March 17, 2011

"Still waiting for any of the brilliant liberals to explain the difference between Leiter's 'philosophical musings' and Sharron Angle's discussion of Second Amendment remedies."

"My prediction: a circular argument which boils down to 'He's a philosopher, so anything he says is philosophical. We know he's a philosopher, because he says philosophical things. And she's not a philosopher, because we say so.' The art world uses this 'argument,' so why shouldn't the philosophers?"

Says Martin L. Shoemaker in the comments to that post about Brian Leiter. That much-gasped-at Sharron Angle quote crossed my mind as I was writing it.

58 comments:

Seven Machos said...

Did I miss the part about the woman who suggested that we need mass riots that result in death here like the riots in Greece?

Or how about the one about how all the people Stalin and Mao killed are differently dead than the people killed by other dictators?

This isn't just a thread of leftist thought. It's the very canvas of leftist thought: that leftists can think things and do anything they want in a sinless way because of the glorious beauty of their intentions.

Phil 3:14 said...

explain the difference

Second Amendment.

Many minds "turn off" when they hear that mentioned in an argument.

Coketown said...

It makes perfect sense if you're well versed in the critical theory of faculty lounges. We take today's reading from the Book of Barthes, chapter 1, verse 1: "In the beginning was the Author, and the Author was slain, and lo! the Text was a wasteland and void of Unity. Until the Audience came to be, and instilled in the Text a Unity and Destination. Amen!"

See, the author of the statement is immaterial. What's relevant is who the statements are aimed at. Angle was speaking to a rabble of violent idiots. Leiter's were aimed at the washed masses of academic sophisticates.

Seven Machos said...

The Second Amendment is a bad guaranteed right. But not being searched without probable cause -- that one is golden.

Jay Retread said...
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Jay Retread said...
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Jay Retread said...

Who is this Leiter guy and is he running for the U.S. Senate?

Leo Ladenson said...

Yes, under Leiter's definition of collective bargaining as a human right the deprivation of which justifies violence, I assume he is calling for the violent overthrow of the current administration, which deprives federal workers of collective-bargaining rights.

Any chance the FBI or Secret Service will be calling on him soon?

jimspice said...

Are we supposed to know who Brian Leiter is?

Revenant said...

Who is this Leiter guy and is he running for the U.S. Senate?

Yes, he announced his candidacy last week.

The Crack Emcee said...

I'm not a liberal, but my answer would be that nobody's laughing at Sharon Angle.

"Read the whole thing", as they say, and it'll make sense.

Seven Machos said...

Jim -- If you aren't stupid, yes.

Here's a free subscription to Google for you.

Quayle said...

Leiter is one of us. Angle is a female other.

(Wait, as lefties we're supposed to champion the female and the other. But like many, Angle is the "other" other - the "wink-wink-nod-nod-know-what-I-mean" female other, so she doesn't get championing.)

jimspice said...

Guess I'm stupid then. Still not an asshole though.

Brian O'Connell said...

Who is this Leiter guy and is he running for the U.S. Senate?

What's the upshot there? That only politicians' statements should be subject to scrutiny? Or that different rules should apply when judging politicians' and citizens' political statements?

This reminds me slightly of one avenue of the Piven defenders' responses to Beck's criticisms, which Ann highlighted, which was basically "picking on poor little old ladies ain't right." Or, how dare the masses intrude on our ivory-towered enclosure.

Heat, kitchen, etc.

chr1 said...

It's not just the glorious beauty of their intentions, but of their ideas. So, in ignoring their own behavior as they push themselves and political representatives forward to enshrine those ideals (crony capitalism, overall loss of freedom through economic regulation, nanny statism etc.)

...they assume those ideas are transcendent. But of course, no one is quite sure what justice is, equalilty is equally unclear for many (like most on the right, I support some form of equality of opportunity). This doesn't seem to bother most of them.

