Harry D. Gideonse, The Higher Learning in a Democracy, 1937


Published in The Higher Learning in a Democracy: A Reply to President Hutchins' Critique of the American University (New York, Toronto: Farrar & Rinehart, 1937). Chapter reprinted in Harry D. Gideonse, Against the Running Tide: Selected Essays on Education and the Free Society (New York: Twayne, 1967).

In the destruction of political, economic and intellectual freedom in the totalitarian countries of Europe, the universities were early victims of the forces that contrasted the "confusion" and the "chaos" of freedom with the "order" of the dictatorships. Similarly, in the defense of a free society in America, education has become a battleground for those who think of the school as an instrument of public policy and for those who regard it as an institution for the development of the potentialities of our youth and for the unfettered pursuit of knowledge.

Vested interests of diverse descriptions have sought to impose upon our educational institutions their own particular pedagogic nostrums. Some professional educators have deserted the traditional search for objectivity in which they claim to see a mask for the perpetuation of the status quo. They have quite deliberately sought harmony and order by the choice either of a collectivist frame of reference or of a set of metaphysical principles within which experience would be systematically ordered. Upsetting questions about the postulates, implied in the choice of the framework, have been conveniently overlooked by both groups.1

To this controversy Abraham Flexner and Robert M. Hutchins have contributed a special note by their emphasis on the university and its functions. Mr. Flexner's book, published in 1930, can be summarized in one of its sentences: "No sound or consistent philosophy, thesis, or principle lies beneath the American university of today."2

Mr. Hutchins' more recent volumes -- No Friendly Voice (1936) and The Higher Learning in America (1936) -- have an essentially similar thesis. While Mr. Flexner's familiarity with scientific researh gave his volume a significantly different orientaiton in many respects, both authors express essentially the same criticism of the dilution of course material, the exaggeration of athletics, the surrender to current pressures and vocational fads, and the conception of the college as a place where a student may advance himself socially. We even find the same witty remarks about educational research concerning the functions of janitors in school buildings and -- more disconcertingly -- we find the same reluctance to give a clear picture of the principles of philosophy (Flexner) or metaphysics (Hutchins) which will serve us in bringing order to "the chaos that we mistake for liberty."3

American education is, for a fact, critically in need of a searching scrutiny of its ends as well as its means. No one should resent informed and constructive criticism of institutions that have developed with amazing speed in a hit-or-miss fashion to meet a large variety of needs and pressures. Unfortunately, however, these recent criticisms have tended to confuse rather than to clarify the essential issues.

It is possible to agree with a great many of the specific criticisms of Flexner and Hutchins and still be thoroughly dissatisfied with their proposed solutions. They failed to recognize the forces that led to present conditions, and to supply specific evidence of the direction in which reorientation should take place. In the writings of both these critics the question that presses is the question that is begged: How find a metaphysics, if there be one, which will remedy rather than intensify prevailing "confusion"? It may be true that no consistent philosophy or metaphysics "lies beneath the American university of today." It would be more significant to inquire how much more consistency a country's educational institutions can have than the society in which they exist. It would be an even greater contribution to suggest -- if only for discusion -- the specific character of the metaphysical principles which would bring "rational order" out of our free "chaos." The plea that the entire structure of higher education should be recast to accord with some set of metaphysical principles turns upon the nature and acceptability of those principles. To write volumes in support of the thesis that there should be a unifying philosophy; without specific indication of the type of unity or of philosophy, is to miss the essential problem underlying the modern dilemma.

If the higher learning is to be unified, is the unity to be voluntary or mandatory? If the unity is to be voluntary, must it not be developed within the community of scholars and based upon the multiplicity of contemporary data and methods of attaining insight? If the unity is to spring from agreement, will it be the fruit of "the single-minded pursuit of the intellectual virtues"? or will it be derived from a new stress on human values? And if the unity is to be mandatory, rather than voluntary, who will choose the philosophy that is to be imposed from above? Is there not acute danger that the "clarity" of the unifying metaphysical principles will be achieved by sacrificing a multitude of contemporary methods of acquiring knowledge and insight?

American scholars and scientists are not unaware of these intelIectual problems. Our best educational institutions are today experimenting with a wide variety of departures from traditional objectives and procedures. There is little or no mention of this vigorous self-criticism in The Higher Learning in America. Hutchins own criticism of the confusion that has arisen as a result of the freedom of selection, which President Eliot's generation used as the most effective weapon against the rigidity of the traditional college curriculum is a college administrator's reflection of a broad movement that has been visible in our leading colleges since the war. With the abandonment of the classical kernel of the academic curriculum, we have witnessed a variety of efforts to devise a curriculum based upon a defensible discipline. The new plan in the college at the University of Chicago is one such attempt to substitute a twentieth-century cosmos for the chaos that has arisen as the unplanned result of our rebellion against the traditional curriculum.

Mr. Hutchins' administrative office at the University of Chicago might easily lead -- and has led -- into a confusion of his personal views on this subject with the actual program now pursued at the University of Chicago. To correct such misapprehensions, this contribution to the discussion of the issue particularly stresses the comparison of the current program at the University of Chicago with the proposals its president has submitted for discussions in his two volumes. The following pages will deal first with the general intellectual orientation of Mr. Hutchins' criticicism, then with the college and general education on the one: hand and the university, research, and professional training on the other hand, while a concluding section will once again return to the fundamental principles involved in the entire discussion.


The heart of Mr. Hutchins' indictment of the higher learning in America lies in the charge of "confusion," "chaos," or "disorder." The essence of his proposal for change is a plea for a return to a rationally ordered unity to be achieved by restoring the primacy of "metaphysics" in the curriculum.

No doubt is permissible as to the negative side of the proposed curriculum. With the exception of mathematics (as taught by Euclid) and of a few classics such as Aristotle's Physics and Newton's Principia, science is conspicuously absent in the college and subordinated to metaphysics in the university. In the university program the natural sciences, the social sciences, and even th professions are to get their first principles from metaphysics recent "observations" being introduced to "illustrate, exemplify, or to confirm these principles" (HL, 108).5 Education is to be called back to the Great Tradition, to the "fundamental principles of rational thought." It is explicitly held that "the false starts, the backing and filling, the wildness, the hysteria, the confusion of modern thought and the modern world result from the loss of what has been thought and done by earlier ages" (HL, 79). The sores of modern education, and through it the sores of the modern world, are to be healed by contact with the science of first principles, metaphysics.

