SPEP letter

May 10, 2010

Board of Governors
Middlesex University in London
The Burroughs
London NW4 4BT

Dear Board Members:

As fellow philosophers with a deep recognition of the need for long-term investment in higher education, we write to express our deep concern about the decision to terminate the philosophy programs at Middlesex University.

In a remarkably short time, Middlesex has achieved international acclaim for its renowned Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, Middlesex was rated first in philosophy among post-1992 universities in Britain, with 65% of its research activity judged “world-leading” or “internationally excellent.” The decision to close such a successful program is perplexing. We understand that it was motivated by financial incentives from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Our organization, the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP), has over 2,500 members. As members of the SPEP Executive Committee, we believe that it is our responsibility to speak on behalf of our British colleagues. We are not unmindful of the short-term economic challenges facing universities everywhere. It is understandable that administrators with an eye on increased funding would be willing to cut programs of less obvious social benefit. Philosophy has always seemed to some people to be an unnecessary, if not socially pernicious, luxury. Just ask Socrates. Yet we know, or should know, that every decision to eliminate the study of philosophy altogether is penny-wise and pound-foolish. Without Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Kant, where would we be? Where will we be in 100 years, if programs like Middlesex are put on the chopping block?

University administrators the world over are watching Middlesex. Will the precipitous decision to terminate the philosophy programs be allowed to stand? Or will considered reflection lead to a reaffirmation of the fundamental commitment that has made Middlesex an international leader in modern European philosophy? With all due respect, and with a keen appreciation of the cost of higher education, we urge you to opt for the heroic course: to maintain the philosophy programs at Middlesex.

Respectfully submitted,

Andrew Cutrofello, signing for the members of the SPEP Executive Committee:

Leonard Lawlor, Executive Co-Director

Cynthia Willett, Executive Co-Director

Shannon Lundeen, Secretary-Treasurer

Alia Al-Saji, Executive Committee Member at Large

Andrew Cutrofello, Executive Committee Member at large

Anthony Steinbock, Executive Committee Member at Large

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