Professor John J. Furedy responds to Richard Cravatts:”Should Lincoln University Enable Holocaust Denial?”

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The essence of academic freedom is not “reasoned scholarship”, because what is “reasoned” to one member of a university is folly to another. That is not to say that all assertions are of equal value, or that truth is relative. It is only to say that arriving at the truth is a continuing process of the critical examination of ideas that is conducted by individuals who may censure each others’ ideas, but not by organizations that attempt to control ideas by censoring those individuals whose ideas are not considered to be “reasoned scholarship”. The Socratic injunction to criticize all ideas was one made to individual thinkers and not to organizations like the Athenian democracy that democratically determined that Socrates’ position was not based on “reasoned scholarship” and therefore killed him.

So it is not for organizations like universities (or university administrators) to censor or punish individuals (be they faculty or students) who assert anti-Semitic propositions. Rather, those propositions (and hence those who state them) need to censured by counter-arguments made by other individuals exercising their academic freedom, a freedom that belongs to all members of a university.

Finally, it also follows that even with respect to students, the university is not in loco parentis, and hence has no responsibility to “protect” those students from false doctrines, or as Prof. Cravattis puts it, to avoid “infecting the minds of students.” A university is not a mental-health institution. So while I agree with Prof. Cravatis in his condemnation of Prof. Siddique’s views (which are anti-Semitic), I do not agree with the implicit abandonment of the principle of academic freedom, no matter how difficult it may be, on some occasions, to stick to that principle in the face of false, and even deeply offensive ideologies.

John J. Furedy, Ph.D.

Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of Toronto
Cross appointments: Ege University, Turkey; Bar-Ilan and Haifa Universities, Israel.

Professor John J. Furedy responds to Richard Cravatts:”Should Lincoln University Enable Holocaust Denial?”

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Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is not-for-profit [501 (C) (3)], grass-roots community of scholars who have united to promote honest, fact-based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. We believe that ethnic, national, and religious hatreds, including anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, have no place in our institutions, disciplines, and communities. We employ academic means to address these issues.

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