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This blog is primarily for me to blog my responses to books that I'm reading. Sometimes I blog about other stuff too, though.

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Intellectual Freedom in the 1200's

I'm only 25 pages in, but three quick thoughts:
First, Hofstadter rightly distinguished between policing ideas via formal sanctions and policing ideas via peer pressure.  This distinction matters in a great many contexts, and has deep political significance in areas well beyond the campus.  From the smallest workplace to the largest nation-state, it is arguable that social pressure's dominance over formal rules is the only thing that keeps the world from descending into endless lawyering.

Second, I was not entirely surprised to learn that for centuries universities have functioned quite effectively as institutions that can secure the right of their members to question (most) orthodoxies of the outside world but were (and arguably are) ineffective at protecting dissent from the accepted orthodoxies of the campus itself.  (Speaking of dissent from orthodoxy, it is strange that I spend more class time in the computer lab with students learning to use and develop simulations than anyone else in my department, yet I am the most vocal critic of most things offered under the "technology and learning" banner.)

Finally, I was mildly amused to learn that when the European academic world rediscovered Aristotle in the 1200's some of his adherents were treated as heretics by the Church, and a few even found their institutions unable to defend them, but 400 years later Galileo's ruthless critiques of Aristotle's followers earned him the wrath of the Church.  Time is a wheel.

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