Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wisdom and the University

My friend Lee Trepanier has just published a review of Sean Steel's The Pursuit of Wisdom and Happiness in Education: Historical Sources and Contemplative Practices
I haven't read Steel's book. But I have been thinking about the relation between universities and wisdom.
Greek philosophy, historically, comes after the first Greek "wise men" and disputes their claims.
Universities were created to check philosophy institutionally by subordinating it to theology, the faculty where divine wisdom was transmitted. It was only in the twentieth century that most universities stopped seeing as their ruling purpose the transmission of Christian knowledge.
Philosophy calls itself "love of wisdom," which means on their own admission they lack it.  Philosophers, when they are true to their vocation, devote themselves to crafting disparaging wise-cracks about those who pretend to wisdom.  Philosophy has a place in the university, but since philosophers are not wise, they cannot rule there.
Universities can only be led by the wise, those who know how to educate because they know how to live.  But Christian wisdom no longer has the social power to rule universities.  Today's academic administrators are virtually without exception not leaders but managers and fundraisers, who substitute flattery for wisdom.

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