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Thought and Action in the Huntingdon Affair

ana Action ‘in the Huntinglon Affair
I’nedom of Speech and
Acaclamlc ….eedom



In Summer 1973 a group of students at Sussex
University prevented Samuel P. Huntington, an
American professor, from giving an academic lecture (see centre pages of RP7). They objected to
his having played the par~f a ~new mandarin~ in
the Vietnam war, and in particular to his formulation of the ~forced draft urbanisation~ policy.

Was this action legitimat~ political protest, or
even legitimate academic protext? Or was it an
impermissible interference with academic freedom?

Sir Keith Joseph, in his recent attempts to rally
the right round the (divergent?) ideals of morality, academic freedom and respect for truth, has
used the silencing of Huntington, and a letter in
support of it from ~senior members of Sussex
University~, led by Roy Edgley, which appeared in
the Guardian (11 June 1973) as his chief evidence
for the charge that ‘ some academics have lost
their respect for truth’ (The Times, 4 Dec 1974).

The article by Edgley printed below analyses the
principles appealed to by all sides on the Huntington Affair. It was written for a book edited
by John Mepham, which was to have been published
by Harvester Press last year. But, as we reported
in RP9, the publishers withdrew it at the last
moment for fear of libel action from Huntington an ironic fate for a book on free speech. We print
the article in full.

Versions of the issue
The way in which the Huntington affair ~as an
issue of academic freedom and freedom of speech
seemed clear, obvious, and simple to many participants and observers. Those who opposed
Huntington were thought to be simply ‘against
free speech’, to use the Guardian’s characterisation [11 June]; and those who opposed the opposition were on the other side of that fence, in
favour of free speech, and even, hopefully, more
or less heroic defenders of academic freedom
against ‘the enemy within the gates’ (Richard
Crossrnan in The Times 27 June).

This crude black-and-white caricature takes
little or no account of the complexities of the
concrete case, of the concept of freedom, and of
the application of the latter to the former. To
start with an important complexit~ of the concept, freedom is in some sense quantitative, i.e.

there are different degrees or amounts of freedom
of this kind or that kind. We can ask how much
freedom there is of a certain kind in this country or that, and in one system or institution
there may be more freedom of a certain’kind than
in another. ‘Amount of freedom’ seems to be a func~
tion of two factors, one of which can be regarded
as an extensive, the other as an intensive, magnitude: the extensive factor is the, range of items
constrained or unconstrained; the intensive factor
is the degree of constraint on any particular item
in that range.

Recognition of the former factor represents a
minimal advance in sophistication. Given that,

those opposed to Huntington could be seen not as
‘against free speech’ but as insisting that there
are limits to such freedom, i.e. that some sorts
of speech and some sorts of speakers should not
be tolerated. Some who disagreed with the opposition to Huntington in particular nevertheless
accepted this principle of limited freedom, arguing that what Huntington had said and done did
not put him outside the limits, though others
would be unacceptable as visiting speakers. But
those who, having advanced to this level of sophistication, continued to treat the Huntington
opposition as ‘against free speech’, seemed therefore to be claiming that the principle of free
speech, at least in the universities, as a specific kind of academic freedom, must be unlimited
in its range. Crossman, for instance, proposed
that ‘the don pledges himself to help in guaranteeing inside the university in which he works
the complete academic freedom to say and think
the most unpopular thoughts … • [The Times, 27
June]. He added hopefully: ‘I cannot see how any
academic worth his salt could object to signing
such a declaration and regarding conformity with
it as a condition of his employment’: a piece of
wishful thinking oblivious of the numbers of academics, whether opposed to Huntington or not, who
believe that academic freedom of speech should be
limited in its range, and who therefore would not
applaud in the name of freedom the prospect of a
classroom of students and faculty giving a res-‘

pectful and dignified hearing to a learned paper
proposing The Final Solution of the Jewish Problem, followed by a scrupulously detached and academic discussion of the technical problem of how
to dispose of all the bodies. Even John Searle,
whose book The Campus War would put him strongly
against the Huntington opposition, argues against
‘unlimited free speech’ in the university (p177].

And the Guardian itself, having in its leader of
11 June represented the faculty opposition to
Huntington as ‘Dons against free speech’, goes on
to say ‘There ought to be almost no limit to the
speakers whom a university audience can hear, as
long as they are not blatant propagandists’, the
final qualifying clause and the word ‘almost’

clearly impiying agreement with the limited principle accepted by the ‘dons against free speech’.

Even by the lights of the Guardian leader itself,
that headline is a piece of mystification: it
seems clear that, the headline notwithstanding,
the distinguished liberal newspaper, to say nothing
of liberal academics like Searle, would reject
Crossrnan’s test. Indeed, as I shall show, it’s
doubtful whether any sense at all can be made of
the doctrine of ‘complete academic -freedom’, and
certainly its application in the Huntington affair
leads to obvious contradictions and muddles.

I said that amount of freedom is a function not
only of the extensive factor of range but also of
the intensive factor of degree of constraint on
any particular item in that range. Some con-


straints make a thing impossible, others make it
more or less difficult. Philosophers ought to
note that this concept of impossibility contrasts
here with that of difficulty, not with that of
probability or improbability. ‘l’he steepness of a
mountain is a constraint on climbing it because
it makes the climb more difficult; but since there
are people who relish such difficulties, that
factor makes it more rather than less likely to
be climbed. It follows that the degree to which
a constraint constrains is not to be identified
with its effectiveness in stopping something. I
may stop you from leaving either by tying you to
your chair or by telling you that a friend of
yours is about to arrive; but the former is a more
stringent constraint or. your freedom than the

In fact, the latter, given that my statement is
honest and you are not deceived, might well be
argued to be no constraint on your freedom at all.

Let’s dwell on this for a moment. It’s true that
my words get you to do something you wouldn’t
otherwise have done, that you do what you do beca’use of what I said, that my saying what I said
explains your conduct. But the mode of operation
of my words is that what I say constitutes for
you a reason for staying. What you do you may be
said to choose or decide to do, to do on purpose,
intentionally, or deliberately, and certainly of
your own free will. My words give you information
about the relevant facts of your situation and in
that way enable you to act more rationally than
you otherwise would have done, i.e. knowing,
instead of being ignorant, of your friend’s impending arrival. I get you to stay, or stop you
from going, by giving you a reason for staying.

