Infinite regression

March 21, 2013

Yes, Fred Inglis’ poignant lament, rehearsing the lost moral and social solidarities of yesteryear, needed to be said (“The retention of tradition”, 14 March). Anyone who lived through those years - while maintaining a profound scepticism about successive status quos - will recognise the feeling of incredulity his litany brings back. We were quite sure that society and university could do better, so could not have been more pitifully unprepared for what actually happened: a gradual, insensible desiccation of the common spirit needed even to save the language of once prized distinctions, fairnesses and social practices.

But there is no use crying over spilt milk. The question now can only be: what caused this baffling implosion of values?

It was clearly not the work of one person or group but the product of many minds. Perhaps there was a mistake in some deep assumption that was widely shared? The Oakeshottian conversation disappeared; educators let managerialists neuter education; previously Popperian physicists succumbed to metaphysics. The “higher” mathematicians who knew that “infinite” means “not finite” began to swallow…degrees of “notness”!

Academia, but also society itself, has evidently been browbeaten into higher nonsense. What could be the key incoherencies that have quietly enabled so much palpable retrogression?

Chris Ormell
Philosophy for Education Renewal Group

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