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Reports from Swansea, Boston, Sydney, Calgary, Conferences etc.

News
Swansea
Swansea Radical Philosophy Group
has been struggling with the
Philosophy Department of University
College Swansea for many months.

The students have campaigned for
various reforms, including the
introduction of tutorials, reduction of emphasis on compulsory
lectures, and democratic checks
on the power of the head of the
department.

A pamphlet outlining the story
so far has been produced by the
Group. Send a large SAE to Mary
Routledge, Department of Philosophy,
University College, Swansea if you
want a copy. We reprint here a
statement by final year students
at Swansea which is included in
the document:

STATEMENT BY FINAL YEAR STUDENTS
JUNE 1973
As students who have just completed
three years in the philosophy
department, we feel it necessary
to outline certain difficulties we
have encountered in those years,
difficulties which concern the
subject matter of the course, the
teaching methods favoured in the
department, and its attitude
towards students.

Many students feel dissatisfied
with what they feel to be the
excessive emphasis laid on certain
very narrow interests in philosophy,
particularly in religion and ethics,
while little or no attention is
paid to some other aspects of the
subjects which are of equal, if
not greater, importance. This is
the result of an undue emphasis on
‘maintaining a tradition’ in
philosophy; an emphasis which is
reflected in a staff in which many
have worked closely together and
where choice of staff appears to
be determined by a desire to mainclain the continuity of the tradition. The natural outcome of this
is that a student’s ‘interest in
philosophy’ tends to be gauged by
‘how nearly his views approximate
to the orthodox position. Students
come to feel that dissenting views
are not encouraged and may even be
penalised.

This desire for orthodoxy is
again reflected in the teaching
methods prevalent in the department. There are a large number
of lectures and whilst we have at
last managed, after several years
of effort, to secure weekly tutorials, where students have some
opportunity to’discuss their own
interests in philosophy” this is
very lnadequa te . and-rema’insperipheral to the teaching. The
assumption behind this seems to
be that students are incapable of
being inspired by philosophy it-

42

self and that therefore the
teaching of philosophy must overwhelmingly consist in formal
instruction. Despite their avowed
rejection of the empiricist theory
of knowledge certain members of
staff persist in regarding the
student mind as a tabula rasa;
the student is an empty vessel
passively awaiting knowledge. It
is assumed that an enormous body
of material needs to be learned
before a student is capable of
making any worthwhile contributions of his own.

There have been many proposals
for change in the system in the
department and while these have
sometimes been greeted with an
initial show of tolerance, it has
become increasingly clear that
this is little more than a facade.

The head of the department is
prepared to negotiate only so
long as there is no real threat
to his own entrenched posieion,
when the demands of students seem
likely to jeopardise this, then
discussion comes to an end, and
we are told of the formal power
which resides in the head of the
department. The result of this
is that virtually all students
and, we believe, members of staff
also, have come to feel that their
ideas are of no account in the life
of the department.

In such a situation, where
every proposal for change is now
greeted with immediate hostility,
it is no surprise that feelings
have become polarised. The protests recently lodged by the
entire student body and the threat
of Professor Phillips to expel the
whole of the Second Year, indicate
the state to which things have
come. We believe that this
situation must inevitably give
rise to head-on conflict between
students and the head of,department and that sooner or later
victimisations are bound to occur,
whether of staff or students.

When this happens it will be of
vital importance that all other
students are aware of the situation in the philosophy department
and give their active support.

Boston
Jerry M. Cohen writes:

It is good to be able to welcome,
and make known, the existence of
an American counterpart to Radical
Philosophy: produced by a group of
‘radical philosophers’ in the
Boston area, the Radical Philosophers’ Newsjournal appeared in
August 1973, and has so far had
one 56 page issue. This contains
only one article of the standard
journal type (‘The Business of
Philosophy’ by Richard Schmitt) and
i~ for the most part taken up with

accounts of the nature and aims of
the radical philosophy group, the
Newsjournal, various groups that
have been meeting in the Boston
area, the firing of a ‘radical
unionist philosopher’, short
reviews of books, and an article
on ‘Philosophers and Trade Unions’

by the )erson who was fired from
the UniTersity of Florida, Ken
Megill ‘he was, I be~ieve, reinstated dfter a successful struggle
at the university). Thus the
choice of name for the journal
seems appropriate, and is consciously intended to get away from
the format and role of the standard
philosophical journal.