But this kind of case must be distinguished from
another that is also covered by the generic description ‘giving somebody a reason for doing
something’. The case above is one in which I
give you a reason for staying not so much by altering th,e facts of your situation but merely by
stating or describing those facts. Of course by
saying something to you I am altering the facts
of your situation: but the way in which I alter
your situation is simply by drawing your attention to a fact that doesn’t constitute an alteration and for which I am not responsible, namely
the impending arrival of your friend; and it ‘,s
that which constitutes your reason for staying.

consider now the kind of case in which I give you
a reason for staying by e.g. threatening to
thrash you if you don’t, or fixing a booby-trap
to the door while you watch and understand what
I do. Though as in the other case your staying
is again something Y9u do for a reason, something that in the light of the circumstances you
choose or decide to do, and do on purpose, intentionally, or deliberately, your freedom is
here und0ubtedly being constrained. The law constrains the freedom of all of us in this way: it
gives us reasons for not doing certain sorts of
things, but it gives us these reasons by contriving known penalties threatened for known
ranges of conduct. By actual punishment such as
imprisonment the law constrains freedom in a
different way, and the freedom only of those
people convicted of breaking the law.

Censure, I take it, is a kind of penalty, and
though its object may be something done in the
past, the implied threat of a similar penalty
against anything similar done in the future constitutes a constraint on freedom. In this ,and
sometimes more drastic ways many of those who
defended Huntington in the name of academic freedom sought’to limit the freedom of those who
opposed him. The censure motions proposed at


the School of English and American studies, as
well as the strongly censorious comments in the
newspapers, were constraints of this sort.

Crossman preferred a more rigorous sanction: referring to the letter that provoked the Guardian
headline ‘Dons against free speech’ [11 June], he
hoped that the vice-chancellors would proclaim
that ‘no one can sign such a letter and remain a
member of a university staff” [The Times 27 June] •
Those who regarded themselves as defenders of
academic freedom were here proposing limits to
that freedom; or to put it another way, the advocates of tolerance were recommending limits to
that tolerance, limits beyond which they were
proposing intolerance. The ugly word occurred
in the headline of a Daily Telegraph leader on
5 June, ‘University Intolerance’. The leader
began: ”’Should the university provide an oasis
of intolerance in society? Discuss this with
reference to Marcuse’s ‘The Idea of an Illiberal
University”’. Will such questions form the
staple diet of examination papers in the 1980s
(always assum~ng that examinations persist that
long)? Recent events suggest that universities
are no longer firmly wedded to free speech and
free academic inquiry’. The leader concluded:

‘Advocacy of intolerance may be tolerated in a
university; active intolerance is unacceptable’

Was this word ‘unacceptable’ merely an example
of what Fowler calls ‘elegant variation’? What
in the context it’s synonymous with, and what in
the cont~xt we expect, is the word ‘intolerable’.

But that word would have come as something of a
shock in a leader apparently so hostile to intolerance; and it might have suggested that its
opening quoted question has to be taken seriously
as a question needing an answer, and not as a
mere symptom of academic decline.

What I’ve said so far shows that many critics
of the Huntington opposition, if not actually inconsistent, were less than explicit in admitting
implied limitations on academic freedom; and that
their chief failure was consequently a failure to
discuss the substantive issue of what the limits
should be in relation to concrete particular
cases. This is enough to show that the problem
can’t be solved by taking sides, or seeming to
take sides, for or against academic freedom in the
abstract. It clearly shows, in the words of the
faculty letter to the Guardian (11 June], that
‘to call this an issue of “free-speech” is too
simple’ .

Speech Bc T~hl



The case for academic freedom can’t be saved by
claiming that it’s intolerance that is intolerable, for what this claim clearly wants to maintain is that some kinds of intolerance are acceptable, i.e. tolerable., Can that case be made out
in terms of the Daily Telegraph’s distinction between advocacy of intolerance and active intolerance? To make that work we need at least a distinction between the active intolerance of members
of universities and the active intolerance of universities themselves. But what exactl.y is this
distinction between advocacy of intolerance and
active intolerance? It suggests, and perhaps
rests on, a distinction between speech and thought
on the one hand and action on the other. Liberalism has commonly drawn this distinction in order
to urge that speech and thought should in some
sense be freer than action – more precisely to
urge that from the claim that certain sorts of
act,ions should be constrained, it doesn’t follow
that talk about such actions, and even advocacy of
them, should be similarly constrained. Academic
freedom is of course commonly held to consist,

at least centrally and mainly, in freedom of
thought and speech. Criticism of the Huntington
opposition objected to his being deprived of his
freedom of speech; and Crossman’s concern was
with ‘the complete academic freedom to say and
think .•. ‘ .

The most famous liberal argument for liberty of
thought and discussion is contained in J. S.

Mill’s chapter of that title in his classic essay
On Liberty.

I shan’t discuss Mill’s view explicitly, though much of what I have to say will
bear critically on them.

In general, Mill’s argument exemplifies what Marx noted, that special
conditions of emancipation are represented a~
general: in particular, Mill generalised from his
specific historical need to overthrow established
religious constraints on freedom of discussion by
agnostics and atheists. His whole argument thus
rests on two presupposed and unquestioned ideas
that make it in various ways inappropriate to contemporary problems of freedom of speech in a technological society: the first is the assumed overriding value of knowledge and truth, and with it
the focus of Mill’s interest on the kind of
thought that consists of belief or opinion and on
the kind of speech that consists of discussion involving and aimed at truth, i.e. the statementmaking mode of speech; the second is the individualistic context assumed, and with it the failure to deal with the problems of thought and
action specific to individual roles organised
within social institutions.

he should never have been invited in the first

Some members of the university opposed or were
prepared to oppose Huntington in several of the
ways I’ve listed. Others confi~ed their opposition to such items as (9) and (10). Their
‘action’, consequently, consisted of speech.

(9) was, moreover, speech that advocated the
stopping of the talk only by withdrawal of the
. invitation, not in the manner of (4). Would
Huntington’s defenders have regarded simply not
inviting him as a restriction of his freedom of
speech? If so, many academics have their freedom
of speech extensively curtailed. Withdrawing an
invitation is of course an obvious and pointed

But it is still, like arguing for
such a withdrawl, an act of speech and thought.

Indeed, all the items on my list from (4) on are
wholly or chiefly forms of speech and thought.

Varieties of Opposition
Given the distinction between speech and action,
the Huntington affair was seen as one in which
the opposition to Huntington took action to impose
on hirrl a constraint that effectively deprived him
of the ability to give his talk, Le. made it
impossible for him to speak. But what exactly
was the nature of that action taken by the opposition to Huntington? The distinction between
speech and action was commonly applied to
Huntington hims’elf, and of course it was applied
in accordance with that principle of greater freedom of speech than for action: unlike Lieutenant
Calley, Huntington was a theorist, not an agent in
Vietnam. with the exc;ption of the Daily Telegraph, whose brief leader was in this respect far
more careful and perceptive than most other press
eomments, what almost entirely escaped Huntington’s defenders was that the distinction between
speech and action was also applicable to the
Huntington opposition. The word- ‘opposition’ is
a blanket-term that covers numerous different
ways of being opposed to something: the possible
ways of opposition to Huntington were many and
various, and to the best of my knowledge most of
them were actualised 0r prepared at Sussex University during the Huntington affair.