In the worst quarters (because I believe ignorance is the rule in human affairs) they seek to denigrate religious belief, barely contain their totalitarian impulses,and declare science to be absolute truth and a platform for their "rights".

It's quite possible that Leiter's #1 is simply incorrect, that human rights are in fact a right. I don't know about the violence, but it sounds like he needs to get out of academia more.

My two cents

Carol_Herman said...

Here's my take on the SECOND AMENDMENT: It is there for the hard of hearing.

It is also there when you notice that the police can become "inactive." And, you have to defend your home.

Back in the days of the Rodney King Riots, the Koreans had no guns. And, the looters came. Took everything. And, for good measure then burned stores to the ground.

Within 3 days, where the Koreans learned the cops would not come; snipers went up to rooftops. And, suddenly the whole riot thing "disappeared."

I live in a quiet community, by the way. Where it has been said "there are more guns than people." (All behind locked gun cabinets.)

You didn't know this prevented rioters from blasting into neighborhoods where they do not live?

You did not know that the Kremlin, thrilled to see the Rodney King Riots covered so well on American TV, FOR THE FIRST TIME, EVER ... let these pictures be shown across Russia.

Eyeballs fell out of russian heads! They had been told, while they waited on long lines for everything ... and stores didn't stock merchandise, either ... that "Americans had it worse!"

Well, those Rodney King Riot images had "POOR PEOPLE WITH CARS" who drove to stores that were loaded with inventory. And, the russians learned for the first time that they had been lied to.

1991 is the year the soviets collapsed. And, yes. The year that had the Rodney King Riots, too.

Today's police? They don't beat criminals anymore. They hardly react to crimes taking place. What used to be there got trained out of them.

Don't be fooled, our guns keep us free.

A "Shotgun" Gold said...

Guns can make one autonomous, independent and self-reliant under circumstance when other people choose to put their fate into the hands of criminals or tyrants. That bothers the fuck out of a lot of people who apparently fear those ideals they can never attain.

Jay Retread said...

Brian O'Connell wrote "What's the upshot there? That only politicians' statements should be subject to scrutiny? Or that different rules should apply when judging politicians' and citizens' political statements?"

Of course the answer is yes to the last question. This Leiter guy is not a public person. He is shooting his mouth off trying to get people's attention like Ann does. He represents nobody but himself. Sharron Angle on the other hand was the selected candidate by the Republican Party in Nevada to run for the U.S. Senate. See the difference?

For Ann to equate the two just makes her look dumb.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

So, Jay... Were they both right? Or both wrong? Or if he was right and she was wrong, why? "Because she was running for Senate" is not an answer.

For me, the answer is: both right. People who criticize him and not her (or vice versa) are partisans, not thinkers.

Revenant said...

This Leiter guy is not a public person.

Of course he is.

Paul said...

There are two sets of rules.

One for the left, the enlightened, the Democrats.

And one for the right, the benighted, the Republicans and especially Tea Party types.

Note the irony of the radical egalitarians naturally gravitating toward a two tier system of classification that is really no more than the aristocracy vs. the plebes.

ricpic said...

"Armed insurrection against the government" is a legitimate last resort against a government hellbent on turning a citizen into a subject. The Left will come to rue the day Nancy made her gavel walk through Tea Party ranks.

Michael said...

Doesn't that basically amount to, "I'm a philosopher so whatever I say is a wank with no real world significance, but she might actually manage to do something someday?"

Revenant said...

Doesn't that basically amount to, "I'm a philosopher so whatever I say is a wank with no real world significance, but she might actually manage to do something someday?"

To be fair... isn't that basically accurate?

DKWalser said...

Guess I'm stupid then. Still not an asshole though.

Don't give up! Some of us have simply been working towards that goal longer than you, is all.

somefeller said...

So, Jay... Were they both right? Or both wrong? Or if he was right and she was wrong, why? "Because she was running for Senate" is not an answer.

