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Reports From Leeds, Aberdeen, RPG Activities, etc.

REPORTS
LEEDS
To give an account of the effect that Radical
Philosophy has had inside the Department of Philosophj
at Leeds, it is necessary to explain what had been
happening in this department prior to the emergence of
this journal.

Staff-Student Committees within the University
are now about 5 years old; the Philosophy committee
is noted as one of the most active, because the student
delegates to this committee have been pressing
continuously for the past three years, both in the
department itself and throughout the Faculties of Arts
and Social Sciences, for exam. reforms and for open
discussion of all aspects of teaching and course content.

This has been partially succesful. The staff of the
Philosophy departme’nt have also played an important
part in the movement to democratize the University; it
was only after a long fight that the department managed
to get the exam. reforms through the Board of Faculties:now other departments are beginning to follow our
example.

Over the past few years the staff in the department
have come to see that the students have an indispensible
role in determining courses i.e. ‘consumer-criticism’.

Although the Philosophy students have developed their
consultative role in advance of other departments, there
is evidence that the others are endeavouring to catch up.

However, it has become clear that the Staff-Student
Committee will not serve for us to formulate our dissatisfaction with the subject as a whole. The committee
has a function within the decision making regarding
planning of teaching: if, for example, we ask for
teaching methods which will more adequately meet the
needs of the majority of the 2nd Year students, who
find Formal Logic very difficult, we will be guaranteed
a hearing at the Staff meeting, and after much consideration, some change will generally be made. But when
we also ask ‘Why must we do Logic at all?’ the reply is
something along the lines of ‘You must accept it in
faith that the 2nd Year Formal Logic Course is indispensible for the 3rd Year Wittgenstein course’. When,
in the 3rd Year we ask ‘And why must we do Wittgenstein?’

it is as though we had asked the imponderable, or had
formulated our question in a wrong way. The Staff at
Leeds audibly take pride in the fact that the strength
of the department is its Logic team, that it is in the
First Division of the Philosophical Logic League, that
it has just produced the ‘Wittgenstein Workbook’, and
so on; however, they cannot explain to their pupils
why they are teaching us what they do teach us.

Somehow, a set of problems were revealed to the human
race, and for some reason, a bunch of devotees chew
on them from generation to generation, and odly
enough we have found ourselves masticating a few of
the more flavourless particles. Or so it seems …

Although undergraduates can develop their own
leadership, tactics and principles for attempting to
resolve problems of exam. reform, teaching techniques,
democratic departments, they are unable to do these
things effectively (i.e. to organize themselves) when
it is a question of coming to terms with the deeper
problems of course content. This was our experience
at Leeds. For the problem as such – there were almost
as many responses to it as there were students. When
Radical Philosophy appeared it provoked an interest,
the journal sold quite well; there was some hostility
and suspicion from the staff:- one of the more repeated
statements by staff was that a propos the first issue,
one important question that has to be faced in assess-

43

ing academic philosophy is ‘Why is I’ittgenstein of so
much interest to philosophers today?’; there is said
to be no evading this issue – you cannot attack academic
philosophy unless you can answer’ this question satisfactorily – yet apparently this does not hold good for
the pupil-teacher relationship. Generally the journal
was well received by th~ students. It was considered
that it would be a good idea to invite a speaker or
two from the Radical Philosophy Group; the Union at
Leeds has a Philosophy societ~’ but it functions as a
platform for vi”siting academic practitIoners of
philosophy to display their latest abstractions before
the resident panel. Students feel more out of their
depth in their own Philosophy Society than they do in
the lecture-room. The Philosophy Society always meets
in the department and is always dominated hy the staff especially the stars of the Logic team. Although some
members of staff regarded it as a serious imposition
on the society, Sean Sayers came at the heginning of
the Summer term and spoke on ‘Mental Illness as a
Moral Concept’. This was an interesting talk and it
was followed by a li’ely discussion in ,,’hich the studf’nts
were able to take the initiative – a hitherto unheard
of state of affairs. Interest in the Radical Philosoph’

Group was growing.