Here are
some of the ways in which it was p~sible to be
opposed to Huntington’s talk, arranged vaguely in
order from one extreme to another: Cl} using, or
being prepared to, violence ,if necessary to
prevent the talk; (2). physically barring his
entry to the lecture theatre; (3) heckling in such
a way as to make the talk impossible; (4) arguing
that the talk should be prevented in one of these
ways; (5) heckling to express strong disapproval
without preventing the talk; (6) asking the speaker questions about Vietnam that would reveal disapproval of his role in the war; (7) demonstrating
in other ways, e.g. outside the lecture theatre,
without preventing the talk; (8) holding a diversionary meeting in another room at the same
time; (9) arguing that the invitation should be
(should have been) withdrawn; (10) arguing that

Consider now the letter by members of the Sussex
faculty published in the Guardian on 11 June.

what category of opposition can we place it and
the sorts of opposition it describes? As a
letter it’s a form of speech, and the descriptions it gives of the sorts of opposition undertaken or intended by its signatories are all compatible with· their being forms ~f speech also.

(9), for instance, is a way of objecting to
Huntington’s ‘receiving a respectful hearing’,
since it objects to his receiving a hearing at
all, and it objects to :this by arguing for the
withdrawl of the invitation. There was in fact a
distinguished precedent for this mode of opposition: in 1968, Oxford University, having invited
four Russian philosophers then visiting England,
withdrew the invitation in the aftermath of the
Russian intervention in Czechoslovakia. This
constraint on freedom of speech seems to have
attracted little libecal attention and less hostility, and it is worth noticing that it was as a
visitor to this same university, Oxford, that
Huntington was in Bngland in 1973. Compare the
Russian intervention in Czechoslovakia, and the


role (if any) of those four Russian philosophers
in it, with the American intervention in Vietnam,
and Huntington’s role in that. On what scales
could England’s great centre of objective scholarship have weighed these two and found the former
so much more repugnant than the latter? By what
standards did liberal commentators who ignored or
condoned Oxford’s decision in 1968 manage to find
the Sussex faculty letter to the Guardian so deplorable? The Guardian, with liberal scrupulousness in its use of evidence, jumped to the conclusion that the ~.etter showed that ‘members of
the teaching staff encouraged students to prevent
a speaker from being heard’. The abstract cause
of academic freedom roused Crossman to such a
blind fury that he read into the letter only what
his hysterical imagination put there: he referred
to ‘the 17 ~embers [25 in fact] of the staff who
signed a letter declaring their support for the
mob action that prevented an American professor
.. , from getting a hearing • [The Times 27 June].

Like academic freedom, the freedom of the press
evidently has its uses.

In the light of this instance, academics who are grateful for Mr
Crossman’s suggestion of a Hippocratic oath for
dons may wish to consider whether they shouldn·t
return the compliment by suggesting a Hippocratic
oath for journalists: it might include some
agreement that journalists, even ex-politicians,
should refrain from writing before theY’ve learned
to read.

Constraint Bc Consistency
Having tilted at his own private windmill, our
free speech crusader spurs his horse and rides off
in all directions at once. Crossman’s proposal
is that the academic should pledge himself ‘to
help in guaranteeing inside the university in
which he works the complete arademic freedom to
say and think the most unpopular thoughts … ·;
and of the letter in the Guardian of 11 June, he
says that he hopes the vice-chancellors will proclaim that ‘no one can sign such a letter and
remain a member of a university staff’.

as I’ve pointed out, that letter consists of
speech and thought and implies nothing incompatible with speech and thought as ways of opposing
Huntington we have here in action one of the
common contradictions of the abstract free speech
doctrine: the attempt to suppress freedom of
speech in the name of freedom of speech. On behalf of ‘complete academic freedom to say and
think the most unpopular thoughts’, Crossman is
proposing a severe constraint, namely the threat
of dismissal, on the speech and thought of those
who opposed Huntington. There is a general lesson
in this: if one act of speech can constrain, or
imply a constraint on, another act of speech,
complete freedom of speech is self-contradictory.

Not all those who proposed constraints against
the Huntington opposition were so blatantly inconsistent. But the price of consistency here
seems high. If there are to be constraints on
arguments and statements against an invitation
to some particular visitor or class of visitors,
consistency requires rejection of the unlimited
doctrine or academic freedom of speech, or what
Crossman calls ‘complete academic freedom’, and
recognition, in agreement with the Huntington
opposition, that freedom of speech is limited.

The minimal concession to the limited doctrine
would consequently allow freedom to any speaker
in the university except those speaking against
inviting some other speaker (an exception that
would of course apply to and constrain visiting
speakers themselves).

It’s this price that
would be high. To subscribe to this principle,


universities would need to regard it as less
‘objectionable within the academic context to
preach anti-semitism, or white racialism, or
forced-draft urganisation, than to argue against
inviting such speakers. The general question
being raised here is the relation of other values
to the value of freedom of speech, and the
university’s commitment on this matter. Ordering
the priorities in the suggested way seems to
reveal a perverted sense of values.

Partly to
test opinion at Sussex on this issue, I proposed
the following motion to the university Senate on
20 June: ‘With respect to invited speakers, the
university recognises two freedoms of speech: the
freedom of invited visitors to speak; and the
freedom of members of the university to speak in
opposition to any such invitation’. The motion
was passed by a big majority. There is, nevertheless, a case to be answered: it is that however
individuals, including members of universities,
order their’values, for universities themselves
freedom of speech must be the only or at least
the overriding value.

There’s an assumption in the preceding paragraph
that needs to be made explicit and discussed.

pointed out in parenthesis that the limitation on
academic freedom of speech suggested above would
have to apply equally to invited speakers.

claiming that this would silence objectors to invited visitors who preached anti-semitism, white
racialism, and forced-draft ur~anisation, I therefore assumed that arguments of these kinds against
other humane values wouldn’t themselves constitute
‘or advocate, more or less explicitly, a constraint
‘on other people’s freedom, including their freedom of speech and academic freedom. This assumption is clearly questionable. More generally,
it’s questionable to suppose that because our
language seems to enable us to distinguish different values, those values can be separated as
easily in reality. Fascist anti-semitism, for
example, involved death, injury, and suffering for
millions of Jews; it also, in these and other
ways, curtailed their freedom, including their
freedom of speech and academic .freedom. To argue
for anti-semitism is, at least by implication, to
argue against these freedoms for Jews. Forceddraft urbanisation can hardly be supposed not to
curtail the freedom of those to whom it’s applied:

the very qualification ‘forced-draft’ makes clear
the fact that urbanisation of this sort ,is being
imposed on a rural society, and involves for the
peasants concerned, even if in their flight to the
towns and urban camps they ~scape such other evils
as death, injury and disease, a massive deprivation of freedom. Of academic freedom of speech?

Universities are presumably not a, feature of the
South Vietnamese countryside.

Shall we say, then,
that academics justifying or proposing forceddraft urbanisation for the rural society of an
undeveloped foreign country may rest assured that,
protected themselves by the doctrine of academic
freedom, their advice does not in its turn contradict that doctrine?

