Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The 6 virtues of scholarship

In his 1992 book The Idea of the University: a re-examination, Jaroslav Pelikan, in his fifth chapter, proposes six personal virtues of university scholarship. Simplistically put:
  1. Free inquiry
  2. Intellectual honesty
  3. Trust in rationality and its processes
  4. Moral imperative to communicate the results of research
  5. Values humanity
  6. Practices discipline
(1) Free inquiry should be unlimited, but free speech is slightly limited, in that it is not OK to maliciously yell "fire" in a lecture theatre and things. 
(2) Universities and scholars must protect academic honesty at all costs: failure to do so on a systemic level will cause the collapse of the university as an idea. 
(3) Rationality - in quite a liberal sense - is seen by Pelikan as the primary, defining characteristic of university-based knowledge. The other types of knowledge: political conviction, religious faith, experience-based wisdom, applied know-how can be a part of university-based knowledge, but rationality is core to it. 
(4) Communication of knowledge affirms a commitment to the protection and continuity of knowledge that has been the core mission of universities forever. 
(5) Valuing humanity applies not only to research ethics, but to the conception of learning and development of a whole person, of teaching as including pastoral care, of tolerance with conviction and civility in discourse as a means of managing inevitable fundamental difference. 
(6) A curious, but valuable leftover of monasticism, discipline and self-denial, Pelikan claims, is a key characteristic in the biographies of great modern scholars. He says that there is a responsibility in the recruitment and training of scholars to "stress the correlation between the fulfillment that comes out of scholarship and the ascetic discipline that goes into it" (p.55)

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