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Brian Leiter

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Brian Leiter

Brian Leiter (July 2012)

Brian Leiter (born 1963) is an American philosopher and legal scholar who is Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Chicago Law School, founder and Director of Chicago's Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values, and is the founder of the Philosophical Gourmet Report.


Originally from New York, Leiter taught from 1995 to 2008 at the University of Texas School of Law. Before that he taught for two years at the University of San Diego School of Law, and was also a visiting assistant professor of philosophy at the University of California, San Diego. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Princeton University and both his J.D. and Ph.D. (in philosophy) from the University of Michigan.

At Texas, Leiter was Founder and Director of the Law and Philosophy Program. He has been a visiting professor at Yale Law School, University College London, University of Chicago Law School, University of Paris X-Nanterre, University of California San Diego, and Oxford University.[1] He edited the journal Legal Theory for seven years and is also editor of the Routledge Philosophers, a series of introductions to major philosophers, and (with Leslie Green) Oxford Studies in the Philosophy of Law. He gave the 'Or 'Emet Lecture at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, Toronto in 2006, the Julius Stone Address in Jurisprudence at the University of Sydney in 2013, the Fresco Lectures at the University of Genoa in both 2008 and 2014 and the Torbriner Lecture in Constitutional Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 2015.[1]

The National Jurist: The Magazine for Law Students picked Leiter as one of the "23 Law Profs to Take Before You Die".[2]


Leiter's scholarly writings have been in two main areas: legal philosophy and Continental philosophy. Philosophical naturalism has been an abiding theme in both contexts. In legal philosophy, he has offered a reinterpretation of the American Legal Realists as prescient philosophical naturalists and a general defense of what he calls "naturalized jurisprudence." This work is reflected in his book Naturalizing Jurisprudence: Essays on American Legal Realism and Naturalism in Legal Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2007). In his writing on German philosophy, Leiter defends a reading of Nietzsche as a philosophical naturalist, most notably in Nietzsche on Morality (London: Routledge, 2002; 2nd edition forthcoming 2015) and in subsequent papers, including one with Joshua Knobe on "The Case for Nietzschean Moral Psychology" in Nietzsche and Morality (Oxford University Press, 2007). He has also published work on meta-ethics, social epistemology, the law of evidence, and on philosophers such as Marx, Heidegger, and Ronald Dworkin. Why Tolerate Religion?, was published by Princeton University Press in October 2012.[3]

His other publications include several dozen articles and several edited collections. These include Nietzsche (Oxford Readings in Philosophy, 2001) (with John Richardson), Objectivity in Law and Morals (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), The Future for Philosophy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004), and Nietzsche and Morality (Oxford University Press, 2007) (with Neil Sinhababu). His characterization of the contemporary philosophical scene as divided between "naturalists" and "quietists" was endorsed by Richard Rorty in an article in Rorty's final collection of papers, though Rorty sides with the quietists.

Some of Leiter's articles include "Determinacy, Objectivity, and Authority" (University of Pennsylvania Law Review) (co-authored with Jules Coleman), "Rethinking Legal Realism: Toward a Naturalized Jurisprudence" (Texas Law Review), "Nietzsche and the Morality Critics" (Ethics), "Legal Realism and Legal Positivism Reconsidered" (Ethics), "Naturalized Epistemology and the Law of Evidence" (Virginia Law Review) (co-authored with Ronald Allen), "Beyond the Hart/Dworkin Debate: The Methodology Problem in Jurisprudence" (American Journal of Jurisprudence), and "Moral Facts and Best Explanations" (Social Philosophy & Policy).

Other projects

In 1989, Leiter made a list of what he believed to be the top 25 graduate philosophy programs in the United States. Called the Philosophical Gourmet Report, these lists came to be known as "the Leiter Report" and have been widely circulated since the early 1990s by philosophy departments as well as individuals. Published by Wiley-Blackwell,[4] they are an influential and controversial ranking of graduate programs in philosophy in the English-speaking world.