A question that this raises, then, is whether the
constraints on the Huntington opposition proposed
by the defenders of academic freedom of speech
wouldn’t be applicable to Huntington himself.

If the relevant principles can be contravened by
speech, namely by speech advocating constraints
on somebody’s freedom of speech, the question to
be asked is whether forced-draft urbanisation
isn’t a constraint on the freedom of speech of
thnse who suffer it. As I’ve already suggested,
it may not constraint their academic freedom; but
in that case we shall need a distinction between
freedom of speech in general and its specific form

as academic freedom of speech. Crossman’s proposed Hippocratic oath for academics would allow
‘Huntington to escape by an even more parochial
restri=tion: the academic should pledge himself,
says Crossman [The Times, 27 June], ‘to help in
guaranteeing inside the university in which he
works the complete academic freedom to say and
think the most unpopular thoughts … ‘ {my italics]
Have academics then no responsibility of this sort
to universities other than their own? In that
event, dissidents in one university could with
impunity direct their arguments and actions at
other universities – a positive encouragement of
the ‘rent-a-crowd’ technique. Perhaps on second
thoughts Crossman would agree that intellectuals
should avoid parochialism and broaden their vision
beyond their own college walls. Should academics
then help to guarantee academic freedom of speech
as such, in other universities as well as their
own? Or are foreign universities fair game for
constraint, especially if the academic’s own
country happens to be’ waging war, however ruthless, inhumane, and aggressive, against those
foreigners? This higher jingoism apart, nonacademics, especially those on the receiving end
of such policies as forced-draft urbanisation, are
likely to see as still somewhat parochial the
claim that academics should steadfastly defend the
academic freedom of theorists who formulate policies so destructive of the freedom, to say nothing
of the life and health, of those outside universities.

Two Images
Let me summarise some or these points by drawing
attention to two contrasting images of the
Huntington affair. First, there is the image of
Huntington ‘the distinguished academic’, visiting
a university to give a scholarly talk followed by
an academic discussion, but prevented by the more
or less violent action of a howling mob that infringed his freedom of speech. Second, there is
the image of Huntington the adviser to the
American government, theorist of a brutally repressive policy that infringed the freedom of
speech and most other freedoms and values of millions of Vietnamese, opposed by other academics
who spoke against inviting him to their university. The most important fact about these two
images is that though contrasting they are not
incompatible. Indeed, the opposition recognised
that it was partly their compatibility that made
oppositinn necessary: for the prevailing ideology
in academia allows the first imag~ to mask the
second. It’s to that first image that the abstract conception of academic freedom belongs.

What the second image brings to the surface as a
relevant consideration is Huntington’s role, as
an academic, in the violent denial of the values
of the Vietnamese, including their freedom,
certainly their freedom of s~eech, and possibly
their academic freedom.

The two images so far omit an important party,
namely Huntington’s defenders. Many of them actively helped the first image to mask the second,”
and they appear in the images as those who
sought to constrain Huntington. Bearing in mind
my earlier remarks about the intensive magnitude
of freedom constituted by the degree of constraint
imposed, let’s list the various constraints imposed or proposed by different parties in-the
whole complex of the Huntington affair: (1) by
some members of Sussex University against Huntington, shouting and heckling sufficient to prevent
him from speaking on 5 June; (2) by some members
of Sussex University against Huntington, withdrawal of the invitation for 5 June; (3) by Huntington

against millions of Vietnamese, the direct application of mechanical and conventional power on
such a massive scale as to force a massive migration from countryside to city; (4) by Crossman
against the academics proposing (2), loss of job.

The Huntington opposition were commonly regarded
as ‘extremists’ but on this scale of constraints
(2) is extreme only in the sense of being extremely mild and moderate. Even (1) can’t compete for
savagery with (3), or tor rigour with (4). It
has to be insisted that the opposition to Huntington proposed neither that he should be forceddraft urbanised back to Harvard, nor that he
should be dismissed his job. In considering
Crossman’s reference to ‘the blind militancy’ of
the Huntington opposition, the above list of constraints may therefore help us to locate more
accurately any blindness and militancy, and their
degrees, in the whole affair For militancy
forced-draft urbanisation leaves the rest· stand- ,
ing; and though born blind, it was precisely
Huntington’s role to give it sight, the sight of
self-knowledge provided by his theoretical vision
of how and why America’s attack on rural South
Vietnam might constitute the effective answer to
wars of national liberation. As for the others i~
the list, Crossman’s own reaction seems .to me well
ahead in both blindness and militancy: even the
harsh Old Testament law of ‘an eye for an eye’

would yield on this matter a proposal that by
comparison with Crossman’s would be a ~del of
enlightened restraint. For those who ~isagr,e
with it, the ideology of toleration often ~asks
peculiarly vicious forms of intolerance.

Words Bc Deeds

It might be argued that by talking indifferent1y
of constraints both imposed and proposed I’m
here neglecting, in at least some of these comparisons, the distinction between speech and action
already referred to: constraints against Hunting’ton were not merely proposed, as in (2), they
were actually imposed, as in (1)” It’s true also,
of , course, that the constraints mentioned in (3)
were not merely proposed but actually imposed on
the Vietnamese. But not by Huntington, it will
be ·said .. At the most, his role was the theoretical formulation of the policy, not the execution
of”i~: like all academics, he is a specialist in
speech and thought, not action, an expert in theory, not practice. Should we then accept this
distinction and use it in the classic liberal
manner, as the Daily Telegraph does (5 June), to
claim that though certain actions may be unacceptable or intolerable, ‘advocacy’ of them, and of
anything else, should be tolerated? What are the
arguments for and against this view?

Some preliminaries are necessary. The first is
that the Telegraph’s formulation of the distinction, however appropriate to its particular interest~, is too narrow for our purposes.

of an action is not the only kind of speech that
can stand in close relation to action. An action
may be advocated, advised, suggested, invited, instructed, recomm~nded, commanded, enjoined, ordered, proposed, incited, justified, encouraged,
or supported. Following Hare (Language of
Morals) we may say that any of these utteranceswill be in some sense about an action, namely
that action whose description occurs in their
formulation, and that a variety of sentenc,e forms
may be used: of these the linguistically simplest
is the imperative mood, e.g. ‘switch on the ignition’, while others combine action-descriptions
with such modal words as ‘ought’, ‘should’, or
‘must’, e.g. ‘You should switch on the ig~ition’.

Also follo~ing Hare, but with an important modi-


fication, we may characterise utterances of this
kind as in general prescriptive with respect to
the action referred to, and distinguish them from
those that are descriptive with respect to the
action referred to, e.g. ‘He switched on the ignition’ .

This distinction between description and prescription and its analogous distinction between
factual and value judgements, drawn within the
field of speech and thought, has been used to
strengthen the liberal defence of Huntington.