I'm not Jay, but both were wrong. You don't go around talking about political violence in a working democracy. And just because your side is losing at any given time doesn't mean you aren't living in a working democracy. One of the unwritten rules of a civil society is that you don't start shooting or talking about shooting when you aren't able to convince enough people to vote your way. There are situations in which political violence may be justified, but those situations don't generally come up in a society with universal suffrage and the rule of law.

And there is a big difference between a largely unknown academic spouting off that sort of thing on a blog and someone who aspires to membership in the United States Senate doing so. Context matters and one has a much bigger pulpit (and therefore more responsibility) than the other.

holdfast said...

Both were wrong. But according to lefty conventional wisdom Leiter is much smarter, so he should have known better, unlike that dumb Teabagger woman.

Seriously, the private ownership of weapons does provide (or at least maintain the option of) an alternate means to redress tyranny, but before you invoke it you better be DAMNED SURE that you're really resisting real tyranny, and not just the utterly wrong-headed policies of an *sshole politician with whom you disagree vehemently, because you can't stuff that genie back into the lamp short of an insurrection or civil war.

Happily, neither Angle nor this Leiter creature are serious people, and thus should not be taken seriously.

Methadras said...

The 1st amendment was not originally destined to be the 1st, but the 2nd amendment was originally meant to be the first, but the actual process of speaking freely without political retribution is what compelled the 1st Amendment of Freedom of Speech to become the first. However, if should that ever fail, the 2nd would certainly kick in.

Mogget said...

So does a sitting congressman have a bigger bully pulpit -- and therefore a bigger responsibility -- than a senatorial candidate?


I'm proud to be here with people who understand that it's more than just sending an e-mail to get you going. Every once and awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary.

--Congressman Mike Capuano


Still a double standard I think.

andinista said...

Angle says the 2nd amendment is for defense against a tyrannical government. And she hoped it didn't come to that, but instead we could change our government by the ballot.

Lieter declares that the ballot-changed government, making tough decisions about how to spend a limited-amount of tax-derived revenue (which naturally affect government employees lives), is an act of "brazen viciousness" that if significant enough, justifies gun violence.

Spending and taxing decisions by an elected government is not tyranny.

Tyranny is when the government refuses to perform its duties to secure the rights of We The People, and to misuse its We the People granted powers to enrich some, and beggar others.

andinista said...

It's simple enough. No-one has a right to a job. Jobs come and go. Business cycles exist. The government is an employer, same as any other. In fat times, it hires up and starts doing "nice to have" tasks. In lean times, it has to shut down the marginal activities, lay off the dead wood, and give the survivors a pay cut (e.g. pay for nothing but classroom teachers, principals, and janitors, plus the overhead staff that supports those three.)

Layoffs and pay cuts are not "brazen viciousness". They are the facts of life we all must endure, and husband our resources for.

Is Leiter asking, that if MegaCorp goes through a business contraction, and lays off gobs of people, deadly force violence is justifiable?

andinista said...

Does that explain it? Glad this liberal can help. Call back anytime.

Canuck said...

"So, Jay... Were they both right? Or both wrong? Or if he was right and she was wrong, why? "Because she was running for Senate" is not an answer."


The answer is - it depends.

A history teacher can and should talk about the American Revolution. BUT -- It would be a historical problem (and not fulfilling the duty of the instructor) for a professor to just present the philosophy and historical actions of the Patriots/ Founding Fathers and not explain the historial position of Parliament and the Torys.

This philosopher says he is asking a question (and not answering it.) That is acceptable. If the philosopher did not also consider and discuss the view of philosophers who discussed why violence was ethically WRONG, he would not be performing his job.

I don't think Angle was trying to present multiple viewpoints. She is a politician and was performing the job of a politican.

Was she wrong to suggest "Second Amendment remedies?" That's up to you to decide.

Canuck said...

"Spending and taxing decisions by an elected government is not tyranny."

well, I'm inclined to agree. But people who protested against the Stamp Act would disagree.