He has also produced a ranking of U.S. Carlin Romano,[7] Thomas Nagel,[8] Leon Wieseltier,[9] and Paul Campos.[10]


Leiter is among the more controversial voices in the philosophical blogosphere, and he has come in for criticism for his communication style and for comments made to other philosophers.[11] Leiter has defended himself vigorously against the charges directed at him.[12] At the same time, in this context there has been concern about Leiter's continued management of the Philosophical Gourmet Report: over 600 philosophers, including 30 members of his 54 member Advisory Board, requested that Leiter relinquish control over its management.[13] In response, Leiter appointed a co-editor for the 2014 report and agreed to step down as editor after its publication, an arrangement supported by the Advisory Board.[14]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Brian Leiter". The University of Chicago Law School. Archived from the original on 2013-10-16. Retrieved 14 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Weyenberg, Michelle (March 2011). "23 Law Profs to Take Before You Die". The National Jurist (San Diego, California: Cypress Magazines) 20 (6): 22–29. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Carson, Theresa (April 15, 1999). "Philosophical Gourmet Report Ranks Chicago Tops in Continental Philosophy". The University of Chicago Chronicle 18 (14). Retrieved June 18, 2011. 
  5. ^ Law Schools Ranked Maclean's, September 12, 2007
  6. ^ Political Animal, Intelligent Design Kevin Drum. The Washington Monthly, March 24, 2004.
  7. ^ "Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog: Carlin Romano: Total Ignorance of Philosophy is No Obstacle to Opining about Richard Rorty". 2007-09-09. Retrieved 2013-08-02. 
  8. ^ "Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog: Thomas Nagel Jumps the Shark, Part II". 2009-12-02. Retrieved 2013-08-02. 
  9. ^ "Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog: Why review a book of philosophy when you can sneer at it? (Leiter)". 2006-02-19. Retrieved 2013-08-02. 
  10. ^ "Brian Leiter's Law School Reports: Whenever there is an opportunity to attack the First Amendment and academic freedom, Paul Campos is there!". 2008-04-16. Retrieved 2013-08-02. 
  11. ^ Schmidt, Peter (September 26, 2014). "The Man Who Ranks Philosophy Departments Now Rankles Them, Too". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Archived from the original on September 26, 2014. Retrieved September 30, 2014. .
  12. ^ "Cyber-smear campaigns and the future of the PGR". 
  13. ^ Schmidt, Peter (September 26, 2014). "The Man Who Ranks Philosophy Departments Now Rankles Them, Too". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Archived from the original on September 26, 2014. Retrieved September 30, 2014.  See also "The PGR board letter, and a different perspective". September 25, 2014. 
  14. ^ Thomason, Andy (10 October 2014). "Controversial Philosopher Will Step Down as Editor of Influential Rankings". Retrieved 16 October 2014. 

External links

Official sites
  • Profile at the University of Chicago Law School website.
  • Brian Leiter Personal homepage.
  • The Leiter Reports. Formerly Brian Leiter's solo weblog, a group weblog with Leiter among others as posters.
  • Leiter's Law School Reports. Leiter's companion blog on Law schools.
  • Brian Leiter's Nietzsche Blog.
  • Brian Leiter's Legal Philosophy Blog.
  • Leiter's Law School Rankings. Leiter's ranking of Law schools.
  • The Philosophical Gourmet Report. See separate article: Philosophical Gourmet Report
Online publications
  • Social Science Research Networks. Includes several recent papers.
  • Naturalism in Legal Philosophy. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  • Nietzsche's Moral and Political Philosophy. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Publications edited
  • Legal Theory Journal edited by Larry Alexander, Jules Coleman, and Leiter.
  • Routledge Philosophers Book series edited by Leiter.
Media appearances
  • Video (and audio) of discussion/debate with Brian Leiter on
  • Video of 1st Annual Distinguished Lecture in Jurisprudence at Northwestern University by Brian Leiter discussing Dworkin, Posner, and Legal Realism
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