Even if an action or kind of action is intolerable and ought to be constrained, it’s doubtful
whether it follows that prescribing that action
is intolerable and ought to be constrained; but
it clearly doesn’t follow that merely describing
an action is intolerable and ought to be constrained. For merely to describe an action, or
anything else, is not to favour or be committed
to that action in the way that actually performing it is. Thus whatever we may think of complete freedom of speech and thought, we must
accept, according to this view, complete freedom
of descriptive speech and thought. This means,
it’s commonly supposed, that since science is
purely descriptive and value~neutral, there must
be complete freedom for science, whether natural
science or, as in Huntington’s case, social

These last two statements don’t follow.

certainly true that from the fact that an action
or kind of action is intolerable and ought to be
constrained, it does not follow that merely describing that action is intolerable and ought to
be constrained. But from this it obviously does
not follow that merely describing an action, or
anything else, could not be intolerable and a
proper object of constraint. The claim that a
certain conclusion doesn’t follow from a particular statement doesn’t imply that the conclusion
is false, nor that it doesn’t follow from some
other’ statement.

Theory Bc Practice
Can that conclusion be shown to be false on the
ground that there is a categorial distinction between (descriptive) thought and speech on the one
hand and action on the other? The argument might
be outlined as follows. Actions can have effects,
and actions and their effects are paradigmatically the sorts of things that can be intentional,
deliberate, freely chosen, and for a purpose, the
sorts of things we can therefore be held responsible for, and the sorts of things that penalties
can rationally constrain because the threat of
punishment is a reason against doing something.

In all these crucial respects, actions, which
cannot be true or false, differ essentially from
items that can be true or false, descriptive propositions or beliefs.

In particular, it follows
that though actions can be judged for their
personal and political morality, it makes no sense
to suppose that descriptive propositions and
beliefs can be judged in that way. The only
rational way of discussing them is in terms of
their truth or falsity and those matters that
depend on truth and falsity, their rationality
and logical relations with other such items.

This set of distinctions has deep roots in twentieth century analytical philosophy. I have
attacked those roots elsewhere. Here, in a list
of numbered points, I’ll attack the simple distinction between theory and practice, between action on the one hand and speech and thought on
the other, whether that speech or thought is prescriptive, descriptive, or whatever.

(1) Items
that can be true or false, or what philosophers


have called propositions or judgments, can be
asserted, stated, denied, contradicted, believed,
disbelieved, doubted, and so on. What is stated
or said can be distinguished from the saying of

saying something, whether descriptive or
not, is doing something; speech, including descriptive speech, is a kind of action (see Austin:

How to do Things with Words).

(2) Some kinds of
thinking, even when the content is descriptive,
are activities, e.g. thinking about a problem.

Though not activities, the kinds of thinking known
as believing or knpwing, even when what is
believed or known is something-desc;iptive, are
in part states; and they normally require and presuppose thinking as an activity.

(3) All can have
effects or consequences.

(4) speech-acts and
thought-activities are things we can decide and
intend to do, and do for a purpose, and for them
and their effects as for other acts and activities
and their effects, and under much the same general conditions, we can be held responsible or
partly responsible. When their intended effects
don’t occur, we can be held responsible or partly
responsible for trying to bring them about, e.g.

for trying to persuade others.

(5) The consequences of believing something can’t be reasons
for or against believing it, but the consequences
of saying something or thinking about something,
as in general for acts and activities, can be
reasons for or against doing those things.

(6) As the question whether to do something is
an evaluative or prescriptive question, and sometimes a moral or political question, so also are
the questions whether to say something and whether
to think about something. The question whether to
believe that something is the case, or in general
the question of the acceptability or otherwise of
a proposition or hyPothesis, is also an evaluative
or prescriptive question, even when what is under
consideration is descriptive.

In all these cases
reasons for or against saying something, thinking
about something, or believing that something is
true, have an evaluative or prescrptive bearing
on those items they are reasons for or against.

Far from being value-free, reason is essentially

(7) Establishing whether or not
to believe something, i.e. the acceptability or
otherwise of a proposition, whether descriptive
or not, and whether about actions or something
else, requires a variety of actions and activities, such as, e.g., thinking about the problem,
performing experiments on animals, observing a
situation, and using up scarce resources.

(8) Descriptive propositions, whether about actions or something else, can have implications
for action that are technologically prescriptive
or what Kant called ‘hypothetical imperatives’,
e.g. from the fact that a certain mineral occurs
only in Alaska it follows that to mine that
mineral one must mine in Alaska.

(9) Descriptive
propositions, whether about actions or something
else, may constitute information that somebody
needs in order to be able to do something.

Knowledge is power.

(10) Descriptive propositions, whether about actions or something else,
can constitqte reasons for doing things.

Underlying these latter points is this truth:

that the exclusive contrast between thought and
action neglects the fact that in distinctively
human action, unlike the ‘natural’ action of,
say, acids on metals, the agent’s doing something
involves his thinking what he’s doing and his
doing it for some reason.

We may summarise the items in this list in a
highly abstract way by insisting that theory and
practice are essentially interconnected: theorising is a kind of practice; theorising and having

theories affects practice and other things;
theories require practice to determine their
acceptability or otherwise; theories have implications for rational practice; and practice involves theory. The kind of action that is contrasted with speech· and thought must therefore be
construed vaguely as action that is neither simply
nor predominantly speech or thought, though intimately connected with them in the ways mentioned.

Responsibility in Words
Generally, roughly, and prima facie, we are responsible for the effects we cause or the consequences we bring about, though full moral responsibility normally requires that we foresee or be
able to foresee those effects. This principle is
subject to many qualifications, but these concern
us only so far as they might be considered to discriminate between speech and thought on the one
hand and (other) action on the other hand. There
is one qualification that to some extent has this
consequence, namel~ the one noted by saying that
when I ’cause’ an ‘effect’ that is somebody else’s
action, and that action is something done ·inten- .

tionally, deliberately, or on purpose, the responsibility for that ‘effect’, i.e. that action,
belongs to that other agent whose action· it is,
not to me. Ano~her way of making this point would
be to say that though you may do something because
of what I say or do, when your doing that thing
is intentional it is not an effect and my action
not its cause. The case is exemplified by a situation already referred to, in which what I do is
to give you a reason, or what you take to be a
reason, for doing what you do. If, for instance,
I tell you something you don’t know, e.g. that
your uncle is a rich man, and you consequently
murder him in the hope of an inheritance, the responsibility for the m~rder is yours, not mine.

What I say does not so much cause you to murder
your uncle, rather it is your reason for murdering him.

The force of this qualific.ation, however, is
vanishingly reduced in somewhat different circumstances. Consider a situation in which the relevant speech is in the prescriptive mood and the
speaker is in an instit~ionalised position of
authority over the person he addresses: e.g. a
military officer giving an order to a subordinate.