~leanwhile, steps v”ere r.eing ta].,cn tl’ forr] a l~:ldiC:ll
Philosophy Group in Leeds because it I,il e evidentl’ net
practical to work v..-lthin the Phils0r!n’ Societ’, ‘PlC
journal was arousing intE’rcst :lr]0nr: “,rollPs 0f stllLlcTltS
in other derartments: Sociol0g’, rc1:tics, l’cono;nil”‘~,
Education and various l::!nguage and 1 itcr;ltt:;(‘ dc”;~­
ments. When v,”e all came togetl1cr it l'{‘C:Ip.’L ,IC;i1″ t’l:lt,
because we were all elthE’r ‘farxists (1r here tcnl’;ng in
that direction, we ,,’ere ilppro:l ch i ng the 1’red , I cr:’: nf
philosophy studE’nts and others thrc,ugh the qllest i0;
‘What can we as “arxist e do Kithin tlH’ rniH’rc;it”s
academic life?’. Thus, for hoth l’ractic:ll :IS I,ell :1”
theoretical reason e “‘e dE’cided on the imr:edi:lt(‘ fC’nrnl:]tion of a Radical Humanities r.nmp, The !,TC’lITl 1:1″
founded on ~lay 1, 1972. Our :lims h:lc rf’CT~ formulate(l
as: to establisr, a continuolls st:mding :lrrtllr.cnt nn
course content in the various dep:lrtr:lf’ntc:. tn e:>-:llT’inc
the intellectu31 bases of the suriects t:lught ill the
departments, to examine ‘Inrxist critique”’ nf tllC”'{‘

subjects and to encouragf’ student”
I earn ah)lJt
other subj ects than the one e thE” [‘f’fi l’ i ~lll ‘ qld

The R.H.C. will have divisions \’hici: ref],’t the
departments involved, .s soon :IS terl’l 11eeins hOC I,i II
be holding discussion ,~roups ilbollt Ollr aims, <.;tulh'

classes with local spE’akers, lectures I”ith ‘isitors,
we will distribute leaflets exn1ainine the hasic
tenets of ~larxism, and :ma1:,;sing the linivcrsit’ <lnd
the Yorkshire neighbourhood in terms 0+- rt '!arxi st
critique.

t()

At the beginning of May, the Group orgnnized two
lectures hy Dr. David Craig from LancastE’r University:

he spoke at luncht ime to over 500 student ~ on “The
situation at Lancaster”, and to about 60 students in
the evening on “The Poetry of ~Iaterialism” (on Hughes,
Beckett, Camus, Sartre). This latter is an example of
what we will endeavour to be doing when we invite v..-ellknown visitors – afterwards several students said to
me that they found this to be the most interesting
statement on modern literature they had heard since
they came to Leeds, that they didn;t imagine beforehand that a Marxist would have anything useful to say
about modern literature, etc. etc.

The RHG has a committee of 6; most, if not all, of
the committee will be back in session ’72 73. The
committee has a pigeon-hole in the Union, to which mail
should be sent; the secretary is Paul Worthington.

RHG has decided to distribute the jou~nal and other

printed material of the Radical Philosophy Movement and
to operate in close conjunction with other groups. We
hope that our philosophy students will benefit from
the discussions that will arise following the initiative
taken by the Radical Philosophy Group – and that with
help from this group and other groups of radical
intellectuals wit~ whom we will co-operate, a leadership will emerge which will be capable of putting into
practice our aims.

Most sociologists in the Department welcoaed the
appearance of Radical Philosophy and were encouraged
by the emergence of a radical philosophy movement.

Obviously there are close affinities between the
problems of contemporary academic philosophy and the
sterlization of sociology as a professional discipline,
whether in universities, industry or government
bureaucracies. Since a case can be made to the effect
that sociology arose as a radical critique of
industrial society, many sociologists today are, to
put it mildly, anxious about the seeming triviality,
irrelevance and implicity conservativism of so-called
social science. The next decade will no doubt see a
fundamental confrontation of, on the one hand, a
sociology which is modelled on the natural sciences,
employs survey techniques and is financed by and for
the state and, on the other, a critical, humanistic
sociology which looks for support from marxism,
phenomenology and hermeneutics. The growth of various
counter-groups in contemporary sociology – symbolic
interactionism, ethnomethodology and radical sociology is symptomatic of “the coming crisis”. In the present
climate of re-appraisal, it is important that radical
sociology and radical philosophy should seek out
some form of alliance. Indeed, the separate institutionalization of philosophy and sociology within
British universities is itself a very real part of
the problem.

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Given this general sense of unrest and anxiety,
a group of sociologists at Aberdeen have formed an
interdepartmental study group, with an unspecified
link with Radical Philosophy, to discuss issues
which seem to us important concerning academic
sociology and its relationship to other disciplines,
the university and society. Our aim is to draw staff,
students, the public into an analysis of what is
taught, how subjects are handled and the relationship
between knowledge and society. Our immediate
discussions will focus on the curriculum, the nature
of orthodoxy within different subjects, and the
organizational autonomy of sociology, philosophy,
history. Future to·pics of discussion will include:

the use (or misuse) of sociology in government planning and inquiry, the role of sociology in British
race relations, the sociology of privacy and middle
class pressure groups, the role of marxist sociology,
the place of rationality in human activity and
explanation in sociology, the ethical issues in
social science research. Since the group was formed
within the sociology department, it is obvious that
initially subjects will be selected which are of
immediate interest to sociology. (Again, the problem
of the division of labour!) But we hope that, as the
group expands, other disciplines will contribute to
our meetings. We feel the need for such a group,
with a loose alliance with Radical Philosophy, because
it is important to have a forum where we can discuss
the relationship between academic orthodoxies, social
control and the regiment tion of knowing and learning.

