Dickinson College Professor of philosophy Cripsin Sartwell recently accused University professor Alexander Nehamas GS ’71 of plagiarism and libel.
DickinsonCollege has placed Sartwell on temporary leave shortly after the allegation.
Sartwell did not respond to requests for comment.
Nehamas deferred comment to a statement.
In a statement sent to the 'Prince', Nehamas denied Sartwell’s allegations of intellectual dishonesty.
“True, Sartwell’s ‘Six Names of Beauty’ came out in 2004 but most of the material in my book had already been published by then,” Nehamas wrote. “So, I believe Sartwell’s accusation is perfectly groundless — and, just for the record, I never read his book.”
In late February, Sartwell noted on his blog similarities in ideas and writing style between his book “Six Names of Beauty” and various works by Nehamas over multiple decades, including “An Essay on Beauty and Judgment” and “Only a Promise of Happiness”.
“[I] say the (alleged) fact that […] Nehamas [was] influenced by my work, and systematically attempted not to notice that they were, or pretended that they weren't, shows something terrible at their heart,” Sartwell wrote.
Nehamas stated that the germ of his ideas for the essay appeared when he gave the Stanford Presidential lecture on beauty in 1999, which predates Sartwell’s publication.
He added that he published an essay similar to that lecture in Threepenny Review in 2000.
In 2000, Nehemas gave two lectures at Berkeley at Yale. The lectures were published in 2002, and contained “most of the main ideas” of his 2007 book “Only a Promise of Happiness”, he wrote.
Sartwell noted that he believes it's impossible that Nehamas hadn't seen his book.
“Anyone who was talking […] about beauty, or doing a rudimentary search on the topic he was writing a scholarly book about, could not have failed to notice my book,” Sartwell wrote.
Dickinson College Director of Media Relations Christine Baksi wrote in an email statement that Sartwell is currently on leave, however, he remains in good standing with Dickinson.
“Good standing” indicates that Sartwell remains a tenured faculty member at Dickinson, Baksi wrote in an email, adding that she cannot comment further on personnel matters.
The Dickinsonian reported that while Sartwell wrote on his blog he was fired over a free speech issue, philosophy department members say that he has not been fired.
Sartwell wrote on his blog last Sunday that Dickinson had also removed him from the employee health insurance plan.
However, Baksi wrote in an email that Sartwell “remains employed by Dickinson with all employee benefits, including healthcare.”
Sartwell also made similar allegations about University of Oklahoma philosophy professor Linda Zagzebski, posting the music video of Miranda Lambert singing "Time to Get a Gun." Zagzebski was first made aware of the threat Mar. 1, she wrote in an email.
The dispute between with Zagzebski arose on Sartwell’s blog surrounding her paper "The Search for the Source of Epistemic Good."
In her paper, Zagzebski focused on “the problem that an adequate account of knowledge must explain what makes knowledge better than mere true belief.”
“I recognize that it is possible for people to have the same idea independently, or to have published similar ideas and people do not notice the similarity,” Zagzebski wrote in the email statement. “I do not see much similarity between Sartwell's published work and mine, but in any case, my published ideas are completely my own.”
Zagzebski added that the chair of the department of philosophy at the University of Oklahoma had received a threatening email from Sartwell recently that provoked a security response.
“Sartwell is acting very irrationally as is clear from his many blog posts,” Zagzebski wrote. “I think it is sad when a person’s mental health problems are catalogued in detail on national blogs.”
In the past few days, Sartwell has also written on his blog accounts of some his interactions with Dickinson administration and questions from friends and colleagues. According to one of his posts, in the letter sent to Sartwell on Mar. 3 , Dickinson administrators expressed that some of Sartwell’s former colleagues have expressed concern about his mental health.