And those Bostontonians were quick with the tar and feathers.

andinista said...

If I remember my American history, many people wanted to blame the King's Ministers (you know, those elected PM's) for their heavy-handed treatment of the colonials. Especially since the money was being extracted from the colonies, to pay the (British?/UKs?) debts from the Brit/French wars.

Common Sense by Thomas Paine galvanized public opinion against the sovereign King as the real cause of the Colonies troubles. Absolute power monarchs don't let go without a fight.

Carol_Herman said...

What a "sitting congress critter" has is a two year term.

Angle was running against Harry Reid. This time she's running for Congress. It's a District seat.

I have no idea what Sharron Angle's changes are. But in terms of name recognition? She's got it.

She also needs to raise money.

That's really where this story kicks in.

To me? It seems early to be racing for a November 2012 seat. But I don't live in Nevada.

Revenant said...

I'm not Jay, but both were wrong. You don't go around talking about political violence in a working democracy.

Are we assuming for the sake of argument that we've got a working democracy?

Don't Tread 2012 said...

This one has C4BDH written all over it. Where is that old bastard???

Synova said...

"explain the difference"

Actually, Angle was discussing philosophy, or at least the understanding that the 2nd Amendment is for the purpose of maintaining the ability of the people to apply that remedy and it should not be infringed. She carefully said that the *preferred* thing was to vote.

Leiter was not discussing philosophy, not of government theory or otherwise, but was suggesting violence might be the solution, or be seen as the solution, in a situation like this.

Leiter wasn't making a reference to retaining the capability guaranteed by the constitution.

The difference, is, of course, that Angle is a scary right-wing-nut and Leiter is a liberal academic.

Synova said...

"well, I'm inclined to agree. But people who protested against the Stamp Act would disagree."

I don't think that "taxation without representation" was referring to the colonists who got to vote but ended up in the minority.

Synova said...

Angle: I feel that the Second Amendment is the right to keep and bear arms for our citizenry. This not for someone who's in the military. This not for law enforcement. This is for us. And in fact when you read that Constitution and the founding fathers, they intended this to stop tyranny. This is for us when our government becomes tyrannical...


Manders: If we needed it at any time in history, it might be right now.

Angle: Well it's to defend ourselves. And you know, I'm hoping that we're not getting to Second Amendment remedies. I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems.

Synova said...

She's CLEARLY talking about the purpose of the 2nd Amendment in the abstract.

The interviewer tries to take it into the concrete, to apply it now.

Angle CLEARLY says that she hopes the vote will take care of the problem of Harry Reid.

She was being "philosophical" about the purpose of the 2nd Amendment. She responded to an attempt by someone else to suggest violence by saying "vote."

She got savaged for it.

Synova said...

Leiter:

"Meanwhile, the Republican criminals in Wisconsin forced through their attack on workers' rights, leading to an uproar in Madison. (Thanks to Steve Nadler for the link.) 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, an issue that has, oddly, not been widely addressed in political philosophy since Locke."

Criminals and vicious.

I don't think it's fair to describe Leiter's statements as philosophical. He was making a clear judgment on current events and moral actors.

""CRIMINALS": Two readers questioned the use of that term to describe the Republicans that pushed through the attack on collective bargaining rights. Since I believe that collective bargaining rights are human rights, I think an attack on such rights is a “criminal” act, not literally of course (i.e., in the sense of violating the laws of the jurisdiction). There is, of course, nothing unusual about this metaphorical use of “criminal” to characterize conduct one believes to be morally egregious. Obviouly anyone who does not share the moral judgment will deem the term inapt, but the real dispute is about the substantive merits of the moral judgment. I recommend the link, above, for a useful overview of the status of such rights outside the U.S."

He wants to talk about "substantive merits" but refuses notions of accuracy in language. He *feels* that "bargaining rights" that federal employees do not have are "human rights" and that restrictions are violent, vicious, and criminal.

But not LITERALLY.

