President Higgins calls for ‘renewal’ of UK-Ireland academic relations

The President of Ireland says he wants to “plant the seeds to break new ground” and “renew” the relationship between British and Irish academics

April 13, 2014

Source: Rihardzz/Shutterstock.com

Speaking at the Royal Society in London during his historic state visit to the UK this week, Michael D. Higgins – who was elected in 2011 – also called for more integration between science and philosophy.

He said “leaping through the boundaries” that separate academic disciplines will help create better dialogue about the “complex challenges of the future”.

Mr Higgins, a former social science academic, said that Ireland’s contribution to the understanding of the natural world may have been “overshadowed” by its work in arts and literature. “That is not how it should be, we need to better understand the role of scientific knowledge in shaping our relationships with the world,” he added at the event on 9 April.

He said it would be a “mistake” to view science in Ireland as separate from the nation’s culture.

Mr Higgins, who became Ireland’s first minister for the arts in 1993, said this was the century of neuroscience with advances in this area giving cause for “optimism and excitement”.

“But the humanities have something essentially too to contribute to our comprehension of the nature of human consciousness or what it means to be human,” he added.

The rapid pace of scientific development is not yet matched by the “cultivation of critical and informed dialogue” within the “wider society” about the impact of these achievements, he said. This is all the more pressing because the ethical issues arising from “contemporary scientific and technological application have reached unprecedented levels of acuteness”.

He gave the example of the questions raised by climate change and said that the “total destruction of the planet was not a concern of enlightenment scholars”. It is essential to “instigate far reaching dialogue not only between the disciplines but also… in its application between Britain and Ireland”, he added.

“It requires the crafting of a wide range of ethical discourse in which a wide range of citizens, not just the most expert or scientifically literate, are invited to take part,” he said. 

Before entering public life Mr Higgins lectured in political science and sociology at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and in the US.

holly.else@tsleducation.com

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
Register

Reader's comments (1)

An excellent speech from a scholar who is a credit to our country. How many countries have a President with a vision like this?

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham