Crispin Sartwell Removed from Dickinson Campus (updated with responses from Nehamas and Zagzebski)


Crispin Sartwell, associate professor of philosophy at Dickinson College, reports today that he has been “removed from campus” for posting a video of Miranda Lambert’s song, “Time to Get a Gun.”

Over the past several days, Professor Sartwell had launched accusations at his blog that his work had been plagiarized or at least had gone wrongfully uncited by Alexander Nehamas (Princeton) and Linda Zagzebski (Oklahoma). He at first says that they are “not perfectly clear cases of plagiarism,” though after he lays out his claims against Professor Zagzebski, he writes, “i’m taking back what i said earlier about not a clear case of plagiarism.” (Reporting the accusations here does not imply endorsement.)

Following this, Professor Sartwell states:

i have been a resource for some of the most eminent philosophers in the world; seems like they might sort of be impossible without me. it’s like being kant in the 19th century. footnotes would help, though.

He then announces that it was the recent APA statement against bullying that “got me to just decide to quit academia,” and followed this by posting the music video mentioned earlier.

It is in today’s post, below, that Professor Sartwell announces he has been removed from Dickinson’s campus, reportedly on the grounds that the music video was a threat against Professor Zagzebski:

sartwell blog post 1

I’m awaiting further information from some relevant parties, and will update the post as necessary.

UPDATE: Professor Sartwell has officially been placed on “temporary leave” by the administration at Dickinson College.

UPDATE 2 (3/3/16): In response to Professor Sartwell’s allegations in the March 2nd post at his blog, Alexander Nehamas writes:

I gave a Stanford Presidential Lecture on beauty, where the germ of the ideas of my book appears, in 1999.  In 2000, an essay drawn from the lecture was published in Threepenny Review and a longer version appeared in Representations in 2001.  I wrote another essay on beauty, which contained some of these ideas, for The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism in 2000 (a shorter version was published by The London Review of Books, also in 2000) and yet another article on the topic in Critical Quarterly in the same year.  In 2000, I gave two lectures at Berkeley, which I developed into the Tanner lectures, which I delivered at Yale in 2001.  These lectures, which were published in 2002, contain most of the main ideas of Only a Promise of Happiness, which eventually came out in 2007.  True, Sartwell’s Six Names of Beauty came out in 2004 but most of the material in my book had already been published by then.  So, I believe Sartwell’s accusation is perfectly groundless—and, just for the record, I never read his book.

UPDATE 3: The school newspaper reports on the story here and here.

UPDATE 4 (3/5/16): A response from Linda Zagzebski:

My paper, “The Search for the Source of Epistemic Good,” is the third or fourth in a series of papers in whole or in part on a problem I dubbed “the value problem” in 1997. That is the problem that an adequate account of knowledge must explain what makes knowledge better than mere true belief. In my first paper, “From Reliabilism to Virtue epistemology,” I argue that reliabilist theories falter on this problem and that my virtue approach has an advantage. Subsequent papers like “Intellectual motivation and the good of truth” defend my way to solve the value problem. The paper Sartwell is attacking is a larger exploration of epistemic value, and it includes a section in which I argue that some internalist theories have the same problem I had earlier identified in reliabilism. In that section I have a quote from Bonjour that is the same as Sartwell uses in his paper in a different context. Sartwell argues that knowledge IS true belief. 
Of course I know nothing about the paper Sartwell wrote in graduate school. I recognize that it is possible for people to have the same idea independently, or to have published similar ideas and people do not notice the similarity. I do not see much similarity between Sartwell’s published work and mine, but my published ideas are completely my own. 
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JPM
JPM
5 years ago

Maybe he was removed because a Miranda Lambert song is one of his “favorite songs ever.” Seems sufficient.Report

