Volume VII Number 2

Ottawa, Canada

Fall 1995

Message from the President

Francis Peddle


In previous issues of ELEUTHERIA (Vol. I, Nos. 1 & 2, 1989) I had occasion to discuss the problems of accountability in the public funding of research. Whether granting agencies, such as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC) or the Canada Council, should be subject to judicial review and whether there should be substantive appeals with respect to the administrative and adjudicative process of awarding research grants were some of the topics considered.

As part of the overall downsizing of government announced in the February, 1995 budget the SSHRCC has decreed that administrative grants to the Canadian Federation for the Humanities (CFH) and the Social Sciences Federation of Canada (SSFC) will be completely phased out over the next three years along with administrative grants to the various learned societies which are the primary constituents of the federations. At the annual meeting of the CFH in June, during the learned societies conference at the University of Quebec at Montreal, it was decided that steps be taken to combine the CFH and the SSFC into one organization. The disciplines within the SSFC have grown substantially in numbers and in the amount of public funding received in recent decades, while the traditional disciplines of philosophy, history, classics and so on have either stagnated or declined. It can only be assumed that unless stringent safeguards are built into the constitution of the new organization the humanistic disciplines will play a secondary role within it.

About seven years ago I addressed the Board of the CFH on the need to create an endowment fund because at some time in the future, difficult as it may be to determine that time, there will be an inevitable cutback in core funding to the CFH by federal the government. Shortly thereafter the Canadian Foundation for Teaching and Research in the Humanities was incorporated. Little was done, however, to raise sufficient funds to replace, on a permanent basis, a loss in core funding from the government. Now the inevitable has happened and the CFH in all likelihood will lose its autonomy and sense of focus in an organization dominated by neoteric disciplines that are mostly indifferent to theGeisteswissenschaften.

The obvious lesson in this unfortunate turn of events is that freedom of thought and economic independence are interconnected, and the absence of the latter often has overt and subtle consequences for the exercise of the former. The CFH should not amalgamate itself with the SSFC. Rather, it should take its remaining core funding over the next few years along with current reserves and convert the funds into a small, but albeit, untouchable endowment fund upon which it can slowly build future activities. It is far more important to maintain independence and purity of purpose than to seek relevance and recognition in an organization overrun by research agendas that theoretically see themselves as having long since transcended the unscientific musings of philosophers, poets and historians of ideas.

This issue of ELEUTHERIA contains articles by James Lowry and myself on the diverse writings of Alan Bloom, Francis Fukuyama, John Ralston Saul, Ayn Rand and Immanuel Kant. One cannot but be astonished at how two writers, Fukuyama and Rand, can read such utterly different philosophical agendas into German Idealism and its influence on America. For Fukuyama, the United States is the absolute state of which all other states will have to be clones. History has come to a political end and the last man has arrived. In Rand’s optimistic world-view, America has to overcome the knowledge-annihilating and the freedom-negating orientation of German Idealism, as enunciated in Kant and Hegel, in order to achieve a benevolent objectivist philosophy and civil society wherein the good and rationality are upheld by the virtues of independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness and pride. These opposing views demonstrate that the impact of Kant and Hegel on American thought is intricate and wide-ranging.