THE NATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR PHILOSOPHY
Some issues ago we noted, with interest, the formation of the
‘National Committee for Philosophy’ (RP 44, News, ‘Caring for
Philosophy?’). Since then, the Committee has organised itself
into a more formal body. We recently received the following
statement regarding the Committee’s structure and current aims
from its ‘Chair’, George MacDonald Ross:
The National Committee for Philosophy was founded in
December 1985, as a joint initiative of the main philosophical
societies in the UK. It immediately sought ratification from a
conference in February 1986, to which delegates were invited
from all university and public-sector philosophy departments,
and from various other constituencies. Ata subsequent conference in July 1987, a constitution was agreed, whereby members of the NCP would in future be elected by a Standing
Conference of Philosophers, which philosophy departments,
societies, and other interested groups would be eligible to join.
The NCP has two main purposes. The first and most immediate is purely defensive. By the time theNCP had managed to
gather accurate statistics (in the middle of 1986), it emerged
that philosophy in the university sector had lost 25% of its
staffing since the peak level of the 1970s, and six departments
were due to close. In the hope of establishing a base line below
which there would be no further cuts, the NCP succeeded in
persuading the UGC to institute a review of philosophy. This
is now under way, and a national conference which met at
Leeds on 8 June 1988 agreed a submission to the UGC
Our policy is that there ought to be a philosophical presence in every institution providing a degree-level education.
While we are not going to obstruct the desire of certain beleaguered members of staff to transfer elsewhere, we are campaigning for the retention of philosophy as widely as is
consistent with the need to maintain centres of strength with
So far, the NCP has been less active in the defence of
public-sector philosophy, and areas such as the philosophy of
education. This is partly because there has been less of an
obvious threat to philosophy as such, and partl y because of the
difficulty of identifying and establishing communication with
philosophers in institutions which do not enjoy/suffer from the
rigid departmental structure common to most universities. We
have already made representations to the NAB, and we are
preparing to make a submission to the forthcoming CNAA
review of philosophy provision in the public sector.
Our second main purpose is to increase interest in a philosophical education, both at pre-degree level, and among potential employers. Quite apart from our support for the recently established A- and AS-levels in philosophy, we are involved in
setting up an Institute for Philosophy in Education, which will
promote the more widespread introduction of a philosophical
element in the school curriculum. We have yet to finalise plans
for making employers more aware of the value of philosophy,
but in the first instance we intend to organise a conference with
this as its theme.
There is, however, an important corollary of our defence of
philosophy. If we are to be taken seriously by our paymasters/
paymistresses, by our potential students, and by the potential
employers of our students, it is essential that there should not
be too much of a gap between theory and practice. If practitioners of philosophy acquiesce in the claims we make on their
behalf, it is their duty to ensure that they live up to these claims;
and if not, they should argue for an alternative policy. We hope
that the NCP will provide a suitable forum for discussing how
philosophers can best put into practice their agreed ideals in the
circumstances of today.
Requests for further details and other enquiries should be addressed to: Mr G. M. Ross, Department of Philosophy, the
University, Leeds LS2 9JT.
NATIONAL SOCIETY OF PHILOSOPHY
National Committees/Societies are, in fact springing up all around
us. We recently received news of a ‘National Society of Philosophy Students’. We re-print their statement below:
Minority Arts subjects have suffered enormously during the
recent cutbacks in Higher Education and with the replacement of
the University Grants Committee by the industry-biased University Funding Council later on this year the future of such subjects
looks bleak. Philosophy has suffered particularly badly: philosophy departments have been closed at Bangor, Leicester, Exeter,
Newcastle and Aberystwyth Universities and other departments
are currently facing closure. At Manchester University there has
been a 30% reduction in the number of philosophy staff since
1978, and we have the worst departmental staff-to-student ratio in
the Arts Faculty.
