Risking Responsibility

By John Mowitt


This paper attempts to refocus the conversation about academic freedom (whose virtues it neither elaborates nor questions) around the companion concept of “responsibility.” It proceeds by teasing out the assertion that the “freedom” of academic freedom has both a philological and socio-historical context, one that it shares with “responsibility.” This context is initially traced through founding formulations concerning “academic freedom,” formulations that in the hands of Arthur Lovejoy contrast the freedom for which academics are responsible in the struggle against communism. To problematize this rendering of responsibility, the paper then considers the peculiar symmetry that defines the discussion of “freedom and responsibility” in the works of Friedrich Hayek and Jean-Paul Sartre. It concludes by teasing out a countervailing account of responsibility, one that might be said to have been at stake in the recent controversy concerning Professor Salaita.

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