The Chief Purpose of Universities: Academic Discourse and the Diversity of Ideas
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Civil societies around the world today are arguably facing existential crises in political, economic, scientific, technological, religious, moral, and environmental spheres, many of which leave them politically divided and torn asunder by conflict. This manuscript makes and elucidates the assumption that universities have a primary role in shaping collective efforts at responding to this situation. The thesis is that the human intellect and the knowledge it produces comprise the primary adaptive mechanism of the human species, that the advancement of knowledge is the key to solving, ameliorating or adapting to the crises, and that the role of the university in advancing knowledge is specifically one that is most fully, clearly, and coherently conceptualized in terms of the post-Darwinian logic of evolutionary adaptation. The idea-variation hypothesis stipulates specifically that the rate of progress and advancement in knowledge throughout society at any time is equal to the variation of ideas at that time, and therefore, given that the aim of universities is to create, preserve, transmit and find new applications for knowledge, the most effective strategy is to conserve the variation of ideas. Accordingly, by protecting the free and open expression of ideas, beliefs, and opinions, universities protect the rights of individuals to seek self-fulfillment and the attainment of truth, to provide for open discussion in legitimate democratic decision-making, and to enable flexibility and adaptation to change. The effects of this include creating the conditions most conducive for endogenous economic development and perpetuating the values of civil society. The key obstacles to progress (the enemies of the university) are idea-vetting systems that effectively keep the state of ideational culture behind the state of technological culture. These include authoritarianism, supernaturalism, corporatism, irrationalism, and political correctness. The nature of these obstacles and their implications for the advancement of knowledge and perpetuation of the values of civil society, are examined. In becoming an institution dedicated explicitly to conscious efforts at conserving the variation of ideas, universities stimulate job growth, enhance careers, improve life after work, and fortify the defense of liberty in society.
Education, Higher— Aims and objectives, Universities and colleges
Bowen, William M. and Schwartz, Michael, "The Chief Purpose of Universities: Academic Discourse and the Diversity of Ideas" (2010). Urban Affairs Books. 20.