Society set up to counter threats

October 31, 2003

British philosophers have regrouped in a new association designed to protect and enhance the discipline's academic reputation against threats including cuts to research funding.

The British Philosophical Association, launched at the House of Commons last week, replaces the Standing Conference of British Philosophers, which was simultaneously wound up.

The association's membership comprises philosophers, university departments and learned societies, and it is hoped that it will speak more authoritatively on behalf of its members.

Robin Cameron, of Aberdeen University and interim secretary of the association, said: "UK philosophy departments have preserved a robust philosophical culture, publishing outstanding research, serving on public bodies, writing for a wider public, collaborating with other disciplines and helping colleagues in adverse conditions, for example, in the former Czechoslovakia or in China. The British Philosophical Association has come into being to ensure these activities are not sapped by the dismissal or redeployment of philosophers or the concentration of research funding."

The opening address was delivered by Onora O'Neill, principal of Newnham College, Cambridge. She said: "Philosophy departments teach students to identify and connect large questions, to respect arguments and to claim no more than argument can support. They educate students to probe the credentials of common sense and of far-out speculation, of politically correct and of politically outrageous views, of received and of revolutionary values.

"Philosophy departments make their wider contribution to society by educating students and others to test received views - including the view that education can be justified by its contribution to economic growth."


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