Whose Science? Whose Freedom? Mapping the Debates about Academic Freedom
In the heated debates about academic freedom in Germany, participants rarely take the time to specify their conceptions of “academic freedom.” When asked, they frequently rely on the legal conception of academic freedom, referring to §5 of the German constitution. Implicitly invoking a legal conception of academic freedom is especially popular in assessing examples of so-called “cancel culture” or “political correctness.” Yet quite often, these examples cannot be interpreted to violate academic freedom in the narrow legal sense. Thus, the prevalent notion of academic freedom seems to be a broader conception than the legal one. In the talk, the contours of such a conception will be sketched by thinking through two requirements for any conception of academic freedom: It must have a realistic account of the scientific practices it aims to protect, and it must use a conception of freedom applicable to the activities of the researchers working in these practices. Making explicit this broader conception of academic freedom has serious implications for our debates because it shifts our perspective on the most prevalent threats to academic freedom.