But what metaphysics? Here again only the negative side of Mr. Hutchins' argument is clear. He explicitly repudiates the Cartesian tradition. He completely neglects modern logic and modern philosophy. His only suggestion of a positive answer is in the form of constant reference to the writings of Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas. It is true that he often refers favorably to Euclid, Galen, Galileo, and Newton, but in general he approves of the sciences only in so far as they carry on an ancient heritage: "Contemporary physical and biological research inherited the analytical procedures which, combined with observation, constitute a science; and to a great extent the heritage has been fruitful." By a process of elimination many readers and most reviewers have come to the conclusion that the heritage in question is the Platonic-Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition. This is precisely the tradition from which modern science progressively freed itself. Is this the metaphysics which is to be used as the core of the higher education and the norm for the contemporary world?

It may be that Mr. Hutchins' objectives are compatible with a variety of methods, but it is highly questionable whether for the modern world a reversion to the older metaphysics is either feasible, desirable, or necessary. In the course of the last few centuries the scientific approach has been gaining acceptance as the guiding principle for the intellectual activities of Western man. While it may be argued on various grounds that science is not an unmixed blessing, it can hardly be blamed for all our ills, and we cannot repudiate science without repudiating in the same breath our confidence in knowledge and in human reason. Nor is science without its own techniques of rational analysis; indeed, it had to develop its own techniques precisely because of the inadequacies of the inherited metaphysics. Science stresses generalization, logical analysis, and systematization, but it insists that every analysis, every generalization, every systematization be held subject to revision whenever new data seem to warrant it. Thus scientific principles are necessarily formed in the presence of empirical data and, however much they are developed by logical analysis, they are never removed from the control of new data. The Great Tradition in metaphysics, to which Mr. Hutchins seeks to recall the modern university, seemed to hold that after confrontation with a certain amount of data it could reach first principles which were absolute and subject to no further modification. And so, under the emotional seduction of having achieved absolute truth, an early and in itself noble stage of thought came to be considered the final stage of thought.

The claim to have isolated immutable ideas and indubitable first principles has not fared well in the history of thought. Absolutism -- as Santayana said in the concluding sentence of The Genteel Tradition at Bay -- "Smells of fustiness as well as faggots." The endless disputes between metaphysicians and the vagueness of the terms "metaphysics" and "firsy principles" do not produce confidence in such claims. Scientists have tried to rescue the eager and flexible mind of Aristotle from the dogmatic immbilization of that mind by the Aristotelians. Galileo's words are notable in this connection:

Do you question whether Aristotle, had he but seen the new discoveries in heaven, would not. have changed his opinions, amended his books, and embraced the more sensible doctrine, rejecting those silly gulls who go about so timidly to defend whatever he has said? Do those defenders consider that, if Aristotle were such a one as they fancy him to themselves, he would be a man of an untractable wit, an obstinate mind, a barbarous soul, a stubborn will, who, accounting all other men as silly sheep, would have his oracles preferred before the senses, before experience, and before Natuire herself? It is the spectators of Aristotle that have given him this authority and not he who has usurped or taken it upon himself.6

Newton's words in the Optics came to represent the judgment of science upon the traditional metaphysics of form and matter:

[Substantial forms and] . . . occult qualities puts a stop to the improvement of natural philosophy, and therefore of late years have been rejected. To tell us that every species of things is endowed with an occult specific quality by which it acts and produces manifest effects, is to tell us nothing.7
The traditional logic, which became intertwined with metaphysical 'first' principles, proved to 'be inadequate to the demands of science for a logic of relations; it was found to harbor contradictions fatal to the development of mathematics; the whole logic of probability and' inducition which science needed had to be erected -- and in its development it was found that scientific method did not even have to assume the uniformity of nature which the metaphysician had laid down as a first principle. At present the traditional logic has become only a special case of a much vaster domain of logic. An increasing demand for rigor showed the logical gaps in Euclid, and the development of the non-Euclidean geometries finally removed all justification for the claim that Euclidean geometry had any privileged relation to existence. By the time of Newton, in fact, mathematics was no longer regarded as a special method of obtaining knowledge of nature; instead of being a rival to the method of obtaining knowledge by generalization from observations it had passed to the status of being an instrument used by science in knowing the observed world.

Parallel to these developments, the principles of Aristotelian physics had in the hands of Galileo proved to be inadequate, the Ptolemaic astronomy had as the result of the work of Copernicus outlived its usefulness, the anatomy and physiology of Galen had been vanquished by Vesalius and Harvey, alchemy and astrology had gone with the Aristotelian cosmology upon which they had been based, the four-elements, and four-humour theories of the Greeks had been discarded as bases for chemistry and medicine, and the advance of biology had shown the development and mutability of the very species which had led the metaphysicians to extol the immutability of forms and ideas. Thus modern science, on the basis of new data and new tools of intelligence, has replaced the old doctrines by new systems of greater generality -- and so the process continues. In modern science confidence in methods has taken the place of confidence in the results obtained at any particular time by the use of any particular methods. The same Whitehead who formulated the scientific temper in the motto,"Seek simplicity -- but distrust it" has also warned us that the ultimate anti-intellectualism is the enthronement as final of any particular stage of rational inquiry.

In the light of this intellectual history, Mr. Hutchins seems to many persons to have selected out of man's rich intellectual heritage one metaphysical tradition as the standard, and to have designed his program for higher education so as to inculcate this system of metaphysics. Those who do not accept this simplification of intellectual history may feel that all the major defects of Mr. Hutchins' proposals stem from his apparent selection of certain stages of human thinking as final, for the general description of his proposed college and university curriculum is determined by this selection.

We shall return to this fundamental question of the orientation of Mr. Hutchins' criticism in a general fashion in the concluding part of this discussion, but this brief introductory treatment seemed desirable because the orientation of the program is alien to the dominant tradition of American educational philosophy, and because most of the concepts involved in the specific criticism; and proposals derive their meaning from the philosophical framework in which they are set. Mr. Hutchins may disavow any intent to propound such a philosophic framework, but it is difficult to see how so many readers and reviewers have so uniformly misinterpreted his terse and pointed style. Mr. Hutchins has in fact in recent articles8 denied that his proposal imposes an absolutistic system of metaphysics, and that his emphasis neglects science. He has not, however, stated how far he regards himself as misunderstood, nor developed explicitly the change of emphasis which these denials seem to involve. Certainly he cannot then believe that the reading of a few classical scientific books is adequate college training in science. Nor can he continue to stress the importance of past results to the neglect of present day methods as well as results. For the intelligent action which he envisages demands the best knowledge available, and contributions to human culture demand the ability to use the best tools at hand -- and in these respects even general education cannot be the same at all times and all places. Nor if these qualifications and repudiations are seriously meant can he oppose in substance the position which is taken in this essay.

