Friday, August 26, 2011

MacIntyre on Philosophy and Universities

Philosophy is in any case a social and not a solitary form of enquiry. It requires a setting in which different and rival answers to philosophical questions can be proposed and objections to each considered in detail, so that such answers may be revised or rejected and such objections themselves subjected to critical scrutiny. And, if the enquiries of philosophy are to be sustained enquiries, as they need to be, they must be continued through different philosophical generations, each of which in turn has to be introduced through teaching to the enquiries and debates that have made philosophical questions what they have become in that particular time and place. Moreover philosophy cannot but draw upon the findings and insights of other disciplines. So that the type of institutionalized setting in which it is most likely to flourish is that of a college or university.

Alasdair MacIntyre, God, Philosophy, Universities. Rowman & Littlefield (New York: 2009) p. 17. The overall profile is right, although I think history shows that colleges and universities oscillate under social pressures between approximating this profile -- social, examining alternative answers, critical scrutiny, recognition of historical features of discussions, interaction among disciplines -- and deviating from it considerably, even setting aside the point MacIntyre goes on to argue, namely, that philosophy can be strongly affected by the principles of unified education on which the college or university bases itself.

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