Amidst all the triviality and madness, I just want to say that the death of Chalky White in Boardwalk Empire, and what led up to it, was the most beautiful piece of acting I’ve seen all year. Michael Kenneth Williams, who plays (played) Chalky, acted the man’s final hour with such restraint, depth of feeling, and intelligence that you felt lifted out of your seat. His facial expression as he closed his eyes and faced the firing squad, hearing the voice of his beloved singing in his head, was so subtle and yet so powerful, seeming to contain all the goodness and evil of the world. He made being shot in a back alley in Harlem into a moment of supreme human transcendence. Chalky, I will miss you.
After some delay, my book on human evolution and the hand is in production at MIT, title Prehension: A Philosophical Anthropology. I expect it to be published in fall 2015. As it happens, the left hand has been on my mind a lot recently, mainly for musical reasons. For both guitar and drums you need a good left hand: you have to cultivate dexterity in the non-dominant hand, which takes time and effort. What this does is enhance bilateral symmetry, so that you are not so manually lopsided. This changes proprioception, among other things–you feel your left hand more, becoming more aware of it. Since I play a lot of racquet games, and so have a very developed right hand and arm, the change in my left hand restores a sense of balance. Recently I was watching Buddy Rich playing drum solos and was very struck by his left hand technique, which seems physically impossible (but there are techniques to develop it)–just amazingly fast, controlled, and musical. Then there are guitar shredders whose left hand achieves remarkable feats–like the guy who can play 27 notes in one second. I’d like to know how many drum rebounds per second Buddy got with his left hand–including bounces it could be as much as a hundred. I’m designating October Left Hand Month (or Right Hand Month if you are left handed). Let’s celebrate our non-dominant side, with all its locked-up potential. (This is part of the Cult.)
I may as well express my view on the question of the future of the Leiter Report. I think it should be abolished altogether, because of its unsound methodology, malign influence on the profession, governance structure, competitive mentality, and other reasons. Leiter should simply discontinue it, not hand it over to new management. If anyone wants to start something new, focused on providing objective information about philosophy departments, they should feel free to do so–but not in the form in which the Leiter Report now exists.
As to Professor Leiter himself, I wish to say as little as possible (we have had our run-ins, to put it mildly). But I think everyone should acknowledge that Brian Leiter is not solely responsible for Brian Leiter: he has been pandered to, encouraged, and enabled by large segments of the philosophy profession, especially in the United States. The reasons for this have been essentially corrupt. It is time for people to wake up to their own complicity. He has no more power than the power people have given him. I look forward to a post-Leiter age in philosophy.