Why Academic Freedom?
Forthcoming in D. Downs & C. Suprenant (eds.), The Value and Limits of Academic Speech: Philosophical, Political, and Legal Perspectives (Routledge, 2018)
23 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2017
Date Written: December 5, 2017
Core academic freedom protects a faculty member's freedom in research and teaching subject only to the limitations imposed by the scientific discipline (the Wissenschaft) in which the faculty member works, where such limits are to be assessed by other experts in the discipline. Such academic freedom is particularly justified by the considerations that Humboldt and Mill adduced in the 19th-century, namely, that such freedom is conducive to the discovery and dissemination of truths about the world. The essay also addresses: (1) problems in characterizing Wissenschaften, (2) grounds for skepticism that academic freedom has the salutary epistemic effects it is alleged to have; and (3) misguided attempts to limit academic freedom by attributing magical powers to the mere expression of certain ideas (here a contrast is drawn between Herbert Marcuse, a staunch defender of academic freedom, and recent self-styled "progressives" on college campuses).
Keywords: academic freedom, John Stuart Mill, Wilhelm von Humboldt, science, Wissenschaft, Herbert Marcuse
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