David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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I read Stefan Collini’s What are Universities For? last week with very mixed feelings. In the past, I’ve much admired his polemical essays on the REF, “impact”, the Browne Report, etc. in the London Review of Books and elsewhere: they speak to my heart. If you don’t know those essays, you can get some of their flavour from his latest article in the Guardian yesterday. But I found the book a disappointment. Perhaps the trouble is that Collini is too decent, too high-minded, has too unrealistically exalted a view about what actually happens in universities which is too coloured by attitudes appropriate to the traditional humanities. And he is optimistic to the point of fantasy if he thinks that people are so susceptible to “the romance of ideas and the power of beauty” that they will want, or can be brought to want, lots and lots of universities in order to promote the ideas (as if they would suppose that the task of “conserving, understanding, extending and handing on to subsequent generations the intellectual, scientific, and artistic heritage of mankind” was clearly ill-served when there were only forty universities in England, as opposed to a hundred and whatever).
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