The dominant emphasis, the detailed criticisms, and the educational suggestions which Mr. Hutchins' books present originate from and make sense only within the framework of the traditional metaphysics of rational absolutism. It may well be that their author is changing his emphasis and perhaps to some degree his philosophical position. But until this is explicitly stated and the implications for specific problems are drawn, discussion must center around the larger published presentations of his views. No one would be more delighted than its author if Mr. Hutchins, recognizing in this essay the substance of his views, allays the apprehensions which his own pages have raised. But the fact remains that the misapprehensions -- if misapprehensions they be -- are responsible for the idea that the higher education in America is to forsake the path of science and humanistic concern for a democratic society and to return to the Ivory Tower of absolutistic metaphysics. There are even rumors -- incredible as it may appear -- that the faculty of the University of Chicago, nourished by Scholasticism, is to take the lead in charting this new course for the higher learning. This essay is contributed to the discussion with the purpose of correcting these misapprehensions and rumors.


In Mr. Hutchins' proposals the function assigned to the college is to provide "general education," which -- as he informs us without further argument -- "should be given between the junior year in high school and the end of the sophomore year in college" (HL, 9).9

We have as Mr. Hutchins' specific indication of the general education to be provided during these four years "a course of study consisting of the greatest books of the western world and the arts of reading, writing, thinking and speaking [elsewhere described as 'grammar,' 'rhetoric,' and 'logic'] together with mathematics." It is stated that "all the needs of general education in America seem to be satisfied by this curriculum" (HL, 85) which specifically excludes "body building and character building" (HL, 77) as well as modern science and foreign languages (HL, 82).

It is possible to share Mr. Hutchins' criticisms of athleticism, and still to cherish the classical maxim mens sana in corpore sano. It is possible to agree with Mr. Hutchins in his distrust of the loose talk current in some circles as to character building, and still to feel that it is not the objective that has been at fault but rather the means chosen to attain the end. It is also possible to deprecate with Mr. Hutchins the enormous waste involved in our current methods of language training, and yet to feel that the command of at least one language beside the native tongue is essential to a liberal education. Finally it is possible to share Mr. Hutchins' enthusiasm for the classics, and still to feel it pertinent to remark that modern readers who have never closely examined any of the "excellent translations" (HL, 82) of which Mr. Hutchins speaks so hopefully, might easily fail to realize the difficulty of preserving the fine intellectual edge in translation.

These are matters of varying importance. But the main issue lies elsewhere. The underlying principle of Mr. Hutchins' proposed curriculum is the rationally ordered unity without which all is "confusion," and with which all achieves clarity through pure intellectuality. Perhaps the significance of Mr. Hutchins' proposal is best illustrated by a comparison with the point of view of the College Faculty at the University of Chicago as reflected in some essential paragraphs from a resolution on The Educational Objectives of the College in the University of Chicago, adopted on April 21, 1934, after the present reorganization of the curriculum had been in effect for almost three years.

It will be noted that this program stresses the education of the "whole person," and that it eschews the isolated and exclusive cultivation of the intellect as such. It stresses the understanding and enrichment of "twentieth century life in all its phases," including therefore proper emphasis on the sciences and their dramatic significance to our culture.

The University of Chicago has been characterized by its devotion to research and its sense of responsibility to the community. It has remained far enough from the community to maintain perspective, but near enough to have a sense of the moral and social significance of its work. Its attitude has been at once scientific and humanistic.

The result has been that the University, and especially that part of it which constitutes the College, has sought to deal educationally with the whole person -- with men and women as knowers and doers and appreciators. This concern with the true, the good, and the beautiful points to the University's basic objective: to produce well-rounded men and women, equipped with accurate knowledge and sound methods of investigation and reflection, appreciative of the best that has been produced in the various fieldst of human endeavor, and concerned with the understanding and enrichment of twentieth century human life in all its phases. This threefold expansion of a single aim, to be accomplished by whatever educational means may prove effective, clearly must encorage the initiative, the resourcefulness, and the responsibility of students.

In our judgment, devotion to ideas is incompatible with the cult of Ideas. As Whitehead has written, "A self-satisfied rationalism is in effect a form of anti-rationalism. It means an arbitrary halt at a particular set of abstractions." The ideal of a community of scholars and students recognizable as the University of Chicago is not compatible with that intolerance of liberal, scientific, and democratic attitudes which is characteristic of the anti-intellectual atmosphere of rationalistic absolutism.

For over forty years the University has led a distinguished existence without being officially committed to any single system of metaphysics, psychology, logic, religion, politics, economics, art or scientific method. To follow the reactionary course of accepting one particular system of ancient or medieval metaphysics and dialectic, and to force our whole educational program to conform thereto, would spell disaster. We cannot commit ourselves to such a course.

We are proceeding in the confident belief that a sound general education, consisting in part of intensive traininig, will in itself be an excellent preparation for more specialized work. To this end, the four General Courses (in the physical sciences, the biological sciences, the social sciences and the humanities) are designed to introduce the student to the main fields of knowledge. In a summary and perspective fashion they indicate the types of material, the problems and the methods of approach involved in the study of the physical universe, of the world of living organisms, including man, of human society, and of ideas and ideals and their expression in literature and the arts. To all of this the course in English Composition relates itself closely. A large part of the more intensive training which we regard as an essential part of a general education is provided by the several departmental or divisional sequences available to College students. The College Faculty believes that the program should be continued along its present general lines at least until the results of the program can be evaluated.

A project for the future development of the present program has recently been approved by the faculty. Its most interesting innovation provides for an experimental philosophy course to be staffed by faculty members drawn from the four general fields as well as from the philosophy department. Such an enterprise should grow out of the four general courses, and it will use the concepts and materials that are there presented to the students. Instead of imposing a set of metaphysical principles upon the subject matter, the materials of such a course should grow out of the basic courses and would ultimately react to the advantage of the general courses in so far as any significant synthesis of methods and values emerged from the joint enterprise.

If the general education in the college is to acquaint the individual with the best that men have thought in the various realms of knowledge and to give him an appreciation and understanding of the good, the true, and the beautiful as envisaged by man in all times including our own, it can obviously do so only by selecting from the total store of knowledge certain representative items which of necessity must include much of the thought of our own times. No one could possibly, even in several times four years, assimilate more than a fraction of the history, the art, the science, and the other products of human civilization. Nor could such a general education mean very much to those exposed to it if it confined itself exclusively to the most general ideas. As Kant put it, perception without conception is blind, but conception without perception is empty. The emptiness of the most general ideas and the bewildering accumulation of specific factual knowledge are equally incompatible with a general education. The four years to be spent in general education in the college must therefore aim at the mediation of these two extremes. Other things being equal, the test for deciding the inclusion or exclusion of a given subject matter in the curriculum must be its significance for living the life of our society. Nothing, however, should be included in such a curriculum merely because it has the prestige that comes with antiquity or because it is called a classic.

