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November 26, 2012



Weird, John!

"Gossip" involves rumors and hearsay about the personal lives of individuals: e.g., who is John Protevi sleeping with? Spiros is just telling an anecdote about a professional practice, one that I have independent evidence for.

John Protevi

I agree entirely, Brian! That's what my post says. What you are doing here is passing on rumors and hearsay designed to smear unnamed individuals belonging to a specific group with whom you have had a longstanding and puerile vendetta. So it's malicious innuendo, filtered through three levels of anonymity. But it's not gossip.


Hmmm, a curious sense of agreement.

It is neither puerile, nor a vendetta, to be critical of a group that has long brought discredit to interest in the Continental traditions in philosophy. We disagree on that, but the fact that we disagree on that doesn't make you puerile.

John Protevi

When asked to give content to your "being critical" of SPEP here http://www.newappsblog.com/2011/11/come-on-in-the-waters-fine.html you folded like a cheap suit. So if we drop "puerile" will you settle for "vacuous"? We'd have to change the "and" to "yet," so how about a "longstanding yet vacuous when pressed for details vendetta"?


What? I've written on my blog about SPEP and particular SPEPPies, like that hack Critchley, and in my actual scholarly work, I've written about lots of SPEPPies. This is childish.

John, if it's war you want, you've got it!

John Protevi

War? No, I want you to name names. Like mine. I'm a characteristic SPEP member, going on 22 years now. Have I "brought discredit to interest in the Continental traditions in philosophy"? If so, where and when? Please cite passages.

I don't think that demand for specificity is a declaration of war. After all, if I were to link to a triple-anonymous chain of hearsay culminating in "analytic Nietzscheans have self-esteem issues" wouldn't you want to have me name names?


John, I am not familiar with your scholarship; I hope you're an exception, but I don't know. I name names all the time: Simon Critchley (I've even written about his intro to Continental philosophy on the blog); Babette Babich and Kelly Oliver, among other SPEPPies, who purport to work on Nietzsche. How many names do you want? And then there are the SPEP programs, like Stony Brook and Emory and Penn State, and the graduates they produce. I've read lots of those files, and gotten to know some of those people. There are occasional exceptions, but it's amazing how poor the training is, and how much innate talent goes wasted because of it. It's really quite unfortunate. If SPEP weren't so busy ghettoizing the Continental traditions, some of these people would have been able to do good work.

John Protevi

Well, as there are by some counts 2500 SPEP members, naming three of them risks a charge of hasty generalization, no? But let's say there are only 1000 core members. Why slander all of them when you don't like the work of some of them?

So I'm asking you straightforwardly here, as a matter of collegiality and professionalism, to stop referring to the quality of work of "SPEP" as a group, as it doesn't seem possible for you or anyone else for that matter to have systematically worked through a big enough sample to allow for a responsible use of the group name. Specificity rather than generalization is called for here I think.


John, it is an apt generalization, one borne out by 9 out of 10 examples I come across (I'm being conservative).

SPEP abandoned the road of collegiality and professionalism a long time ago. As an organization it does enormous damage to the traditions in philosophy in which I have a strong interest.

John Protevi

9 out of 10 of the ones you "come across"? What are you, the Crest dentists survey guy?

Seriously, Brian, you can and should do better than this. Please, again, stop with the evidence-free assertions and hasty generalizations and adopt some professional responsibility for your actions. Name names, and keep "SPEP" out of it. I'm a SPEP member and you have no right whatsoever to smear my reputation by means of your use of "SPEP" as a blanket term.


They aren't evidence-free, but now we're going in circles. I have every right to have an opinion, an informed opinion no less, and to express it. So do you.

Anthony Paul Smith

"John, if it's war you want, you've got it!" - An adult tenured professor at a major US university in the year 2012 said this on a blog to another adult tenured professor. That was it. The last bit of faith I had in humanity.

Evan Thompson

For what it’s worth, here is my personal experience of SPEP and what I’ve taken away from my experience so far.

