Keele, philosophy matters

March 24, 2011

I am writing to add my voice in protest to the proposal to close the philosophy programme at Keele. I went there in 1989, one of the first of my family to attend university. I am the son of a butcher, and prior to Keele had a patchy record of academic achievement. I failed most of my O levels, and, after a few aimless years, took two A levels at night school (I got two Bs), and went to Keele as a mature student. I applied there because I was attracted to its Foundation year, with the intention of reading psychology and sociology.

Then I was introduced to philosophy by Keele's inspiring staff. It was a life-changing moment. A new intellectual world was opened to me. I got a first in Classics and philosophy, went to the University of Cambridge, got a PhD in philosophy, and am now a university lecturer at the University of Oxford. My life would not be what it is now had there been no philosophy at Keele.

Of course, mine is merely one success story, and one doesn't measure the value of a philosophy department by whether it produces professional philosophers. But the story illustrates how the vision of another Oxford philosopher, namely Keele's founder, A.D. Lindsay, was still at work when I was there.

He advocated education for the adult working classes, the opening up of a new world of knowledge to people for whom such a world would otherwise be closed. In my case, and in the case of thousands of others, Keele offered those with non-traditional academic backgrounds entry into that world. The proposal to divest Keele of one of the oldest intellectual disciplines would narrow the horizons of generations of students to come.

Peter Kail, Official Fellow and tutor in philosophy St Peter's College, Oxford

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