Apart from esthetic values -- which are clearly not the main value to Mr. Hutchins -- it is hard to see any justification for the central position assigned to the classics in his scheme. In the present College program the student is given an opportunity through two full years to acquaint himself with a large number of literary, scientific, and philosophical masterpieces. In general, the material chosen must be based upon the fullest and most fruitful collection of data. In the natural and social sciences this must -- in the very nature of the case -- generally be material resulting from modern work. Hence there are obvious limitations that govern the use of the classics in college instruction.

The test to be applied to what Mr. Hutchins proposes as general education is therefore not merely the test of the universality and permanent validity of the ideas to be taught but of their significance and relevance. If there is any meaning, as he seems to think, in the statement that the good and the true and the beautiful are the same in all places and in all times, it is still evident that the aspects significant for education vary in time and place.

The present program in the college at the University of Chicago was chosen for comparison simply because of this author's familiarity with its content and its history. It is certainly not perfect and its experimental traits could be matched in other institutions. It is in constant revision in the light of accumulating experience, and the devotion of its faculty to the task guarantees a continued self-criticism. This program is based upon a rejection of the same excesses of elective freedom which Mr. Hutchins criticizes so sharply. In other words, the existence of such critical efforts at reconstruction illustrates the inadequacy of Mr. Hutchins' picture of the higher learning in America because it entirely overlooks such major efforts within the American system to overcome the difficulties that have arisen. We believe that Mr. Hutchins is under obligation to deal with such programs and to deal with them in specific detail.10 This he has not done thus far in his writings, at least with reference to the specific content of the curriculum now offered, except to state that the reading and discussion of a number of books mostly consisting of the so-called classics is a method of acquiring a general education superior to the reading and analysis of modern work. Assuming that average students could profitably read the writings Mr. Hutchins suggests, assuming furthermore that they could acquire enough knowledge about the times and circumstances under which these writings were produced to comprehend their meaning, it is still his obligation to show that these materials have a prior claim on the students' time in comparison with other subject matter. He must still demonstrate that more time should be spent upon them than is now being spent in the present college program. Examination of the content of the courses in the college will reveal how widely inclusive of significant contributions to man's thought the present materials are.

Our modern conception of education is not separate and distinct from knowledge of any particulars. General knowledge is valid only in so far as we have valid particular knowledge upon which to base it, and vice versa. General ideas are constantly being changed by the discovery of particular notions, in the light of which they have to be modified, and while there are certain rules for discovering and testing truths which have a broad or even universal validity, reasoning calls for assessment of ideas in the face of data and experience, and its conclusions must constantly be tested in the light of results.


While the "college," according to President Hutchins' proposal, has the function of serving a general education, the "university" is concerned with the higher learning. Since the higher learning is contrasted with general education, it might be assumed that it is to be concerned with special education. This however, appears not to be the case. The higher learning in the university, corresponding chronologically to what are now called the junior and senior years and the first year of graduate study, would, in Mr. Hutchins' plan, consist exclusively of the following studies (HL, 108):

1. "Metaphysics, the study of first principles" and "also all that follows from it, about the principles of change in the physical world, which is the philosophy of nature, and about the analysis of man and his productions in the fine arts including literature" (HL, 107).

2. "The social sciences, which are practical sciences, dealing with the relations of man and man" (HL, 106). These "embrace the practical sciences of ethics, politics, and economics, together with such historical and empirical materials as may be needed to supplement them for the guidance of human action. The theoretical principles of ethics, politics, and economics are, of course, principles of speculative philosophy. The principles of ethics, theoretically considered, are to be found in metaphysics. In ethics itself the same knowledge is viewed in the practical order. To speak of ethics, politics, and economics as practical philosophy is to indicate that they are philosophical knowledge organized for the sake of action. In the law we have a practical application of this body of practical principles" (HL, 107-8)

3. "Natural science, which is the science of man and nature" (HL, 106). "The natural sciences derive their principles from the philosophy of nature, which in turn depends on metaphysics. In the study of them such recent observations as serve to illustrate, exemplify, or confirm these principles must be included. Medicine and engineering are applications of this whole body of knowledge" (HL, 108).

The university -- in other words -- is also to be concerned with general education. In Mr. Hutchins' plan "special education" begins "only at the end of the three-year 'university.' " Translated into particulars, this means that students would begin the preparation for a professional or practical career at the age of twenty-two or twenty-three, with the exception of those who are preparing themselves to pass on the Great Tradition in education. It must also be observed that in Mr. Hutchins' proposal no place is provided for the mastery of the elementary disciplines which underlie the professions, unless it be mathematics (as taught by Euclid) and medicine (as taught by Galen) in the period of general education. The foreign languages are specifically eliminated, and since at the university level all studies are to be pursued as aspects of metaphysics, the mastery of the basic techniques of the particular natural and social sciences cannot be an essential part of intellectual training. In other words, the prospective chemist would come to the period of special training with a knowledge of the general principles involved in the physical sciences but with no detailed knowledge of chemistry. At the age of twenty-two he would begin the elementary laboratory work. Mr. Hutchins is apparently not aware of the amount of time required to master the special techniques in each of the fields of knowledge. He would, perhaps, deplore it if he were aware of it. But the fact remains that under present conditions the period of specialization is a long one, long because of the constantly increasing complexity of each field of learning and because of the growing multiplicity of interrelations of the various disciplines with one another.

As science advances, it invariably becomes more specialized, and it is, of course, inevitable that no person can have all the knowledge of all the specialties. It is recognized that, as Mr. Hutchins says, "neither the world nor knowledge of it is arbitrarily divided up as universities are" (HL 59). Whereas in earlier periods of human history a single mind could comprehend all that was known, precisely because the stock of knowledge was less extensive, in our day one of the measures of scientific maturity is that "we have become increasingly and painfully aware of our abysmal ignorance. No scientist, fifty years ago, could have realized that he was as ignorant as all first-rate scientists now know themselves to be."11 The abysmal ignorance to which Mr. Flexner refers is, of course, an inevitable concomitant of the expanding horizon of science.

The unprecedented scope and differentiation of modern scholarship and science have created a number of pressing problems not merely in general and higher education but in research on the frontier of knowledge. Among these the problem of means of communication between scholars in different fields is outstanding. Scholars and scientists operating in highly specialized fields, and working with complex and highly diversified techniques which presuppose differentiated training and mastery of a large technical literature, recognize the need for a common universe of discourse. Otherwise they would fail to make their maximum potential contributions because they would neglect the ramifications and implications of their own work. Moreover, unless they had a breadth of knowledge extending into realms other than their own, they would not be able to impart to their students and the younger workers whom they have undertaken to train the perspective and meaning of their tasks. The present college program at the University of Chicago with its core in the four general courses and in the proposed philosophical course based on their concepts and materials, as well as on the study of human values represents an experimental effort to provide this perspective in college education.

