The consequence of the instrumentalisation of the university is the de-erotization of the university. The cost of instrumentalising the university is that the university becomes another service industry within society rather than a site for articulating the consciousness of the way of life of the society in which it finds itself. In order to find such reflexivity, we need to go outside the university to what are considered to be `fringe' or `marginal' groups, for it is these groups which are concerned with the consciousness of society.
It seems true to say that universities today, in order to fulfil the needs of society are becoming more and more instrumentally orientated. They seem to be more concerned with training people for careers in the economy than with education as an end in itself. This tendency seems to be world wide and so strong that economically useless departments, like philosophy departments, are sometimes being closed down at various universities. This is true of some universities in England and the United States of America. I want to argue that such an instrumentalist approach to the university generates a certain type of crisis within the university.
Following one of the authors discussed, Klaus Heinrich (1989), I shall call this crisis a "spiritual crisis". This is a crisis which manifests itself in a number of ways: The `spiritlessness' of university teaching and learning, an unwillingness to learn for the sake of learning, an unwillingness to grapple with anything but `practical' issues and an inability to ask `ultimate questions' or questions concerning the reasons and purposes behind the ends that are pursued (especially) by a society dominated by instrumentalist concerns.
I will not only be arguing that an instrumentalist approach to the university generates a crisis of the spirit of the university, but also that it excludes certain types of issues or concerns and thus of knowledge from the scope of university inquiry. And the irony of this is that some of these forms of knowledge constituted part of the original telos of the university. I have already mentioned the redundancy of philosophy in some universities. And, as most would agree, Plato's Academy, where philosophy was the primary discipline, was one of the original catalysts to the being of the university.
But it is not only in terms of the discipline known as philosophy that the university seems to be cutting itself off from its roots. There are many pivotal concerns in any society that cannot be raised within the framework of an instrumentalist university. These are questions which focus around the Socratic demand to `know thyself'. Today, in most instances, this question is asked within the framework of crises in meaning; in the context of people of whatever age group who have lost sense of the purpose or reasoning behind their activity. It is associated with issues of difficulty of understanding oneself and relationships to other people.
This issue, as Christopher Lasch (1980) and many others have pointed out, is not an issue which is limited to a few pathological and thus isolated individuals. It points in many senses to a crisis in the direction of so-called `advanced' western society:
Bourgeois society seems everywhere to have used up its store of constructive ideas. It has lost both the capacity and the will to confront the difficulties that threaten to overwhelm it. The political crisis of capitalism reflects a general crisis of Western culture, which reveals itself in a pervasive despair of understanding the course of modern history. [•••] We find plenty of evidence to confirm the impression that the modern world faces the future without hope (Lasch 1980: xiii-xvi).
There is no place within an instrumentalist university in which to ask people to grapple with issues such as the above, questions of the meaning and significance of the activities in which we engage. Rather than producing people who have a well grounded understanding of themselves, modern education, Lasch argues, seems to produce people who are `stupefied' or in Marcuse's phrase, `one dimensional' and `nice' (Bloom).
These are people who may be able to perform very well within the framework of a functional economy but who find it difficult to make sense of themselves. According to Lasch (1980: xvi):
Economic man himself has given way to the psychological man of our times [...] The new narcissist is haunted not by guilt but by anxiety. He seeks not to inflict his own certainties on others but to find a meaning in life. Liberated from the superstitions of the past [... he is] acquisitive in the sense that his cravings have no limits [...] but demands immediate gratification and lives in a state of restless, perpetually unsatisfied desire.
My contention is that while universities are becoming more instrumentalist, this instrumentalism, because it does not see the worth and value of `philosophical' questioning, is reinforcing what seems to be a widespread tendency within western society, a breakdown in meaning and thus an inability or unwillingness to reflect existentially on the ends that we pursue. By not providing a legitimacy for the question of the meaning of our desires, it allows for the nurturing of an anarchy of desire.
