chapter  3
UNIVERSITIES AS DELIBERATIVE SPACES
Pages 15

Th inking may not in itself be an action; but, to be purposeful, action requires sustained thoughtfulness. Th at is the premise upon which the university is based: thinking this or that through from a variety of perspectives, and drawing on the knowledge and insights available, one’s capability for right action is likely to be enhanced. Th at is the premise upon which the university stakes its moral claim. If that is the case, then academic practitioners are not only members of a changing profession (as suggested in Chapter 1) and a learning profession (as proposed in Chapter 2); they are also (as argued in this chapter) part of a profession of values. However, that is only the case if the premise holds and our human capacity for thoughtfulness is somehow wired-up to a predisposition towards altruism and the common good. If the premise does not hold — and being thoughtful is no defence whatsoever against the banality of evil — then the notion of academic practice as morally purposeful is unsustainable. In this chapter I argue that the latter position constitutes a failure of nerve — an understandable and sometimes intellectually respectable failure of nerve, perhaps — but a failure nevertheless. Universities exist to sustain the good society — and the freedom of all their citizens.