The university must seek to train men who will use learning in the service of the society about them. For such a goal the first requirement is the habit of deriving conclusions from the analysis of relevant data, and this habit is best achieved, perhaps uniquely achieved, by work on concrete problems. The danger that Mr. Hutchins professes to see in scientific specialization is well answered by Mr. Flexner: "It is fashionable to rail at specialization; but the truth is that specialization has brought us to the point we have reached, and more highly specialized intelligence will alone carry us further."12

Mr. Flexner proceeds to emphasize the generalizing intelligence as inevitably interwoven with the specialized pursuit of new truth, of new materials, of new data. Mr. Hutchins appears frequently to hold the position that the gathering of new data is carried on without reference to generalization. Above the level in the university which is concerned with the "higher learning," three distinct activities are defined with great precision. These are:

1. "Research in the sense of gathering data for the sake of gathering them." This has "no place in a university" (HL, 90) but is nevertheless "of great importance" and "must be carried on somewhere. It is useful and economical, perhaps even essential, to have it carried on in part under the auspices and protection of universities and in connection with them" (HL, 109). Persons engaged in collecting information in the social or natural sciences "should, though they have no place in the university proper, find a haven in connection with it" (to wit, in "research institutes") "in which all the current and historical facts now collected by professors, and more, can be assembled. The members of these institutes would not be members of the university faculties, unless they were also working on fundamental problems in metaphysics, social science, and natural science. Men working on such problems, and only these, would have a voice in matters affecting the conduct of the university and the content of its work" (HL, 110). Research institutes "will train people to carry on research of the type that they carry on themselves" (HL, 111), but will have no other educational function.

2. "Research in the sense of the development, elaboration, and refinement of principles together with the collection and use of empirical materials to aid in these processes." This "is one of the highest activities of a university and one in which all its professors should be engaged" (HL, 90), but "the collection of data" should be "put in its proper place," and "that place is, in any intelligible scheme of higher education, a subordinate one" (also HL, 90).

3. Training for specified learned professions such as law, medlcine, and theology. "If the learned professions cannot be trusted to communicate the practices of the professions to the young, it may be desirable in certain cases . . . to attach to the university . . . technical institutes in which the student may become familiar with these routines" (HL, 110-11). The relationship of these technical institutes to the university would be like that of the research institutes. "Students should in no case be admitted to technical or research institutes until they have completed their general and higher education" (HL, 116).

It is important to stress again that Mr. Hutchins nowhere specifies or illustrates the so-called "first principles" that are to be taught in the university. It is therefore impossible to discuss either their existence or their relevance to the higher learning. But it is possible to challenge some of his assertions and their implications.

Outstanding in his book and underlying his not always consistent pronouncements is the deprecation of facts as such. He regards "research in the sense of gathering data for the sake of gathering them" as having "no place in a university" (HL, 90). The obvious implication is that a great deal of activity of this sort is actually going on in universities. Since he does not state what he means by "facts," "data," and "information," and gives no examples, it is impossible to examine the validity of his criticisms. At any given moment there will always be a certain amount of misdirected research, but it may well be doubted whether even on the lowest level there is any appreciable amount of "gathering data for the sake of gathering them." The question might be raised whether in general it is possible to collect facts without having at least implicit hypotheses or generalizations in mind.

The same separation between facts and ideas, between particulars and generalizations implicit in Mr. Hutchins' critique of the universities leads him to draw a line between the university and the research institute, and between the university and the professional school. To him research appears to be altogether too often the mere piling up of data rather than the advancement of knowledge, and professional training too often a lapsing on the part of the university into gross vocationalism.13

Mr. Hutchins' praise for recent developments in medical education draws attention to the instructive experience of American universities -- and particularly of the University of Chicago -- in this field. The science and practice of medicine in our country were in a sad state until taken over, nourished, and administered by the universities. By so doing the universities not only rendered a great service to science and to society, but they rendered the university a richer training ground for young men and women. And specifically in the recent developments at the University of Chicago all parties concerned were agreed that medical science and training could best be served by the closest integration (physical and educational) with the university. The present medical unit at the University is the concrete realization of this view. The new buildings were deliberately erected on the north side, rather than on the south side of the Midway, in order to facilitate the integration with the university as a whole. The "medical school" exists on paper only. The work is organized as departments in the Biological Division, the staff members are bona fide members of the divisional faculty, and of the Senate. These so-called medical departments carry on research similar to that in other departments of the Division, and offer work toward the Ph.D. degree. Apparently Mr. Hutchins does not consider this development an error which should be speedily corrected. But if it is not an error should it not suggest some qualifications in the statements about the complete separation of general and vocational training in other fields? Should not Mr. Hutchins' approval of this trend in medical education lead to the conclusion that such an integration of vocational training with the university is a healthy development well worth encouragement elsewhere?

Mr. Hutchins' views on the separation of general and vocational education seem to be related to the admiration for the medieval university which he frequently expresses. These medieval institutions were often, however, largely vocational institutions. Some of the most learned students of medieval education leave little room for doubt as to the possible consequences of the pursuit of "first principles apart from the facts." One of these scholars, Hastings Rashdall, writes:

For the fairly competent student the main defects of a medieval education may be summed up by saying that it was at once too dogmatic and too disputatious. Of the superstitious adherence to Aristotle or other prescribed authority sufficient illustrations have already been given. It is of course a direct outcome of the intellectual vice of the age -- a vice of which the human mind was by no means cured by the Renaissance or the Reformation. It lasted longest where it was most out of place. In the middle of the seventeenth century a doctor of medicine was compelled by the English College of Physicians to retract a proposition which he had advanced in opposition to the authority of Aristotle under threat of imprisonment. It may seem a contradiction to allege that this education by authority was at the same time too controversial. Yet the readiness with which the student was encouraged to dispute the thesis of a prescribed opponent, and the readiness with which he would swear to teach only the system of a prescribed authority, were but opposite sides of the same fundamental defect -- the same fatal indifference to facts, the facts of external nature, the facts of history, and the facts of life. Books were put in the place of things. This is the defect which was certainly not removed by the mere substitution of classics for philosophy. If in medieval times words were often allowed to usurp the place of things, they were not allowed to usurp the place of thought. For a moment no doubt the human mind was brought into real and living contact with a new world of thought and action, of imagination and art, of literature and history, by the "New Learning"; but ere long classical education in turn became almost as arid and scholastic -- as remote from fruitful contact with realities -- as the education of the Middle Ages. The history of education is indeed a somewhat melancholy record of misdirected energy, stupid routine, and narrow one-sidedness. It seems to be only at rare moments in the history of the human mind that an enthusiasm for knowledge and a many-sided interest in the things of the intellect stir the dull waters of educational commonplace. What was a revelation to one generation becomes an unintelligent routine to the next. . . .14

"Books were put in the place of things" -- this is not only the thesis of this essay but it is an historical evaluation that is perhaps the final comment upon an educational proposal to substitute the classics of the Western world for scientific training in our modern society. To have it come from the University of Chicago -- which has stressed the method of science since its birth -- adds to the confusion in the higher learning in America.

