Swerve theory for herds

August 18, 1995

Re academic freedom (THES, July 21, 28, August 11): in evaluating a work of social or political theory one may choose to examine its coherence or, alternatively, its "relevance".

British academics have long chosen the latter, and there is rich irony in a Marxist (THES, July 28) complaining about this. If one took seriously the academic obligation to note conditionals in an explanation then no social or political theory could ever be held with any passion, but this seems not to be generally accepted.

Within my own field of interest Habermas would appear to be the current beneficiary of the mob credulity which results, but soon the herd will swerve and some other great man will stand to receive a small fortune in royalties, and a new generation of students will have another fat brick of over-blown jargon to break their hearts on.

The scrupulous academic will dissect everything and accept nothing, but in the humanities and social sciences this has not been the practice for a very long time.

So serious, so plain, and so longstanding is this state of affairs, that the question arises whether intellectual ability is worth anything at all in the absence of moral courage.

Craig Ross Glasgow Scotland

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