FNS 09: Leiter versus Gemes, An Epic Duel

Primary version of this post, with visual content, at Barry Stocker’s Weblog


There was an unexpected bit of drama down at the Friedrich Nietzsche Society conference (see last post) on the Saturday. Brian Leiter’s plenary presentation in the Chapel was enlivened by a man who leafleted conference delegates with a photocopied sheet of quotations, headed CONTRA LEITER, and sprang to his feet after the talk to challenge Leiter, at some length on his denial of free will in Nietzsche’s philosophy. Who was this man? I did not recognise him during a long argument. It turns out it was Ken Gemes of Birkbeck College, London and the University of Southampton, well known figure in Nietzsche circles, in addition to a number of quality publications in philosophy of science and epistemology. Gemes is known, to me and most conference participants, as a good philosopher and a calm personality.


It certainly provided a fun topic of conversation in the college bar at the end of the day. Did the organisers feel the conference needed a bit of incident to make it particularly memorable, and put Gemes and Leiter up to it? Gemes and Leiter have been friends and collaborators in Nietzsche publications and events. They were seen chatting in a friendly way after the event. Was it some quarrel between friends which got particularly intense because they are such great mates? The context is obscure to me, but I appreciated the drama. Can we look forward to a rematch at the next FNS conference, preceded by insults and provocations in philosophy blogs? I do hope so, that would be wonderful. More please.

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