The University enjoys an enviable reputation as an institution not afraid to try the new. But this involves the correlative need to preserve such gains as have been made and not to give up known and tested practices until a reasonable chance exists that a superior practice is at hand to be tried. In education, as in everything else involving a change in social policy, the burden of proof is upon the innovator. It is he who must show that what now is, is defective, and that what might and can be contains a reasonable probability of advance.

Of the two functions of a university -- the transmission of knowledge and its advancement -- perhaps the most important is the latter, for unless knowledge is constantly broadened and refined it tends to become static and authoritarian and fails to keep pace with changing reality and emerging problems. From this standpoint a separation of the university in personnel and in administration from research and the professional schools contains a double danger: a segregated intellectual life on the one hand and an exaggerated vocationalism on the other.

The cross-fertilization of theory and practice is the very life of each. It can be achieved only by constant preoccupation with both the universal and the particular -- and to isolate these functions in the formal organization of institutions of higher learning is to destroy our principal reliance for new knowledge and insight.


"Confusion" and "disorder" -- which to Mr. Hutchins are the outstanding characteristics of our present activity -- are a negative view of a condition that also has positive qualities. The unfettered competition of truths -- which is "confusing" and "disorderly" -- is at the same time the very essence of a democratic society. Democracy is a plant that must be cultivated; only a continuous tolerance of and vigilant care for variety will preserve and extend our heritage. To crystallize truths into Truth and to substitute metaphysics for science is to arrest a process of intellectual growth that is the basis of the democratic process.

There can indeed be no acute interest, as Alfred N. Whitehead has told us, "which puts aside all hope of the harmony of truth. To acquiesce in discrepancy would be destructive of candour and of moral cleanliness.'' To seek harmony is one thing, however; to impose Truth by eliminating or by subordinating the very process of arriving at new truth or of testing old truth is quite another.

It was a commonplace to classical philosophy that each main type of political organization must have its corresponding type of education, and that every educational plan would create or reinforce its proper social scheme. Thus Plato and Aristotle. Mr. Hutchins writes that the "intellectual virtues remain the same in a democracy, an aristocracy, an oligarchy, or a monarchy" (NFV, 66-7), or, again, that the heart of education is "the same at any time, under any political, social, or economic conditions" (HL 66). The higher learning, in other words, is neutral to the social order in which it exists. Educational ground neutral to democracy is likely to be educational ground precarious if not hostile to democracy.

Liberal education has always aimed at both theory and practice with the dominant concern of making the theory available for practice, and of correcting and fertilizing the theory by the practice. It is now proposed to truncate this process and to restrict the content of the higher learning to pure theory and a few facts chosen to illustrate it. At the college level the content proposed is directed away from laboratory concreteness, field work, and in general from exposure to "raw" experience. "Facts" appear to be foolish when ageless ideas are in the offing. Education is to Mr. Hutchins, in a word, sensitization to the abstract, to the universal, to the "intellectual," and the preference appears to rest upon the presumption that a person thus exposed to generality is more proficient in practice than others, once he turns his hands to industrial work or his mind to professional cares.

Fundamentally, the entire proposal is based upon an unproved assumption about the transfer of learning. It is taken for granted that participation in practice requires no special training; a brief apprenticeship under technicians will suffice to make a superior practitioner of the theoretical product of the higher learning. This easy faith arises out of a prejudgment as to the inferiority of the practical to the intellectual. Such a view involves a fallacy as to the transfer of training, indeed a most difficult transfer -- that from theory to action. It is precisely the mutual cross-fertilization of theory and action that is the hardest task of all. If education does not achieve this, it fires wild, and it will more nearly achieve it if the aim is quite deliberately set.

Experience does not suggest that the accommodation of general ideas to specific facts and concrete action can be safely trusted to an educational afterthought. This is precisely the most common source of present failure. To know in general is as easy as Aristotle indicated; but to know the when, the where, the wherefore, the whereunto, and the how much -- this, as Aristotle concluded, is the final test of a wise man. An education which does not recognize this, and specifically provide for it, makes not wise men, but educated fools. It might hide the shame engendered of its weakness by perpetuating a division of labor that will exempt its graduates from the test of life and action, assigning to them the task of passing on the "metaphysics" in education -- and in so doing it might also contribute to the strength of the forces that are now undermining freedom of thought as the most effective attack upon freedom in general. We must meet the present on its own terms. If there is confusion in our present situation, there is also unparalleled promise. In place of the metaphysical orientation of the classical academy, the theological orientation of the medieval university, and the literary orientation of the Renaissance university, modern higher education must put its main emphasis on the method of science. This does not mean that the activities of former systems of higher education are not to be included in the present system; it means that the intellectually distinctive characteristics of the modern world -- scientific methods and results, and a philosophy cooperating with scientific and humanistic interests -- should be the dominant quality of modern higher education. We can do full justice to the richness of man's intellectual and cultural heritage, and yet give science a high place in meeting the demands of active living in the modern world. This is a modern alternative to exclusively theological, metaphysical, or literary orientations. Science can be at once its own reward, and the highest award of living thought to the life of action.16

Science is obviously not worthy of such praise if it does not resist its own tendencies to dogmatism and its occasional disdain for humanistic interests. It must not neglect its own rich historical past; it must acknowledge responsibility for exhibiting its own unity and for developing an organized curriculum on the basis of that unity; it must help make explicit its methods; it must be interested in the humanistic implications of the scientific habit of mind; it must, in short, be willing to round itself out logically and philosophically. It is in aiding science to develop into a logically analyzed and synthetically integrated whole, and in assessing the cultural implications of scientific methods and results that modern philosophy may make a momentous contribution to the history of ideas and to the demands for synthesis within the contemporary world. Linked in a common task, science and philosophy may claim to be the modern form of the Great Tradition. Here, clearly, is the basis of a sense for "the grand scheme of the intellect and the unity of thought" which rightly stirs Mr. Hutchins' imagination. Here, and not in the ranks of the dogmatists and pseudo rationalists, are the lineal descendants of Plato, Aristotle, Galileo, Leibnitz, Newton, and Darwin.

