piven, a woman who will be 80 next year, is acting manlier than Leiter, decades younger and male.

Althouse does not profess to find Leiter’s statement menacing either but “disgusting.” (Nor does she urge that he be silenced.) If we read her correctly, her disgust is largely the product of what she, as an academic with integrity, sees as his abuse of his scholarly authority: “He’s inclined to approve of the impulse toward violence on the left and willing to mobilize the discipline of philosophy to generate rhetoric to support its political goals. It’s quite disgusting.”

The reason we find Leiter’s comments amusing rather than disgusting is that we, unlike Althouse, are not part of academia and thus have no personal investment in the ideal of disinterested and honest scholarship. Rather than offend our ideals, Leiter reinforces our stereotype of academia as being filled with fools and knaves.

Not to mention self-described peons.