Leiterland and the Non-naturalists

Let me describe a fictional world to you. Suppose that Continental philosophy and American pragmatism never happened, and that all diversity in philosophy is next to nothing. Asian philosophy is taught in religious studies departments and if Continental concerns arose in any way, they were raised in cultural studies and literary theory. In this fictional world, Russell and his ilk were successful in turning the tide of philosophy to never have invented anything remotely like phenomenology and the subsequent movements that it engendered. However, in this fictional world, assume that there was a schism in analytic philosophy between the naturalists and non-naturalists, and this issue divides up all of analytic philosophy such that it proffers even more nuanced splits. Those that favor philosophy of religion and are theists are non-naturalists, and then there is everybody else. Let’s call this world Leiterland.

Are you with me so far?

Okay, then, imagine that mainstream analytic philosophy by and large went the way of scientism and naturalism (concede to me that these terms are not opaque and pick out what they’re enthusiasts hope they do) whereas the internal community of philosophers had gathered together in a few departments, most notably the same Catholic distribution one finds favorable to Continental philosophy: the Duquesnes, Depauls, and the Catholic University of Americas to name a few.

So far so good…

Now, imagine in this world a young man, Brian, having just graduating law school and attending philosophy graduate school. During graduate school, he thinks to himself that the same notions of institutional pedigree should apply to philosophy graduate programs. He attends a university after that known for its similar institutional prestige than what is going on in those other non-naturalist departments. He, then, institutionalizes his opinions and value judgments about what philosophy ought to be. His implicit biases get confirmed in that he comes from and is somehow entrenched in the very system of biases that validate his own beliefs. Meanwhile, he pays only marginal attention to the non-naturalists, even electing to study one of their central figures, so Brian studies W. D. Ross.

Now I ask at the time of graduate school, do you think any of us can honestly say that we have things right? Could someone suitably come up with a way to test the best schools and think something like rankings should be necessary? Certainly, when we are first starting out, even immediately after graduate school, I cannot say with all intellectual humility that my perceptions of philosophy and its institutions should somehow be codified in a survey let alone those that more than likely benefit such consensus. In our fictional world of Leiterland, the naturalists benefit only each other and since the non-naturalists were forced out or excluded from sharing in that consensus, the naturalists do not even need to read or know about the work in non-naturalism. The division creates ignorance on both sides.

When the Naturalist Gourmet Report arrives on the scene, Brian advances that party-line non-naturalism has organized itself into an organization called Society for Non-naturalism and Aristotelian Philosophy. These “SNAPPies” as he calls them are not very good philosophers. As they are non-naturalists, other thinkers from other disciplines interested in non-naturalism also arrive on the scene, including Thomists from theology departments. Brian can say things on his blog like SNAPPies are not real philosophers since they’re not naturalists. He will continually deride the SNAPPies and constantly reference the self-insulating Naturalist Gourmet Report that shows only true philosophers attend Naturalist schools as well as toting his credentials as someone who gets non-naturalism better than the SNAPPies for his work on W. D. Ross, who he reads as a naturalized intuitionist. He will constantly see himself threatened by these SNAPPies calling the Naturalists Gourmet Report out for years on his blog since they question the very direction he is taking philosophy with his focus group. The need to demonize the SNAPPies at every turn. Brian will continue despite knowing many people that find SNAP a wonderful conference and event.

What Brian will never do is openly admit how much popularity he has won in the philosophy world of Leiterland with his rankings. His power is embedded with the interests of seeing philosophy a certain way, the only way that  His privilege reinforces other notions of privilege. Later, it will come out that the Naturalist Gourmet Report is belabored with the problems that others have observed all along. Brian will demean someone’s criticism and eventually threaten to sue over e-mail. Finally, someone will have enough and post the e-mails on the internet, revealing the rather strangely bully-ish aggressive nature of Brian. Brian will be seen as a bully against many people who consider themselves non-naturalists. Some of the survey participants will come out, revealing that they really never had the expertise they offered on some of the specialty rankings and others will run as far away from Brian’s bullying colleagues in the profession. Brian will attempt to wash away these criticisms by calling one’s attention again to the conspiracy against himself, and some will come to his aid. In the end, Brian will carry on as usual rallying all of his energies in an attempt to codify his own biases. He will travel the blogosphere, and he may even find this piece of satire. He will say to me “Kroening-Dunning Effect,” and I will clap my hands in anticipation.

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