Let there be no doubt as to the crucial characteristic of this alternative orientation. Instead of stressing the Truth enshrined in Books -- and overlooking the fact that the selection of these books is made by those who are already confident that they possess the Truth -- it stresses the methods by which new truth is established and ancient truths are corrected. Instead of presenting as final a set of results attained by thinking men, it stresses the significance of the procedures by which results are achieved. Instead of embalming a set of First Principles, it exhibits principles in relation to the subject matters out of which they arise and the methods by which they must be corrected. Instead of merely contemplating Knowledge and the Good, it displays the techniques by which Knowledge and the Good may be made more secure. In this stress of method the conflict between Ideas and Facts drops away, as it has long since dropped away in science itself and in discussions of scientific method, for the scientific method, as the observational-hypothetical-deductive-observational procedure, unites in one process the most abstract tools of analysis and the most refined observational controls. Neither is the systematic side of science sacrificed to the observational side, nor the observational to the systematic. To acquire the scientific habit of mind the student must himself participate in all stages of the method. Thus alone can he come to see both the power and the limitations of generalization. If to be philosophical means to be concerned with conceptual analysis, with method, with the pursuit of the unified system of knowledge and reliable methods, then the whole of higher education can be philosophical without running foul of the charges which we have raised against the projected metaphysical orientation.

Such an orientation as is here proposed does not oppose science to the humanities. This false and tragic divorce may be the primary cause of our current "confusion." The student must not merely "cultivate" his "intellect," but he should have direct contact with great religious, scientific, philosophical, and artistic products. He must not only know about the arts, but must be given opportunities to enrich esthetically his own experience. Without being subjected to any form of propaganda, he should be expected to acquire an interest in the application of intelligence to mankind's quest for the good. To stress first principles without the constant challenge of experience is to produce intellectual conceit and reactionary attitudes. Plato -- to whom Mr. Hutchins refers so often -- drew back from such extremes. The students in the Platonic Academy were carefully grounded in the arts and sciences. Only at the age of twenty were the connections between their previous studies to become conscious objects of attention, and then only for the chosen few. From the ages of thirty to thirty-five, the survivors of this precarious preoccupation were to be students of metaphysics or dialectics:

There is a danger lest they should taste the dear delight too early; for youngsters as you may have observed, when they first get the taste in their mouths, argue for amusement, and are always contradicting and refuting others in imitation of those who refute them; like puppy-dogs, they rejoice in pulling and tearing at all who come near them.17

Unlike his puppy-dogs, Plato's educated men could not remain spectators on the heights, but must descend to the cave of common life to take their places in the company of men and women.

The historical parallel with the Greece of Plato and Aristotle is in some respects rather striking. Theirs, too, was a time of question and scrutiny. Old beliefs in all ranges of human experience had become increasingly inacceptable. The story of Socrates testifies to the yearning for security of the Athenian community. The critical spirit of the philosophers seemed to endanger all that was sacred and orderly. If we are to do for our time what they did for theirs, we should certainly not repeat the very practice of a nostalgic return to some past security which these philosophers encountered as their chief obstacle. It is true that a clear and systematic indoctrination in some set of dogmatic first principles might be more comfortable to the young, the weary, and the frightened, but an educational institution not yet committed to outright indoctrination in some secular or formal religion will insist that broken rays of true light are preferable to the glamour of a spurious metaphysical clarity that has no relation to experience. Occasionally the result might be confusing, but a clear and rationally intelligible picture would under the assumed circumstances be indefensible from the standpoint of elementary intellectual candor.

The clamor for a rational order, for a comprehensive set of first principles with due subordination of historical and current empirical material selected with an eye to illustration or confirmation of the metaphysics, is essentially a claim to intellectual dictatorship. Reason, however, is not necessarily a principle of order. It is analytical; it discriminates and distinguishes. Order historically is the fruit either of authority or of shared values. The clamor for rational order, therefore, boils down to a demand for submission to the particular metaphysical dogma that is advocated.

If philosophers are to contribute their share in the mastery of the ensuing perplexity as to what the knowledge means and what its potentialities might be, they will have to drop medieval claims to match the position of theology as the queen of the sciences. Essentially the integrative quality of medieval theology did not lie in its intellectual superstructure but in the common faith of those who elaborated the theology. Mr. Hutchins seems to hesitate here on the brink of a vital distinction. He stresses the role of theology in the medieval university but thinks it is not possible for our generation, which is "faithless" and takes "no stock in revelation." To our modern mind, however, metaphysical first principles require as much revelation as the medieval theology requires.

The integration of medieval society -- such as it was -- was essentially that of faith in common values. The disintegration of modern culture is not primarily the fruit of intellectual error but rather the inevitable result of an outlook that regards values as the concern of individuals, and, if anything, as an obstacle to academic achievement. Our basic problem is not that of improved means to unimproved ends, but rather that means are ever more available to ends ever more muddled and evanescent. Philosophy's most tempting opportunity lies in the clarification and statement of the values by which we live, and such a clarification of values will spring from a detailed and synthetic knowledge of the conditioning means rather than from sterile parroting of a discarded metaphysics.18

Such a view -- in John Dewey's words -- "renounces the traditional notion that action is inherently inferior to knowledge and preference for the fixed over the changing; it involves the conviction that security attained by active control is to be more prized than certainty in theory."19

The multiplicity of modern paths to significant insight can be reduced to order by the regrouping of available knowledge and capacities for action that would result from the clarification of values and ends. If religion seems to have degenerated from the living embodiment of the shared values of the group to a part-time embellishment of our leisure, that is one of the penalties attached to identifying spiritual matters with the status quo in scientific and social evolution. If philosophy is to avoid a similar fate, it must direct itself to the task of revitalizing our values by restoring their relevance to the life of reason. Thus it might recover its position as the basic moral and social science by ceasing to be a device to deal with the problems of philosophers and becoming, in John Dewey's words, a method, utilized by philosophers, for dealing with the problems of men.

Integration thus conceived might save us from the imposed social cohesion with appended "made to order" Weltanschauung that is the sad reality in the totalitarian states. To select a collectivist frame of reference is to beat the enemy by joining him. To withdraw to metaphysical first principles, with due subordination of the historical and current facts, is to run away from the battle altogether. If we are to succeed in avoiding an imposed social cohesion, the substitution of an integrative striving for coherence will demand a new approach to values.

For several generations the idea has prevailed that there was something peculiarly strong-minded and scientific in discarding ethical considerations in the pursuit of knowledge; and the quality of traditional preachment helps to explain the tendency. In imitation of the physical sciences, mechanical theories prevailed even in the study of society, but in an increasingly plastic environment the old mechanical theories, which had their roots in the assumption of a fixed environment, lost their interests even in the explanation of the physical universe. In social matters, new habits of thought intimately involved in the new experience of continuous remodeling of man's environment once again focused attention upon the ends which the new means sought to implement. If reason is to serve us in our present confusion, it will be through the clarification of our ends in relation to ever more diversified and powerful means. If those who are at the frontiers of advancing knowledge have cavalierly disregarded their responsibilities in these matters, able and aggressive leadership faces a new responsibility.

