Friday, March 27, 2009

Pants on fire

My stalker Brian Leiter is at it yet again. This is becoming formulaic: First identify me as “the” author of the counter-petition. (That joke’s gone kind of stale by now, don’tcha think, Big Bri?) Then tell a few other fibs about matters you know your more robotic readers won’t bother to check up on for themselves. These things more or less write themselves, which means, I guess, that I can’t blame Leiter for their “inaccuracies” (ahem).

Here’s Leiter’s summary of The Last Superstition:

The "demonstration" consists in recycled Thomist arguments (with no meaningful attention to their now familiar refutations and the repetitive rhetorical trope that everyone [except Professor Feser] has failed to grasp the real import and nuances of these arguments) and some premodern Aristotelian metaphysics, recycled through the lens of Professor Feser's sad obsession with where sperm ends up.

Did you catch that, TLS readers? I give “no meaningful attention” to the “now familiar refutations” of Thomistic arguments. Apparently the copy of the book Leiter read was missing chapters 3 through 6.

It’s also Feser alone whom I claim has properly understood the arguments. None of those citations of Neo-Scholastics, Analytical Thomists, historians of philosophy, etc., that you thought you saw in the book were really there. You dreamed them.

Oh, and the “premodern Aristotelian metaphysics” is recycled through a sperm obsession, or whatever. It was a Cartesian malin genie who made you think you read that chapter on the philosophical, scientific, political, religious, and cultural factors at work in the Scholastic-to-modern transition, and the deep philosophical problems that transition opened up. You were hallucinating when you thought you read all those arguments about how the work of analytic thinkers like Anscombe, Armstrong, Cartwright, Ellis, Molnar, Oderberg, Sehon, Schueler, and others points (whether all these writers intend this or not) to something like a revival of Aristotelian metaphysics. In reality it was all just 291 pages about sperm.

Now, look at this pocket watch go back and forth and repeat after me: There were no actual arguments there, just some religious bigot ranting. There were no actual arguments there, just some religious bigot ranting. You are getting sleepy… sleepy…

Well, we all know what’s coming next: Yet another frenzied response from Leiter about how I keep responding to him. More lies about how I am a lying liar who tells lies. Etc. Well, make it quick, Brian. I know you’ve got lots of free time, and these little exchanges are fun and all. But hey man, I’ve got stuff to do!

11 comments:

Eric said...

"The "demonstration" consists in recycled Thomist arguments (with no meaningful attention to their now familiar refutations and the repetitive rhetorical trope that everyone [except Professor Feser] has failed to grasp the real import and nuances of these arguments)"

I doubt Leiter read past the preface. (In fact, I doubt he's looked at a copy of the book: I'd wager that he's merely pasting some quotes that one of his disciples has sent him.) If he had, and if he were open to learning something from you, he would realize that, as you *clearly* point out, most of the 'now familiar refutations' are nothing of the sort, since they fail to address the 'nuances' you refer to -- oh, and 'nuances' in this context means, 'accurate representations of Aquinas's arguments.'

Given the (well deserved!)reputation philosophers have for their respect for 'nuances' (here I'm using the term according to its acceptation), isn't it odd to see how frequently professional philosophers, such as Leiter and Dennett, use the term (or similar terms) derisively when referring to arguments supporting theism? Now *that*, Professor Leiter, is not "uninteresting as a sociological and psychological" phenomenon!

"Well, we all know what’s coming next: Yet another frenzied response from Leiter about how I keep responding to him. More lies about how I am a lying liar who tells lies. Etc."

You know, Ed, with your quote from Leiter's blog post included, this response of yours is pretty lengthy. That's a heck of a high word count you've got going here. Now Leiter will label it a 'cyber-dissertation' or something.

Jime said...

Another example of Leiter's intellectual and ethical level.

One would except from a real philosopher a serious, rigorous and objective criticism or review of TLS book; not a silly straw men based on the book's back cover + Leiter's own anti-religious prejudices.

Very sad indeed...

Anonymous said...

You may already be aware (and may have even already responded), but a quite similar dilettante has offered his "review" of your book:

http://unbeguiled.blogspot.com/2009/02/last-superstition-refutation-of-new.html

Personally, my copy is en route to my home in Malaysia and I can't wait to read it based on your outstanding insights offered at W4.

Damien S said...

I am doing my Honours thesis on mental causation and am taking a slightly different position than Ed's Thomism (although I have benefited enormously from Ed's work).

I take an emergentist view of the mind. And I can say even there that it is amazing how much modern metaphysics and philosophy of mind is making moves back to a broadly Aristotelian view.

Here is one paper where the authors argue for a view of top-down causation that is in line with Aristotle's concept of "formal" cause -

http://www.nbi.dk/~emmeche/coPubl/2000d.le3DC.v4b.html

So moral of the storym; Leiter is an ignoramous.

JD Walters said...

I feel so good about myself...a mere undergrad who is more perceptive and open-minded than a tenured professor (i.e. Brian Leiter)!

Seriously, I don't see how he could make this assessment if he had actually read the book. I approached it from a standpoint of complete skepticism about Thomism and came away, if not fully convinced, at least very appreciative of the depth and rigor of the Thomistic arguments.

Michael B said...

I think of Leiter as the Helen Thomas of academe. A certain position and platform has been gained, and the use it is put to indulges qualitatively similar forms of mendacity, socio-psychological manifestations, etc. Even in terms of outward appearances, there is at least a vague similarity and arguably, taking the age difference into account, more than a merely vague similarity.

Further, given the quality of Leiter's own commentary, such an acknowledgement is entirely reasonable, is deserving.

Eric said...

Leiter can't ignore you, as this allusion evinces.

Eric said...

Now Leiter knows someone who has actually read "The Last Superstition," and is apparently pretending that he's read it himself:

ADDENDUM: For motivated readers, pp. 132-153 are particularly remarkable, and might be useful for those wanting a good example of bad philosophy in the service of religious dogma.

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

Now Leiter is comparing you with people who want to murder homosexuals or criminalize homosexuality! The man has no shame! His sad obsession with you has gone well beyond 'creepy' (it passed 'pathetic' a few posts ago), and is perhaps approaching the point at which his words may be considered borderline libellous...

Madeleine said...

I laughed when I read this post I think I don't need to do my stomach crunches for today!

You know you, Frank, Tim and Plantinga could start a stand up comedy show.

Who knew so many Christian philosophers could be so funny!

Leiter is one sad individual.