On the Morals of the University: A Dialogue

This discourse is an exchange between Cadera and SJR. The questions are guided by Kant’s notions of ethics and morality. The dialogue aims to analyse the bounds of both philosophies: the framed ideal-classical and the denied pragmatic-empirical. SJR’s responses are culled from her authored journal article and guided by years of service to the university.

Kant explained that the existence of morality could be derived from the individual’s concept of responsibility and anxiety. What is the responsibility of the university as an academic institution?

SJR: The function of the University in the era of capitalist exploitation is for it to be a staunch defender of labor, a critic of society and a partisan anchor to the human condition.

For Kant, morality is a concept formed when the duty disjoints the apprehension, thus forming the sublime or the burst of a metaphysical feeling that coerces one to do what he ought to do. How can we describe the morals of the university today? Who is responsible for this apprehension? Where is the anxiety of the university coming from in its pursuit to form a community of scholars?

SJR: The University (and I don't mean just UP) has committed itself to the triumphalist claims of capitalism. Hence, it has pledged its commitment to neoliberal schemes. Its anxiety comes from the anxieties of the capitalist system, particularly its ruling class. Curriculum development and disciplinal innovations practically invite scholars to partake in the human slaughter, whether literally or as a conduit—there is no significant difference.

For Kant, the sublime is very dynamic, with its forms ranging from the violent, the greedy, the selfish, the apathetic, and one that thirsts for the fulfilment of fantasy. Whose fantasy is the university feeding today?

SJR: Clearly, it’s the fantasy of global capital. The fantasy that it (global capital) can sustain itself without the suspension of knowledge-production, free thinking and the violation of human rights, including the right to education.

In this case, violence had become the faithful wife of morals – ensuring that the home of ethics is safe and sound. However, as human beings, one is confronted with the conflicting sides of the moral law and the superego whose sole purpose is to fake-god the self by building upon the presuppositions of respect from others so he can be regarded more than what he actually is. How can we view this in character of our university’s leaders as a decision-making body?

SJR: Ethics is the capacity to go against one's nature. Nature has become a misnomer for all that is ideologically dominant and doxic. The University's commitment to neoliberal schemes is the most unethical act committed by the most brainwashed subjects of capital. No thinking is involved there as thinking involves one's capacity to recognize that meaning is a product of difference and not of correspondence.

Thinking is one's capacity to recognize binarisms and the hierarchies therein. Those hierarchies are actually material rather than imagined (for language-the prison house of thought-is a material practice). Thinking does not stop at recognizing these hierarchies but, too, it involves an uncompromising, tough and thorough demand for justice because these hierarchies have caused bigotry, war, death, hunger and the capitalist order's prohibition to think of alternatives to its chronic crisis. Therefore, thinking is always against the grain. To salvage morality from the grip of both fundamentalist and liberal thought and practice, it must be subjected to the ethics that thinking requires.