Sidney Hook

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Sidney Hook (1902-1989) was an American philosopher and anti-communist activist. He was born in New York City, graduated from City College (B.S., 1923), gained a Ph.D. Columbia Univ., 1927. He taught at New York Univ. (1927–72) and was head of its philosophy department two decades for over two decades.(1948–69). Originally a Marxist, Hook later became disenchanted with Marxism and became active in anti-Communist causes. On his retirement he become senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University (1973-89).

Contents

On Academic Freedom

The University Centers for Rational Alternatives (UCRA) was set up in 1968 by Sidney Hook, Miro Todorovich and others in response to the rise of student radicalism in the late 1960s.[1] UCRA argued that the student radicalism of the late 1960s represented a new 'Mcarthyism of the left'.[2] The group continued to exist into the 1990s even after Hook died in 1989, receiving funds between at least 1988 and 1994 from two of the most important conservative foundations (John M. Olin Foundation and The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.[3])

Hook himself wrote widely on the issue of academic freedom including his Academic Freedom and Academic Anarchy, published in 1969.[4] He returned to the topic regularly as well as writing extensively on threats to 'democratic practice' and the 'free society'.[5][6]

Hook defended the notion of academic freedom in its specific context. For him the 'mission' of the university was defined 'in terms of the pursuit of intellectual ends - discovery, clarification, criticism, aimed at reaching the various modes of truth.'[7] The search for truth is, writes Hook, the 'traditional objective of scholarship'.[7] 'In my view of academic freedom', wrote Hook 'any qualified teacher has the freedom to say or write or advocate' a contrary view about the University, 'but if he were to act on it and subordinate his teaching and research not to the controls of scholarship and evidence, he would be in violation of the duties and responsibilities of academic freedom'.[8] In such circumstances the offender 'should be held to account by their faculty peers'.[8]

This view was most forcefully expressed in the title of his 1953 book for the American Committee for Cultural Freedom: Heresy, Yes. Conspiracy, No. It can be argued that, although Hook was a critic of some aspects of McCarthyism, that this is a recipe for a McCarthyite witch-hunt of dissent. Ellen Schrecker, for example writes that 'cold war liberals like Sidney Hook, Irving Kristol, and Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who deplored the excesses of the crusade but supported its underlying goals.'[9] This groups writing, claims Schrecker, 'constituted the McCarthy era's most authoritative intellectual justification for invoking sanctions against Communists and their allies'.[9]

Along with rights went responsibilities he noted. 'The faculty which extends its protection to its members who exercise their right to academic freedom must also be prepared to discipline those who violate the duties and responsibilities of academic freedom'.[10]

Hook argued that students must be made 'aware of the existence of conflicting claims; they must hear the other side; they must hear the criticism of the nonsense about the Nazification of American culture by the apologists for Gorbachev, Castro and Ortega, and their similars'.[11] This approach which valorises the empirical testing of claims is unexceptional, though it is perhaps not clear that Hook's description of the opposition is accurate. Nor is it easy to take seriously the implied claim that his own description of the two sides of the debate is somehow 'balanced'.

Hook's views on academic freedom were, of course, strongly contested by other academics. Thus for example, back in 1970, the chair of the philosophy department at Colorado, Berel Lang, noted that:

In his summer visits to the University, where he warms the ghost of the Cold War at an Institute which seems to have no other purpose, Hook has aligned himself with a group of men and a current of opinion which would willingly bring the University to the end of the Lehr- and Lernfreiheit which he piously extolls. So far as Colorado is concerned, he (and they) are much more immediately a danger than the SDS in its wildest dreams hoped to be.[12]

Anti-communist activism

In 1939 Hook set up the Committee for Cultural Freedom

to protest 'totalitarian' - meaning communist as well as fascist - 'acts of cultural dictatorship'.[13]

The Committee was supported by non-communist left periodicals such as the Partisan Review and Sol Levitas's New Leader.[14]

In 1951, Hook would go on to become chairman of the similarly named American Committee for Cultural Freedom, a national section of the CIA-backed Congress for Cultural Freedom.