There seem to be at least two views of the university today: an instrumentalist view in which knowledge is a means to an end and a view in terms of which knowledge serves no greater purpose, but is an end in itself. These two views justify themselves in various ways: Concerning the view of the university as an end in itself, authors like Kenneth Minogue have argued that the asking of certain questions about the university indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of a university.
Thus in his book The concept of a university, he says:
What is the purpose of a university? or What duties does a university owe to society?
He opens up this issue by saying:
This is a case where the very question: What is the point [of the university]? shows that the point has already been missed. [...] For [the university ...] subserves no supposedly superior purposes, and [...] may be described [...] as `disinterested' (Minogue 1973: 188-9).
This same argument can apply to a concern with the future of the university: if the university is a space in which knowledge is pursued for its own sake (Lobkowitz 1983: 32), there is no need or point to a preoccupation with the future of the university. The future in fact must remain the unknown. It emerges out of the pursuit of knowledge rather than as a product of any plan or policy.
However, a university is not only a space in which knowledge is pursued as an end in itself. It is also a training institute, an institute in which members of society are trained for their future functions and roles in the economic and political well-being of society. In this sense the university has an obligation to `deliver the goods'. It must concern itself with the production of results. It must think about the plan for the ends that it wishes to produce. In this sense it must project itself into the future. More than this, however, the university is dependent on society for its survival. It does not exist in a vacuum but in the context of society. It is an institution of the society in which it finds itself. It must serve the needs of the society and the society in turn guarantees its survival. It provides training while the society provides funds which guarantee its survival. As Polin (1983: 41) has said:
The university cannot escape from its society, for that provides its material and financial support. Rather the university has to meet various needs of its society: The provision of scientific and technological advances, the education of people who will manage its component institutions, and the training of people for the various professions.
Now we find ourselves in a contradictory position. On the one hand a preoccupation with the university as an instrument in the hands of society seems to indicate an alienation from the spirit of intellectual inquiry, since such inquiry to be true to itself must be `disinterested'. The passion for knowledge must be an end in itself. On the other hand, as a training institute, the university must satisfy the needs of the society in which it finds itself. It must concern itself with ends beyond knowledge for its own sake. It is a `producer' and `service industry'.
Today it is quite obvious that the university is pursuing an instrumentalist direction. I would like to question the wisdom of this move by looking at certain crises within the university. From a Heideggerian perspective, crises are the basis of existential questioning. I shall thus be using these crises as a basis upon which to formulate certain questions about the university. However, because space does not permit a detailed discussion, I will advance, without defence, an Heideggerian view of questioning.
For Heidegger, what he calls "thematic" or "explicit" questioning arises when there is a disturbance or disruption in one's "everyday" activities. One questions when, because of a crisis, one cannot take one's everyday assumptions for granted. It is in such crises that the world or aspects thereof announce themselves (Heidegger 1949: 102-7). For example, when, in the anxiety of meaninglessness, life appears as devoid of meaning, the issue of meaning raises itself. Instead of taking the issue of meaning for granted, it is raised as an explicit theme for concern (Heidegger 1949: 231-3).
The view expressed here is that crises do not simply indicate that there are problems to be instrumentally solved. Rather, crises are disclosive and illuminative: they take one of the "taken for granted" ways of being-in-the-world and call it into question. They open up new ways of looking at things. It is an unquestioned instrumentalist assumption that maintains that crises indicate simply that there are problems which need to be solved.
From the Heideggerian perspective the "meaning" of crisis is that it "attunes" (Befindlichkeit) one to what has been "forgotten". Putting this in colloquial terms, crises put one "in touch" with issues that have been neglected. To see crises as disclosive is to think phenomenologically. To think phenomenologically is to allow crises to determine the issues for consideration. In the technical language of Heidegger, this means to "let beings be". To let beings be is possible only when a crisis generates the issues for discussion ... otherwise we risk the possibility of imposing our own questions and issues onto the topic under consideration.