Georgia M.
Georgia M.
5 years ago

I was wondering whether it would be more appropriate not to report things and events “in the heat of the moment”, at least when a case, like this one, “shouts” a mental health issue, but instead report just a bit later when there are more “objective” and detached statements, which do not expose an individual in such a way. I guess it is important to report news more quickly than other sources, to “keep us all updated”, but I think a more thoughtful approach would not hurt a lot but show instead a greater concern about philosophers and news related to fellow philosophers, in contrast to what is promoted and happening in the -less philosophical- media.
Georgia M.Report

ejrd
ejrd
Reply to  Georgia M.
5 years ago

The material in question is public, was made public by the person who was removed from campus, and his statements were intended to be read. I take it that we can discuss those statements and their implications here on Daily Nous in a respectful but serious way. For my part, Sartwell’s comments are entirely inappropriate. His use of epithets are unprofessional and given the anger contained in his writing, I don’t blame anyone for construing his posting of the video as an implied threat.

Whether or not he has a mental illness, whether or not the presence of a mental illness would excuse the behavior, and whether or not claims that Sartwell made are even symptomatic (or “shout”) mental illness are probably questions best handled somewhere else. Report

WP
WP
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
5 years ago

The updated version of Professor Sartwell’s “who’s gettin removed now, bitch?” post includes this: “on the basis of the plagiarism charge, the fact that i was writing that i wanted out of academia, and that i was writing particularly long and intense blog entries, my ex-wife – the writer marion winik – organized some sort of intervention. it included my mom and, i think, susan feldman, probably my best friend at dickinson. i explained with complete rationality why i was doing what i was doing. … of course, once you’re having a manic episode, paranoid delusions, and so on, every word, no matter how rational, every assertion of fact, no matter how checkable, becomes a symptom. so while i’m having one of the best days of my life (getting engaged) and going whole hog on the plagiarism, i’m getting a barrage of emails etc telling me to stop, what am i doing, seek urgent psychiatric care. they’re looking up involuntary commitment laws in pa, or whatever. … so that’s how weissman [the provost] and scaduto [the college counsel] started [the removal from campus]. ‘colleagues have expressed concern about your mental condition,’ etc. of course then every gesture was a further indication of psychosis.”

The college’s given reason for removing him from campus was apparently concern for his mental health. Ignoring that seems deeply disingenuous. As a person with mental illness, I am much more uncomfortable with treating it as the unspoken elephant in the room here while commenters like ejrd try to engage in some kind of moral evaluation instead. Yyech. Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
Reply to  WP
5 years ago

no, Justin is right. you are too, but a couple of things

your strongest statement is “the college’s given reason for removing him from campus was apparently concern for his mental health.” if that’s the stated reason, then I agree and it’s worth discussing.

however, “the unspoken elephant in the room” says different things. it says this is a legitimate concern for commenters to have even if the college had not said this, and, well, I think you’re wrong about that. really wrong.

first, what are you using “mental illness” to mean? psychiatric disorder? because ‘illness’ is a metaphor for medicine. are you counting personality disorders? how deep are we going here? the common term is “disorder.” illness is extremely, ludicrously bad to use because it gives laypeople the impression that there’s some type of pathogen causing it when, in some cases, the disorder is entirely constructed (as with say narcissistic personality disorder.)

moreover, “as an X” is bad generalizing (since you’re trying to conclude more general things based on, well, yourself) and is defeated the moment someone else’s experience contradicts yours. does ADHD count as a mental illness? if so, I’m in your camp.

in the case of highly functioning people — as in, you can go through a graduate program and hold down a job — mental disorders are like affirmative action for the white middle class. they’re categories to help already high-functioning people function even higher. the diagnoses happen with the slightest deviation from normal behavior in this class spectrum. if your typical rough neighborhood had to go up again these collegiate standards for diagnosis, the entire hood would be diagnosed with mental disorders. all of them. every goddamn minority kid with an attitude would have “anger issues.”

these armchair diagnoses (not just on the internet and not talking specifically about you) might be a good direction toward treatment, or, which is a good likelihood on its own, these armchair diagnoses could just be a reflection of income bracket and upbringing in that bracket.

some of them are undoubtedly accurate, but here’s the problem:

people on the internet do not know anything about diagnostic criteria. in fact, people who bother to understand diagnostic criteria are about as rare as people who read articles fully before commenting on them.