Prior to three years ago, I had never been to a SPEP meeting, though my work draws heavily from Phenomenology and what’s come to be called “Contintenal philosophy of science.” I joined SPEP three years ago because Donn Welton organized a special session devoted to my book, Mind in Life. Besides Donn, John Protevi presented a commentary, and I responded to their papers. The attendance was good--around 100 or so, with people not able to get in because it was standing room only. (I don’t mean to be sounding my own trumpet, but instead to be indicating the apparent level of interest at SPEP in the kind of cross-disciplinary and cross-traditional work I do.) The discussion was rich and stimulating. Certainly, it was profitable for my own work. More generally, I found that many people were interested in the current work being done on Phenomenology in relation to philosophy of mind, philosophical psychology, and cognitive science, as well in work that examines issues in the philosophical foundations of science from “Continental philosophy of science” perspectives.

Last year, I was supposed to comment at SPEP on John Protevi’s book, Political Affect, but illness presented me from attending, so my paper was read in my absence. The other commentator was Alva Noë. From what I heard, the discussion was excellent.

This year at SPEP I delivered the invited Aaron Gurwtisch Memorial Lecture. I spoke on “Sleep and Consciousness,” drawing from Phenomenology as well as cognitive neuroscience and Indian philosophy, and, again, I found the discussion stimulating and productive.

There is a fair amount that goes on at SPEP that does not interest me. But there is also a fair amount that does interest me. For example, this year Dan Zahavi gave an invited lecture on theories of empathy; and there was a session devoted to Zahavi’s work, at which Steven Crowell and Matthew Mackenzie spoke. I learned a lot from these two sessions.

My experience hasn’t been all positive—I’ve heard talks that I thought were very bad. But that’s true of many other conferences I’ve attended—both in philosophy and in cognitive science—including the APA.

So, in my experience, SPEP is not a uniform entity—or, more precisely, the SPEP conference is not a uniform event. As far as I can see, based on my experience so far, there is no such thing as a SPEP style of philosophy.

Since my work partly draws on Continental philosophical traditions, especially Phenomenology, I find the SPEP meeting valuable for seeing colleagues who do important work in this area. I also have broader “Continental” interests beyond the scope of Phenomenology as usually understood--e.g., Bergson, Deleuze, Foucault, Freud, Simondon--and SPEP has been an important place to make connections to people working on these figures who are interested in the relevance of Continental thought to Anglo-American philosophy of mind and philosophy of science. It has also been very encouraging to meet smart graduate students at SPEP who want to work across these traditions.

So, in my estimation, it doesn’t make sense to criticize SPEP as if it were one uniform thing. We should criticize the bad philosophy that happens there because it’s bad philosophy, and encourage the good philosophy that goes on there because it’s good.

Evgeni V. Pavlov

This is hilarious. Against my better judgment, I'm siding with Brian here. John, get the fuck over yourself, man!


Dear John, I do not quite understand you. On the one hand, you want to be accepted as a rational being, on the other hand, you are trying to sustain a reasoned discussion with the schoolyard bully. And instead of calling him a bully, it sounds as if you were pleading that he might only bully a handful of named individuals and leave the rest in peace? No wonder that he responds ‘you want war, you get war’ and thumps you on the nose.
If I wanted to smear 'analytic philosophers' by recourse to the many rubbish papers I heard them give, we would never come to an end. But what that would prove is another question and, in any case, why should I shit into my own living room?

John Protevi

Hi Ulli, actually I don't consider Leiter a "bully" in these cases. The named people can respond or not as they wish. They haven't been bullied; they have been the object of critique and insult ("hack"). If they feel it is beneath their dignity to respond, well, that's their right. What I object to is the group smear of "SPEP."

Evgeni, the Secretary has authorized the release of the following statement: "Your comment has been received and is duly noted. It has been placed in the 'to be brought under consideration' file. If any action is taken as a result of that consideration, you will be notified in due course."

SPEP security

I think this is hilarious. I just want to know if we need a weapons check at the next conference.

Evgeni V. Pavlov

John, perhaps my comment was immoderate but it was such because I could not believe what I was reading in this particular exchange. I really couldn't care less about "being notified in due course" but I always thought of you as a serios and respectable scholar - and then I follow a link sent to me by a sympathetic reader and I see this. Do you not see the pettiness of this post?


'If it's war you want, you've got it!"
Isn't that an AC/DC lyric? I hope so, because Leiter quoting AC/DC would be funny.

I have to agree with Ulli though. What is the point of engaging with him? He's the kind of person who only gets strength from what he perceives is the weakness in others. Didn't Nietzsche have something to say about that?

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