If a soldier commits an atrocity by machinegunning to death defenceless women and children,
and he does so under orders from an officer, the
responsibility for the atrocity is his, but only
partly his. The responsibility i~ shared between
him and the officer (and possibly others), and
in this situation the lion’s share of the responsibility may belong not to the subordinate who
acts but to the commander who merely speaks. Even
if the subordinate for some reason does not carry
out the order, the officer who by speaking gave
the order will still have been guilty of serious
misconduct, whether the army· recognises it or not:

he will still have been responsible for something
that from the point of view of personal and political morality can be judged objectionable, and
more specifically savage, brutal, and inhumane.

How is this possible? How is it that his words,
sounds in the air without harmful effect, can be
morally objectionable? How can his order itself,
whether or not followed by the action commanded,
be criticised as a savage and inhumane order?

The simple utilitarian condition of actually
causing good or harm is inadequate: it’s too
stringent for actions in general, whether speechacts or not, since it ignores trying and failing
. to cause good or harm; and it’s too crude for

understanding the peculiarities of the relation
in which one person’s speech may stand to another
another’s action. In both cases, the simple V-tilitarian condition, in focusing on the natural
relation of causality, ignores the peculiarity
of human contexts, to which the concept of meaning
is central. When someone means and tries to cause
harm by trying to get someone else to do harm, his
attempt can hardly gain credit for failure: that
credit may on the contrary be due to the other
agent for resisting the attempt. Now the notion
of getting somebody else to do something is very
general, covering a great range of different
cases. In many of these, the question of what it
is that one person is trying to get another to do
may be difficult to answer, except by the person
making the attempt: e.g., I may bang the table in
an attempt to wake someone who is sleeping in the
next room. This difficulty is characteristic for
situations of this sort, in which there is a natural causal relation between the means, in this
case the banging of the table, and what the other
person is to be thereby got to do. But let’s
narrow our attention to the following cases: not
only the getting but also the thing the other
person is got to do is intentional or meant on
the part of its immediate agent; and it’s by
saying something that the former tries to get the
latter to do something. In general, speech and
thought can have to (other) action the semantic
and intensional relation of being about that action, and when that speech or thought 1S prescriptive of that action, this non-causal relation -is such that some of the personal and moral
qualities of the action may be reflected in that
speech or thought. Actually doing something is
only one way of being in favour of it; and as the
agent expresses his attitude by actual performance, so someone else may express the same attitude by speaking for that action, or may have
that attitude without expressing it in approving
of it in thought. This common personal attitude
provides the basis for ascribing to the speech
and thought moral qualities prima facie similar to
some of those belonging to the action. As for
responsibility, speaking of an action in this way
to the prospective agent is a standard way of
trying to get or persuad~ him to do that thing.

Moreover, contrary to what is sometimes implied
by the common idea that the effects of speech are
less direct and less easy to discover that the
effects of (other) action, it’s an important
feature of this way of trying to get someone else
to do something that the question of what it is
that the former agent is trying to get the latter
to do is standardly easier to answer than in
cases of ‘natural causality’: for the very means
used to try to ’cause’ the intended ‘effect’ is
words, items that have meaning, a meaning that
identifies what it is that the other person is
to do, so that anyone who understands the language,’ like that other person himself, may know
what ‘effect’ was intended. There are many ways
in which I might try·to get you to shut the door.

saying ‘Shut the door’ is the most transparent
of them: in that ~ase, the ‘effect’ I intend may
be read 6ff from the means itself by which I try
to ’cause’ it.

That Huntington, as a ‘distinguished academic’;
was simply a theorist, confining himself to words
and thoughts as against deeds, can’t therefore be
sufficient to defend him against the judgments of
personal and political morality applicable to
those aspects of the Vietnam war about which he
theorised. I have argued elsewhere that Huntington’s theory about forced-draft urbanisation must
.be construed as prescriptive, as a strategic just.


ification of the American attack on rural South
Vietnam in the past, and advice on how to respond
to wars of national Hberation in the future.

The political and moral values belonging to such
an attack must be reflected, in however attenuated and qualified a form, in Huntington’s activity of formulating the theory of that policy.

Moreover, Huntington’s share of the responsibility cannot be denied on the ground that his contribution was speech and thought, not action.

As my example of the soldier and the officer
suggests, as far as responsibility is concerned
military action, like action of many other kinds,
must be regarded as the action of a collective
agent, and individual responsibility is shared
in different degrees by those individuals who in
their specialised roles, institutional or otherwise, constitute that agent. In an individual
agent we can distinguish the special functions
of thought and action, theory and practice, as
when an individual thinks about and pians to do,
and then does it thinking what he’s doing, i.e.

under the direction or guidance of his thought.

With division of labour, individuals become specialists in these distinguishable functions, specialising in ‘intellectual labour’ or ‘manual
labourl’; and in collective agents, and to some
extent in society as a whole, these specialist
roles may be institutionalised and, analogously
with the special functions of individual agents,
in which thought directs action, integrated into
hierarchical structures of authority and subordination. Some roles, in other words, are
chiefly speaking and thinking roles, and again as
my example of the solider and the officer shows,
these ‘theoretical’ roles may bear more, not less,
responsibility than those of the ‘practical’ executants: in collective agents, civil as well as
military, the institutional hierarchy of specialisms gives authority, and therefore most responsibility, to intellectual not manual labour.

Huntington formulated his theory of forced-draft
urbanisation in his role of consultant or adviser
to the American government. He was to this extent
part of the collective agent prosecuting the war
in Vietnam, an agent that put into action policies
that it also worked out in speech and thought.

“Closed Minds”
My general argument so far as been that there is
no categorial distinction between speech and
thought on the one hand and action on the other
allowing us to claim that only actions can be
judged for their personal and political morality
and that it is only for our actions that we are
responsible. What then? Even if Huntington’s
theory of forced-draft urbanisation is inhumane,
and even if, as consultant to the American government, he must take that share of the responsibility that certainly belongs to him as a specialist intellectual contributing to the work of that
collective agent, why limit his freedom of speech,
especially his freedom to speak on some other
topic? Why in particular not argue with him?

Doesn’t the refusal to do that exhibit, in the
words of the Guardian [5 June], ‘closed minds’?

The general answer to these questions must be
the same as for any constraint against abuse:

the justice of emphatic protest about what’s
past, whose point is to help to change things
for the better. Arguing with the person concerned
may on its own be neither emphatic nor effective
enough. Argument against his position is certainly necessary; but it may not be sufficient.

Or rather, though such argument may be sufficient
from a ‘logical’ point of view, adequate as
criticism to reveal what’s wrong with the posi-


tion being criticised, it may not be adequate,
on its own, to effect the practical business or
actually changing that position and prevailing
modes of thought about it. This will tend to be
so whenever that position and these modes of
thought are deeply entrenched by being institutionalised in and partly constitutive of a network
of existing social relations, academic, economic,
political, military, etc. Ideas of this sort, as
history shows, e.g. the history of trade unionism,
aren’t simply ideas and don’t yield to argument
alone. Other kinds of opposition are necessary.