‘This Newsjournal is meant to
serve as a means of bringing those
groups together, informing each of
the activities of the others,
organizing new groups, pooling
articles and references, and
providing a forum for discussion
of common concerns.’ (pi)
Another aspect of this is
the emphasis placed on collective
work in relation to all the activities of the group: which has
succeeded in carrying through
three apparently long-lasting and
valuable study-groups, of which
short but intriguing accounts are
carried in the journal (these were
on the topiCS of ideology, human
nature and human needs, and human
rights, and individualism.): I
attended meetings of two of these
groups last spring: at the very
least, they succeeded in avoiding,
conflicts of interest and orientation that wrecked many of our
groups: but they are very much
helped by the enormous concentration of students etc, in the area,
and by the previous strength of
the student movement, so much
greater than it ever became here.

This means that there are probably
much larger numbers of politicised
students and teachers still in
need of a context within which to
come together to develop a ‘radical
philosophy’ and hopefully a
corresponding practice, but it
may also mean that the example
cannot easily be duplicated elsewhere.

One important difference between
the American group and ours is that
the former seems far less concerned
so far with questioning the incarceration of philosophical inquiry within oppressive and authoritarian institutional forms. This
is not to say that the British
group has been very successful in
challenging these structures and
in developing an anti-authoritarian,
radical practice: in the absence
of a student movement, and student
struggle, this is hardly possible.

But there might still be an
importance in developing these
sorts of critiques and in raising

potential supporters. It is
these issues that is not fully
remain undeveloped and evenobvious that most of the men on
reflected in the self-description
tually lost. We need to overthe left are unable to see the
of the American group. Maybe this
come the habit of regarding our
relationship between sexism and
is an implicit recognition of the
written work and our ideas as
self-management – they are seen
fact that once again the owl of
intellectual private property,
as two unconnected issues, sexism
Minerva has taken flight at dusk,
i.e. as ideas or ‘views’ with
being the less important one.

and that the arena of political
which an individual philosopher
The kind of self-management they
struggle has moved elsewhere.

becomes identified, is judged
Other differences may be noted:

were pushing assumes that there
on by others, must defend
are no inequalities built into
a less militant tone than, at
against attack and ‘refutation’

least in the first few issues, was
personal/institutional relationRather we must think of ourcharacteristic of Radical Philoships: but this is an inadequate
selves as engaged in a collectheory and, unless there is a
sophy, and a much less ‘heavy’

tive enterprise of working on
deeper analysis of the situation,
manner than RP has, especially
serious and important issues
the issue of self-management
recently, developed: though of
about which we are all trying
remains a superficial liberal
course there is ‘a shared interest
to achieve some understanding.

in Marx’ there is little overt
one, and women will ~em~in
This notion, central to our
Marxism in this first issue at
radicalism, is also implicit
oppressed. Unless self-manageleast: the group seems in other
in the area of philosophy
ment movements are integrally
respects to be moving from a
itself, yet is so often subrelated to anti-sexist movements,
starting-point rather like ours,
verted by the competitive and
they will not be successful.