The above is by way of a preamble to an informal announcement of the formation of a society which aims to combat the cuts
in philosophy and in other Minority Arts subjects. This society
shall go under the provisional name of the National Society of
Philosophy Students, will be based in Manchester, and has four
First, to promote communication between philosophy students and philosophical societies throughout the country.
Second, to negotiate guarantees that no further academic
places will be cut on philosophy or other Minority Arts subject
courses, and if possible to encourage the creation of additional
Third, to re-vamp philosophy courses via critical student
participation in decisions concerning the form and content of
Fourth, to encourage the study of philosophy by the general
In order to realize these aims we need information, cooperation and support from students in departments all over the
country. Many departments should receive a copy of our manifesto and a questionnaire concerning the academic wellbeing of
the department; we urge students to complete the questionnaire
and supply, if necessary, any amendments to the manifesto along
with any other ideas they may have about possible strategies for
realizing the society’s aims.
Anyone wishing to support the society can contact us via the
following address: NSPS, Philosophy Department, Manchester
University, Manchester M13 9PL.
PHILOSOPHY ‘AS’ LEVEL SYLLABUS
Regular readers of Radical Philosophy will remember an earlier
item explaining the introduction of AS levels including AS
Philosophy. The main intention behind this new curriculum
initiative is to broaden the curriculum of A level students. The
only board offering AS Philosophy at present is the JMB. Their
syllabus is detailed below.
The Conference of Socialist Economists in Sheffield last July was
held under the title ‘New Realisms for Old?’. This gave philosophers a chance to get a word in. The first plenary was addressed
by Roy Bhaskar, who counterposed his own ‘critical realism’ to
the implicit ontology of New Realism on the basis of the piece in
the Chesterfield issue of Interlink. John Lovering developed this
theme in terms of a middle way between New Realism and
Conference then divided into workshop streams: socialist
planning; gender and race; state and capital; politics of technology; quantitative Marxism; and ‘value and social form’ .
This last was about dialectic and its applications. The best
item here was a paper by G. Carchedi taking further the ideas of
his recent book. The discussion developed some interesting
angles on the ‘transformation problem’. It was agreed that it
would be worth reconvening this stream next year under some
such title as ‘dialectical political economy’, and several of those
present indicated willingness to do papers.
On the more immediate political agenda we had an ‘after
lunch’ speaker: an inspirational address by Tony Benn. The last
plenary, on international developments, featured Nira YuvalDavis on the Palestinian uprising, Trevor Evans on economic
policy in Nicaragua, and Hugo Radice on the end of the Soviet
road in Hungary. It was a real pleasure to hear three people who
knew their stuff inside-out and articulated their enthusiasm so
cogently. A lively discussion ensued on the role of religion, the
politics of bolshevism, and hopes for the future.
Next year will be the twentieth conference of the CSE: Hugo
Radice and Simon Clark gave notice that they are planning
something special. Stay tuned.
(i) Appearance and Reality
Is there a reality behind the affairs of ordinary life? Does it
make sense to suppose that in reality the world is not at all as it
appears to us? Are there truths of which our senses cannot inform
us? Why should anyone suppose that our ordinary beliefs do not
constitute knowledge? An examination of these fundamental
questions as formulated by Plato.
Plato, The Republic, Bk. V 474c-Bk. VII 521b.
(ii) Rationalism, Empiricism and the Modems
What can be known for certain? How can propositions be
known to be true? Are the senses reliable sources of knowledge?
Is memory reliable? Are any statements always and everywhere
true? An examination of some central features of the RationalistEmpiricist debate.
Descartes, R., Meditations, I, IT, V, VI, from A Discourse on
Method; Meditations on the first Philosophy;..Principles of Philosophy; Hume, D., Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,
Part IT-Moral Philosophy
(i) Classical Views of Ethics
Is it important to show that justice is worth having for its own
sake? Is there an absolute Good and can knowledge of the Good
be attained by the use of reason alone? How does the good man
behave and by what characteristics are other kinds of men
recognised? What is virtue? Is happiness the true end of moral behaviour? An examination of the views of Plato and Aristotle.