What’s more, since in these cases argument and
criticfsm will be of a moral and political kind,
opposition of sorts other than argument are not
only necessary but permissible. If argument and
criticism of a moral and political kind are permissible, it must be permissible at least to argue
for kinds of opposition other than criticism. In
the Huntington affair, the specific object of the
protest was itself speech, thought, and argument
undertaken under the protection of the free speech
doctrine, and more particularly the contemporary
form given to that object by the specialisation of
individuals and institutions, the labour of an
intellectual working under the protection of the
doctrine of academic freedom: imposing or proposing a constraint was the most direct and practical
way of repudiating that protection as a legitimate
defence in this and similar cases.

If this should be thought an unacceptably drastic
measure, I can only reply that by comparison with
the ideological pressures against which it was
offered as a counterpoise it was mild and gentle
enough. Consider the variety and weight of the
factors that protect academics from a sharp sense
of their responsibilities. The doctrine of academic freedom, and the related ‘academic dogma’

of ‘knowledge for its own sake’, are only the moral
form taken by that protection. In logic, it takes
the form of the value-neutrality thesis, the claim
that academic disciplines, at least to the extent
that they are rationally respectable and scientific, are morally and politically neutral. The
psychological effect of these ideas of specialisation is heavily reinforced by what might be called
the specifically psychological form of protection
due to the division of labour itself. Technology
in general puts a distance between an agent and
the effects he may be responsible for: killing a
man with one’s bare hands is, I take it, a different experience from killing him with a sword; and
as the technology of killing develops, though
guns, bombs, and rocket-driven missiles, the increasing destructive power of technolgy is
accompanied by an increasing gap in our experience, between our experience of operating an instrument and our experience, if any, of the
effects we thereby produce. The intellectual in
the grove of Academe who produces the theory in
accordance with which the technician operates is
still more distant from the scene of the crime;
and that distance is multiplied by the fragmentation of problems and the consequent division of
labour within the academy itself. The don, in a
modern technocracy no longer ineffectual, remains
morally remote. In this way intellectuals are
psychologically insulated from the shock of common
human contact with the realities they talk and
think about, and a reasonable and humane response
to what they are responsible for is powerfully inhibited. It’s this inhibition, of course, that
the prevailing ideology values as detachment, the
detachment reckoned to be constitutive of the very
objectivity of reason that the academy is supposed
to institutionalise. Apathy is another name for
it. Disengaging the emotions as it engages the

intelligence, the hierarchical division of_labour
in which the intellectual function of planning
exercises direction and authority correlates increasing resP9nsibility with increasing apathy.

This perhaps helps to explain how, in the words
of Telford Taylor, former chief U.S. counsel at
NUr eit!be rq , ‘the war ,America’s vietnam war), in
t~e maSS1ve lethal d1mensi~ns it a~quired after
1964, was the work of highly educated academi~s
a~d administrators … ” men who, as Townsend
Hoopes has put It, were -, almost u-niform’,ly, those
considered when they took office to be among the
-ablest, the best, the most hurnan1e and liberal men
that could be found for public trust’. An inte1.’;”
lectual may, in his own fashion, as an academic,
be an agent of violence whose horror fails to
penetrate the dense screen round his specialist
awareness, so that all that filters through is
represented in some s~ch anodyne jargon as
‘forced~4ra~t ur~anisatiQF and modernisation’.

It will take more than argument to dissipate that
degree of academTc mystification, though one
might have ,ho~ed that the classic example of the
American war 1n Vietnam wo~ld have maa~ -the
business easier.

In what way could it be thought that this attemptto open the minds of specialist intellectuals exhibited a closed mina? A closed mind on what
question? Surely n~t on the questions Huntington
himself would have discussed if he had been
allowed td speak. ‘His topic was the role of the
military in government, and it was not on those
questions that the opposition had made up its
mind, nor Huntington’s answers to them that the
opposition objected to. If the opposition had
closed minds, those minds could have been closed
only on the question of Huntington’s role in the
Vietnam war and on the practical question of what,
in the light of that role, to do, if anything,
about his invitation to Sussex. On the former
question, there was, I suppose, an outside chance
tQatthe talk Huntington was invited to give would
have provided some evidence one way or the other.

But what of the latter question? What would it
be for a mind to be c~osed on such a question?

Closed minds, and their political counterpart
closed societies, versus open minds and open societies: this contrast comes out in much liberal
thinking. Closed minds and societies are supposed
to be dogmatic, open minds and societies antidogmatic. One question that needs an answer is
this: what is the difference between an open mind
and a mind that is not ~de up? If I make up my
mind on some question, is my mind closed? Is it
dogmatic simply to come to a conclusion? Philosophical scepticism implies that it is, and this
philosophy has been the foundation of much antidogmatism. But this, I take it, is too drastic
a’doctrine for the critics of the Huntington opposition. We all do have our minds ‘made up on all
sorts of matters; and if we didn’t, life would be
intolerably chaoti~. Is it, then, that a closed
mind is one that is not only made up, but unchangeably so, impervious to further considerations and argument? But the idea that we can and
should keep our minds open to such further influences presupposes that our concern is only with
beliefs, theoretical items. Beliefs.are states
that persist over a period of time, and they can
be changed or maintained in the face of these influences: I can, for instance, believe that the
universe is expanding but also be prepared to
doubt whether or disbelieve that the universe is
expanding if and when appropriate evidence or
argument occurs. However, not only beliefs but
also actions are exercises of mind; and actions,
once done, can’t be changed. For instance, at
the next general election I may decide to vote for
a particular candidate and cast my vot-e accordingly. Having done that, I can’t then change my
mind by deciding not to qo it and accordingly refraining. of course, I can change my mind abOut
what I did in this way, that having at the same

time thought that I was doing the ,right thing I
then come ‘to think that I was not d6lngthe
rig~t thing: but this concerns a belief about-my
action; I ,can’t chanqe my ;lind aEClut actually
aoingwhat_I did. I can als-o ‘change my benaviour!_ in tbe _sense that having repeatedly voted
,~~bera~ in_,tl:u~ p~st I can- vote tory at the next
eleCtion. But this is an example in whic.:h I change
the general pattern of my particular actions, not
~he particular actions themselves.

The basic
reason for this difference is that the criteria
for identity and ind~viduation of particular actiohs differ radically from those’ for particular
beliefs. What this difference implies is that
it’s possible to change one’s mind when this
means changing one’s beliefs, but not when actions
are the items under consideration. It follows too
that the possibility of changing one’s mind is
strictly limited when the thinking concerned is
of the kind that is so closely related to action
that we might call it ‘practical thinking’ – the
kind known as thinking whether to do a particular
thing at a particular place and time, intending to
do it or_not to do it, and deciding to do it or
not to do it. Suppose, for instance, that the
question arises for somebody of whether to go to
a certain meeting to be held in three days’ time.

