The Status of Academic Freedom
Academic freedom is the idea that scholars should be free to pursue knowledge without interference from censorious agents. Those who defend academic freedom uphold the liberty for academic actors to communicate ideas or facts, even when those ideas are inconvenient or potentially offensive. For the proponents of this liberty, the academic mission of knowledge production can only succeed under freedom of inquiry.
In liberal societies, one may take scholarly freedom for granted. Yet, in the last decades, several voices came to fore denouncing not only systematic violations on academic freedom but also a lack of true scholastic pluralism. Movements such as The Heterodox Academy worry about a monolithic ideological thought within academia that marginalises dissident voices, often recurring to threats of job loss and social ostracism. To be sure, this ideological thought relies on egalitarian principles. Radical advocates of egalitarianism are responsible for the no-platforming of controversial speakers or for the opposition to researchers working on sensitive political topics (e.g. racial and sex differences, cost-benefit accounts of European colonialism, etc.). Some of these advocates also push for more inclusive curriculums, often accusing academics of having exclusivist Eurocentric biases in their teaching activities. Yet, threats to academic freedom also come from outside the universities. Academics working on bioethical topics like abortion or genetic engineering many times suffer (death) threats from dogmatic religious groups or individuals.
This state of affairs led prominent philosophers Jeff McMahan and Peter Singer to create the Journal of Controversial Ideas, where academics can publish anonymously and stand free from marginalisation. But some critics of these movements for academic freedom claim scholars cannot remain immune to the consequences of their ideas, emphasising how even academic freedom must have limits.
The Nova Institute of Philosophy (Ifilnova) is interested in scholarship that assesses the status of academic freedom in contemporary times. Namely, we are interested in a philosophical discussion about whether there are limits to the liberty of western scholars and whether there is any legitimacy to curtail this liberty.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to
Should we defend academic freedom?
Can academic freedom survive in societies with different worldwide identity groups?
What are the dangers of legitimising the censorship of controversial topics?
Should the mission of the university be to produce knowledge regardless of its social impact?
Are there ethical limits on academic research and communication?
Is ideological pluralism important for attaining robust academic knowledge coming out of competing claims?
How to distinguish the protection of academic freedom from the protection of academics’ non- scholarly opinions?
Regarding legitimation, is there a difference between censorship via peer pressure and formalised institutional censorship?