Replies to critics: David Milliern

Someone called David Milliern has written a peculiar rant against me on his blog for some reason, in which he offers numerous insults but no actual arguments. I tried to reply to him using the comment function there, but apparently he blocked my comment from appearing. This is the comment I submitted:

I am the reviewer you call a “charlatan,” “faux scholar,” and a “wannabe.”

I may be critical but at least when I criticise somebody I do so on the basis of substance and content, supported by specific quotations and page references from the works I am criticising.

That is more than can be said for your tirade against me, which consists of nothing but slander and posturing. (And the absurd claim that I dislike Leibniz and Boyle. In reality I love Leibniz and I wrote my dissertation on him.)

If you think it is appropriate to publicly pour scorn on somebody’s work and character, without engaging in any way with what they actually wrote, then I submit, Sir, that you are the true charlatan and faux scholar among us.

Another way in which we differ is that when I criticise somebody I am prepared to defend my opinion in open and honest debate instead of trying to suppress a reply from the author in question.

Milliern thinks I am “artificially critical” and “foolishly hyper-opinionated,” but the evidence he offers for this is that I dislike Leibniz and Boyle, which is plainly ridiculous.

The strange notion that I dislike Leibniz I suppose he must have gotten from my critical review of the Hackett volume of Leibniz’s Philosophical Essays. But anyone who actually reads the review will see that I criticise the editorship, not Leibniz’s texts.

As for Boyle, I like him too. I found his work interesting enough to compose synopses of his Selected Philosophical Papers and Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature, which I find very worthwhile reading. It is true that in the latter review I lament that Boyle’s critique of certain religious doctrines are boring to a modern reader, but that does not mean that I dislike Boyle, only that some of the points he address were only of relevance in the context of a debate that is now old hat.

Milliern also considers me a “nobody-mathematics instructor” and apparently thinks this disqualifies me from criticising “top scholars.” I would have thought it obvious that arguments should be evaluated on the basis of intrinsic merit, not on the basis of the authority of the person bringing them forth. But apparently David Milliern, a graduate student who “consider[s] [him]self a philosopher” (ibid.), does not understand as much.

I feel, therefore, that I am not “artificially critical” but rather the appropriate amount of critical considering the number of windbags in the world who “consider themselves philosophers.”