Beyond that, we are concerned about the general
condition of society and the urgent need for rational
criticism.

Bryan S. Turner,
Department of Sociology

Two important general points emerge from the
above reports and from similar developments elsewhere:

(1) the necessity for Radical Philosophy groups to go
beyond the confines of ‘philosophy’ in a narrow sense,
and to cut across academic departaents;
(2) the welco.e emergence of a greater .ilitancy
aaongst radical philosophers, and a .ore explicit and
active opposition to the acadeaic establishaent,
aainly as a result of increased student involveaent.

The original initiatives in Radical Philosophy were
taken .ainly by younger lecturers and graduate
students. Subsequent ly groups have been foraed which
have been increasingly the product of undergraduate
activity. As well as the Leeds groups, a group has
been foraed at York which is also ca.posed aainly of
undergraduates (details fro. lan Hills, Goodricke
College). The previous issue of this journal carried
a report of the Caabridge group, which was born out
of the convergence of a saall group of graduates with
the wider student activisa generated by a sit-in and
by conflict within the university over exaainations.

There are hopes that the saae thing aay now be happening at Kent. Radical Philosophy activity there has
previously been confined to a few .eabers of staff,
but last term saw a student sit-in which, though not
initially concerned with acadeaic issues, soon became
a means of giving expression to the profound dissatisfaction which most students felt with the whole
educational life of the university. This gave rise
to a good deal of student interest in Radical
Philosophy, and it is hoped that an active group will
be created this term. At the saae tiae, experience
elsewhere reveals the possibility of tensions
within the attempted cooperation of students and
radical staff. At Bristol, for exaaple, a group was
set up last term as a result of the London conference,
and weekly lunch-time seminars were held. The group
reports that “though tJtese .eetings seeaed to be
popular because they provided soae real extracurricular discussion, the standard of discussion was
kept low due to deep divisions between the students
involved (all undergraduates) and the .ore liberal
staff. What emerged was that certain .e.bers of staff
were keen to identify with the aove.ent, but still
found it necessary to appear as authorities on all
topics discussed, even when it was clear that they
were not. The students involved caae to deeply resent
this attitude.”
Mention should also be .ade of the caRpOsition of
the London group, for although it too involves students
and lecturers it is not priaarily university-based.

It is the only Radical Philosophy group which exists
entirely outside the confines of academic institutions
and has a large non-academic .eabership.

As well·as groups which exist explicitly as
Radical Philosophy groups, support for the movement
has also taken other forms. In some places, for
example SUssex University and Enfield College of
Technology, there are a nuaber of staff and students
active in or sympathetic to Radical Philosophy,
but there is not felt to be a need for a Radical
Philosophy group as such. At Enfield, Radical
Philosophers have been involved in the seminars
reported below. At Leicester there has been an active
and radical Philosophy Society, independent of the
department and involving non-philosophers; here too,
therefore, though there has been a good deal of interest
in Radical Philosophy, there has been no need for an
explici t group.

“For where philosophy is severed from its roots
in experience, whence it first sprouted and grew,
it becomes a dead thing.”
(Bacon)

RPG ACTIVITIES

~

There is also a fair amount of variety in the
nature of the activities undertaken by the groups.

We have already referred to the increased activity in
the form of critiques of courses, confrontation of
institutions etc. Within the category of study and
discussion activities, there are further variations.

In London the main activity has been the setting up
of a number of separate study groups. At Cambridge

a series of regular meetings and seminars were held
last term, with papers and discussions on the theme
‘Radical Epistemology and the Critique of Method’;
particular topics were: Alasdair MacIntyre’s ‘Against
the Self-Images of the Age’; Schutz’s ‘Phenomenology
of the Social World’, and other phenomenological
writers such as Merleau-Ponty and Heideggar; a
discussion with John O’Neill on phenomenological
Marxism; and Habermas’s ‘Knowledge and Human Interests’.

At York this term, in addition to weekly meetings,
there are plans for the production of a weekly broad- •
sheet. Bristol and Oxford held day conferences at the
end of last term, both of which were very successful
and well attended. All these are activities which
are effectively establishing Radical Philosophy as a
prominent force in opposition to the established
academic institutions. The question remains whether
we can avoid simply mirroring the structures to which
we are opposed. Academic elitism is not necessarily
avoided in virtue of the fact that one is discussing
Marx or Sartre rather than Austin or Moore.

It may be possible to set up groups of some kind
in Australia and the U.S.A. If anyone is interested
in the idea, they should get in touch with:

Australia:

Wal Suchting, Dept. of Philosophy, University of
Sydney, N.S.W. 2006.