A crisis is not something we choose. Rather we find ourselves already in crisis. In this sense the questions to be asked are not a product of our own intentionality or will but are a response to the situation in which we find ourselves. In crisis it is not we who make disclosures but things (beings) which are disclosed to us. To think phenomenologically is to allow crises to generate what is to be explained. (For a detailed elaboration of this point of view see Richardson 1986).
Another advantage of phenomenological thinking is that it locates the question “What is a university today?” in the concreteness of our historical predicament. To ask questions in crisis is to respond to the situation in which we find ourselves. It is not to ask abstract and universal questions that apply for all times. It is to begin with what Heidegger calls "closest" to us.
My aim in what follows is to use the Heideggerian concept of crisis as a basis upon which to develop an understanding of current practices of the university. It is to allow the crises in the university to generate the questions that need to be asked about the university. In his inaugural lecture as Head of Philosophy at the University of Freiberg, Martin Heidegger (1967: 326) described what he believed to be a fragmentation in the being of the university:
What essential things are happening to us in the foundations of our existence, now that science has become our passion? The fields of the sciences lie far apart. Their methodologies are fundamentally different. This disrupted multiplicity of disciplines is today only held together by the technical organization of the Universities and their faculties, and maintained as a unit of meaning by the practical aims of those faculties. As against this, however, the root of the sciences in their essential ground has atrophied.
One of the problems that this quotation confronts us with is: Do we, as members of departments at universities, all talk the same language to such an extent that we are able to talk about 'the university' or, for that matter, do we talk the same language to such an extent that we are able to talk to each other? A brief review of the literature indicates that there is much contention regarding the terms in which both the being and the crisis of the university are to be spoken about. For example, one writer, Klaus Heinrich (1989), and many others following him claim that the university is in a spiritual crisis. What, however, is one who has no conception of the idea 'spirit' to make of such a crisis? Are positivists and Marxists, for example, to maintain that in fact there is no crisis or that the real crisis is over the use of the word 'spirit'? Or are materialists and positivists, because of their rejection of the concept of spirit, not seeing something that is there? The point that we wish to make is that, as Paul Piccone (1989: 125) has said,
every discipline has become further fragmented into a myriad of non-communicating subdisciplines ]... This] has resulted in the postmodern proliferation of a multitude of self-referential narratives whose very legitimacy is predicated precisely on the denial of any universality now dismissed as white, male and middle-class ideology.
What does the fact of our inability to communicate across disciplines indicate about the being of the university, our understanding of the university and indeed our attitude towards the university? In a sense, is the sanctity of the university not at stake? That is, is a university not in some sense of the word, as Lobkowitz (1983: 33) claims, a community of scholars in pursuit of knowledge? What is a university if not a place in which scholars communicate with each other in the pursuit of knowledge? What can we say of knowledge when it is incommunicable across disciplines and subdisciplines? Does it deserve to be called knowledge?
Here we shall make a slight digression into the idea `community of scholars'. A community is not established by physical proximity. In fact, as Heidegger contends, physical proximity is a derivative of what we shall call existential or emotional proximity (see Being and Time for Heidegger's 1967: 134-48 analysis of spatiality). One can be physically close to someone without being emotionally involved with him or her at all — for example, on a bus or in a canteen. Similarly, just because people belong to the same university or department, just because they share the same administrative system and the same office space, they are not necessarily a community.
For Heidegger, what defines relations of closeness and distance is the idea of `involvement' and, by implication, to be in community with someone is to share an involvement-with them. Thus when we say that what is alluded to by the "multitudes of self-referential narratives" is the fragmentation of the university into noncommunicating disciplines, this term is meant in an existential-emotional rather than a physically observable sense. This fragmentation recurs on many levels: between departments and within departments as well as between schools of thought and within schools of thought. In this respect it is interesting to note that there are over two hundred views of psychotherapy.