The sexist nature of the
trying to escape the more stultiindividualistic structures and
fying and oppressive aspects of
values of our academic departpolitics of the strike – male
academic philosophy, to find a way
ments and universities, our
domination, heaviness and hassles
of doing intellectual work which
– invalidates all the left’s
forms of education, and our
enables the expression and developsociety generally.

mumblings about self4nanagement
ment of people’s radicalism,
and democracy. Although we got
without necessarily being fully
We will hear much more from our ,the course on, and it was a
committed to any definite, already
American comrades in the years to
really worthwhile and satisfying
given form of Marxism: one respect
come, and certainly there is a lot
course to do, the price we had
in which the group differs from,
of scope for a fruitful dialectic
to pay was great, and we cannot
say Telos, and which may help to
between us and them. While claimafford to sacrifice feminist
make it more intelligible than they ing to be inspired by the British
issues in that way again.

often are. But the tendency to a
‘Radical Philosophy Group, there are
concern with problems internal to,
many things that we will have to
or deriving essentially from,
learn from them: so far I would
Kai Nielsen writes: During
academic philosophy runs the risk
say plain talking is one of them,
October 1973 the philosophy
of turning attention away from the
and emphasis on collectivity
possibility of doing work which has another. Not least, the existence
department of the University
a political point. The organisers
of this group testifies to the
‘of Calgary held a symposium
of the Newsjournal, however, avow
‘What is Radical about Radical
reality of the needs that brought
radical philosophy into existence,
‘a common interest in enlisting
Philosophy?’ The symposiasts
philosophy in the service of
and the extent to which they are
were Bob Ware, Charles Travis,
shared over a wide spectrum of
radical social change, and parti’John Baker and Kai Ni$lsen.

cularly, in restoring the philopolitical and philosophical orient- Three weeks later a rather
ations. We all have to hope that
sopher’s role as articulator and
‘similar, but less divisive
the second number of the Newscritic of the presuppositions of
discussion, was held among an
her/his time’ (pl) , but this still
journal will not be long delayed.

interdisciplinary group of
involves the acceptance of the
faculty and students at the
Correspondence should be addressed
division of labour and of roles
University of Calgary with
involved in this self-description.

to The Radical Philosophers’

Bob Ware and Kai Nielsen
Newsjournal, 175 Hillside street,
One of the main problems radistarting off the discussion.

Boston, Mass. 02120, USA.

cal philosophy confronts concerns
the kind of relationship that can
be forced between a radical movement in philosophy and wider
struggles for social revolution:

Anne Neale writes: The strike at
between the inside and the outside: Sydney University over a course
suppose we learn to work in demoon ‘Philosophical Aspects of
cratic, anti-individualist, antiFeminist Thought’ ended (6 weeks
competitive ways, that we learn
‘The search for abstract and
after it began) when the
to work collectively: this may
speculative truths, for principles
Professorial Board appointed
be important for us, but what
and axioms in science, for all that
Jean Carthays and Liz Jacka to
bearing does it have on our politends to wide generalisation, is
teach the course, under the
tical role, if any? The Newssupervision of John Burnheim.

beyond a woman’s grasp; their
journal contains a fine statement
(As it turned out, all that this
studies should be thoroughly
on the importance of working in
practical. It is their business
supervision amounted to was congroups, but does not face the
to apply the principles discovered
SUltation with Liz and Jean
issue directly:

by men, it is their place to make
about exam results). Yet, althe observations which lead men to
though we succeeded in publiCising the need for women’s studies
discover those principles. A
We came to feel that the small
woman’s thoughts beyond the range
in the university, and the issue
discussion group would be a
of her immediate duties, should be
of self-management and democracy
natural setting for developing
was greatly forwarded by the
directed to the study of men, or
radical, socialist philosophy.

the acquirement of that agreeable
It provides a context which is
strike, these gains occurred at
the expense of the real issue:

learning whose sole aim is the
supportive yet critical for
formation of taste; for works of
people to test out and develop
sexism.

genius are beyond her reach, and
tentative ideas which do not
sexism as an issue was conshe has neither the accuracy nor
fit into the current orthostantly either ignored or underthe attention for success in the
doxies of one’s department and
played – always on the pretext
exact sciences … ‘

of philosophy generally.

that it was tactically advantageous – we needed support and
Without such a context, such
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
mention of sexism might alienate
ideas will almost inevitably

Calgary

Sydney

PJayboyof
IheMonlh

43

:1 ‘

Be~_or_l_s_ _ __
Radical Philosophy
Conference

ment, University of Bristol.

