Some context: As anyone who's been observant of such things knows, Brian Leiter, U. of Chicago Law Professor, founder of the Philosophical Gourmet Report for industry-standard ranking of leading university philosophy programs (NYU, Oxford, Rutgers, et al), also runs Leiter Reports, billed as the "world's most popular philosophy blog since 2003." (Nevertheless, he's a loathsome leftist loser of the neo-Marxoid variety, and reckless Rand-basher.) He is a keen observer of who's who in academic philosophy. The Ladder Man, as Maverick Philosopher eruditely dubs him (for "his obsession with rankings and status. (One of the meanings of the German Leiter is ladder; another is leader as in Gauleiter.)"), knows whereof he speaks in this area (just not on Rand or capitalism, though; but on Nietzsche, jurisprudence and academic politics he speaks with authority). Finally, he had to step down as lead editor of the Gourmet Report a few years ago after having acted in a notoriously combative, divisive, rude and unpleasant manner toward a number of his colleagues. He seems to be an expert in the less appealing aspects of academic politics, then.
His recent commentary on the seemingly extraordinary American Academy of Arts and Sciences selection process merits some notice and honest facing-up-to by all concerned:
Elections to the Academy follow certain patterns. For example, in 2012, MIT's Stephen Yablo was elected to the Academy. The following year, his MIT colleague Rae Langton (now at Cambridge) was elected. Two years later, Langton's friend and former colleague, and Yablo's spouse, Sally Haslanger at MIT was elected. Haslanger (well-known, of course, for her commitment to diversity [vide Reed for an explanation]), quickly joined the selection committee for Philosophy, and that year only one white man (in his 70s) was elected while two prominent feminist philosophers were among the small number of honorees. The latter is hardly suspicious: I've observed the same patterns over the years with formal philosophers, with epistemologists, and with Kant scholars--once one gets in, others in that sub-field are admitted in the subsequent years. As one AAAS member wrote to me a couple of years ago: "newly admitted members are often energized to make nominations," and, unsurprisngly, they invest that effort in their friends and colleagues.
But if there was ever a "popularity contest," it would be the AAAS, in which existing members vote on possible new members on a scale of 1-5 (just like the PGR scale for whole faculties!). Ballotting proceeds in two stages. Any two members can nominate someone for election to the Academy of Friends, and after an initial round of voting, 8-10 candidates are submitted to the membership for final votes. The "panel" is, I'm told, bound by the votes of the existing members, except when there are "diversity" considerations. The current panel consists of Susan Wolf (North Carolina, the chair), Julia Annas (Arizona) Sally Haslanger (MIT), Dan Hausman (Wisconsin), Beatrice Longuenesse (NYU), and Stephen Stich (Rutgers). The Chair of the panel must ultimately negotiate with chairs of other humanities committees over how many philosophers get to be put forward for membership.
A current Academy of Friends member sent me the list of the current first-round candidates. This was against the rules, but I suspect that s/he was concerned about the way things have been going. I will not name any of the nominees.
Understand that most faculty who are elected to the Academy are 60 or older; in philosophy, faculty who are elected around age 50 or younger are few and far between (examples would include, in recent years, David Chalmers [NYU] and John MacFarlane [Berkeley], and, in years past, David Lewis and Martha Nussbaum). Excluding faculty who were clearly nominated in cognate disciplines, and then put on the philosophy ballot for possible "interdisciplinary" inclusion, there were 31 pure philosophy candidates.
15 of those candidates were women, 16 were men. That's already remarkable given that only about 20% of senior philosophy faculty are women. Of those 15 women, two were also racial or ethnic minorities, and a remarkable 9 of the 15 were feminist philosophers and "friends of Sally," as it were. Of the 16 men, 3 were also racial or ethnic minorities. Out of 31 nominated candidates, there were 13 white men. Of the nominated women, 9 of the 15 were faculty members at top 50 PhD programs. Of the nominated men, 16 of 16 were at top 50 PhD programs. Of the nominated women, two were over the age of 70; of the nominated white men, three were over 70. Of the nominated women, five, maybe six, are under 60; of the nominated white men, two, maybe three, are under 60.
The academic PC (sic!) cohort can run but it cannot hide. The Ladder Man knows whereof he speaks here. When even a rabid leftist of his academia-related knowledge says that this shit has gone too far, that's a good sign it has. If this is happening in the most rigorous of academic disciplines like philosophy, can you imagine where it's headed in the less demanding disciplines, especially the ones with tons of politically-left inbreeding?
In any case, why should philosophers of greater merit be sacrificed on the altar of "diversity" and political connections?
(Gee, ya think libertarians and conservatives could use some friends in academia to enhance their status and therefore influence there? For the students' sake, of course. The wasting of intellectual potential for all concerned here [for now] is a bit sickening to watch.)
As illustrated previously, this is what happens when corrupt institutional practices clash with philosophy. Philosophy can and will lay the smackdown.
[I note that Kolakowski's (Oxford) academic status as a Marx-interpreter(/debunker) far exceeds that of Leiter (a mere PGR top-25 program -- WAIT, HOLD ON A SEC, he's not even in the PGR-ranked philosophy department, but rather the law school there -- ) and he seems not to have learned a bit of good social (ultimately, intellectual) graces from his Aristotelian colleague at Chicago, Martha Nussbaum, among other character faults. Should the Ladder Man shoot back that Oxford also had "the greatest Marxoid thinker of recent times" in G.A. Cohen, author of Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defense (OUP, 1978), I guess the answer lies there? How odd that would be, as I see no evidence of some subsequent dialectic between these two on the intellectual credibility of Marxism. Mises' monumental Socialism book (Eng: Yale U Press, 1951 ) settled the question of the intellectual credibility of socialism nearly a century ago now, and the socialists didn't do anything adequate to respond to that (they did make an ultimately-failed attempt to answer Mises on the 'economic calculation' problem but didn't address the deeper structural folly of traditionally socialist thought which manifests in its intellectual-lightweight tendencies toward cultural destructionism and generally flouting the accumulated wisdom of tradition), or to Mises' subsequent demolition of Marxoid historical materialism. Students of the debate like Hayek had it figured out early; socialism is an intellectual basket case, the opiate of the 'intelligentsia.' It seems like a pattern of debate-avoidance among leftist losers might best explain what the Cohen-Kolakowski relationship looks like to me, and that Kolakowski is - despite shared institutional affiliations (see the parallel there at Chicago) - a dialectically superior philosopher. Never mind the demonstrably intellectually inferior character of socialism as shown here. Aristotelians are better philosophers than Marxoids, so I suggest the in-denial Ladder Man and his currently-loathsome leftoid ilk do a better job to take after his Chicago colleague. Maybe there's more nobiity to be found on Leiter's Nietzsche side of things? And, leftoids/Marxoids, if you really wanna do your homework thoroughly, with due dialectical completeness, take a lead from neo-Aristotelian 'dialectical-libertarian' Sciabarra, why don't you, ASAFP. To be continued? . . .]