The irony here is that a discipline whose aim is to help people to overcome their `fragmentation' is itself so fragmented. The fragmentation of the university implies that the university is no longer engaged in a common pursuit. There is no underlying vision which unites the members of the university or of departments and even of schools of thought. While, as Heidegger suggests, the university may be considered as an administrative whole, it has no unity of `essence'. Unfortunately, however, even Heidegger's view of the university as an institution without an "essential" unity is not unproblematic: Do we in our day have an understanding of the word `essential'?
Post-metaphysical thinkers have banished this word as devoid of meaning. Heidegger himself in his later works sees metaphysics from Plato through to Nietzsche as the projection of the human will to power. And after Nietzsche we cannot assume that the unity of the university can be defined in terms of the will to truth. Notwithstanding the fact that the term `truth seems to lack substantive meaning, Nietzsche showed how what is called truth is intimately tied up with power. In a similar way, Sartre (1976: 578) has shown how knowledge, like material possessions, is a form of appropriation or, as he puts it, "To know is to devour [...J".
Calling the will to truth, the search for an essence and the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake "narratives", Jean-Francois Lyotard (1986: 37) in his book The postmodern condition: A report on knowledge has said:
The grand narrative has lost its credibility, regardless of what mode of unification it uses, regardless of whether it is a speculative narrative or a narrative of emancipation.
What the above paragraph suggests is that we can no longer think of and grasp the idea of the university as a whole. We cannot think of it as an `essence', as a 'will to truth' and as an institute in which knowledge is pursued for its own sake. Administratively it is a whole but we cannot conceive of its wholeness in any other sense, that is, in an existential-emotional sense. Does this mean that we ought to abandon the idea of the university? Lyotard (1986: xxiv-xxv) entertains this as a possibility
To the obsolescence of the metanarrative 1...] corresponds, most notably, the crisis of metaphysical philosophy and of the university institution which in the past relied on it. The narrative function is losing its functions, its great hero, its great dangers, its great voyages, its great goal [... It is] this very postmodern moment that finds the university nearing what may be its end.
Yet we do in some sense presuppose that it is a whole. We could not talk about the university if we did not in some sense presuppose it as a whole — or should we give up all talk about the university as a whole? This is precisely the issue that Klaus Heinrich (1989: 91) brings to the fore when he raises the question concerning the unity of the university:
Questions dealing with whether the `university still has a spiritual mission', whether it can mobilize `forces of resistance' against the state, and whether 'it would not be more appropriate to abandon the idea of the spiritual unity of the university' betray a deep and widespread scepticism.
Heinrich believes that in many senses the spiritual unity and mission of the university has already been abandoned. The term 'spiritual' does not have the connotation of other-worldly but in fact refers to the existential-emotional relationship that members of the university have with the university:
My generation is astonished by the total loss of eros in the relation between the university and its members. The university is no longer an object of love and hate, as it still was for the student movement of the 1960's. Nor is it defended any longer with the bitterness of the misunderstood.
These relations have been de-eroticized (Heinrich 198: 91). According to Heinrich (1989: 91) the de-eroticization of the university manifests itself in an instrumentalist view of the university in which "the alma mater offers only rigorously planned paths into a professional void and part-time jobs". According to Heinrich, it seems that the university is no longer a place where people can ponder and reflect on the ends of human existence or on the mystery of life. This is contained in the notion of "professional void". The university offers no education concerning the meaning, significance and place in life of the functions it trains people for. As Lyotard (1986: 48) has said:
In the context of de-legitimation, universities and the institutions of higher learning are called upon to create skills, and no longer ideals — so many doctors, so many teachers in a given discipline, so many engineers, so many administrators, etc. The transmission of knowledge is no longer designed to train an elite capable of guiding the nation towards its emancipation, but to supply the system with players capable of acceptably fulfilling their roles at the pragmatic posts required by its institutions.