Affiliations

Publications and resources

Publications

Books

His opinions on American life were expressed in such works as Heresy Yes, Conspiracy No (1953),, and Academic Freedom and Academic Anarchy (1970).

  • 1927, The Metaphysics of Pragmatism, Chicago: Open Court Pub. Co.
  • 1933, Toward the Understanding of Karl Marx: A Revolutionary Interpretation, New York: John Day Co.
  • 1934 (ed.), The Meaning of Marx [Symposium by Bertrand Russell, John Dewey, Morris R. Cohen, Sherwood Eddy, and Sidney Hook], New York: Farrar and Rinehart.
  • 1936, From Hegel to Marx: Studies in the Intellectual Development of Karl Marx, New York: John Day Co.
  • 1939, John Dewey: An Intellectual Portrait, New York: John Day Co.
  • 1943, The Hero in History, New York: John Day Co.
  • 1946, Education for Modern Man, New York: Dial Press.
  • 1952, Heresy, Yes – Conspiracy, No, New York: American Committee for Cultural Freedom.
  • 1955 Marx and the Marxists, Princeton, New Jersey: D Van Nostrand Company.
  • 1957 Common Sense and the Fifth Amendment
  • 1960 'Pragmatism and the Tragic Sense of Life', Commentary 30 (1960), pp 139-149.
  • 1961 The Quest for ‘Being,’ New York: St. Martin's Press.
  • 1962 Paradoxes of Freedom, Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • 1968 The Place of Religion in a Free Society
  • 1969 Academic Freedom and Academic Anarchy, New York: Cowles Book Company.
  • 1973 Education and the Taming of Power, La Salle, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Company.
  • 1975 Revolution, Reform and Social Justice: Studies in the theory and practice of Marxism, Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
  • 1975, Paul Kurtz and Miro Todorovich (ed.), The Philosophy of the Curriculum, Buffalo: Prometheus Books.
  • 1987, Out of Step: An Unquiet Life in the 20th Century, New York: Harper & Row.[17]
  • 2002 Sidney Hook on Pragmatism, Democracy and Freedom: The Essential Essays, Edited by Robert B. Talisse and Robert Tempio, Amherst: New York: Prometheus Books.

Articles

  • Sidney Hook, 'Academic Freedom and the Rights of Students' in Michael V. Miller and Susan Gilmore, eds., Revolution at Berkeley (1965), pp. 32-41.
  • Sidney Hook 'Academic Freedom and Professional Responsibilities', in pp. 117-124.
  • Hook, S. (1986) ‘The principles and problems of academic freedom’, Contemporary Education, 58(1), Fall:6-12.

Writing on Hook

  • Capaldi, Nicholas, 1983, 'Sidney Hook: A Personal Portrait,' in Kurtz 1983, pp. 17-27.
  • Cotter, Matthew J. (ed.), 2004, Sidney Hook Reconsidered, Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books.
  • Julius Falk & Gordon Haskell 'Civil Liberties and the Philosopher of the Cold War (Part 1)' New International, Vol.19 No.4, July-August 1953, pp.184-227.
  • Julius Falk & Gordon Haskell 'Civil Liberties and the Philosopher of the Cold War (Part 2)' New International, Vol.19 No.4, July-August 1953, pp.184-227.
  • Konvitz, Milton R., 1983, 'Sidney Hook: Philosopher of the Moral-Critical Intelligence,' in Kurtz 1983, pp. 3-6.
  • Kristol, Irving, “Life with Sidney: A Memoir,” in Kurtz 1983.
  • Kurtz, Paul (ed.), 1968, Sidney Hook and the Contemporary World, New York: John Day and Co.
  • Kurtz, Paul (ed.), 1983, Sidney Hook: Philosopher of Democracy and Humanism, Buffalo: Prometheus Books.
  • Kurtz, Paul, 1983a, 'Preface: The Impact of Sidney Hook in the Twentieth Century,' in Kurtz 1983.
  • Tom Milton Sidney Hook’s Heresy, Yes – Conspiracy, No Fourth International, Vol.14 No.3, May-June 1953, pp.78-80. Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
  • Morrison, M. (Pseudonym for Meyer Shapiro), “Sidney Hook's Attack on Trotskyism,” Fourth International, Volume 4, Number 7 (1943).
  • Phelps, Christopher, 1962, Foreword to Sidney Hook, From Hegel to Marx: Studies in the Intellectual Development of Karl Marx, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, pp. 1-11.
  • Phelps, Christopher, 1997, Young Sidney Hook: Marxist and Pragmatist, Ithaca: University of Cornell.
  • Postel, Danny, “Sidney Hook, an Intellectual Street Fighter, Reconsidered,” The Chronicle of Higher Education Volume 49, Number 11 (2002).[18]
  • Ryan, Alan, 2002, 'Foreword' to Sidney Hook, Sidney Hook on Pragmatism, Democracy, and Freedom: The Essential Essays, (Robert B. Talisse and Robert Tempio (eds.), Amherst: Prometheus Books, pp. 9-10.
  • Sidorsky, David, 2003, 'Charting the Intellectual Career of Sidney Hook: Five Major Steps' in Partisan Review, Volume 70, Number 2, pp. 324-342.

