Papers from the Boston ICP

Some of the papers from the 13th International Conference on Persons in Boston last year have now been published in Vernon Press’s Series in Philosophy under the title In the Sphere of the Personal: New Perspectives in the Philosophy of Persons. The volume is edited by James Beauregard and Simon Smith, who both first joined the ICP at the 12th meeting at Lund in 2013, and, I am pleased to note, have now become leading forces in the institution that is the ICP. At least one volume of ICP papers have been published in the past, but it was a long time ago; the Lund papers should, as I understood it, have been published by two of the American participants, but this never happened. My friends and colleagues Jim and Simon deserve all credit for reviving ICP proceedings publication and bringing together this valuable volume. They also provide a long introduction, and there is a foreword by Thomas O. Buford, one of the ICP’s founders.


All conference papers are seldom included in volumes like this, which are almost always selections only. Yet it is somewhat surprising that the papers by Ralph Ellis, James McLachlan, and Phillip Ferreira are missing, as is Robert Cummings Neville’s introduction to the closing panel which, as far as I can remember, would have been quite possible to publish in this volume.

In this connection, I should perhaps explain why I declined to have my own paper – which was presented in a plenary session, together with Phillip Ferreira, on idealistic personalism – included. The only reason is that I have decided to discontinue all adademic publication by way of protest against the decision last year of Prof. Thomas Kaiserfeld and Dr Monica Libell in the department of the history of ideas at Lund University that I can no longer teach there because of what they call my ideology – by which they mean my political views – and their public proclamation of this in the biggest daily Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nyheter.

It is not just that this decision left me without any academic institutional affiliation, so that I no longer know how to present myself in connection with publication. More important is the unacceptable reason given by them for this measure taken against me. Except for my writing in this very modest blog, I have in fact withdrawn from all publication, teaching and lecturing because of the appalling things that are suddenly being said or suggested about me here in Sweden by some people who do not approve of my political positions.

It could have been the case that Lund had found someone more competent to take my place, and if so, I would not have protested in the way I now have to do. I never held a formal position in the university, although I taught regularly and for 12 years. Given the almost total political control of the academy in Sweden, and, of course, the nature and substance of that control, it always seemed to me impossible to obtain such a position, and I hardly even tried. I taught only as an adjunct, and very little. In that sense at least, my teaching was not of any importance for the university. My protest concerns only the violation of the principle of academic freedom that Lund’s decision represents as explained by them with regard to its motive, and not least the spectacular public announcement of this motive.

As to what they meant by my ideology, no explanation was given, although it was clear from Dagens Nyheter’s article that they shared its view of what my ideology was, and I had also been privately informed that this was the case. The background of and the reason for Lund’s decision and statement was the attack on me and a few others by the Expo foundation in Sweden published on the website of their magazine in February 2015, an attack which had been referred to and repeated several times by Dagens Nyheter. But Expo has since withdrawn their article (written by Jonathan Leman) under threat of legal action.

It is not only that Expo’s and Dagens Nyheter’s allegations are untrue. The university’s motive and statement about this motive, i.e. about my political positions, are completely unacceptable quite regardless of this. There has, to my knowledge, never been any complaint from either students or colleagues about my teaching, my publications, or any other contributions of mine to the life and work of the university, and none of this has ever been considered to have been unduly influenced by my political views.

Not least Libell’s public statement to Dagens Nyheter – about Kaiserfeld’s decision and motive – means that what we have to do with here is an indefensible political act on their part. I wish to draw attention to this fact, and to insist that this kind of behaviour from professors, department heads and university administrators must not be accepted or tolerated. Their ideology should be rejected, they should not, in their academic capacities, embrace the ideology that is the basis of their action against me, they should be dismissed from the university.

I wish to thank those of my colleagues in the academic community as represented in other countries who have shown support in this new situation, and to thank them also for the kind interest in and great appreciation of my work that they have shown in the past. I may continue to attend the ICP because of my organizational responsibilities there, and perhaps also other conferences, but I will no longer present papers. Funding will be a problem however, since it seems I will now no longer be able to publish anything in any connection which pays (or at least not where I would like to be published), nor receive any research and travel grants.

Whether or not my paper would have added anything of value to the present volume, it seems clear that the papers of the others mentioned above would. But even without them, there are several important ones, not least those contributed by Juan Manuel Burgos who also joined the ICP at Lund, and the ICP veteran Richard Prust. One of the papers on which I was the commentator in Boston is indeed so important that I should devote a separate post to it. Among arguments related to a misleading title, we find Rolf Ahlers discussing recent German scholarship on Jacobi – one of the central figures in my book The Worldview of Personalism – that confirms my own argument about the relation between him and German idealism, and is of considerable importance not only for personalism but for idealism studies.

1 Response to “Papers from the Boston ICP”

  1. 1 Denis Larrivee January 8, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    New retrievals of ancient dismissals. Acts 17:32-33. Sad.

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Jan Olof Bengtsson D.Phil. (Oxon.)



All original writing © Jan Olof Bengtsson
"A Self-realized being cannot help benefiting the world. His very existence is the highest good."
Ramana Maharshi