Wolff, The Ideal of the University

“And I for one will break a lance for the theory of the great tradition at least as one element in an undergraduate curriculum. We deal here in matters of intellectual taste, about which there is much disputing, but no deciding. I cannot truthfully claim that men are inevitably spiritually crippled by their unfamiliarity with the great tradition, nor is initiation into its subtleties a precondition for the creation of new works of intellect. Certainly no one of my leftish leanings would see any political merit in a cultural tradition which has so often served as an armory of reaction. There is much to be said for the childlike innocence of those antitraditionalists who, in Michael Oakeshott’s lovely phrase, strive to live each day as though it were their first. Still, I confess that I like a cultivated man or woman, on whom allusion is not lost, in whose discourse there echo earlier voices, one capable of that special sort of irony which comes from the awareness that one’s most precious thoughts have been anticipated.” – Robert Paul Wolff, The Ideal of the University (Boston: Beacon Hill Press, 1969), p. 8

About Huenemann

Curious about the ways humans use their minds and hearts to distract themselves from the meaninglessness of life.
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2 Responses to Wolff, The Ideal of the University

  1. Kleiner says:

    Is this a book worth reading? You may know that the Saint Socrates group will be considering higher education and its ends next term (reading Newman, Bloom, Nussbaum, etc). It is a topic that I think we could repeat, perhaps every term (in the same way that the Koch group is on the same topic each term). Anyway, we are full up on readings for the fall, but this is something we could consider for future terms.


  2. Huenemann says:

    It is a good book, but it is seriously dated; indeed, so dated that the very same argument he gave in 1969 against the development of the university we now have in 2012 is currently used as an argument to defend it against the even worse ones being proposed for our future. So it is curious, and entertaining in a morbid way.


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