Resources

Biographical Resources

Research resources

Notes

  1. UNIVERSITY CENTERS FOR RATIONAL ALTERNATIVES INC, New York Times, 17-January-1972, Page 30; Column 3,
  2. cited in Noam Chomsky, In Defense of the Student Movement, Chomsky.net, 1971, Accessed 27-February-2010
  3. Recipient Grants, University Centers for Rational Alternatives, Media Transparency, Accessed 27-February-2010
  4. Hook, Sidney (1969) Academic Freedom and Academic Anarchy, New York: Cowles Book Company.
  5. Sidney Hook 1973 Education and the Taming of Power, La Salle, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Company.
  6. Hook, S. (1986) ‘The principles and problems of academic freedom’, Contemporary Education, 58(1), Fall:6-12.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hook, S. (1986) ‘The principles and problems of academic freedom’, Contemporary Education, 58(1), Fall:6-12. Republished in Sidney Hook on Pragmatism, Democracy and Freedom: The Essential Essays, Edited by Robert B. Talisse and Robert Tempio, Amherst: New York: Prometheus Books, 2002, p. 409.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Hook, S. (1986) ‘The principles and problems of academic freedom’, Contemporary Education, 58(1), Fall:6-12. Republished in Sidney Hook on Pragmatism, Democracy and Freedom: The Essential Essays, Edited by Robert B. Talisse and Robert Tempio, Amherst: New York: Prometheus Books, 2002, p. 410.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Schrecker, Ellen (2002). The Age of McCarthyism: A Brief History with Documents, Second Edition. Bedford , St. Martin's. p. 262.
  10. Hook, S. (1986) ‘The principles and problems of academic freedom’, Contemporary Education, 58(1), Fall:6-12. Republished in Sidney Hook on Pragmatism, Democracy and Freedom: The Essential Essays, Edited by Robert B. Talisse and Robert Tempio, Amherst: New York: Prometheus Books, 2002, p. 407.
  11. Emphasis in original: Hook, S. (1986) ‘The principles and problems of academic freedom’, Contemporary Education, 58(1), Fall:6-12. Republished in Sidney Hook on Pragmatism, Democracy and Freedom: The Essential Essays, Edited by Robert B. Talisse and Robert Tempio, Amherst: New York: Prometheus Books, 2002, p. 412-3.
  12. Berel Lang, Exchange on Sidney Hook, New York Review of Books, MAY 7, 1970
  13. The CIA, the British Left and the Cold War: Calling the Tune? by Hugh Wilford, Frank Cass, 2003, p9.
  14. The CIA, the British Left and the Cold War: Calling the Tune? by Hugh Wilford, Frank Cass, 2003, p125.
  15. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Sidney Hook First published Thu May 8, 2008, accessed 1 August 2010
  16. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Sidney Hook First published Thu May 8, 2008, accessed 1 August 2010
  17. List adapted from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Sidney Hook First published Thu May 8, 2008, accessed 1 August 2010
  18. List adapted from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Sidney Hook First published Thu May 8, 2008, accessed 1 August 2010
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