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Academic Stealth in the Early Cold War

Academic Stealth in the Early Cold War

(p.25) Chapter 1 Academic Stealth in the Early Cold War
The Philosophy Scare
John McCumber
University of Chicago Press

This chapter discusses how the academy, and philosophy in particular, responded to outside pressures with academic “stealth,” i.e. by behaving in ways that look different to outsiders. Since stealth by definition is hard to see, the chapter proceeds via an accumulation of four cases. In three of these, pressures came from conservative religion. Fearful that atheism (or naturalism) be taught in philosophy departments, religious conservatives protested and may have stopped the 1947 appointment of Max Otto, a well known atheist, to a distinguished visiting professorship at UCLA; UCLA provost Clarence Dykstra played an enigmatic role in this. Pressures to avoid the teaching of existentialism, associated with the famous atheists Beauvoir and Sartre, led to notably careful descriptions, in UCLA’s General Catalogue, of the courses taught by existentialist Hans Meyerhoff, hired in 1948. And in 1953, UCLA Dean Paul Dodd attempted to get the philosophy department to hire a non-naturalist, a move the department did not oppose but apparently sabotaged in “stealthy” ways. Finally, Hugh Miller, a “non-signer” during the California Oath Controversy, was cleared in ways that avoided mentioning his favorable comments, some years before, about the Soviet Union. These cases, then, indicate an overall pattern of academic stealth.

Keywords:   religion, pragmatism, naturalism, California Oath Controversy, Paul Dodd, Clarence Dykstra, Hans Meyerhoff, Hugh Miller, Max Otto

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