In the final Saturday session
we heard more accounts of what
radical philosophers around the
country, and around the world, had
Saturday 27 and Sunday 28
been doing or trying to do. All
October 1973 at the Central
the same it was clear that concrete
Collegiate Building, University
activities were too few and far
College, London.

between. The sad tale of the
The event was advertised via the
difficulties of getting some reguslogan: ‘Philosophy: Deliberation
1ar radical philosophy activity
or Liberation?’ The conference
going in London provided an apt
itself seemed to involve much more
illustration of the problem. Disof the former than the latter.

cussion then moved to the more
Originally conceived as a re1atgeneral plane of the nature of
ive1y small gathering acting as
radical philosophy. Here our sound
the prelude to a larger conference
training in the art of meta-chat
in Easter 1974, about 70 people
stood us in good stead. Should
attended. Apart from contingents
Radical Philosophy limit itself to
from Swansea and Cardiff, few
the merely negative role of criticlocal groups were represented in
ising the existing state of phi1olarge numbers, and, as might be
sophy, or should it provide some
expected, given its locale, most
positive doctrines of its own?

of the participants were from
To what extent should it be conLondon.

cerned with other radical academic
There were five sessions altoactivities? Would it, perhaps,
qether, three on the Saturday, and
be too imperialist to aim to adopt
two on the Sunday. The Saturday
a unifying and organising theoreti~orning session was devoted to
ca1 role? And then we found ourthe discussion of local group
selves into the problem of the
activities, and various struggles
politics of Radical Philosophy.

by people working within various
Some of our number, we learned,
philosophy departments. Keith
considered themselves to be not
Graham outlined some of the recent
merely radical, but actually
events at Bristol, Mary Routledge
Socialists – Marxists even. To
told us of the attempts by the
what extent should the movement
Swansea Radical Philosophy group
adopt an explicitly Socialist or
to change the form and content of
Marxist stance? The question was
philosophy courses there (see
delicately fingered with velvet
article on 3wansea below), and
gloves for a few minutes, and then
Tony Ski11en gave a run-down of
as delicately dropped. A great
the recent trial of strength at
pity, to my mind, that it did not
Sydney University between Professor receive a more searching and honest
David Armstrong, in the one camp,
treatment at that occasion, because
and the rest of the philosophy
I feel that at the heart of that
staff and students in the other.

problem lies one of the major conVarious experiments in mounting
tradictions of the Radical Phi1oalternative philosophy courses were sophy movement, concerning this
mentioned, in particular a new
I question of the accessibility of
course on Philosophical Aspects
,Radical Philosophy. The magazine
of Social and World Problems at
often contains relatively sophisticated articles on quite abstruse
Swansea, and a course on Philosophy and Contemporary Life planned issues within Marxism. Yet one
of the primary aims of Radical
at Middlesex Polytechnic.

Philosophy, is surely to develop
In the afternoon, the gathering
an opposition to any philosophical
split into four groups,·to discuss
Exams, Moral Philosophy, Philosophy orthodoxy or theoretical obscurantism, whether of the ivory-tower
of Science, and Radical Philosophy
in relation to other radical organ- Ang1o-bourgeois variety, or of the
traditional marxist variety; and
isa~ions.

I was at the group on
another supposed aim is to attract
Moral Philosophy. The discussion
the readership, the engagement, and
was, to my mind, disorganised,
the participation of students and
dilatory and desultory: it repreothers who have an interest in
sented Radical Philosophy at its
worst. More successful, apparently, philosophy, but who, while feeling
dissatisfied with the existing
was the discussion group on Exams.

state of philosophy, do not possess
The examination issue is obviously
any great degree of theoretical
an important one around which the
dwindling flame of student radical- sophistication.

