Metamagician and the Hellfire Club: Ecklund on Singer

Drop what you are to go read Russell Blackford’s meditation on the university:

Metamagician and the Hellfire Club: Ecklund on Singer:

What this shows me is that neither the scientist nor Ecklund properly understands what universities are all about. An important component of the role of universities is the creation of a space where what seem like commonsense ideas – handed down through socialisation and tradition – can be held up to the light and challenged. One thing that we want from academics, especially in fields such as philosophy, is the capacity and courage to attack popular ideas, including popular ideas of morality. This kind of intellectual critique, which may involve the development of unpopular critiques of how ordinary people think, is one way that we make progress as a society.

Accommodationist thinkers in the style of Ecklund or, say, Chris Mooney, want to reverse this. The idea is to market a product, such as science, by showing how it is safe for people to consume without it challenging their existing worldviews (which may be based on religion or traditional morality). People with various existing worldviews are taken as demographics, and the idea is to market science to them.

But science and scholarship are dangerous – not necessarily in the sense of creating physical risks, but in the sense that they can lead to ideas that undermine received wisdom. Universities are places where dangerous ideas, in this sense, are created, refined, and tested in debate. To suggest otherwise, and adopt the marketing strategy favoured by accommodationists, is profoundly ignorant and anti-intellectual.


One thought on “Metamagician and the Hellfire Club: Ecklund on Singer

  1. That describes what a university SHOULD be, but not what I have found most universities to actually be. Anyone that disagrees with the mainstream academic viewpoint is not engaged in discussion, but shouted down. Students aren’t encouraged to explore and come up with new ideas, but to validate the ideas of their professors. Seems like the “debate” (or lack thereof) is not longer intellectual, but political and ideological.

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