Saturday, September 7, 2013

"the great ordinary means to a great but ordinary end"

"If then a practical end must be assigned to a University course, I say it is that of training good members of society.  Its art is the art of social life, and its end is fitness for the world.  It neither confines its views to particular professions on the one hand, nor creates heroes or inspires genius on the other.  Works indeed of genius fall under no art; heroic minds come under no rule; a University is not a birthplace of poets or of immortal authors, of founders of schools, leaders of colonies, or conquerors of nations.  It does not promise a generation of Aristotles or Newtons, of Napoleons or Washingtons, of Raphaels or Shakespeares, though such miracles of nature it has before now contained within its precincts.  Nor is it content on the other hand with forming the critic or the experimentalist, the economist or the engineer, though such too it includes within its scope.  But a University training is the great ordinary means to a great but ordinary end. . . ."

     John Henry Newman, The idea of a university defined and illustrated, Discourse VII.10 (ed. I. T. Ker (Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1976), 154).
     Note the word "must" in that first sentence.  In the two previous Discources Newman has argued that "Knowledge" (or, rather, the inculcation of the habit of thinking about what one has learned) is "Its Own End" above all (V).
     Note, too, that Newman does not claim that "a University training is the [only] means" to the inculcation of a habit of "Thought or Reason exercised upon Knowledge" (VI.7 (pp. 124-125)).

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