16 Mar 2011

Watch Out, America, Professor Leiter Is Starting to Get Angry

, , , ,

Brian Leiter

Brian Leiter, the University of Chicago’s John P. Wilson Professor of Law and Director of its Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values, was so moved by recent events in Wisconsin that he predicted on his personal blog that the time is rapidly approaching when it will be necessary to contemplate terrorist violence.

[T]he Republican criminals in Wisconsin forced through their attack on workers’ rights. … 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. … [T]he attack [sic] on fundamental rights of collective bargaining, assuming they stand, are going to raise hard issues about civil disobedience and other forms of unlawful resistance on which philosophers might make a contribution. [emphasis added]


How quickly the lefty mind turns toward violence.

observes the divine Miss Althouse.


James Taranto, in the Wall Street Journal, was deservedly derisive about the intimidation value of the philosophical threat.

Having long viewed academia with a jaundiced eye, we’re inclined to view the Leiter post more with amusement than disgust. Just imagine if a Wisconsin businessman got a letter from a philosopher:

    Please be informed that I have recently completed an article arguing that acts of political violence are morally justified when businessmen fail to support the dedicated public employees who serve our communities. As soon as the peer-review process is complete, I expect it to be published in the prestigious journal Terrorism & Political Violence.

Really strikes fear into you, doesn’t it? Leiter seems more like a character from Monty Python than “On the Waterfront.”


Kenneth Anderson, at the Volokh Conspiracy, began contemplating whether or not the good professor’s Gedankendrohung (“thought threat”) should be humorously compared to an article from The Onion.

I humbly tug my academic forelock before Professor Leiter, whose greater brains and greater virtue I’ll cheerfully concede upfront. Still, the rapidity with which Professor Leiter reaches, however coyly or indirectly or teasingly or hintingly, to justifications, or thinking this suddenly would be a good moment for talking about justifications, for political violence did put me in mind of this news item from the Onion of several years ago.

    In Retrospect, I Guess We Might Have Resorted To Cannibalism A Bit Early

    I have no idea how long we’d been marooned when we started edging toward Jerry. Twenty, thirty minutes, time has little meaning when you’re in a situation like that. It wasn’t a spoken decision, either. We just all looked at each other and knew something had to be done. …

I feel somewhat the same about Professor Leiter’s call (purely in the philosophical abstract, you understand) to reconsider political violence — you know, this might be an appeal just a tad early in the saga of criminal and illegitimate and unjust oppression. I leave it to Professor Leiter to say definitively, but I wonder if Locke might not also agree.


Adam Freedman, at Ricochet, took Brian Leiter a bit more seriously.

[I]t is clear that Leiter thinks that Walker’s move to limit — not eliminate — collective bargaining rights for public employees is literally something that might justify, say, killing a bunch of Republicans. In an update to his blog, here’s how this philosopher-king explains his rationale:

“1. Collective bargaining is, per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a human right.

2. There are circumstances in which violations of human rights call for unlawful actions, including violence.”

And that’s it. Because the elected representatives of the People of Wisconsin want to pass a law that may conflict with some charter passed by a bunch of unelected UN windbags (but never enshrined in US law), Leiter wants blood.


On his return from the Very Important Conference on metaethics and legal philosophy which he had been attending, Professor Leiter rapidly retreated from the barricades, placing the bottle with a suspicious-looking rag at its mouth deep in his pocket, endeavored to look innocent, and explained in an update:

[I]t is quite natural for philosophers to ask (this is, after all, a blog aimed at philosophy teachers and students) whether the current circumstances–in which Wisconsin and other states are launching an attack on the human rights of organized workers–are ones in which unlawful resistance, violent or not, to the violation of human rights could be morally justified. Contrary to Professor Althouse’s invention of an answer, which she then attributes to me, I in fact do not know what the answer is to that question.

He also assured Mr. Freedman over at Ricochet.

I do not advocate violence in Wisconsin. … I expect most philosophers are likely to conclude, even if they think Wisconsin’s attack on collecting bargaining rights wrong, that violent civil disobedience would not be justified.

To which one can only respond:

6 Feedbacks on "Watch Out, America, Professor Leiter Is Starting to Get Angry"


As scary as he is handsome.

Lucius Quinctius

I wonder how Brian did at the rifle range, or with pugil sticks? How did he deal with the heat and the wet and the VC. Did he every think about a hellish world filled with IED’s. He speaks of violence, but knows nothing of it. His blog is a monument to what is wrong in the academy.

Kimball Corson

I know Brian and believe he must really be upset over the Wisconsin situation. His position is odd, given his substantial training in economics (Chicago MA in Ph.D program). Surely he must know unions in America with strike power have raised wages about 25% above competitive levels (30% with benefits) on average (in both unionized and non-unionized sectors, in the latter due to the threat of unionization), with attending reductions in the provision of goods and services and the number of those employed. This has decreased the employed to working age population ratio and cost us trillions of dollars in lost production. Unions, like monopolists, create misallocations of resources which have attending losses.

However, this said, Brian’s comments can also be read to say, in laymen’s terms, if this keeps up, people are going to turn to violence, a less radical and more accurate observation.


People on the Left want to do away with the 2nd Amendment. How will those of us who are sane and on the Right protect ourselves from the Far Left if we have no weapons? I spent 20 plus years in the military, letgally carry a gun, and pray to God that I never have to even draw my gun!! I’ve seen enought death and destruction to last me 3 lifetimes. The American people also heard Obama speak of “civil discourse”. Now I know what he meant: The Left can speak of violence but the Right has to shut the Hell up!

Steve Bohannon

Just remember that when the violence you so deeply desire to start happening will be met with extremely overpowering firepower. You know as in those evil black mislabeled as machineguns, guns you demoncraps have the drizzlin poopies over everytime you see one?

The republicans altho I don’t count myself among them either because ALL politicians are corrupt, evil, lying pieces of… well you know. But hey, WE THE PEOPLE have a good 99% of the guns and ammo.

And trust me there are millions upon millions of us out here waiting, just silently waiting for your corrupt union thieves, and your nazi pigs to take their actions just a step too far. Then gawd help you. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “the streets will run red with blood’? Well you misguided idiot, they will run with a veritable flood of red. Trust me on this. We are a peace loving crowd but we are tired of being lied to, stolen from, imprisoned, MURDERED at will. And probably worst of all we are damn welll sick and tired of your stupid UNION protected idiotic teachers and there continual attempts to teach, better yet force our children to accept as normal the faggot and lesbian way of life. Two mommies or two daddies is a abberration of nature itself. The constant dumbing down, force feeding their little growing minds that they are to be little informers and two faced sheep, never to stand up for themselves but gladly snitch on others especially their own family/parents.

We are silently waiting for you idiots to make the first violent move.

So it’s violence you predict more likely support and want badly only you want some other shmuck to do it for you. The nazi pig cops will do nicely. Well about all that can be said is, “come get you some….”


That’s why we put collectively of the most effective action motion pictures on Netflix streaming proper now.


Please Leave a Comment!

Please note: Comments may be moderated. It may take a while for them to show on the page.

Entries (RSS)
Comments (RSS)
Feed Shark