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Reports from Oxford, USA, Sydney, etc.

REPORTS
OXFORD MEETING

Finally it was agreed that there should be
another National Conference in the summer. to be held
in London early in the summer vacation. An attempt
would be made to involve other radical groups, such
as radical psychologists, sociologists and economists,
and more activist groups such as radical teachers,
social workers, ‘prisoners rights’ and claimants
groups etc., and to focus the conference on the philOsophical issues arising out of the praetice of these
groups.

The London R.P.G. would organize it, and
Roger Harris undertook to be responsible for getting
things going.

A meeting of local contacts was held at Oxford on
5th January to discuss future activities and organization of the movement. About 20 people attended.

We began by discussing the issues which had been
raised in the insert in Ri dica 1 Philosophy 3, about
the ‘political’ nature of the movement, its relation
to existing political groups, etc.

We more or less
agreed that Radical Philosophy could not undertake
practical political work of the sort which would make
it a rival to the existing activist organizations and
groups on the left, but that it should make greater
efforts to draw on the practical experience of these
groups as a source of contributions to radical theory.

The only real point of contention seemed to be whether
the institutional basis of the movement should or
should not be primarily in colleges and universities,
and this led into a long and heated debate about
organization.

OPEN MEETING

Jonathan Ree had produced a paper which began by
emphasising the need to clarify what kind of organization the movement ought to have. There seemed to
be a widespread feeling that active participation in
the movement was in danger of being confined to a
small group of individuals.

Jonathan’s paper went
on to argue the case for a formal centralised democratic structure, and set out detailed proposals for
a national committee comprising two elected officials
from each local group numbering ten members or more.

Some people supported these proposals, but others
criticised them, on two main grounds: (a) that they
presupposed at the local level a degree of formal
organization which did not in fact exist; Cb) that
this kind of procedure, involving sharply defined
criteria for membership offices, was over-rigid and
would have the effect of excluding people when what
we wanted to do was to draw them into the movement’s
activities. In the end we agreed that a less formalised kind of organization would be more desirable.

We decided to try and arrange regular Open Meetings
which would be held at least in every academic
vacation. These meetings would be open to anyone and
would be announced in the journal; local contacts
(sellers of the journal, and local group organizers)
would be specifically circularized and asked to come
or to get someone else from their locality to come.

~

~

USA
American Philosophical Association (Eastern Division)
Annual Meeting. Sheraton-Boston Hotel 27-29th December.

The convention is called “the slave market”.

It
was estimated that 1200 people were being interviewed
for 70 jobs. The interviews are conducted.at desks
(“Have you a card for the interviewing room? Proceed
to desk 25 please”.), or candidates may have their
wits briefly explored at cocktail parties, bars or
hotel bedrooms. It is very valuable for an applicant
to be pushed by someone who knows a member of the
desired department.

Some applicants exhibited their
conceptual teeth by raising nice questions at one of
the many sessions where those aiming for higher things
were on display. But the consensus is that such
sessions are a peripheral bore.

The meeting, like
any decent market, is a place for buying and selling,
for making and reinforcing contacts, for the (in the
main) fellas. freed awhile from yuletide domesticity,
to get together for a reunion over lots of booze.

There was a lot of argument about whether the
Open Meetings should have a chairman, and whether
they should have any standing orders. The only way
of resolving these disagreements was by voting. The
votes went in favour of having a chairman and
convenor, and having one standing order (“Motions
proposing next business, or proposing a vote, are
to take precedence.”) As it wasn’t clear how
representative the meeting was, and therefore wasn’t
clear just what these votes could be taken to mean,
it was understood that any of these arrangements
could be modified by a subsequent Open Meeting or
by a National Conference.

What was left unclear was how the running of
the journal should fit into this. A suggestion was
made for electing the editorial board at Readers’

Meetings, but other people wanted to put more
emphasis on circulating the work among local groups.

By this time the meeting was getting rather acrimonious
and divisive. It was obvious that the discussion would
have to be continued at the Open Meeting at Easter,
hopefully in a more cooperative manner. The question
of the journal is obviously of great importance, and
we hope that people will come to the Easter Meeting and
so ensure that the meeting is a representative one.

There will be a Radical Philosophy Open Meeting
at I~iversity College Philosophy Department, 19
Gordon Square, London 1’1.(:.1 at 11.30 a.m. on
Sat. 31st March. “1atters to be discussed will
include the journal, and plans for a conference
in London in the summer. For further details
see above. The meeting is open to anyone.

