The Thoughtful University: A Feasible Utopia

In: Beijing International Review of Education
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  • 1 Emeritus Professor, University College London, Institute of Education

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Philosophers have long made allegations of a thoughtlessness in the world and, in the wake of their charges, critiques of thoughtlessness on the part of the university have also been made. Explanations for such thoughtlessness are rooted in both exogenous and endogenous sources. Thinking has not been vanquished entirely from the university but rather a malign thoughtlessness has descended on it. Drawing especially on Bhaskar’s Critical Realism, a conception of the thinking university is proffered here that both recognizes the deep structures at work and opens a sense of the university as an agent. Four criteria of university thoughtfulness are proposed. The prospects for such a cognitive culture emerging are explored, two phenomena being identified; first, that the social ontology of the university is widening and second, that contra postmodernism, universals associated with the university are increasing. Further, the constellation of reason has been displaced by the constellation of utility but a new constellation is struggling to emerge, which is calling for thought on the part of the university, namely the constellation of otherness. The thinking university is, therefore, a feasible utopia, its legitimacy standing up to the rigorous scrutiny of six conditions of adequacy. The thinking university is already living in the real world.

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