Thursday, 9 May 2013

Philosopher appears to be proposing self censorship - another nail in the coffin of academic freedom and free speech in the West?

Dear Professor Archard

Would it be possible for me to have the rest of your essay?

Personally I find it shocking that Mary Warnock should now be suggesting that the philosophers should watch what they say after the implementation of her pernicious education policies that have ruined the education of so many British schoolchildren.   

If this woman is in fact proposing to curtail free speech because she fears criticism of her discredited policies and give up on the language of what is morally right and wrong, then I think the British public ought to be told about this.   

Claire Khaw

The Acceptable Face of Philosophy

David Archard asks what compromises philosophers should be prepared to make in order that their ideas will be listened to.

In the very engaging memoir of her life’s work on various public bodies, Nature and Mortality (2004), Mary Warnock notes that during her drafting of the committee report that led to the UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act on reproductive ethics and scientific research, there was a critical point when she realised that her insistence on the language of morally right and wrong was misplaced. She recognized that they needed to talk instead in terms of what was acceptable – a usage she had previously rejected as fundamentally mistaken. In essence she had come to believe that her responsibility was not to recommend what she and others on the committee thought was morally justified, but rather, to find a set of recommendations that could win the support of the government, Parliament and the general public, and so what was acceptable to them.

Warnock did indeed steer the committee to produce a report that led to the drafting and passing of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. That Act created a regulatory body, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

Questions I would like to ask Baroness Warnock:

  1. What do you feel is your greatest achievement in life?
  2. What do you feel about being an over-promoted mediocrity being allowed to jump on her hobby horse and ruining the education of generations of British schoolchildren?
  3. Do you have any regrets?
  4. Are you really not aware that the distinction between religion and politics is a distinction without a difference?
  5. Would you say you are in touch with the concerns of ordinary people?
  6. When you say that philosophers need to talk in terms of what is acceptable rather than "insist on the language of morally right and wrong", were you trying to justify expediency at the expense of morality?
  7. Is someone who openly favours expediency over morality an immoral person?
  8. Should immoral female academics, however elderly and apparently distinguished, be challenged when they advocate what is clearly immoral or at the very least against the interests of free speech?
  9. What are your views on free speech?
  10. Do you think academic philosophers teach anything useful?  If so, what?
  11. When is it acceptable to make a moral compromise?
  12. Is there a difference between a "moral compromise" and a "mere" compromise?  
  13. If so, what?
  14. Should certain principles, such as free speech and academic freedom, never be compromised?
  15. What are we to make of a philosopher who recommends that philosophers only say what is acceptable and forget about what is morally right or wrong?
  16. How do you feel about compromising on academic freedom and free speech?
  17. Should a philosopher who openly advocates compromising on academic freedom and free speech be uncompromisingly denounced for her immoral proposal?
  18. Are you suffering from dementia?
  19. Should we propose that you be "euthanased" if it is dementia that has caused you to make this immoral proposal as well as caused you to be a burden on the state and your family?
  20. If your immoral proposal does not have its origins in dementia, are you prepared to defend it? If so, how?

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