Roger Scruton on the Ideological University
I've been reading and re-reading Roger Scruton's recent novel, Notes from Underground, and I'll blog upon it at greater length later on, for there are several points of contact between his philosophical ideas and this fictional work, but I want to focus today on an interview called to my attention by my friend Bill Vallicella through his link to an interview of Scruton by Spencer Case (philosophy graduate student, University of Colorado, Boulder, and U.S. Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan). The interview is titled, "Roger Scruton on the Decline of the Modern University" (College Fix, March 14, 2014), and here's a good excerpt:
One [problematic trend in the contemporary university] is the way in which the difficult . . . subjects . . . in the humanities . . . are being displaced by purely ideological subjects . . . . [Formerly,] at the heart of the humanities there were difficult things like the classical languages, modern languages, literature -- read properly and critically discussed -- and so on, the "Great Books" and all the rest, in music the study of harmony and counter-point, in philosophy the analytical discipline that we know about so well. All those were real intellectual disciplines. But I see more and more they're being replaced by gender studies and other forms of essentially ideological confrontation with the modern world . . . . [Of course, t]here is plenty of room for people to include as part of the philosophical discussions of justice the whole question about the relation between man and woman, all the questions that feminists consider. There's absolutely no reason why that shouldn't be included. But, if the assumption is that one has to be a feminist, one has to arrive at a particular conclusion as a result of studying this, then what is involved is not philosophical discussion but ideology. The whole defining nature of philosophy is that you start from free inquiry and you don't actually know what you're going to come up with as a result of your arguments. To think that you have to have the conclusion prior to the investigation is effectually to say that this is a form of indoctrination.Agreed. Complete agreement. I've been around universities since 1975, and I've seen the shift take place. Things became so bad at one university I was at that the social work department lodged a formal complaint -- or at least threatened to lodge one -- against the philosophy department for daring to question fundamental assumptions held in the field of social work. I don't recall the precise issue, but I think that it had something to do with Leftist assumptions that shouldn't -- according to some -- be called into doubt. And as Scruton notes, when something can't be questioned, we're being confronted with ideology, not philosophy.