Monday, June 28, 2004

Intellectual Orthodoxy and Heresy in the University

At one university incoming undergraduate students are invited or expected to take part in discussions about the relationship between consumption and poverty. The tone of the invitation issued to the incoming students makes it fairly clear (to me) that the students who participate in these discussions will be led to question the uprightness of modern American consumerist society.

I am all in favor of ethical analysis in the university. But I'm much less in favor of hortatory ethical instruction in the university. I am also opposed to prejudging answers to (ostensible) questions that do not have a self-evident answers.

Value-free analysis of political, social, legal, ethical, and moral questions may well be impossible. But doesn't it still make sense to try to create an academic atmosphere that encourages free inquiry, an atmosphere that does not frown on heretical conclusions?

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