04 May 2010

Letter from Professor Simon Blackburn, University of Cambridge

Dear Dean,

I wish to add my voice to those who have protested against the
threatened closure of Middlesex philosophy department. You may say
that it is unsurprising that a philosopher should object to this
move, but this goes beyond Trades Union solidarity to the heart of
what a university needs to be.

As the world shrinks and international cooperation becomes ever more
important, the humanities are crucial to our futures. We cannot act
together with others without understanding their culture, their
ideas, their ethics, their religions and their politics. Without
communication the alternatives are conflict and destruction. The
humanities educate us into at least some understanding of these
things, and among the humanities philosophy is most directly
concerned with them.We must also give others some understanding of
the ideas that animate our own culture, and this means first
identifying and testing them ourselves. It is the special
responsibility of philosophy to keep alive that investigation and the
critical and analytic spirit that it requires. This spirit was first
identified in Socratic Greece and has infused the whole history of
the West for more than two thousand years. Nothing worth calling a
university can be crass enough to think that this spirit is
dispensable, in the name of materialism or economic progress.

It is not apparent why the philosophy department was singled out,
given its place at the top of the research profiles of your
faculties. One must hope that the decision was not taken in awareness
of the size of the stakes and the catastrophic example it offers to
the rest of the world.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Simon Blackburn, FBA, FAAAS