Just how he feels.

And he thinks that people will start to discuss violent solutions and when they are appropriate.

And suddenly he's philosophical? Just asking a question without regard to making a judgment about moral actors?

And what's worse, he's just WRONG about no one discussing this philosophical issue. 2nd Amendment people do it ALL THE TIME when they talk about the 2nd Amendment as a proof against a tyrannical government. But he doesn't know about those conversations or discussions.

Can you say "isolated" much?

Synova said...

Maybe the "difference" is between living in a world where there are consequences and living in a world where there are no consequences.

I doubt there are any consequences in Leiter's world.

Canuck said...

"He was making a clear judgment on current events and moral actors."

Yes, but he made no clear statement about the justification of violence. Instead he said these acts would lead to:

"...a renewed philosophical interest in the question of when acts of political violence are morally justified, an issue that has, oddly, not been widely addressed in political philosophy since Locke."

But he doesn't ever give his own scholarly judgement. He refers us to articles that are pro & con.

I never heard Angle's speech, so I don't know the context of her statement. I don't know if she believes that violence is morally justified -- or in what cases she believes that violence is justified.

I can say this: when and where people speak (or write)plays a
part in the ethics of speech.
Yelling "fire!" in a movie theatre is different then yelling "fire!" outside in a open field with three people listening to you.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

Canuck said...

I never heard Angle's speech, so I don't know the context of her statement. I don't know if she believes that violence is morally justified -- or in what cases she believes that violence is justified.

Hint: it's quoted up thread. It's astonishingly close to Prof. Leiter's position.


I can say this: when and where people speak (or write)plays a
part in the ethics of speech.
Yelling "fire!" in a movie theatre is different then yelling "fire!" outside in a open field with three people listening to you.


Yes, and emphasis on when. For example, discussing violent means during the unfolding of a heated political showdown in Wisconsin is much more provocative than the exact same discussion at another time. But it wasn't just the same time as the showdown, it was specifically in regards to the showdown. That makes it a lot more concrete and less "philosophical". And intended or not, it encourages the Shankmans of the world.

See? Two can play this context game.

Seerak said...


This Leiter guy is not a public person. He is shooting his mouth off trying to get people's attention like Ann does. He represents nobody but himself. Sharron Angle on the other hand was the selected candidate by the Republican Party in Nevada to run for the U.S. Senate. See the difference?

For Ann to equate the two just makes her look dumb.


I don't know if you're a Leftist, Jay, but this is the typical Leftist approach to any discussion involving ideas; try to make it about the people, not the ideas. Anything but the ideas!

The basic idea that is common to Angle's and Leiter's discussions, is the reference to the question of when the time for talk is over. The difference between them does not lie in who they are, but in their philosophical context -- yes, in their underlying ideas.

Leiter operates from the fundamentally aggressive context of the Left, while Sharron Angle is a manifestation of a largely incoherent (so far) reaction against Leftist aggression. Angle's is the anger of the mugging victim wondering whether it's time to pull his gun; Leiter's is that of the mugger wishing his victim would just surrender already.

Canuck said...

"See? Two can play this context game."

What are we seeing?

You seem to want to say one is good/ one is bad, one is morally right/ one is morally wrong, ect.

I'm not interested in that sort of partisan question.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

Canuck said...

You seem to want to say one is good/ one is bad, one is morally right/ one is morally wrong, ect.

I'm not interested in that sort of partisan question.


Forgive me if I'm misunderstanding you, but "that sort of partisan question" seems like exactly what you're indulging in.

In the case of Leiter, you defend what he says as scholarly, ignoring the context of the discussion.

In the case of Angle, you admit to not knowing the context of her speech, but then raise concerns that sometimes context makes a true statement dangerous.

If partisanship is not your reason for ignoring context in Leiter's case but raising it as a concern in Angle's case, I apologize; but it looked like partisanship to me. And I confess, I still can't see another reason, unless it's the circular "He's a philosopher" argument.

