Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog: CHE: Where are your fact-checkers?

And where are yours, Professor Leiter?

Your hit piece on two recent articles on the future of philosophy in the Chronicle of Higher Education, one of which was written by CSID’s own Adam Briggle and Robert Frodeman, needs to get its facts straight.

CHE has two essays this week attacking philosophy (what else is new from CHE?):  one, by Lee McIntyre, says that philosophy “needs to matter”, while the other is a thinly veiled advertisement for what members of the philosophy department at the University of North Texas do under the guise of being a philosophy department.  (Note:  if you can’t afford to advertise in CHE, you can always write an advertisement framed as an opinion piece bashing what other philosophers do.)

First, neither article is an attack on philosophy. Indeed, one need read only the opening lines of the Briggle-Frodeman piece to see this:

We have devoted our lives to philosophy. We want the field to survive and, if possible, prosper. But it is increasingly doubtful that academic philosophy can thrive in an era of declining budgets, soaring debts, antipathy to tax increases, and new technologies such as distance education.

Second, you write:

Let “a thousand flowers bloom,” including the one blooming at UNT:  but why in God’s name think that everyone else should be doing that?

I don’t see where you get the claim that we members of the philosophy department at UNT think that everyone else should be doing what we do (whether under the guise of a philosophy department or not).

Third, if you think what we do isn’t real philosophy, you might want to remove UNT from the Philosophical Gourmet Report.

Fourth, you claim:

I am puzzled though how CHE let pass the claims in McIntyre’s piece and the UNT piece about declining enrollments in philosophy.

I have searched in vain for any such claim in “the UNT piece” — because there is no such claim there.

Most disturbing of all, perhaps, is your attack on these articles as ‘anti-intellectual’:

What’s most disheartening about these anti-intellectual pieces is that they represent the American version of what’s befallen the British, where every field of intellectual pursuit has to justify its “market” value in virtue of its “practical” applications.

I suggest you re-read the so-called UNT piece. Briggle and Frodeman write:

Philosophy is now subject to powerful cultural trends that include a distrust of the public realm, a utilitarian habit of mind where only what is countable actually counts, and a widespread assumption that “values” are mere preferences to be tabulated and traded rather than critically assessed and debated.

Their point is not that we should embrace such trends. On the contrary, they suggest:

The philosophic community needs to respond to these dangers in a thoughtful and proactive way.

It is a shame that you see only “philosophy teachers calling for philosophy to be subjected to essentially that ‘cash-value’ metric” when you read these pieces.

Last week, Bob Frodeman and I were in the UK talking with people at the University of Oxford about the impact requirement in the UK’s new Research Excellence Framework. Needless to say, the point was not to advocate subjecting all things Oxford to a cash-value metric. We were there to learn how one of the top universities in the world would deal with the notion of impact. How anti-intellectual of us!


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2 Responses to Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog: CHE: Where are your fact-checkers?

  1. Steve Fuller says:

    That dastardly Leiter — in typically McCarthyesque fashion he insinuates that I am behind this letter by making derogatory references to the ‘British’ (cf. ‘Communist’). It’s as if the very idea of use-value were a Benthamite conspiracy to corrupt the Platonic conscience… I can easily imagine Leiter in slurry fulmination waving CSID’s op-ed as proof positive — Edward R. Murrow, where are you when we need you?

  2. Fábio Valenti Possamai says:

    Britt, excellent response to Leiter’s piece. I can’t believe he generalized the CHE article. It is obvious that Bob and Adam weren’t saying that EVERYBODY needs to be “just like UNT”. But it would be nice if some people did that. I think what the article says is that we ALSO need this niche within Philosophy, it must be both very theoretical and very “practical”. Can we talk to Leiter and try to “wake him up” for his dogmatic sleep? For some reason I don’t think this would be possible. But it would be really nice for the discussion if you could make all this talk more public – people really need to know this. Maybe this is one of the so called “one time opportunities”. As we say in Brazil “The horse passes by us, saddled, only once”.

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