Plato, The Republic, Bk. II to 376c, II 412b-IV (end), V 462-466d,
VIII, IX; Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Bks. I, II, Ill, VI chapters 1-8 inclusive, X.
(ii) Sentiment and Happiness in Morals’
Is there an objective moral order in the world or are all moral
judgements matters of emotion and social comment? What is the
role of value judgements? Does moral action spring from sentiment and/or reason? Is an action good and right if it makes for the
happiness of the greatest number? What sort of proof, if any, can
be given for a moral position?
Mill, J. S., Utilitarianism; Nietzsche, F., Beyond Good and Evil,
Part V, The Natural History of Morals,
We Would Welcome Readers’ Comments on This Syllabus
PHILOSOPHY AT CHESTERFIELD
Following our reports on the developing work of the Chesterfield
Socialist Conference in RPs 48 and 49 (News), it is good to be able
to report the success of the second Conference, which took place
in Chesterfield in June, consolidating and extending the work of
the earlier initiative in a number of ways. Although larger than the
first conference (about 1800 attended), it was better organised,
less disrupted by gestural sectarian interventions (although people’s
experiences from the different workshops obviously varied quite
a bit about this), and most encouraging of all, it was far more
focused than the earlier event. Delegates were divided into an
array of different Policy Groups, fairly extensive discussion
papers for which had previously been prepared, and published (in
the main) in the special issue of Interlink that was handed out with
the registration cards. And this time, by sub-dividing the Policy
Groups into series of workshops discussing distinct topics, much
more productive debate was possible.
A number of plans for future action and events emerged from
the conference. There will be a conference to discuss resistance to
the introduction of the Poll Tax, this autumn. And there are plans
to provide a quick-response solidarity network for workers in
dispute. More generally, several of the Policy Groups are planning seminars, dayschools and conferences.
Of most direct relevance to Radical Philosophy is the formation of a Philosophy Policy Group to generate theoretical and
critical debate around socialist ideas and policies, and to organise
educational events. The Philosophy Workshops at Chesterfield,
following the discussion document by Roy Bhaskar, were centred
upon the political significance of different kinds of philosophical
realism: Bhaskar’s ‘critical’ scientific realism opposing itself to
the ’empirical realism’ of the political ‘New Realism’. And there
was some lively discussion about the usefulness of mapping
philosophical oppositions onto political ones in this way. Ted
Benton developed a realist perspective in a rather different way by
examining its significance to current debates about the character
of human needs, in the context of environmental issues. And
Robin Blackburn led a workshop on ‘Concepts of Socialism’.
The future work of the group, however, will be more open and
wide-ranging than was perhaps suggested by the Chesterfield
document. It is subdivided into various different groups pursuing
different themes. Anyone interested in joining can obtain further
information about the various sub-groups and their projects from:
Socialist Conference Philosophy Group
20 Altenburg Gardens
FEMINISM AND PHILOSOPHY:
CALL FOR PAPERS
The September 1989 issue of the American Philosophical
Association’s Feminism and Philosophy Newsletter, edited by
Laurie Shrage and Nancy Tuana, will focus on Feminism and
Aesthetics. Submissions on feminist literary theory, film criticism, art criticism, and feminist theories of art and aesthetic
judgment are welcome. Also welcome are book reviews, literature surveys, ideas for main streaming feminist aesthetic theory in
philosophy courses, and short commentaries on: (1) the writings
of women aestheticians, (2) the politics of art reception andreproduction, (3) feminist aesthetics and theories of meaning and
All submissions must be limited to ten manuscript pages.
Essays should be submitted in duplicate with the author’s name
on the title page only. The deadline for submissions is 1 May
1989. Send manuscripts to Nancy Tuana, Arts and Humanities,
JO 3.1, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, Texas 750830688, USA.
A Dayschool is planned for Saturday 26 November, in Newcastle.
The topic is Socialism and Democracy. For further information
about this, please write to:
4 Normanton Terrace,
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