U.S.A. :

Gerald Doppelt, Dept. of Philosophy, University of
Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa. 19104.

Larry Blum, 149 Prospect St., Cambridge, Mass. 02139.

Tony Skillen, Dept. of Philosophy, University of
Colorado, Boulder, Colorado.

Lester Hoffman, Post College, Greenvale, N.Y. 11548.

There are also Radical Philosophy activities
going on elsewhere which are not reported above. It
is hoped that further reports will be sent to the
journal.

ENFIELD
At Enfield College of Technology, one of the
main vehicles for the teaching of philosophy up to
now has been the B.A. General (London External) degree,
which, as many peop}e might already know, is even
more obsolete and unsatisfactory than most philosophy
degrees available at universities and colleges in
this country. In order to offset somewhat the student
frustration engendered by the course, we started, at
the beginning of the Spring term of this year, a weekly
series of seminars, rather pretentiously entitled
‘Philosophy and Contemporary Life’. Attendance was
optional, and there was no compulsory reading and no
,written work. Basically it was an opportunity for
students and staff to rap together in a context
rather looser than that normally available. Unfortunately, reflexes generated by the present educational
system die hard: students trained by years of schooling to consider themselves as second-rate were naturally
reticent, and they were not helped by the tendency of
staff to dominate the discussion. All the same,
regular attenders thought the seminars as a whole
were fairly successful. Predictably, some of the
seminars were freezers, but some of them,especially
towards the end of the year, really took off. Among
discussion topics were: Punishment (with reference
to George Jackson’s prison diaries); liberal and
socialist conceptions of politics; Freud’s
‘Civilization and its Discontents’; Reich on political
and sexual repression; Illich on education and
schooling; Societ schooling; freedom and personal
relations (with reference to Strawson’s ‘Freedom and
Resentment’; rationality and culture (Winch’s
‘Understanding a Primitive Society’); acid (a collective paper by students on Leary’s ‘Politics of
Ecstasy’); comparative religion; religious language;
Marx on idealogy (excerpts from ‘Towards a Critique
of Political Economy’); fundamentals of marxist
~
economics. An unkind perspective on the project

would be: a trendy liberal studies cour,se, intermittently flavoured with measures of conventional
philosophy. It was, however, sufficiently unlike
anything previously availa~le, to my knowledge, to
philosophy students in Enfield, to be quite significant.

Glasgow University’s R.P.G. is planning
a conference in Glasg9w for around next
Easter. We are trying to get in· touch wi~h
people who may be interested. If you woufd
like to be put on the mailing list and
receive details of the conference when
they are prepared, please contact either
Scott Meikle (pepartment o~ Moral Philosophy)
or Patrick Shaw (Department of · Logic).

*

*

SALES IN COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
Copies of Radical
the following:

P~losophy

may be obtained from

BATH : Michael Rose (Hum. and Soc. Sci.)
BRADFORD : Paul WaIton (School of Soc. Sei.)
BRISTOL: Keith Graham (Phil. Dept.)
CAMBRIDGE : David Leon (25 Emery Street)
CARDIFF: Barry Wilkins (Phil. Dept.)
EAST ANGLIA: Nick Everitt (Phil. Dept.)
EDINBURGH: Fritz Neubauer (Pollock Halls of Res.)
Ted Ninnes
ESSEX: Ted Benton (Soc. Dept.)
GLASGOW: David-Hillel Ruben (Dept. of Moral Phil.)
KENT : Richard Norman (Darwin)
Sean Sayers (Keynes)
LAMPETER : H. M. Jones (Phil. Dept.}
LANCASTER : Howard Feather (Cartmel College)
LEEDS : Paul Worthington (Radical Humanities Group)
HUlo Meynell (Phil. Dept.)
LONDON : Roger Harris (Enfield Tech.)
J. M. Cohen (Birkbeck)
G. A. Cohen (U.C.L.)
Ted Welch (Birkbeck)
Steve Torrance . (Enfield)
Philip Edwards (N. London Poly.)
MANCHESTER John Harr!s (Phil. Dept.)
Norman Geras (Dept. of Government)
NOTTINGHAM George lessler (Phil. Soc.)
OXFORD : Janet Vaux (17 Rawlinson Road)
Bruce Young (Worcester)
ST. ANDREWS: L. F. Stevenson (Dept.of Logic and
Metaphysics)
SHEFFIELD : Joe Warrington (Phil. Dept.)
SUSSEX : John Mepham (Arts Building)
WARWICK: Peter Binns (Phil. Dept.)
YORK : Ian Hills (Goodricke College)

“Can any man be a good naturalist, that is not
seen in the metaphysics? Or a good moralist,
who is not a naturalist? Or a logician, who
is ignorant of real sciences?”
[Comenius,

A Reformation of Schooles,

1642)

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