The Sunday activities of the
ism can be rekindled. Members of
conference were intended to provide
the group went away with the plan
a preparation for the larger conof producing a pamphlet on the
ference, scheduled for Easter 1974.

subject. Anyone who is interested
This was planned as a rather more
in he1plng on it, or finding out
ambitious conference, devoted to
about it, should contact Keith
a particular theme, that of ‘Work’.

Graham, at the Philosophy Depart-

I

I

44

On the Sunday morning G A Cohen
read a paper on ‘The Dialectics
of Labour’, as the basis for an
anticipatory discussion around
that theme. Cohen’s paper developed a certain aspect of Marx’s
writings on labour. He was
concerned to show how Marx viewed
the proletarian form of labour
under capitalism as, in certain
important respects, ‘progressive,
when measured against the ‘idiocy’

and ‘immersion’ of the precapitalist craft worker – progressive in that it provided a
necessary stage of detachment from
the object of his labour which was
a pre-condition of the workers’

coming to achieve control over
the means of production under
socialism. The paper hinged upon
a certain notion of ‘dialectic’,
and it had the virtue of providing
a careful and clear exposition of
this notion, rather than taking
some prior understanding of it
for granted in the audience.

The concluding session of the
conference, on Sunday afternoon,
was intended to produce some form
of organisational basis for the
Easter conference. Unfortunately,
a large number of the participants
of the conference had by this time
disappeared, and the discussion
was shortened because many of the
participants who were there wanted
to get away by 3.30 to see a film
on R D Laing which happened to be
showing in the building. As a
result, although everyone there
showed great enthusiasm for the
idea, and many suggestions were put
forward, there was little in the
form of concrete offers of help
in putting the conference together.

The upshot is that a rather different type of conference will be
held at Easter at the University
of Kent at Canterbury. Details
inside back cover.

.Steve Torrance

Open meeting
Depleted of most representatives
from outside London except for Kent
by the rail work-to-rule, the Open
Meeting took place at 19 Gordon
Square, London on 15 December.

In
Barry Wilkins’ absence Richard
Norman agreed to take the chair.

Perhaps owing to the transport
problem the meeting comprised even
more than usual a floating membership that had not attended before.

Magazine
Comment on the last issne of the
magazine centred on ways of avoiding becoming more like an orthodox
unapproachable philosophy journal
without humour, or ‘a magazine
written by and for young philosophy
lecturers’. Some untapped sources

of material were suggested:

reprints of concern to radical
philosophy from radical pamphlets,
local broadsheets or other radic,a l
magazines that our mostly student
readership would not normally see;
reviews/summaries of material in
conventional journals also not
often seen by our readers; further
critiques of the ideological
implications of particular orthodox philosophers.

Jonathan Ree argued that what
was more needed was the means to
encourage contributions of an unorthodox type; open appeals for
material produced hardly any response. The letters column now
being developed was meant as a
medium for contributions that were
not polished articles.

Some other
suggestions were made: that the
‘magazine should set up lines of
communication between students
who felt unhappy about the implications of texts they had to study
and others who thought the same
to discuss the problem – though
no-one took up responsibility for
this project; that single issues
or sections within issues, perhaps
with guest editors, should be
devoted to particular topics
(radical attitudes to logic was one
suggestion) though it was agreed
that this would depend upon finding
a sizeable group of contributors
under each topic. Tony Skillen
emphasised that as reviews editor
he was keen to get away from the
idea that a reviewer wrestled with
the mind of the writer; he th~ught
that reviews simply quoting a few
passages from a book were sometimes
more useful in our context. He
hoped to organise a system by which
a student might volunteer to write
a review in return for a free copy
of the book in question.

In
general he wanted to avoid the
assumption that only finished work
could appear in the magazine, and
suggested that the magazine should
arrange to announce what people
were currently working on.