To repeat, it is possible to agree with much of Mr. Hutchins' criticism of the American university of today and yet to reject his proposals for reconstruction. Unity imposed by authority is only another term for uniformity. While chaos and disorder have their disadvantages, they at least maintain a field that is wide open to new truth and new methods of gaining insight. The true scholar recognizes the need for integrating his own work with the body of knowledge pertaining to other fields and with the values of his society. He does not look for a verbal nostrum nor for a superimposed authority to introduce meaning, significance, and unity into his work.

Truth to finite man is never single, complete, and static. It is rather multiple, fractional, and evolving. The true scholar finds his unifying principles in the humanistic spirit and in the methods of science. It is not so much the tentative truths that he discovers, as the developing methods for discovering and analyzing truths, that unite him with his associates into a community of scholars and of scientists.

Mr. Hutchins is convinced that the objections to his proposals "cannot be educational objections" (HL, 86). He sees the main obstacle in the faculty's "lack of acquaintance with the books," its resistance to change of its habits, its desire to produce a crop like unto itself, or in "love of money," "false notions of democracy," a "distorted idea of utility," and "anti-intellectualism."

Educational objections of the first magnitude have been stated in this essay. Educational considerations apart, however, the proposed reorientation is open to question because it is conceived and born in authoritarianism and absolutism, twin enemies of a free and democratic society. Acceptance of the curricular primacy of a set of first metaphysical principles would reduce science to dogma and education to indoctrination. The temper of the modern mind is well expressed in the motto of the University of Chicago

Let knowledge grow from more to more, and thus be human life enriched.

If these are times of confusion and disorder, the results and the methods of science also make them times of unparalleled promise. Now -- as never before -- educational leadership calls for a persistent and critical emphasis upon the significance of present achievement and its promise for the future.

To describe the higher learning in America as if it were almost entirely vocational and provincial in the chronological sense is to overlook some of the highest achievement and some of the most seminal inquiry ever pursued under academic auspices. Critical scrutiny of abuses of academic privilege is essential to continued vitality -- and even the best of our American institutions afford abundant opportunity -- but to avoid the abuse by the advocacy of a monastic withdrawal to a community of scholars primarily concerned with the elaboration of a discarded metaphysics is to abandon the very essence of modern achievement. The contemporary scene is full of societies in which the logical development of first metaphysical principles with "due subordination" of observed facts is diligently pursued. It is sad to reflect that a commendable concern for moral and intellectual integrity should be deflected by distortion of focus into a weapon against the very forces it seeks to strengthen.


1. For the search for harmony and order through the adoption of a collectivist "frame of reference," see A Charter for the Social Sciences in the Schools by Charles A. Beard, Part I of the Report of the Commission on the Social Studies of the American Historical Assosiation, and the subsequent volumes of this report.

For the search for harmony and order through the selection of a "metaphysics," see Robert M. Hutchins, No Friendly Voice (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1936) and The Higher Learning in America (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1936). For a critical discussion see T. V. Smith, "The Chicago School," International Journal of Ethics, XLVI (April 1936), 378-87; James Weber Linn, "Notes on a Textbook," University of Chicago Magazine XXVIII (December 1936), 18-19; Charles E. Clark, "The Higher Learning in a Democracy," and Charner Perry, "Education: Ideas or Knowledge," both in International Journal of Ethics, XLVII (April 1937), 317-35 and 346-59 respectively. [Back]

2. Abraham Flexner, Universities: American, English, German (New York: Oxford University Press, 1930), p. 213. [Back]

3. The Higher Learning in America, p. 119. [Back]

4. Ibid., p. 32. [Back]

5. Throughout the manuscript HL refers to The Higher Learning in America; NFV, to No Friendly Voice. [Back]

6. Dialogue on the Great World Systems, in the Salisbury translation, rev., annotated and with an introduction by Giorgio de Santillana (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), 123-24. [Back]

7. Reprinted from the 4th ed. (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1931), p. 401. Spelling is modernized. [Back]

8. Even in The Higher Learning in America, Mr. Hutchins disclaims the criticism that he is "arguing for any specfic theological or metaphysical system" (HL, 105), but the remark is offset by evidence throughout the volume -- and cited in this essay -- that the Great Tradition is definitely envisaged. See also the qualification in Mr. Hutchins' position in his article "A Reply to Professor Whitehead," Atlantic Monthly, CLVlIl (November 1936), 582-88 and in the series in the Social Frontier, III (1937), beginning with John Dewey's review "President Hutchins' Proposals to Remake Higher Education" in the January issue (pp. 103-4), continued with Mr. Hutchins' reply "Grammar, Rhetoric, and Mr. Dewey" in the February number (pp. 137-39), and concluded with John Dewey's rejoinder "The Higher Learning in America" [Was President Hutchins Serious?] in the March issue (pp. 167-69). In a later article "What Is the Job of Our Colleges?" New York Times Magazine, March 7, 1937, pp. 1-2, 25, the earlier position is, however substantially maintained. [Back]

9. After Mr. Hutchins' sharp and deserved criticism of the tendency of education to yield to every current fad and fashion, it is puzzling to read that "under present economic conditions" our education must be recast to provide for the young "up to approximately their twentieth year" (HL, 15, 61). Does the proposed plan follow the fluctuations of the business cycle under the guise of a vision of eternity? [Back]

10. It is certainly not true of the University of Chicago program -- and it is probably not true of the program of any reputable American university or college -- that its "study of history and the social sciences" begins with "the industrial revolution," or that its study of philosophy "begins with Descartes and Locke," or of psychology "with Wundt and William James." Mr. Hutchins makes this unsupported assertion in The Higher Learning in America, p. 79. [Back]

11. Flexner, pp. 17-18. [Back]

12. Ibid., pp. 23-24. [Back]

13. As to research institutes, which Mr. Hutchins separates from the university because they are fact-gathering institutions, see Mr. Flexns's strikingly different observations, ibid., pp. 31-35., [Back]

14. Hastings Rashdall, The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages (New York: Oxford University Press, 1936), III, 453-54. [Back]

15. Science and the Modern World (New York: Macmillan Co., 1925), p. 230. [Back]

16. Schiller's picturesque characterization of science may be in point here: "To some she (science) is the sublime, heavenly Goddess; to others a diligent cow that provides them with butter." [Back]

17. The Republic VII. 539, trans into English by B. Jowett (New York: Modern Library, 1941), p. 288. [Back]

18. The next few paragraphs follow my article on "Integration of the Social Sciences and the Quest for Certainty," Social Studies, XXVII (October 1936), 363-72. [Back]

19. The Quest for Certainty (New York: Minton, Balch & Co., 1929), p. 37 (Gifford Lectures). [Back]