Politics is accepted as part of the “business”
of the business meeting. A motion condemning the U.S.

bomb onslaught on North Vietnam and calling for an end
to the war was overwhelmingly carried (it was reported
in the press). Racist ideologies of the Jensenite
type were narrowly condemned. (Many believe the U.S.

ruling class is very deliberately fostering racism at
this time as a divide and rule maneuvre).

But. like
true academics, those present rejected motions closer
to the practical bone: e.g. to unionise and fight job
cut-backs in the humanities. or to condemn political
sackings of philosophy teachers. e.g. Kenneth Megill
at Florida (“Until we know all the facts ••• “)
The initiative for these motions came partly
from the liberal Philosophy and Public Affairs group
(Vietnam) and partly from the Radical Caucus (racism.

jobs).

Strikingly. both these groups show no signs
of questioning professional philosophy as a going
concern but see their concern as being with ideological/
economistic issues.

This narrow perspective was transcended in two
meetings. A large number (the original room was small)
The
. got together to discuss women in philosophy.

44

meeting was very together and alive. People. largely
graduate women. spoke of their alienation from academic
philosophy which they characterized as “male-dominated
and male in character” – aggressive. competitive. with
an “external” stance towards problems conc~ived of as
soluble simply through advanced conceptual technology.

Throughout the meeting they were trying to g~t away from
feminist careerism (“why no top jobs at top pfaces for
women?”) and towards a way of working which was
co-operative. critical. and concerned with issues of
real human concern. Groups outside the straight
structures were proposed.

Marsha Homiac. of Philosophy
Dept •• Harvard University. Cambridge. Mass. can give
information.

On the last afternoon a well attended meeting
(maybe 70 people) moved towards setting up regional
“radical philosophy” groups (one suggestion was to
call them “progressive philosophy” groups!).

This
meeting was “inspired” by the British thing, and.there
was a lot of enthusiasm for the RadicalPhiloscphy
magazine.

Although a national newsletter is planned,
people felt there was not the same point or possibility
of a national magazine at this stage, given geographical’

spread and the much greater diversity of philosophy in
the U.S. compared with the U.K.

The main drift came
from a general feeling of isolation among (largely
60‘s movement) radicals and from awareness ,of the bad
split in peoples politics betweel}… professional straightness and week-end agitation. At the moment, since the
convention. 3 groups have met in Cambridge. Mass. and
one in New York. Those who want more information about
American developments should write to Richard Schmidt,
Philosophy Dept., Brown University, Providence, Rhode
Island, USA.

The Americans are anxious to work with
British groups.

l1artin resigned in June 1971 to go to Canada.

The question of his successor occasioned the next
round of the batHe. There were two candidates in
the end: Associate Professor G C Nerlich, of the
Sydney department, and an American philosopher of
religion of no great distinction who happened to be
a narrowly fundamentalist Christian and a right
wing conservative in politics. In ordinary academic
terms it should have been no contest at all, but
Armstrong managed to delay Nerlich’s appointment for
five months by the full use of his professorial
weight. (His moves included that old authoritarian
trick of threatening to resign.) The overt objection to Nerlich, who is a left-liberal, was that he
favoured democratisation of the department. This
meant that Armstrong couldn’t work with him.

In the end the matter was resolved by Nerlich’s
appointment while Armstrong permanently resigned
the administrative headship of the department, and
reserved the right to appeal ‘to the University’

against departmental decisions on an unspecified
range of matters.

The first test of this obviously unstable
arrangement came in August 1972 when an appointment
was made to a one year tutorship. A meeting of full
time and part time staff plus postgraduate students
and one (!) undergraduate representative voted
overwhelmingly for a particular candidate (Armstrong’s
the only vote against). When the recommendation went
forward, Armstrong objected to the Vice-Chancellor.

The candidate was a radical activist, prominent in
the anti-Vietnam movement. Armstrong’s objections
were to the candidate (‘not the best’) and to the
method of selection (‘academically improper’).

Two good papers and discussions came off marginal
to the official programme. Richard Lichtman from
Berkeley (where he is supported by the students’ union.

having been sacked) spoke about the way ideology is
emoedded in the guts of social practice from birth on,
so that “consciousness” is far from being a function of
explicit doctrines or media propaganda. In another
paper Mike Lerner argued that Marx was not a moral
relativist. The discussion of Lerner’s paper was very
good and co-operative.