Heinrich goes on to argue that the university no longer concerns itself with the consciousness of people, The education of consciousness, a person's need to make sense of the world in which he or she lives has become an individual and private affair. The paths or ends that one 'chooses', the meaning that one attaches to rules, goals, relationships and beings - the university is no longer a forum in which these issues can be debated. In fact there is very little opportunity to develop one's assumptions about living in any area of society. As Heinrich (1989: 93) says:
Universities as sites of symbol production become obsolete 1...1 The consciousness of individual subjects (has become] a private matter (...J This is today's spiritual scene in the university. To provide the perspective of a contrast: for the prophets of ancient Israel and the philosophers of ancient Greece, the ideals or ends that people pursued were of the most vital importance.
Today, as Claude Karnoouh (1989: 111-2) claims in an article entitled "Notes on the crisis of the university",
there is very little room to question the goals that we pursue: Researchers in applied sciences (with the few exceptions of great scientists) no longer question the goals of their imperious forward march; in the name of scientific progress, the most monstrous genetic experiments allow us a glimpse into the potential for ultimately altering the human species along the selection lines envisioned by Huxley's Brave new world [...].
One can expand on the examples demonstrating the autonomy of techno-science that nothing seems capable of stopping. The underlying assumption of science appears to be: if it is possible then we have every right to do it. However, just because we can fly to the moon does not mean that it is `right' to fly there or that it is the duty of mankind to then try and fly to the sun. There is a need, as is the aim of the philosophy of Immanuel Levinas, to recover the terrain of ethics, for to know what is possible does not help us in structuring our lives. In fact it can be conjectured that the more things become possible, and the more `free' we become through the `imperious march forward' of science, the more we will need an ethic to structure our lives.
One of the biggest dangers of the privatisation of consciousness is that the university ceases to be a place where culture as a whole can be studied (in fact as we shall soon show, in a society nurtured on scientific positivism we have no methodological devices for understanding culture as a whole). If meaning and the consciousness of individuals is a private matter, this indicates that the whole area of significance, consciousness and meaning is outside of the jurisdiction of the university.
Such issues become the preoccupation of `fringe' groups: of psychotherapists, of everyday ideologies, of gurus and of cults. In fact, many have argued that the consciousness of culture takes place outside the university, in the mass press and in the commercial world. Russel Berman (1989: 119), in an article entitled "Perestroika for the university", has said:
As the articulator of ideology, the university has been outflanked by the culture industry, no longer just commercialized entertainment but, as the transcendental spirit of the mass media, the real episteme of the nation. In this respect it is interesting to note that many of the thinkers responsible for forming the consciousness of the modern era lived and wrote at the very most on the fringes of the university.
This point is made by Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1990: 2) who in his book Heidegger, art and politics says:
the last two great philosophies in the history of philosophy — the work of Marx and Nietzsche which themselves, already, were not work in the proper sense of the word — were elaborated outside the university.
Of course one may disagree with the suggestion that these are the only great thinkers. One can also include Walter Benjamin and Sören Kierkegaard. Vincent van Gogh is another example. All of these thinkers and visionaries living not only on the margins of the university but of society as well, had such an impact on academic discourse — even if in the case of Van Gogh, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, only after their deaths, having struggled to gain acceptance in their own time.
We cannot but ask: if so much creative thinking takes place outside the university, what is actually happening in the university? Should we agree with Wittgenstein, whose writing itself was not the outcome of a systematic philosophical education, when he says that:
"if philosophy has anything to do with wisdom there's certainly not a grain of the truth in Mind, and quite often a grain in the detective stories?"
If university education leads, as Heinrich contends that it does, to a professional void, what actually is taking place in the university? According to Heinrich (1989: 92):
“the de-eroticization of the university has led to an over-emphasis on planning. something else now substitutes for it de-eroticizationl: planning and planning efficiency. The new research positivism has a single objective leading it into the already frozen future: planning What is at stake is not social consciousness so that democratic and scientific progress might coincide, but the length of studies, semester class hours, capacity.”