Conference
Shortage of organisers following
the ‘ conference in October meant
that very little progress had been
made in organising ~he projected
conference on work for May 1974.

In addition the conference organisers had to report a loss of £12
on the October conference.

In
London, where there was no natural
centre for students to contact
each other, where active enthusiasts were mostly fully occupied
producing the magazine, anq where
perhaps the ideology of the capital
city was particularly pressing,
the difficulties , of the local group
seemed particularly acute. However,
Tony, Richard Norman and Eva
Eberhardt from Kent agreed to
organize a conference at Canterbury
at Easter where there would be more
time to develop ideas together.

It was also suggested that a
group from Radical Philosophy , should
make their presence felt at o~her
conferences.

Radical Philosophy book
Peter Binns reported that so far
the draft of one section , of the
book had been received. The means
of publication was still undecided.

The choice was between a wide
unspecific audience with a big
publisher or a specialist circula: tion with an underground press.

, There was discussion about the
: purpose of the book: that it should
comprise discussion rather than a
radical philosophy line; that
drafts should be circulated , and
; commented upon by others in ~adical
philosophy to achieve this end; and
that as well as essays on the conventional subject areas, consider’ able weight should be given to
, sections on what it felt like
being a student, a woman, a
teacher etc in philosophy departments, on the sociology of philosophy and philosophy departments
etc.

Organisation
, Noel Parker presented a summary of
. the accounts for the last six
·months. The magazine appears to
be secure while its costs can be
contained and it continues to end
up with a slightly increased
balance at the end of each issue.

Demand for back-numbers continues
and the cost of reprinting in
particular issues 1 and ‘ 2 is
being investigated. The meeting

At December’s open meeting the
idea of an Easter conference
was discussed. People were unenthusiastic about a straight
‘conference, because it leaves
those present in a state of
dull passivity unable to discuss
common problems and projects.

It was decided to hold a gathering where social and academic
barriers could be broken down
and a new collective spirit arise.

The University of Kent was chosen
because of the availability of food,
floor, space for sleep~ng bags~rooms,
discos etc on

campus, I so’

that the

Free accommodation cou
be found for ‘ people
‘r ‘i ving from Friday
night. , Transport

University of Kent
March 23, 24 etc beginning 11 am Saturday
. March-: :

.

,,~~~:z:-=::;;;.;.,-;:::, , ~ “‘–!:, ,

, felt that we should repting only
when we were sure that there was
sufficient demand to do so in
large quantities.

The meeting was keen to extend
our North American sales, perhaps
in the future even setting up a
, separa’t e distribution organisation
over there. Advertising material
is being prepared. Mike Dawney
agreed to take over responsibility
for advertising.

Richard Norman agreed to take
on responsibility for keeping track
of local groups’ activities and
!handling carununic~~ions between
them. Various opinions, about the
current atmosphere of student radijcalism were put forward in discuss’ ion. Now that the political
isituation had put workers pack at
Ithe forefront of the ~tru~gle,
lideas of students as the Red Base
‘ or the Tinder Box sparking off the
Irest were no longer vi~ble. Enterl ing into political struggles was
consequently very different for
! students from activity in student
‘ politics within the college; and
I ~any students were inactive in
: the former because they were now
Icontained within the inst!-tutions
, in which they studied.

;
Janet Vaux (18 New RoW, London
‘ WC2) agreed to convene the next
open meeting and draw up the
i agenda for it, and in the absence
lof other volunteers I will again
idraw up the report.

Noel Parker

I

I

I

Please contact us as soon as
possible, mentioning what you
are interested in doing and
discussing. This will enable
us to estimate numbers, make
arrangements and send further
information.

wri te to
Richard Norman, Darwin College,
University of Kent at Canteroury
phone Canterbury 66822 or 60467
(evenings },

Open Meeting
‘The next Open Meeting will
be held at Canterbury on
Sunday 24 March at 2pm.

I tems for the ‘agenda to Janet
Vaux, 1 8 New ROW, London WC2

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