I have an ADHD diagnosis, but if you listened to the internet, I’d be an ASPD psychopathic narcissist with pervasive aspergers.

some of these diagnostic criteria require subject matter expertise to get right. they will undoubtedly contribute to misinformation and bullshit. I know of no psychotherapist who would be willing to diagnose someone over superficial information.

so it’s not that people have an obligation to not speculate about his mental state out of some cheesy concern for this guy, which I agree is bullshit. it’s that there is no possible way to say anything true about this epistemically and any roads in that direction will lead to disaster.Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
Reply to  Alfred MacDonald
5 years ago

“anything true about this epistemically”

woooow let’s pretend this redundancy didn’t happen

Times I Wish I Had An Edit Button Episode 05Report

WP
WP
Reply to  Alfred MacDonald
5 years ago

Yikes. I’m not sure how much of that is relevant to what I said. You seem to have read a great deal about mental disorders on the internet.

By “mental illness” I mean, more or less, the serious mental disorders that sometimes require inpatient care, so not ADHD. I prefer the term “mental illness,” especially when talking about myself, because you cannot talk about “mental disorders” without invoking discrete categories, which does not fit well with my experience. For example, I was prescribed antipsychotics when I was younger, but I was never diagnosed with a psychotic disorder.

The “you can’t diagnose someone based on something they wrote!” stuff is a misdirection. I think everyone agrees that you can’t diagnose someone based on their speech and writing alone. But of course it can make it seem like their thought is somehow disordered. I used the phrase “elephant in the room” because it was my first thought upon reading the posts, but I’m realizing that mental illness is probably unusually salient for me.

“In the case of highly functioning people — as in, you can go through a graduate program and hold down a job — mental disorders are like affirmative action for the white middle class. they’re categories to help already high-functioning people function even higher.”

You have little understanding of how mental illness works in the real world. Many people’s mental illness, including my own, is episodic, and many people’s develops only later in life. I can go through a graduate program and hold down a job, but no, when it’s bad I am not remotely high functioning. John Nash did not just need to “function even higher.” Come on.

“if your typical rough neighborhood had to go up again these collegiate standards for diagnosis, the entire hood would be diagnosed with mental disorders. all of them.”

Nope, black communities have lower rates of mental disorders than white communities.

Anyway, since it’s clear now that Justin isn’t planning on removing this, I’m not going to engage further. When interpreting someone with charity to their rationality conflicts with interpreting them with charity to their character, I would encourage people to choose the latter. Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
Reply to  Alfred MacDonald
5 years ago

considering most academic databases are hosted online, I’m not sure where you read your studies unless you physically go into the stacks of libraries and flip through the journal of personality and social psychology.

“by “mental illness” I mean, more or less, the serious mental disorders that sometimes require inpatient care”

okay so a nonstandard/idiosyncratic definition not used in journals and inconsistent with mental illness as defined by the DSM. you realize no one has any way of knowing this is what you mean when this term is specific to you, right.

“I was prescribed antipsychotics when I was younger, but I was never diagnosed with a psychotic disorder.”

this is probably not relevant since antiwhatever is just one purpose for the drug’s otherwise neutral mechanism of action — in one context alcohol can be a ‘painkiller’ and in another context (archery) it can be a ‘performance enhancing drug’

“The “you can’t diagnose someone based on something they wrote!” stuff is a misdirection. I think everyone agrees that you can’t diagnose someone based on their speech and writing alone.:”

this is definitely not something everyone agrees on, people who don’t know diagnostic criteria do this shit all the time

“You have little understanding of how mental illness works in the real world.”

well since you’re using a term that’s specific to you and not in, say, the DSM, yeah I don’t know how the WP-on-Daily-Nous version of mental illness works in the real world

mental illness as defined by the DSM though uses functioning as the primary determinant of disorder (illness)

“black communities have lower rates of mental disorders than white communities.”

this is trivial and so glib that I’m not sure if you’re fucking with me

blacks have lower rates of diagnosis because they can afford psychotherapy much less often

“I’m not going to engage further.”

there is no point of announcing this on a medium that does not have time constraints, other than to maybe give yourself closure. but then if you need closure, you might not be viewing arguments as very truthseeking activities.Report

