In 1980, Leila Tov-Ruach published a book chapter in which she thanked the editor of the book, Amélie Oksenberg Rorty, “for the hospitality that made the writing of this paper possible.”
Normally, such an acknowledgement wouldn’t raise eyebrows. But, the trouble is, Tov-Ruach and Rorty are the same person: Leila Tov-Ruach is a pseudonym for Rorty, an accomplished philosopher. The University of California Press (UC Press) officially outed Rorty as Leila Tov-Ruach when it issued corrections for two chapters she published decades ago under the pseudonym (1, 2).
The corrections explain the author of the chapters is Rorty, who also edited the two books in which the chapters appear. Although Rorty didn’t note in the original versions of the books that she is Tov-Ruach, she has not tried to hide her pseudonym either. She has acknowledged she is Tov-Ruach in her CV, and at least some philosophers know about the pseudonym (1, 2).
Why would a philosopher—who has an impressive publishing record that spans 50 years and, at 85 years old, is still a lecturer at Harvard—choose to write under a fake name?
People use pseudonyms in publishing for a variety of reasons. A fake name can protect a whistleblower’s true identity, or allow researchers to run a sting on a journal to expose the flaws of academic publishing. Occasionally, as in the case of Bruce Le Catt, an author may use a fake name as an inside joke.
We don’t know Rorty’s motivations; we tried calling and emailing Rorty on several occasions but did not hear back. In this instance, Rorty—who was married to the prominent (now deceased) philosopher Richard Rorty— did more than publish under a pseudonym. She was also the editor of the two books in question—Explaining Emotions, published in 1980, and Perspectives on Self-Deception, published in 1988. Both books include a chapter under her real name.
Rorty and Tov-Ruach also have separate biographical entries on the “Contributors” pages in each book. In Explaining Emotions, for example:
1) Leila Tov-Ruach is an Israeli psychiatrist, who writes on lectures on philosophic psychology
2) Amélie Rorty is a professor of philosophy at Livingston College, Rutgers University
The name Leila Tov-Ruach has several possible meanings. The name is similar to the Hebrew expression “Laila Tov,” which means “good night.” Ruach can translate to spirit, soul, breath or wind.
It has been brought to the attention of UC Press that the following chapter in Explaining Emotions is published under a pseudonym:
Leila Tov-Ruach, “Jealousy, Attention, and Loss,” pp. 465-488.
UC Press would like to clarify that “Leila Tov-Ruach” is a pseudonym used by the editor of the volume, Amélie Oksenberg Rorty.
The erratum for the other chapter—“Freud on unconscious affects, mourning, and the erotic mind” published in Perspectives on Self-Deception—is almost identical.
The corrections were prompted by Michael Dougherty, chair of the philosophy department at Ohio Dominican University, in Columbus. Dougherty, who is writing a book on research integrity in philosophy, has been tracking down authorship violations in the field, including the use of undisclosed pseudonyms.
Dougherty first came across a reference to Rorty’s pseudonym in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, published in 2005:
In collections she edits herself, Amélie Oksenberg Rorty sometimes includes essays of her own signed by ‘Leila Tov-Ruach’.
On September 27, Dougherty contacted the publisher to request errata for the two UC Press volumes; less than a week later, the errata appeared.
Dougherty also pointed out:
Under the guise of “Tov-Ruach,” Rorty commends her own work and speaks about herself in the third person.
It’s odd to have a dialogue with yourself under two names in the published literature. I have no idea why she is doing this. Dr. Rorty is a distinguished philosopher, and the use of pseudonyms can impede a genuine history of philosophy.
We contacted the publisher as well as her co-editor on the 1988 book, Perspectives on Self-Deception, Brian P. McLaughlin, to ask if they knew about the pseudonym when the book was published. We will update the post if we hear back.
Update, 1400 UTC time, 10/24/17: A commenter notes that Rorty has used another pseudonym, Zhang LoShan, in a book she edited in 1998. In the book, “Philosophers on Education,” Rorty explains why she chose to write under the fictional person. After teaching in China in 1981, Rorty wanted to write an essay on Plato, “assuming the persona of a Chinese scholar:”
… I tried to see Plato’s views on education through the experience and preoccupations of such a figure. It is an experiment I strongly recommend to all serious scholars
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