Arthur Lovejoy (1873-1962) was a great historian of ideas and an important philosopher in the US ranking second to John Dewey between the wars. In 1913 Lovejoy raised a protest at the dismissal of an economist from Stanford because the wife of the President objected to his ideas about economic reform.
This led to the American Association of University Professors founded in 1915 to promote and protect academic freedom and shared governance in institutions of higher learning, to ensure the economic security of those engaged in teaching and research at colleges and universities, and to define and promote professional values and standards for higher education in the United States.
He argued that the faculty should be a professional association and should not organize like a trade union or affiliate with the trade union movement.
His 1933 speech to the Baltimore branch of the American Jewish Congress on the threat of Hitler is prescient, and he was highly engaged as well in discussions about peace and the prospects for Europe following World War II. His position on communism after the war remains controversial, as he argued that membership in the communist party was incompatible with the duties of a University professor.
This is his defence of the contention that there are cogent reasons against admitting members of the Communist Party in America to university faculties.
1. Freedom of inquiry, of opinion, and of teaching in universities is a prerequisite, if the academic scholar is to perform the function proper to his profession.
2. The Communist Party in the United States is an organization whose aim is to bring about the establishment in this country of a political as well as an economic system essentially similar to that which now exists in the Soviet Union.
3. That system does not permit freedom of inquiry, of opinion, and of teaching, either in or outside of universities; in it the political government claims and exercises the right to dictate to scholars what conclusions they must accept, or at least profess to accept, even on questions lying within their own specialties – for example, in philosophy, in history, in aesthetics and literary criticism, in economics, in biology.
4. A member of the Communist Party is therefore engaged in a movement which has already extinguished academic freedom in many countries and would – if it were successful here – result in the abolition of such freedom in American universities. 5. No one, therefore, who desires to maintain academic freedom in America can consistently favor that movement, or give in- direct assistance to it by accepting as fit members of the faculties of universities, persons who have voluntarily adhered to an organization one of whose aims is to abolish academic freedom.
The broad question is – What are the limits of freedom and tolerance in a free society, can we tolerate the activities of people who are sawing the branch we are sitting on? And when there are more of them than us, what do we do about it?