I had to do some interviewing to earn my plane
fare. It was painful to participate in this oppressive
game (“I see you’ve done some work on Wittgenstein and
Criteria. Do you think he’s a behaviourist in disguise?”
(answer in not more than 50 words – we’re very busy)).

Tony Ski 11 en

SYDNEY

The ensuing struggle was complicated by a
private note from a left wing staff member to
Professor Nerlich. The note was stolen from Nerlich
and came into Armstrong’s hands. He claimed it to
be evidence of a plot to discredit and oust him
from the university. Armstrong published the note
and the hue-and-cry spread to the national press,
parliament, and the annual conference of Australian
philosophers. In all these quarters it served to
divert attention from the central issue of educational self-management.

The tutorship issue was resolved when the
candidate Armstrong tried to promote withdrew,
whereupon the department’s choice waS appointed.

Although that battle is over, the war still goes on.

At the end of last year the department approved a
scheme for full student participation in all
decision making. It is confidently expected that
reactionary elements in the department will oppose
the implementation of this scheme.

For the past two years the philosophy department at Syndey University has been the scene of
intense conflict. The issue is the democratisation
of decision making.

During C B ~1artin’ s tenure of one of the chairs
of philosophy (roughly 1969-71) there emerged an
embryonic form of democratic practice in departmental
affairs which came to be discussed and decided, with
increasing frequency, at meetings of staff at which
proposals were put, argued, and voted upon. The
decisions so reached, whatever their formal status,
acquired practical finality even when – as sometimes
happened – one or both professors were outvoted.

o M Armstrong, the other professor, so far from
obstructing or opposing these developments participated in them fully and freely. He appeared to all
the world to be in favour of the new dispensation.

This period of cooperation also saw the extension of
the franchise at departmental meetings from full
time permanent members of staff to part time and
temporary staff.

This democratic trend changed abruptly when,
early in 1971, two members of staff offered a
course (for 72) on Harxism-Leninism. Armstrong
decided that this offer represented a ‘political
challenge’ to him. When after extensive dis~ussion
staff voted overwhelmingly in favour of the proposed
course, he used his professorial power to veto the
decision. (The vote was 10-3.) After a struggle
involving national media publicity Ar.mstrong backed
down and the course was accepted with minor
amendments.

What is the importance of these goings on?

45

I do not believe that any movement for educational liberation can succeed if it confines itself
to what goes on within universities. And it is
quite certain that a movement initiated by staff
together with a few senior students will remain too’

narrow to achieve anything if the mass of students
cannot be involved in it. This has been the case
in Sydney. During the period of radical activity
among students (68-70) ·the staff were tame and
conservative. Now that student activism has died
down completely, a few staff show signs of pulling

their finger out. The meaning of the struggle of
these radical academics depends heavily on how the
mass of students relates to it. Self-management
cannot be brought to people by a revolution from ,
above. If students remain indifferent to the trend
of departmental conflicts, the end result can at
best be only a realignment in the relative weight
of sections of the elite: a substitution of a ‘god
department’ for the ‘god professor’ . That is not a
result I would enthuse about.

On the other hand it is possible that the
initiative of the academics will find a mass
response among students, in which case the struggle
for educational self-management will have to broaden
stil1 further, to find its connections with other
struggles against the basics of authoritarian
culture.

WR

GLASGOW CONFERENCE

Glasgow University RPG has arranged a conference
for Weds-Thurs April ll-12th~ The programme will
be:

Wed. 11 th April:

S.OO pm: “The Concept of Class Consciousness:

Marx &Lukacs” by David Miller (Lancaster Univ.)
Thurs. 12th April:

10.00 am: “The Morality of the MaFket” by Pat
Shaw (Glasgow Univ.)
2.00 pm: Another paper to be arranged.

Sleeping bag accommodation is being provided.

Further information & enquiries: M.R.Scollen,
Dept. of Logic, The University, Glasgow, W.2.

Pupils at the College de Geneve, a
sort of high schOOl, have got up a petition
calling for philosophy to remain a compulsory
subject. In a letter to the President of the
Department of Public Instruction, the pupils’

spokesmen state that the vast majority of the
pupils at the college opposed the measures
to do away with compulsory philosophy. In
spite of the fact that many pupils were unable
to be contacted because they were taking
exams, 1063 had signed the petition. The
spokesmen added: ‘Philosophy provides us with
a method of reflexion and a way of picturing
the problems that we confront. We think it
is essential to keep it, since the reduction
to one year of such a vast subject would
mutilate our intellectual development and our
critical spirit.’

