Protevi letter

29 April 2010

Vice-Chancellor of the University, Michael Driscoll
Middlesex University in London
The Burroughs
London NW4 4BT

Dear Sir,

I write in dismay upon hearing the news of the decision to close the philosophy program at Middlesex, and urge you to reverse course as soon as possible.

Many of the supporters of the program have already written to you pointing out the discrepancy between the University’s claim to support research excellence and this decision to terminate an internationally prominent unit. You know the numbers cited in this regard. I would in addition offer this personal testimony. I have reviewed two books by members of the philosophy department, Professor Hallward and Dr Alliez. The reviews were published in the leading philosophy book review forum, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. In addition, I presented a paper to the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy in December 2006. So it is with first-hand knowledge that I testify to the excellence of both the staff and students at Middlesex, an excellence that fully justifies their reputation as a leading centre for the study of contemporary European philosophy as it grows out of the long history of philosophy.

Philosophy in Europe traces its heritage back 2500 years to the ancient Greeks. Along with its sibling rivals mathematics and literature, it has formed the basis of our European culture since that time. For the last 800 years, since the founding of the universities of Bologna, Montpellier, Paris, Oxford, and Cambridge, it has been the centre of the university as an institution of higher learning. In view of this history, we can rightfully claim that has been the work of many preceding generations of philosophers that has developed the prestige of the term “university,” and your decision to eliminate the philosophy program will lead all of us today who are the guardians of that tradition to fight to strip that name from the institution you lead, and to have it referred to simply as the Middlesex Training Institute.

To put it bluntly, sir, you have no right to call your institute a university if this decision is not rescinded. Your decision amounts to the unjust appropriation of a name whose worth was built up by those preceding me in the philosophy tradition, and I pledge to work tirelessly with all my colleagues in philosophy world-wide to take back the name. The title of “university” does not belong to you and your team; it belongs to the cultural tradition at the centre of which philosophy has stood for thousands of years, and we, who work to further that tradition, will reclaim that name, as it is no less than our duty to those who have gone before us and whose work we honor.

Yours sincerely,

John Protevi
PhD, Philosophy, Loyola University Chicago (1990)
Professor, Department of French Studies
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge LA 70803 USA

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