HighFiveGhost
HighFiveGhost
Reply to  WP
5 years ago

Oh boy Alfred. I read through your information section on your blog. It’s the most thorough “about me” I’ve ever seen, and probably ever will see. I like your enthusiasm. Stay happy on the Internet, kiddo. Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
Reply to  HighFiveGhost
5 years ago

oh boy. (!)

but yes, the purpose is to list key identifying information in case I die or something about me comes under dispute and I’m not there to clarify. (also, this is trivial, but it’s just a regular website / archive — not blog / web log.. the articles aren’t usually responses to recent things that happened.) I structured it after gwern’s about page at as I enjoyed reading his about page quite a bit.

not sure what “stay happy on the internet” means. presumably I’d stay happy off the internet too, since I don’t know why the internet is a focus here. that’s a weird sendoff man. stay weird on the internet.Report

Joe
Joe
5 years ago

I’m more pissed that he thinks it’s Lambert’s song. If anyone wants to hear some amazing country music, look up the real songwriter.Report

LP
LP
Reply to  Joe
5 years ago

Sartwell is pretty well versed in music. He used to be a music critic and he writes about it all the time on his blog. I’m sure he knows Lambert didn’t write the song.Report

Nick Z
Nick Z
5 years ago

BL seems to have deleted this story from LR, without any comment or update. Any idea why?Report

Carnap
Carnap
Reply to  Nick Z
5 years ago

Nick Z,
I think BL indicated that he had information suggesting that drawing attention to the incident was likely to be “counterproductive.”Report

Grad Student
Grad Student
Reply to  Carnap
5 years ago

I kind of think the DN should follow suit. Report

Michael Della Rocca
Michael Della Rocca
Reply to  Grad Student
5 years ago

I agree that Leiter did the right thing in removing this story. I don’t see the point in publicizing episodes like this one, especially while the situation is still unfolding.Report

Nick Montgom
Nick Montgom
Reply to  Michael Della Rocca
5 years ago

Better to wait to talk about it until some injustice has completely unfolded, I’m sure. Kudos to the student journalists at Dickinson for reporting on this, which is clearly in line with Sartwell’s own wishes.Report

Grad Student
Grad Student
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
5 years ago

His ex-wife, his mom, and a colleague staged an intervention because they were worried about his well-being. He wrote about it on his blog. Nobody’s pathologizing eccentricity, so feel free to put that ole’ cliche back on the shelf.

He’s also all over Twitter right now misleadingly pitching his story to news outlets (e.g. Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh) as one wherein he was ‘fired’ merely for posting a country music video. He obviously wants this story to get some traction and the DN is doing a bang-up job helping him with that.

Report

WP
WP
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
5 years ago

The accusation is that there is some kind of widespread conspiracy to plagiarize his work, including a graduate school paper in a box in his basement. He takes the fact that people quoted the same passages to be conclusive evidence. This is not just an “insufficiently supported” allegation, and as someone with mental illness, I do not think it is AT ALL condescending to suggest that is what is going on here.

If I were to have an episode like Professor Sartwell’s, I would obviously most prefer that people not draw attention to it, but if they were going to, of course I’d hope it would be framed as illness rather than me being a threatening jerk. I get that it’s uncomfortable to cover this as a mental health issue. That should probably be taken as evidence that it should not be covered at all. Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
5 years ago

“Philosophers, of all people, should be on guard against pathologizing eccentricity.”

PREACHReport

Nick M
Nick M
5 years ago

First, it needs to be pointed out that Nehamas has clearly not read Sartwell’s account. The book in question is the one called The Art of Living, published in 1995 by Sartwell (presumably completed in 1993 as Sartwell notes in his post), a good 4 years prior to the “germ of ideas” present in Nehamas’s 1999 lectures. I don’t really think Nehamas needs to tell us his familiarity with that book, though. He clearly has read *anything* by Sartwell relevant to his own life or work.

