Brian Leiter "is a professor of law and director of the Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values at the University of Chicago." That's a relief. Why, he could be anybody. The New York Times asked him what he thinks about rosy-cheeked homunculus John Yoo's tenure at Berkley. I am not really very concerned with John Yoo's tenure at Berkley, but I am interested in the way the professional etiquette of "academic freedom" is enshrined as quasi-constitutional doctrine and a universal right of
man some men, who happen to be professors. Leiter:
Many of those commenting on the Yoo case have, I suspect, an unrealistic picture of constitutional law, as though there were clearly correct and incorrect positions on these issues. Alas, there is not a lot of “law” in American constitutional law, so that we quickly go from “that’s a bad legal argument” to “that’s a morally odious position.” But having what many would deem morally odious views is well within the protection afforded by academic freedom.Yes, it's true. The Constitution: totally complicated!
For instance, if you were to ask, what is the Constitutional "law" regarding treaties, I could only point you in the direction of the wholly ambiguous Article VI:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.Very ambiguous.
And surely there is no law or treaty to which the United States is party that defines torture both broadly and specifically defines torture as
...any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.That would be insane!
Anyway. Leiter. A professor of law. Well, opinions differ, and such. He is not certain whether it is legally and constitutionally permissible to torture prisoners, but he is certain that universities cannot fire professors because of the Constitutional guarantee of Academic Freedom. Well, there are no correct or incorrect answers, only stupid questions!
As is often the case, the full absurdity is best appreciated through the time-tested method of accurate paraphrasis. While there are no firm legal precepts regarding the torture of human beings, university tenure is inviolable. What a dick!