Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Morrison, Richard. "Philosophy Hasn't Been this Newsworthy since Wittgenstein Threatened Popper." TIMES May 21, 2010.

It's been drawn to my attention that my updates on the crisis in Philosophy at Middlesex University have not, for some unknown reason, been picked up by Feedburner and included in the regular email updates. For the background (including the initial decision to close the programmes and, more recently, the suspension of three faculty members), see my updates at this post here: http://philosophysother.blogspot.com/2010/04/closure-of-philosophy-programmes.html. Not since the opening of Brent Cross Shopping Centre has our neck of North London known such heady intellectual excitement. Middlesex University, our local seat of learning, is in disarray. Students occupied one building for 12 days; the sit-in was ended only when the authorities served a High Court injunction. More than 14,000 people have signed a protest petition and 60 top international academics, including Noam Chomsky, have written angry letters. Tariq Ali has made a speech. There’s talk of barricades being manned, ramparts being stormed and Whitehall being invaded. The stroppy spirit of 1968 is in the air. And all because Middlesex University, which seems to sprout a brash new glass building every month, has announced that it is closing its philosophy department. The reaction has been heartwarming. So much for those who lament (or rejoice) that Britain is dumbing down. Philosophy hasn’t been this newsworthy (or energetic) since Ludwig Wittgenstein threatened Karl Popper with a red-hot poker. What explains the furore? Well, unlikely though it seems, Middlesex’s philosophy department has become the lightning-rod for the pent-up fear and loathing crackling round universities. For many academics, what has happened here seems a plausible portent of what’s in store for arts and humanities faculties throughout Britain. After all, Middlesex’s philosophers weren’t failing. On the contrary: they were ranked 13th out of 41 philosophy departments — above such fine universities as York and Durham. Indeed, they had a higher research score than any other department at Middlesex, thus earning hundreds of thousands of pounds in grants. Why, then, have they got the chop? . . . Get the answer here: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/article7132170.ece.

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