Secondly, leaps to consider this some sort of mental health issue are ridiculous, as the idea that any anger present in Sartwell’s post could reasonably constitute a threat. Justin, I know you have asked people not to comment on this aspect of the case, but perhaps it is useful to say why: there is no reason whatsoever to think that Sartwell’s mental health has any bearing on what he has written, unless the DSM-V has something in there about not using capital letters. Evidence is given and a case made for the each individual instances of alleged plagiarism. Perhaps philosophers should stop trying to diagnose their colleagues without the requisite training or experience in psychology or psychiatry. And even if they have that, they probably shouldn’t do it from the thin basis of what’s on the internet. The closest thing to a mental health issue present in Sartwell’s post is the presence of Narcissism. Frankly, I’ve seen worse instances of that mental health issue during Q&A sessions at the APA and the comments sections of philosophy blogs.

Given his treatment at this blog and the philosophy blogosphere in general, is it any wonder that Sartwell believes the discipline has mistreated him for a while now?Report

Bert
Bert
5 years ago

I put Sartwell’s claim (made here http://eyeofthestorm.blogs.com/eye_of_the_storm/) to the test that “my book would have shown up in the first few search results on amazon or elsewhere.” I used the terms he suggested and tried the category of philosophy books after deleting all the relevant browser data. Sartwell’s book did not show up on the first 7 pages; however, gems such as “Gorgeous for Good: A Simple 30-Day Program for Lasting Beauty – Inside and Out” by Sophie Uliano and “Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny” by Holly Madison showed up (before Sartwell). I’ll be checking Nehamas’ index to see whether he cites those; if not, Holly and Sophie should have a pretty strong case, I should think. Report

Ted
Ted
5 years ago

“Time to get a gun” sung by Miranda Lambert, is not about getting a gun to go out and take vengeance. It’s about a farmer, who has always left her door unlocked, and who is now wondering if she should save up to buy a gun. The gun is to protect herself. She’s been robbed too many times, especially by the guvmint. http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/mirandalambert/timetogetagun.htmlReport

Heather Battaly
Heather Battaly
5 years ago

I fully support Linda Zagzebski’s response. I also agree (with others who have commented) that it is inappropriate to post this story at the present time. Report

TD
TD
5 years ago

I think a few inaccuracies about Sartwell’s claims have been posted in this thread.

First, Nick M says that the charge against Nehamas centers on Sartwell’s The Art of Living (1995) and Nehamas’ The Art of Living (1998). I don’t think that’s correct. So far as I can see, Sartwell is asserting that his Six Names of Beauty (2004) ought to have been cited in Nehamas’ Only a Promise of Happiness (2007), and this is the allegation to which Nehamas is responding. Sartwell has, however, pointed to the titles of the two Arts of Living as some kind of corroborating evidence. So Nick M’s assertion that Nehamas “clearly” hasn’t read the account seems to be based on a confusion.

Second, I think WP is suggesting that the paper Sartwell alleges was plagiarized by Zagzebski only exists in a box in a basement. If that is the suggestion, it’s also not correct, though I too was confused by the presentation on Sartwell’s blog. Although he does say the paper was drafted for a graduate seminar and is still in a box in his basement, he also says a version was published in the Journal of Philosophy in 1992 and is cited by Zagzebski. So, if I’m reading WP’s claim rightly (i.e. that Sartwell believes Zagzebski has stolen unpublished work from his basement), it is not a warranted claim.

There are also some confusions on Sartwell’s part, at least in his claim against Zagzebski. Sartwell asserts that his “Why Knowledge is Merely True Belief” (Journal of Philosophy 89:4, 1992) was plagiarized in Linda Zagzebski’s article “The Search for the Source of Epistemic Good” (Metaphilosophy 34:1/2, 2003). First, Sartwell wrongly dates the Zabzebski paper to 1993, rather than 2003.

Second, part of Sartwell’s claim against Zagzebski is that she was certainly aware of his paper, since she cites it on p. 13 of her article (but fails to cite it in a passage that, in Sartwell’s view, closely resembles a passage of his 1992 paper). And indeed, there is a reference to “Sartwell 1992” on Zagzebski p. 13. However, in Zagzebski’s article, the reference turns out to be Sartwell’s similarly-titled “Knowledge is Merely True Belief” (American Philosophical Quarterly 28:2, 1991). Zagzebski incorrectly dates this 1991 article to 1992. It’s easy to see how Sartwell took the citation of “Sartwell 1992” to be a reference to the paper he actually published in 1992.