Scott M said...

Angle's is the anger of the mugging victim wondering whether it's time to pull his gun; Leiter's is that of the mugger wishing his victim would just surrender already.

Very well put.

Synova said...

"But he doesn't ever give his own scholarly judgement. He refers us to articles that are pro & con."

By using the language he uses he makes a prejudicial statement. A pre-judgment. His thoughts turn to violence, no matter what his eventual conclusion may be, and he expects other people to start thinking about violence. When faced with viscous criminals, who wouldn't?

"I never heard Angle's speech, so I don't know the context of her statement. I don't know if she believes that violence is morally justified -- or in what cases she believes that violence is justified."

It was a radio interview and I quoted it.

"I can say this: when and where people speak (or write)plays a
part in the ethics of speech.
Yelling "fire!" in a movie theatre is different then yelling "fire!" outside in a open field with three people listening to you.
"

Angle was speaking out in the open to adults.

Leiter (and that woman advocating Greek style riots) usually speak in a closed environment from a position of authority to an aggregate of students over time who are dependent on them for a grade.

The *ethics* involved would seem to favor Angle speaking in the open to adults, rather than the instructor speaking to young people over whom they have authority.

When someone like Leiter posts something on a blog to *adults* and gets slapped down by people neither intimidated, limited in life experience, nor dependent on him for a grade he *whines*.

Canuck said...

"In the case of Leiter, you defend what he says as scholarly, ignoring the context of the discussion.

In the case of Angle, you admit to not knowing the context of her speech, but then raise concerns that sometimes context makes a true statement dangerous."

I beg your pardon. You are making claims and assumptions that are not true. I observe (not defend) that Leiter claims to be asking a question.

I never asserted a problem with Angle's right to bring up a question about "Second Amendment remedies." In fact, I do not have a problem with her asking a question unless she was inciting violence.

Canuck said...

"Leiter (and that woman advocating Greek style riots) usually speak in a closed environment from a position of authority to an aggregate of students over time who are dependent on them for a grade."

One quibble. Leiter is at the University of Chicago. His C.V. reveals a large amount of research production. I would be surprised if students are his primary audience. My working assumption is that he primarily engages with scholars, editors, and maybe grad students.

(and I've never met a Chicago student who couldn't critically engage a professor.)

Canuck said...

"If partisanship is not your reason for ignoring context in Leiter's case but raising it as a concern in Angle's case, I apologize; but it looked like partisanship to me. And I confess, I still can't see another reason, unless it's the circular "He's a philosopher" argument."

I suspect we're talking past each other. Just to be clear:

1) I think context is always important. (It's important in both of these cases.

2) I was interested in this post because it raised the question of if it was legitimate for a scholar to raise a question about the morality of violence.

I do think that it is appropriate for philosophers to ask questions about morality and violence. Of course, scholars should examine different points of view, think critically, and not incite violence.

So I suppose it is a circular "but he's a philosopher" argument.

For some reason this discussion reminds me of Plato's warnings about poets.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

My apologies. It still reads like a defense to me, but I believe that's not how you intended it.

But I would modify your position a bit. I do think that it is appropriate for anyone to ask questions about morality and violence. Of course, anyone should examine different points of view, think critically, and not incite violence. Philosophers don't get some magic Extra Free Speech Rights that the rest of us don't get.

What bothers me is the people who embrace Leiter's discussion of this and condemn Angle's. What bothers me roughly the same is people who condemn Leiter but defended Angle. I don't see much difference in their positions at all; and I think the context is arguably worse in Leiter's case, because he was directly discussing an emotionally charged current situation. Angle was responding to hypotheticals in a discussion of the Second Amendment. Her context is one of cool analysis, his is one of "What might happen next in Wisconsin?"

Canuck said...
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Wade said...

FYI:

Shankman has now changed the page on facebook to ED WARD... at least the images copy that of the screenshots I've seen of Shankmans original page!