The Ethics of Teaching and Scientific Research

By Sidney Hook; Paul Kurtz et al. | Go to book overview

Facts, Values,
and Responsible Choice

Charles Frankel
Columbia University

The subject of the ethics and responsibilities of members of the academic community lies, in my opinion, at the heart of the entire subject of academic freedom. Ethics and responsibilities are at the core of reconstructing in our time, under changed circumstances, a sensible and defensible rationale for the preservation of academic freedom.

Traditional doctrines of academic freedom emerged in societies in which the regnant philosophies and practices carefully walled off certain kinds of inquiry. Physics and chemistry, though they implicitly challenged traditional religious beliefs, were nevertheless taught in Germany and the United States. But these courses were taught in classrooms in which the religious implications of the new sciences were muted or ignored. Indeed, classic philosophical positions like Descartes' helped to justify this separation of physics and chemistry from fundamental questions such as the nature of man and human destiny. Similarly, although history was taught, it was taught with careful concern for the past. And most historians left the implications for the present tacit rather than explicit. Around a hundred years ago, however, something new emerged. This was the effort to be scientific — or at least dispassionate and descriptive — in treating social and political affairs. There was a time when people were fired from American universities for suggesting that the gold standard was questionable. However, during the last hundred years a whole new branch of inquiry was domesticated in universities. An area of fundamental controversy in the socie

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