Sunday, March 9, 2008
There are three things most everyone knows about our blogmate Brian Leiter (Texas), the author of Brian Leiter's Law School Reports (the People magazine of America's elite law schools), and more recently Brian Leiter's Legal Philosophy Blog. The first is that he likes to put the name "Brian Leiter" on things. The second is that he'll never put out a ranking in which Texas ranks lower than it does in U.S. News. The third is that he sometimes acts like he needs a personality transplant. Or maybe some lithium.
I note this apropos of this recent attack on our colleague Jeremy Telman, who allegedly misread something Leiter had written.
Department of Scholarly Howlers . . . I would have thought (vanity of vanities, I know, but I would think someone making claims about my views might have read my work) that I had a modest reputation as a major critic of Hart's misinterpretation of legal realism. Indeed, someone who had read only Rethinking Legal Realism, and nothing else, would have learned as much about my views. . . . But putting the scholarly carelessness of Professor Telman's essay to one side . . . .
[Emphasis added.] The nastiness of that irritated me, so I'm sorry to say I actually posted a comment on Leiter's blog in response. I usually try to wait 24 hours before responding when someone bothers me. But I violated my rule. Mea culpa. I said:
Actually, it looks like he read your book. He may have misinterpreted your argument. This might be because (a) he misread it, or (b) he's simply incapable of understanding the nuances of your thought, or (c) you didn't write it clearly. Obviously the third is, as all readers of this blog know, impossible. Unthinkable, even.
But even assuming Prof. Telman is dead wrong, the nastiness of this response is pretty impressive. I find it hard to imagine that Hart (for example) would ever have written this kind of insulting garbage in public about someone who misinterpreted his work. Great scholars seem to be above this kind of petty strutting. It's the lesser ones who get bent out of shape and lash out. "Vanity of vanities," indeed.
It took about five minutes to get a response from Leiter:
You really are a nasty piece of work, aren't you? I knew from our prior exchanges that you had some chips on your shoulder, but really, this is something else. I think you must not spend any time with philosophers. When people get things wrong, philosophers say so. It's nothing to do with strutting or pettiness, but with truth. You've heard of that, right?
What a sick man you must be.
Wow, it takes a real philosopher engaged in the never-ending pursuit of truth to draw so accurate a picture of a subject he's never actually met. I'm devastated. Now I'll go crawl under my rock and die.