Where Have All the Philosophy Programs Gone?




Professor Andrew Baker bemoans the continued commercialization of universities evident in the ongoing closure of programs in the humanities (particularly philosophy and history). He worries that without strong history and philosophy programs, universities will lose their intellectual diversity and students will not be challenged to think rigorously in areas of great concern, namely, morality. He cites Harvard professor Michael Sandel who also addressed the issue at some length in his recent book, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? (Justice, by the way, is a fine, albeit popularly written and somewhat narrowly focused primer on various theories of justice and criticisms of those theories.)

Paul Bloom’s classic, The Closing of the American Mind addressed similar issues and Louis Menand explores some of these topics at some length in his short but intriguing The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University. Baker focuses on particular moral issues that he believes pose serious problems for society. The removal of history and philosophy from the university will only cause these issues to fester as students will not get the moral instruction necessary to deal with them.

In the principal arenas of intellectual exploration, universities, we have closed down entire programs within the arts (philosophy, history) and rationalised the length and breadth of undergraduate and postgraduate study programs across the board….Higher degree courses are shortened and narrowed; where is the time or place for philosophical thought in a PhD program?

But even more insidious in the removal or reduction of particularly philosophy programs is the impact the absence will have on the “optimized” university’s ability to train students how to think. In my opinion, no other discipline can do more to train the mind than philosophy.



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