This op-ed is a response to a few opinion pieces from the past weeks. We recommend you to read these articles as well.
Fred Muller reports on a meeting in a locale known as the ESPhil glass box. The picture painted by him of ESHCC is inadequate, as Frank van der Duijn Schouten argued, but the same unfortunately applies to the way ESPhil is portrayed by colleague Fred. In short, he describes philosophy as an introverted discipline that does not even consider itself scientific and, above all, wants to be left alone. As if philosophers experience the outside world as a threat and have no idea what happens in the building next to us on the campus.
Read the article by F. A. Muller
Chaositis and the Academic Duchies
The tumult surrounding ESHCC does not leave the philosophers unmoved, as they are…
This does not do justice to the care and labour that my academic colleagues, including Fred himself, devote to scientific philosophical practice, often in interdisciplinary dialogue with other fields, through education, research and social debate. Fred’s contribution is, for the close reader, a parody of Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus. Fred responds to the call ‘be an Erasmian’ in his own unique way. But although Erasmus, as is well known, did not shy away from humour, it was dialogue he was after, not polarization. He did not resort to ‘grobianism’, as Marx and Engels would later call it, in a reflection on early modern polemics.
This debate focuses on an important question regarding the role and place of the humanities in general and of philosophy in particular. The idea that philosophy has a special mission was already convincingly voiced by Kant in 1798. He positioned philosophy as a critical discipline that seeks (solicited and unsolicited) dialogue with other scientific fields, about philosophical, methodological, ethical and social challenges these fields are facing.
Read the article by Ana Uribe Sandoval
ESHCC and the wolf: a cautionary tale
Faculty Council chair Ana Uribe Sandoval writes about the forensic investigation going on…
Autonomy, not isolation
Philosophy eagerly takes up this role at EUR, at ESPhil and other faculties. To be able to optimally live up to this assignment, relative autonomy is an important condition. Joining a humanities faculty involves the risk that philosophy becomes introverted, focused on its own discipline and its internal indicators, and that would be a step backwards. However – and that voice was also clearly audible in our glass box – precisely given our assignment, philosophers are engaged scholars, practicing a campus-wide involvement with what is going on elsewhere at the university. Autonomy does not stand for isolation. Philosophy can only fulfill its role from a position of proximity and engagement.
Frank van der Duijn Schouten calls on philosophers to think more rigorously and I can reassure him that we are already doing that. We do not shy away from the debate about repositioning and profiling the humanities at the EUR, which he is calling for. This requires a substantive vision of the mission of the university as a dynamic network. This is also endorsed by Willem Schinkel, who emphasizes the special role of philosophy, but also argues that global societal challenges of our time do not respect discipline boundaries, but enforce intensive interdisciplinary interaction. That is precisely the climate in which philosophy thrives.
Read the op-ed of ESHCC dean Frank van der Duijn Schouten
‘Independence of any school can never be a goal in itself’
A more realistic picture of ESHCC and its academic staff is needed, writes interim Dean…
To formulate it philosophically: the debate is not about ‘aufheben’ in the sense of marginalization, but about ‘aufheben’ in the sense of raising it to a higher level. Frank correctly states that the new EUR strategy challenges philosophers to play an important role: in thinking about Erasmian values, about societal impact, about collaboration between faculties and universities. The modern university was founded in 1810, as an organization that remains true to its core formula by reinventing itself, critically assessing its self-image, and this also applies to the nineteenth-century concept of the humanities. If we continue to focus on this substantive question, we will certainly bring our governance deliberations to a successful conclusion, provided that we remain prepared to carefully consider each other’s positions. A good exercise in Erasmian virtues. Erasmians by the Meuse, unite!