Lyotard (1986: 39) argues that:
the university performs not the task of helping society think about its relationship to the conditions under which people live, but the repetitive task of training people in terms of what is judged to be established knowledge l...1 through didactics they guarantee the replication of teachers rather than the production of researchers. This is the state in which Nietzsche finds and condemns them.
Planning in terms of what is judged to be established knowledge — this is the form of knowledge characteristic of universities. In Rorty's sense of the word, this implies that education loses its edifying underpinning. For Rorty,
to edify is to learn to establish new connections between peoples, cultures and histories. It is to learn to see things in new ways. It is to be responsive to the conditions under which one exists: Edifying philosophers want to keep space open for the sense of wonder which poets can sometimes cause— wonder that there is something which (at least for the moment) cannot be explained and can barely be described (Rorty 1986: 370).
Many thinkers of all persuasions believe that the western world is undergoing a crisis of values. As the Second of January Group (1986: 7) state in their manifesto After truth: A post-modern manifesto:
This is no ordinary time. The modern age opened with the destruction of the stories of God and religion. It is ending with the threatened destruction ofall coherent thought. The age was held on course by stories of progress and emancipation. They have guided our thoughts and inspired our actions. Science was to give us progressively greater knowledge and control of our world. While social hope flowed from the great tales of socialism or liberalism. But these stories are now exhausted [...1 There are no new stories to replace them.
It is in this context that we ought to heed Rorty's call to edification. The transmission of already established knowledge is in no way going to help us in dealing with this crisis. In fact it would only maintain it: "The resulting freezing-over of culture would be, in the eyes of edifying philosophers, the dehumanization of human beings" (Rorty 1986: 377). What is needed are thinkers who can respond to the `times' in which we live. The instrumentalist view of the university, the view that the university is a place for the transmission of already established knowledge for the sake of maintaining the status quo, has led to a devaluation of the need for wisdom in favour of utility. As Lobkowitz (1983: 31, 37) has said:
But most of our contemporaries value only immediate utility; our climate of opinion is devoid of wisdom. Thus a better reception is accorded the argument that a nation's wealth depends on a plethora of well-trained scientists and professionals.
And a little further on he says:
“Yet it is now very difficult to speak about wisdom in the university, for modern science is not wisdom, rather mostly operational knowledge.” As Karnoouh (1989: 114) notes, students themselves maintain a perpetuation of the instrumental view of knowledge:
As for students (by now well-trained to see in the humanities only knowledge which can be readily instrumental in the labour market), ask is easy-to-learn methods and quick exams.
Lyotard goes so far as to say that what we call knowledge is becoming a commodity on the market. In fact it is not unrealistic to entertain the possibility that what we like to call students should more appropriately be called clients and that the university is itself a 'service industry':
The relationship of the suppliers and users of knowledge to the knowledge they supply and use is now tending, and will increasingly tend, to assume the form already taken by the relationship of commodity producers and consumers to the commodities they produce and consume — that is, the form of use value. Knowledge is and will be produced in order to be sold, it is and will be consumed in order to be valorized in a new production. In both cases, the goal is exchange. Knowledge ceases to be an end in itself (Lyotard 1986: 45).
Not only, however, has the university become an instrument, it too values instrumental knowledge. As Lobkowitz (1983: 37) has said,
the university is predominantly concerned with operational knowledge. This is expressed in the question: What use is it for? or: How can it be applied?
There is, as Karnoouh (1983: 113) has noted, very little room for useless speculation, that is, speculation that goes beyond use. It must not be assumed that a negative stance is being adopted towards instrumentalisation. It is the `ultimate significance' given to an instrumental vision of being that we are trying to call into question. As with all values and goals we ought not to take it for granted but should adopt a critical attitude towards it, that is, we should be able to question it rather than giving it a 'transcendental' status as that value which guides us but cannot itself be called into question. This means not that we wish to displace an instrumental view of the university with another one but rather that we wish to suggest that an instrumentalist view should not be the consuming passion of the university.