So far as I know, none of this bears one way or the other on the claims of plagiarism and failure to cite.Report

WP
WP
Reply to  TD
5 years ago

I thought that he was saying she took the swamping problem from his graduate school paper/unpublished book and also separately plagiarized his his 1992 paper, but after rereading I think you’re right—he’s saying he presented the swamping problem in the 1992 paper and thinks she took it from there. (I thought the swamping problem bit was supposed to be additional evidence like the ‘Art of Living’ thing—had the same reading as you there). Report

TD
TD
Reply to  TD
5 years ago

Correction: I too was confused! Although Sartwell did originally refer and link to his 1992 paper in JP in his accusation of plagiarism, the idea and passage at issue occurs in his 1991 paper in APQ–that is, the paper Zagzebski cites, but mistakenly dates to 1992.

The upshot: Sartwell’s proof that Zagzebski was familiar with his paper does bear out.Report

CL
CL
5 years ago

This is a very sad story and I wish all parties the very best. It’s not hard to see similarities between Sartwell’s arguments and Zagzebski’s. (Much of what’s interesting about Sartwell’s work, to my mind, aren’t the conclusions, but the arguments he uses to reach them and the conditionals he’s defended that had been overlooked.) Setting the issue of plagiarism aside, it’s fair to say that Sartwell hasn’t received the attention and credit he’s deserved over the years. Report

Photios
Photios
5 years ago

Sartwell mentions the coincidence in title, “The Art of Living”, between one of his books and one of Nehamas’s books in a way that it seems to me might well be read as insinuating that Nehamas is somehow indebted to Sartwell for the title, if not the content of this book, though this is not Sartwell’s main complaint. Let me therfore state a few facts easily verified by an Amazon or Google search.
1. There are many books of the same title, going back long before the 1990s and continuing to the present day.
2. One of the first ones to come up in any search are translations of the Enchiridion of Epictetus.
3a. The Nehamas book has the subtitle “Socratic Reflections from Plato to Foucault”
3b. The publisher’s blurb description of the content book begins by saying how in antiquity from the time of Socrates on, philosophy was thought of as a way of life or art of living, with later philosophers in antiquity often taking Socrates as the example of how to live; and though this view has been less common in modern times there are some figures who have held something like, and who fairly frequently enough refer back to Socrates; among these are Montaigne, Nietzsche, and Foucault.
4a. The Sartwell book has the subtitle “Aesthetics of the Ordinary in World Spiritual Traditions”
4b. A publisher’s blurb says: “This is a multicultural philosophy of art applied to common American and European experience and discussed in relation to Taoist, Buddhist, Hindu, Native American, and African traditions.”
5. Other books with the same title include several popularizations of eastern religions, including a volume by or ghost-written for the Dalai Lama; they also include western self-help books going as far back as Norman Vincent Peale; the Peale book is a half-century older than Sartwell’s; the Dalai Lama’s is more recent than Sartwell’s, but to my knowledge Sartwell has not so far accused His Holiness of plagiarism.
My conclusions are:
A. The two books, with their two very different subtitles and blurbs, give every appearance of being on totally different subject matters, and to my knowledge not even Sartwell has as yet explicitly claimed they have anything in common beyond their title.
B. Nehamas’s title is one that had already been used many times, starting well before Sartwell; and Nehamas, a well-known scholar of classical philosophy, writing in part about the conception of philosophy as an art of living in classical antiquity, would easily have been able to derive his title from classical sources without any awareness even of the existence of Sartwell; he had no more reason to cite Sartwell in connection with this book than to cite Norman Vincent Peale.
C. A commentator would not insinuate that the coincidence of title is supporting evidence for a charge of plagiarism connected with another book if said commentator were all three of competent and rational and honest; where this leaves Sartwell is an issue I will not address.Report

