Blackburn (Simon) letter

3 May 2010

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
Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge

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