10 January 2014

The morality of Professor C D Broad

text of a letter to an academic

Throughout my life my problems have all arisen from the same cause: the hostility of the increasingly dominant socialist ideology to exceptional ability, in fact to anything that may be regarded as ‘superiority’.

Dame Janet Vaughan, the Principal of Somerville College, was a rabid atheist egalitarian socialist and very hostile to me. Practically the first thing you were told about her on arriving at Somerville was that she was an atheist. At that time (in the early 1950s) this was slightly shocking, and it was certainly unusual for a person in a position of responsibility to assert it so ostentatiously. I remember a mature middle-class lady, not an undergraduate, sounding as if it was regrettable, saying that she thought it was nicer to know that the Principals of colleges were Christians, presumably because she thought this might guarantee their benevolence towards their students.

Dame Janet was very avant-garde. To that extent that you can say that my problems in life were made worse by my being a woman, because probably at that time the Masters of most men’s colleges were officially Christian and more old-fashioned in outlook. The head of a men’s college would probably have been a bit more tolerant towards someone arriving at their college with a need to do things in a way that could alleviate, rather than exacerbate, the problems which arose from their previous maltreatment by the educational system.

C.D. Broad
The attitudes of society in this country have been getting worse all the time throughout my life, both before and after I arrived at Somerville. One of the influential academics on the circuit of the Society for Psychical Research was Professor C.D. Broad, who managed to prevent any financial relief getting to me through the siege blockade.

Of course, you may say, as no doubt they all hoped that I would say: I have no hope at all, since all these people are part of the same monolithic academic system, so I should give up and do something else.

But in fact my internal determinants were and are too strong, and I could only go on aiming at the same sort of life doing the same sort of things, because what had made me aware of my need for that in the first place had been my internal determinants, rather than the fact that there seemed to be a straightforward and effortless way of getting it. So if it now appeared that the way to it was not open, but firmly blocked, I still could not give up trying to get it.

I am still working towards the life I need, one in which I have a socially statusful and well-salaried academic position, which would provide me with the hotel environment and intellectual activity which I need for my well-being.

When Sally Adams and Margaret Eastman (both Oxford graduates) joined my research organisation, I was hopeful that one or other of them would be eligible for the Perrott Studentship associated with Trinity College Cambridge, which I had held some time earlier. It seemed likely such an application would be successful since there appeared to be no other possible candidates wanting to do research in this area. We could certainly have done with the money.

I was shocked when the Electors decided to award the studentship to Professor Broad (himself one of the Electors), apparently without even advertising it, for the purpose of writing and delivering some lectures on the subject – later published in book form as Lectures on Psychical Research. As far as I am aware, the conditions of the Studentship stipulated that the money should be applied to original research likely to further knowledge about putative paranormal phenomena, but Broad’s lectures were in the nature of philosophical musings.

Although I never saw the Trust Deed myself, I was certainly under the impression that the Perrott Studentship was intended to support people who could not support themselves, thereby making it possible for them to do research.

Although this cannot be proved, I would not be surprised if the award to Broad was made to ensure that the only official British source of finance for the subject would not be available to me. Professor Broad certainly did not need the (relatively meagre) amount of money doled out, being already well set-up and provided with a college environment.

Broad was a ‘moral philosopher’. Perhaps that means that, like other moral philosophers, his work was really aimed at destroying capitalism (and with it any possibility of individual freedom) and at promoting some version of global communism.

‘The philosophy department of my unrecognised university would, if financed to do so, be publishing criticisms of current work in moral philosophy, pointing out its unexamined assumptions and implications.’ Celia Green, DPhil

‘We hereby apply for financial support on a scale at least adequate for one active and fully financed research department. We make this appeal to all universities, corporations and individuals who consider themselves to be in a position to give support to socially recognised academic establishments.’ Charles McCreery, DPhil