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Unformatted text preview: British Journal of Educational Studies, ISSN 0007-1005 DOI number: 10.1111/j.1467-8527.2009.00443.x Vol. 57 , No. 4 , December 2009 , pp 347362 347 2009 The Author Journal compilation 2009 SES. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA. Blackwel Publishing Ltd Oxford, UK BJES British Journal of Educational Studies 0007-1005 1467-8527 Blackwel Publishing Ltd. and SES 2009 XXX ORIGINAL ARTICLE THE VERY IDEA OF A UNIVERSITY THE VERY IDEA OF A UNIVERSITY THE VERY IDEA OF A UNIVERSITY: ARISTOTLE, NEWMAN, AND US by Alasdair MacIntyre , University of Notre Dame, Indiana USA I The case that hostile critics have urged against Newmans The Idea of a University is impressive. J.M. Roberts wrote nearly twenty years ago that it is no longer possible to write a book with such a title ... no general doctrine of universities is possible ( The Idea of a University revisited in Newman after a Hundred Years , edd. Ian Ker and Alan G. Hill, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990, p. 222). And Bill Reddings later argued that Newmans conception of the university curriculum reflected a kind of literary culture that held together diverse specialities in a unity, a type of culture that no longer exists and that it is impossible to recreate ( The University in Ruins , Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996, p. 167). Those two critics could not have been more at odds with each other, Roberts being a distinguished member of the British University establishment, yet the two of them in agreement on Newmans irrelevance. What is held to make Newman irrelevant to the concerns of those now at work in universities are three of his central affirmations, each entailing the denial of a conviction central to the functioning of contemporary universities. So why does that make Newmans claims irrelevant rather than just false? It is because, on the view taken by his critics, it is not only that Newmans idea of a university fails to hold true of contemporary universities, but that anyone who thought that it might hold true would have grossly misunderstood the nature and functioning of the contemporary university. To criticise contem- porary universities from Newmans standpoint would be, on their view, like blaming a jet engine for not having the excellences of a windmill. What then are the three matters on which what Newman says is taken to be at once false and irrelevant? The first is his conception of the unity of knowledge, or more accurately of the unity of under- standing, of how each academic discipline contributes the knowledge of some particular aspect or part of the universe, so that in the THE VERY IDEA OF A UNIVERSITY 348 2009 The Author Journal compilation 2009 SES search for understanding we need to study not only a number of different disciplines physics, physiology, history, literature, mathematics, psychology but also how each of these bears on the others, what...
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This note was uploaded on 02/02/2012 for the course PHIL 203 taught by Professor Errinclark during the Fall '11 term at MO St. Louis.
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