Photios
Photios
5 years ago

I turn to the more serious insinuation of unacknowledged dependence of Nehamas’s Only a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art on Sartwell’s Six Names of Beauty. The indictment comes without a bill of particulars: It is not made clear what Nehamas is supposed to have stolen. On March 4 Sartwell goes on at length about differences between his book and Nehamas’s; he nowhere goes into similar detail about similarities. As Sartwell says, Danto wrote laudatory blurbs for both books; but Danto (whose blurbs can easily be found on-line) does not mention any striking similarities. Sartwell does not, as in the case of the other philosopher against whom he has made accusations, quote any allegedly parallel passages from the two works whose relationship is at issue. He does not clearly enunciate any argument or even any thesis the two works are supposed to have in common. He gestures vaguely in the direction of the motif of a connection between beauty and desire.
Views that make such a connection are indeed discussed by Nehamas; but there is no mystery about where Nehamas is getting the topic from. The motif is prominent in the single best-known work on beauty in the whole philosophical canon, the Symposium, and Nehamas begins his book with a contrast between Plato and Schopenhauer on just the point at issue. Even Sartwell, again on March 4, concedes that the sort of view at issue derives from the Symposium, and that Nehamas had ample knowledge of the Platonic background.
So what then is Nehamas supposed to owe to Sartwell? Well, Sartwell claims that no one but himself and Nehamas has approached aesthetics from this direction since the eighteenth century. I suspect there are commentators on Merleau-Ponty, for one, who would dispute this point, but suppose it were true. It still does not follow that two writers, both familiar with the background in Plato, and with the more recent work of Mothersill and then Danto, could not have independently arrived at whatever Sartwell wants to claim is the common element between his work and Nehamas’s, as the next step beyond in a certain direction.
But Nehamas’s response on DN implies that if there were any dependence — which he does not assert — the chronology is such that it would have to have been in the direction of Sartwell drawing on Nehamas. This is the crucial point and it is illuminating to examine how Sartwell avoids addressing it. He mentions, again on March 4, that Nehamas has replied to his charge, claims not to have read the reply, but nonetheless quotes its last sentence, in which Nehamas denies reading Sartwell’s book, and reacts to this denial by flinging insults. What Sartwell carefully avoids addressing is the bulk of Nehamas’s reply, in which he lists chonologically the earlier works of his through which the arguments of his eventual book developed, beginning in the late 1990s and ending with the Tanner Lectures, delivered three years and out in print two years before Sartwell’s book.
The half-dozen or so works cited differ in their degree of ready availability today, and in the degree to which the ideas in them are developed, but the Tanner Lectures, at least, can be easily located on line, and I would say they sound virtually every theme to appear in the book, though not all themes are equally fully developed. Readers may judge that for themselves, but undeniably the most important element in the present context, the Platonic background, is there in the lectures as published, and in the same place as in the later book, at the very beginning.
Sartwell argues that Nehamas, despite his denial, must have known of Sartwell’s prior book, because he must have heard about it from Danto, and because he must have come across it in a literature search. Once we have noted that the published Tanner Lectures antedate Sartwell’s book, we could turn this around and argue that Sartwell must have known of Nehamas’s prior work, because he must have heard of it from Danto, and must have come across it in a literature search. But in fact the argument is feeble in either direction. No scholar would base anything so grave as an accusation of plagiarism on such an argument if said scholar were all three of competent and rational and honest. Again I decline to comment on where that leaves Sartwell.
Report

Joo Heung Lee
Joo Heung Lee
5 years ago

I am a great admirer of Crispin Sartwell’s work. That being said, I find his accusations to be far-fetched and troubling. What is it about the oversized egos of philosophers that makes them demand recognition in the most petty affairs? Perhaps we should take a cue from the artisans who built Gothic cathedrals, who happily remained anonymous in the service of a higher beauty and truth.Report

Carnap
Carnap
5 years ago

Leiter has a new post on this situation suggesting, rightly in my view, that Sartwell’s treatment by Dickinson appears, on currently publicly available evidence, to be a violation of his academic freedom.
http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2016/03/philosopher-crispin-sartwell-dickinson-college-and-academic-freedom.htmlReport