This was an odd item. The Economist’s review of the Oxford Companion to Philosophy edited by Ted Honderich (which, you’ll be fascinated to know, has an entry, or is it two entries, by my erudite colleague) and The Future of Philosophy edited by Brian Leiter. It ended with – with what certainly looks to an impartial observer (by which I mean me) like a dig.

Although plenty of philosophers consult the Gourmet, it makes others of them cringe. Two years ago close on 300, including some from top-ranked New York University and Rutgers, wrote an open letter complaining that Mr Leiter’s table measured reputation, not excellence, and that it was driving good students away from middle-rank colleges in a race for the top.

Interestingly, seven of Mr Leiter’s 12 distinguished contributors to “The Future of Philosophy” are on his advisory board. None of them signed the letter of complaint. Who said philosophy was out of touch with the world?

That’s the last thing in the review – that’s the note it ends on. Doesn’t that look like a dig? Like a wink wink nudge nudge?

Leiter sent them a correction.

Your review of my collection “The Future for Philosophy” insults, gratuitously, the contributors to the volume, and me as the editor, by implying that senior academics were invited to contribute to the book not because they are internationally recognised leaders in their areas of philosophy, but because they did not sign a letter of protest about my online guide to graduate study in philosophy…Simple fact-checking by your snide, but lazy, reviewer would have prevented this irresponsible insult to the eminent philosophers who contributed to the book.

And look what they appended to the correction:

Editor’s note: Our complimentary review of “The Future of Philosophy” made no such accusation, even implicitly. We pointed out that Mr Leiter’s online ranking, the Philosophical Gourmet, is controversial, but to do so was proper, not snide.

No such accusation? Even implicitly? Even implicitly? Really? What’s that ‘Interestingly’ then? What’s that last sentence about being out of touch with the world? Very odd. Irony is notoriously tricky, but I could have sworn that was a dig. Oh well.

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