Alex Dunn

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Brian Leiter is an issue for philosophy

UPDATE: Brian Leiter replied by email; that communication is included in full at the bottom of this post.


Brian Leiter, proprieter of the philosophy blog Leiter Reports and—until recently—sole controller of the influential Philosophical Gourmet Report, is an issue for the profession of academic philosophy. Despite his claims to oppose sexism, racism, and other oppressions in academic philosophy, is often complicit in creating a hostile climate towards marginalized philosophers—either by policing the boundaries of “real” philosophy; concern trolling efforts at real change; engaging in casual ableism; linking approvingly to anonymous blogs like “Real Feminist Philosophers” and Philosatire which engage in racism, sexism, and ableism; or by threatening and bullying junior women in the profession.

The fact that he and his blog remain influential suggest that a significant proportion of

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How Academic Philosophers Are Trying to End Academic Philosophy — And Getting It Right

Is there any point in continuing to allow academic philosophy to exist?

Despite the field’s reputation for sexism, racism, ableism, and all that is reactionary, most of us still assume that academic philosophy deserves its place in the university. It improves our critical thinking abilities, teaches us how to understand arguments and encourages useful, logical patterns of thought. And Spencer Case of the University of Colorado sees signs of moral progress:

Weinberg plans to continue teaching same sex-marriage as a controversy in his contemporary-ethics course, but primarily in order to shed light on other issues and to expose the “highly problematic” arguments of those who oppose it. He mulls relegating the topic to a course on “historical moral problems,” where it can be discussed alongside slavery and other topics he considers settled.

But Case points out that moral progress is

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By definition, philosophy is for white men

Peter Unger did a softball interview with a former student to promote his new book and gaze in wonder upon his own intelligence. Eric Schliesser dealt with the interview as a whole, so I’ll focus less on his staggering arrogance and more on his ridiculously narrow understanding of what philosophy is, and how damaging such an understanding can be.


Unger’s preening self-flattery reaches its climax when he trashes Bertrand Russell and Russell’s Problems of Philosophy. I’ll start there because it lets me make a funny joke about how Unger himself represents a great number of the problems of philosophy.

Unger embodies the tendencies of philosophers both to consider themselves experts on everything about which they are aware, and—as Schliesser points out—to intentionally fail to understand that which is not convenient. But as obnoxious as those tendencies are, they’re less dangerous than

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Intuitively, philosophy is for white men

Our familiar punching bag Philosatire now has three posts making fun of ableism, disability studies, and people with disabilities in general, so let’s say something about that.

Two days ago Philosatire published a post “satirizing” a recent allegation of assault. I don’t know what exactly Philosatire’s intentions were with this post and I don’t care because the upshot was that they directly compared people with disabilities to aliens. When I challenged them on Twitter, they gave a snide little response and then dug in their heels this morning:

To say that comparing the disabled to extraterrestrials is ableist is to imply that there’s something bad about being Grey. That’s terracism pure and simple. And it sickens us.

I don’t have explain what Philosatire was really implying when they equated disabled individuals with non-humans, because they made it explicit at the end of their

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Collegiality is bullshit

New APPS has very good post about what’s wrong with calls for “collegiality” in the ongoing debates about how to fix professional philosophy. Read that instead of this; I just want to make a few additional, relatively minor, points.


If you already read that you’ll see they briefly discuss a Leiter post that he later removed and replaced with an apology. It was nonetheless cached by Google (h/t this anonymous Tumblr) and it’s worth reading since many in the profession evidently share the sentiments expressed. The passage I want to talk about is this one:

Since I am unreservedly on the side of those who believe sexual harassment is a serious problem in academic philosophy, and who strongly supports sanctions for sexual harassers, including Ludlow, and who has worked to get such sanctions brought against other sexual harassers in the profession, may I say to those who share those

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for all x, if x is a man then x is banned from philosophy

This morning greeting us with a statement from the female faculty of the Philosophy department at CU-Boulder regarding the recent APA site visit. The statement included this sentence:

We faculty women strongly believe that none of our currently untenured male colleagues or current male graduate students has engaged in sexual misconduct (nor, indeed, have most of our tenured colleagues).

Within hours, the anonymous author behind “Philosatire” responded by crying “misandry!” To be fair, this piece of satire, while still not reaching the comedic heights of the Daily Currant, did mark an improvement over the inaugural Philosatire post, which looked at the serious allegations of sexual harassment at CU-Boulder and said “lol.”

The new post, while still aimed at reinforcing oppressive hierarchies and being painfully unfunny to boot, does at least have a coherent message. It misquotes the

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for all x, x is a brand

Assuming the argument set forth in McGinn (2001) is sound, analytic philosophers have a robust sense of humor. I flatter myself, therefore, to think that my time spent on “Weird Twitter” (as it is called by Judson (2013)) is not wholly wasted. Indeed, this morning I found great pleasure in reading the following tweet (Hendren 2014), which I will not reproduce here in full due to considerations of taste:

i love to wake up every morning and engage with my favorite #brands online!!!!!!!! […]

Here Mr. Hendren is prima facie using “#brands” to refer to companies, or at least the social media manager of a company’s Twitter account. Perhaps this is an example of the phenomena of non-literal speech, which has been shown by Kent Bach and others to be widespread. Just as I can use “@fart” to refer to Jon Hendren, I can use “#brands” to refer to companies.

But I would like to suggest an

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