Gene.v a.

Professor of Philosophy at the Universite de
Geneve, Rene Schaerer, commented: ‘To suppress
philosophy is to oppose the trend of the future.

In order to combat increasing specialisation,
young people want to rediscover the fundamental
points. Often discouraged by what the future
seems to offer, they abandon themselves to
extremism or drugs. This is where philosophy
can help them. ‘ (Tribune de Geneve June 19, 1972)

************ ***************
“The logic now in u:;e serves rather to fix and
give stability to the errors which have their
foundation in commonly received notions than to
help the search after truth. So it does more
harm than good.”
(Bacon:Novum Organon XII)

***************************
SALES IN COLLEGES AND UNrVERSITIES

OXFORDRPG
The Oxford Radical Philosophy Group continued to
hold regular meetings and small group discussions, as
begun last year. We also exploited the machinery of the
regular lecture system, placing a weekly Radical Philosophy seminar on the official lecture list.

This
meant that we could reach more people more effectively.

This is always a problem in Oxford; its especially
difficult to reach undergraduates because of ·the fragmentation brought about by the college system.

The aim of the seminars was to formulate our
dissatisfaction with orthodox philosophy, as well as to
try to introduce new ways of doing philosophy. Many of
the papers dealt with the “subj ects” of orthodox philosophy, such as philosophical logic, ethics, etc. and
criticised the way in which Oxford philosophy tackles
the problems that are held to be central to these
fields. A common concern emerged in several papers in
a dissatisfaction with the orthodox model of rationality
and the need to formulate an adequate model which would
be practically orientated.

We arranged a meeting with Mary Warnock to discuss
her views on Radical Philosophy, following her article
in “New Society”. She began, disarmingly, by renouncing
all that she had said in her article – explaining that
it was directed against the “ethos” of “New Society” and claimed complete ignorance of Radical Philosophy.

The explanation seemed to confess a prejudice against
all that she conceived of as “Marxist”, but she was now
ready to agree that the nature of philosophical reason
was an important issue for discussion. In the event
the meeting was very friendly. She was particularly
sympathetic to issues of course reform. However many
of us felt that she was too eager to tell us what we
ought to be doing, at the expense of really trying to 46
grasp what we are trying to do.

Copies of RadJcal Philosophy may be obtained from
the following:

ABERDEEN: Alison McNaughton (Craigpark,Wellington Rd.)
BANGOR: Stewart Smith (4 College Road)
BATH: Michael Rose (Hum. and Soc.Sci.)
BELFAST: Bob Eccleshall (Dept. of Po1.Science,Queen’s)
BRADFORD: Paul Walton (School of Soc.Sci.)
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.) Colin Beardon (Rayleigh
Tower)
GLASGOW: David -Hillel Ruben (Dept. of Moral Phi1.)
KENT: Richard Norman (Darwin, Sean Sayers (Keynes)
LM1PETER: H.M. Jones (Phil.Dept.)
LANCASTER: Howard Feather (Cartmel College),
Andrew Bidewell (Bowland College)
LEEDS: Hugo Meynell (Phi1. Dept.)
LEICESTER: David Henley (Dept. of Maths.)
LONDON: Jeff Mason (Hendon Tech.) Jonathan Ree (Hendon),
J.M.Cohen (Birkbeck), G.A.Cohen (U.C.L.),
Ted Welch (Birkbeck), Steve Torrance (Enfield),
Roger Harris (Enfield), Philip Edwards
(N.London Poly), Noel Parker (L.S.E.), Chris
Powell (CS.E.)
MANCHESTER: John Harris (Phil.Dept.)
OXFORD: Janet Vaux (17 Rawlinson Rd.)
ST. ANDREWS: L.F. Stevenson (Dept. of Logic &
Metaphysics)
SHEFFIELD: Joe Warrington, (Phil.Dept.)
SUNDERLAND: Jon Taylor (Dept. of Education,
Sunderland Poly.)
SUSSEX: John Mepham, Ben Gibbs (Arts Building).

SWANSEA: Hugh Price (Dept. of Phil.)
WARWICK: Peter Binns (Phi 1. Dept. )
YORK: Gerry Kelman, Ian Hills, (Goodricke College)

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