In those three days he may first make up his mind
not to go, and later, having kept an open mind
susceptible to change in the light of further
considerations and argument, change his mind and
decide to go. But once the meeting is over, the
moment for action on that matter, one way or the
other, is past: the question whether to go no
longer arises, it’s no longer possible for the
agent to consider that question and no longer
possible for him to maintain an open mind on it.

If what he did about the meeting, whether attending or not, he did having decided to do it, it
was necessary for him at that point, in the nature
of the case, to close his mind in the sense of
making it up irrevocably, knowing that there was
no further opportunity for keeping it open to
other possible considerations and arguments on
that question. Thus insisting that we should
always keep an open mind on any question we consider, always being prepared to change our mind
in the light of further argument and evidence,
implies that we shouldn’t consider questions of
whether to do this or that at a particular time
and place. The alternative to an eventually
closed mind on these questions is an open mind
that is indistinguishable from an evasive, indecisive, or uncommitted mind, i.e. one that
avoids or escapes a decision or commitment one
way or the other, either by ignoring or refusing
the question or by simply failing to answer it.

Such an agent doesn’t decide to go to the meeting
and he doesn’t decide not to go to the meeting.

Of course in this situation he doesn’t go, but
his not going isn’t an answer but a refusal or
failure to answer the question of whether to go.

In practice this is what the liberal ideology of
always keeping’ an open mind comes to: a failure
to act that politically has the same conservative
effect as deciding not to do anything. This
doctrinaire inactivism is one component of
liberalism’s Hamlet synd~ome, the temperamental
indecisiveness involved in its preference for
words and thought rather than deeds.

On the question of whether to oppose Huntington,
the Guardian’s mind was just as ‘closed’ as the
opposition’s, though in a contrary way. But since
deciding not to do a certain thing and keeping an
open mind on the question, i.e. not deciding one
way or the other, are indistinguishable in leaving everything as it is, the accusation of ‘closed
minds’ against the Huntington opposition made
good sense: good liberal sense, that is. ~



Josepb and his bndhe…

going to happen. The scandal at Sussex is much
Three weeks ago, at Birmingham, I suggested that
after two decades of rapid expansion, the achieve- greater. Professor Huntington, the Harvard man
with practical experience of Vietnam, had been
ments of our universities were due for a period
of critical appraisal. The violence which has
invited to lecture on the ‘Role of the military in
broken out in some of them during the past six
U.S. foreign po: “cy’. His host had to close the
years has caused many academics themselves to
meeting after half an hour of organized pandemonquestion assumptions that were formerly taken for
ium. And since then,17 staff members have written
granted. It is surely right that those doubts
to the Guardian, supporting the demonstrations on
should be shared by politicians whose constituents the ground that academic freedom should not be
have to pay the piper without either calling the
accorded ‘to academics who under the protection of
tune or enjoying it when it is played.

the university and objective research advocate or
The proper function of a university is the pur~
support inhumane military policies’.

suit of truth for its own sake. Those who have
I don’t believe that even 20 years ago it would
have been possible for anyone to sign such a
the interests of universities at heart must,
letter and remain senior members of a university.

therefore, be alarmed by the mounting evidence
Knockabout opposition at student political clubs
that a small minority of university teachers
and union debates is infuriating. Drunken demo~
regards truth as being at worst irrelevant and
at best a political weapon to manipulate the
strations during a royal visit are vile manners.

But neither involves the open repudiation of acasimple-minded. Any Marxist who is true to his
religion must believe that truth has no absolute
demic freedom in which the signatories to this
existence but is a mere creation of the social
letter indulged. They have publicly violated the
essential principle that anyone who c1Bims acacondition of thinkers. This view permits those
who hold it to dismiss the arguments of their
demic freedom for himself must in return guaranopponents for reasons which have nothing to do
tee it to others, particularly to those with whom
he disagrees.

rith the intrinsic qualities of those arguments.

[The Times, 13 June 1973; an extract from Richard
fEqua11y, it makes the search for truth otiose,
and the criticism of social conditions the only
Crossman’s column)
legitimate intellectual pursuit. The 17 senior
members of Sussex University who wrote to the
press in support of students who had silenced a
Sussex University has decided that academic freevisiting speaker with whom they disagreed, were
dom cannot be defended against the ‘enemy within
altogether representative of this tradition.

the gates’. That, at least, is the conclusion I
At Birmingham, LSE, Cambridge and Essex, students
draw from the abject failure of the authorities to
disrupting the academic life of the university
take any action against the 17 members of the
constantly found support amongst a minority of
staff who signed a letter declaring their support
the academic staff. Even those academics who
for the mob action that prevented an American prodid not support them vigorous1~ defended the
.fessor who had been invited to give a university
right of their colleagues to take this line by a
lecture on Vietnam from getting a hearing.

mistaken analogy with freedom of speech.

However, I recognize that an individual viceAttempts to dismiss them or even to hold their
.chance110r may be in difficulties if he is not
activities incompatible with academic standards
backed up by his colleagues; and in this case I
were perversely denounced as ‘illiberal’ by
had hoped that when the vice-ahance110rs met last
many academics who did not personally approve
week they would collectively proclaim, that, if
of their doings. The fact that the sane majority
academic freedom is to mean anything, no one can
of academics 1aqked time, interest and political
sign such a letter and remain a member of a uniskills to.oppose them, generally caused their
versity staff. Alas, the statement they put out
case to go by default.

was so vague and woolly that it will probably pro(Times Higher Education SUpplement, 11 November
voke another outbreak of the blind militancy it
1974; extract from an article by Sir Keith
was designed to prevent.

Joseph: ‘The pursuit of truth or relevance?’)
Surely the time has come for our university dons
to consider whether they should not impose on themselves a code of conduct similar to that of other
professions – the law and medicine for example.

A doctor cannot practice or claim clinical freeif academic freedom is still the vital principle
dom without accepting a code of conduct that im-·
of university life – as it surely must be – someposes upon him the duties as well as the rights
thing very ugly and dangerous has been happening
originally included in the Hippocratic oath. Why
recently. In the course of a few weeks, distinnot a declaration corresponding to the Hippocraguished academics invited to lecture at the London tic oath, under which the don pledges himself to
School of Economics and in Sussex University have
help in guaranteeing inside the university in which
been denied a hearing simply because their views
be works the complete academic freedom to say and
offended a vocal minority. In the LSE Professor
think the most unpopular thoughts, which he claims
Eysenck was assaulted and thrown off the platform
for himself? I cannot see how any academic worth
by a student gang from Birmingham. Here at least, his salt could object to signing such a declarathe Director acted vigorously, collecting the
tion and regarding confirmity wiLl it as a connames of the main culprits and sending them to
dition of bis employment.

the authorities at Birmingham. But academic sol(The Times, 27 June; an extract from Richard
idarity is not strong these days, and nothing is
:rossman’s column)


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