Brian Leiter, a controversial American professor of philosophy, founder of a now widely contested ranking system for English-speaking philosophy departments, has invented a new form of personal ranking. An unsuspecting French citizen, Terence Blake, was selected at random for the beta test, which took place on a classical blog interface. Full anonymity was cleverly preserved by mis-spelling his first name as “Terrence”.
The ranking system is fairly rudimentary at present, ranging from “philosopher” through “fellow” to “charlatan” and “obscurantist”. Those more famous than Professor Leiter such as Slavoj Zizek were given the rank of obscurantist and charlatan. Jean-François Lyotard is retroactively assigned the rank of “fellow traveller”, no doubt due to his continuing celebrity. Deleuze, Derrida and Foucault are given the rank of “obscurantist”, by means of the innovatory technique of group or blanket ranking (“some late 20th-century French obscurantists”). No doubt Professor Leiter’s vast knowledge of Continental Philosophy came in handy, and it is doubtful whether someone less knowledgeable than himself would have been able to rank such a group of notoriously intellectually demanding philosophers in the limited time available for the beta test.
For those less famous than Professor Leiter, such as “Terrence”, the inferior rank of fellow (rather than of philosopher), was felt to need some justification. A diligent examination of some of Terence Blake’s publications, more specifically of the title of one of his blog posts, was carried out. The post in question, left unread for reasons of professional deontology, was found to be “mistitled” and “silly”, and so the proposed rank of “fellow”was confirmed, and made even more precise as “some fellow”.
The extraordinary flexibillity and global scale of this new ranking system are key features that speak in favour of its rapid adoption. The ease of application is another advantage, as no actual reading needs to be done, except for the occasional title.