Our question is: What value is there in instrumentation? What do we assume that we are achieving or reaching through instrumentation? What is instrumentation good for? Is it for the sake of happiness or increased comfort and material well-being? Speaking of Nietzsche, Karnoouh (1983: 112) has said:
He longed for the ancient Greek type of culture, something which in the end subjects’ man to things larger than himself. The error (the modern aberration) lies in believing that culture, life, the sciences, must contribute to man's happiness on earth — happiness viewed as the ultimate reference and accomplishment of all.
The second question that we would like to ask is: Do we even know what questions we should be asking of instrumental reason? Does our allegiance to instrumental reason allow us to question instrumental reason, that is, are we going to ask of what operational use is this question?' Can we get beyond instrumental questioning to such an extent that we can question it?
One of the themes of this paper has been that instrumental reason does not allow for self-questioning. As Karnoouh (1983: 111-2) has noted, it discourages all questioning of its goals and values. What is perhaps most frightening is the implication of this for the university's own self-reflection. If, as Heinrich (1983: 92) and others contend, the university has become an instrument of training and has ceased to be an institute for the shaping of consciousness, how can it reflect on itself if it cannot reflect on society or the world in which we find ourselves? How can it look at what it itself is? Will it not turn all issues regarding itself into instrumental issues whose `solution' entails the planning and execution of a policy?
Furthermore, it can be argued that we lack the methodological devices by which to reflect on the university as a whole. To reflect on the university is not to reflect on an object out there in the world. It is not to reflect on something that is independent and other than ourselves. Rather, it is to reflect on something that we are part of and involved in. How do we reflect on something that we are already part of and involved in? How does a part reflect on the whole that it is part of? Positivist logic cannot help us; any logic based on the distinction between subject and object cannot help us.
What we are looking at is precisely the relationship between the subject and object, that is, the relationship between the members of the university and the university. Instrumental thinking cannot help us: this is not a matter of planning and executing a policy. Do we then have no way of raising the question of the university as a whole? Must we agree with Heinrich when he talks about abandoning the idea of the "spiritual unity" of the university? Do we today have a clear idea of what the university is good for and of how we are serving that good?
Although it may appear as if the aim of this paper is destructive, this is in fact not the case. From an instrumental point of view, crisis indicates a problem in need of a solution. As outlined earlier, from the Heideggerian point of view, crisis is a source of questioning and disclosure. It calls and challenges us to see things in a new way. For Heidegger, crisis calls us into phenomenological reflexivity, that is, reflexion on our relationship to our own involvement. Thus, we can see the crisis of the direction of the university not as a problem to be solved but as an opportunity to open up ways of reflecting on the university. For example, instead of accepting differences or fragmentation as the context in which university activity takes place, would it not be possible to constitute a forum through which to debate such issues as the meaning of difference? What does fragmentation indicate about university education? What does fragmentation indicate about what the university is pursuing? Why is it difficult to communicate across schools and across disciplines? Do we not need to rethink our assumptions concerning knowledge?
A forum for the discussion of difference is not a forum for the discussion of differences. Whether we come from the physics department or the department of fine arts, whether we are a Marxist or a phenomenologist — we are all equally involved in this issue, that is, it allows for a sense of community.
Finally, while many authors agree with Heinrich that the university is going through a spiritual crisis, they believe that it is a mistake to restrict this crisis to the context of the university. Rather, they believe that the spiritual crisis of the university is part of the spiritual crisis of western civilization as a whole. There is neither time nor space to describe this crisis here. Suffice is to say that volumes have been written on it. The spiritual crisis concerns destruction of values. It refers to the fact that the meaning of existence is being taken for granted: we have lost our sense of the ends that we are pursuing. Surely the university has a role to play in dealing with this crisis in values? I am not sure if what has been said here is either wrong or right, either true or false. What I hope is that it will be read as an invitation to conversation.
But what is the value of conversation?
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