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

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns