Direct end of the university

The direct end of a university is knowledge or ‘cultivation of mind’, just as the direct end of hospitals is bodily health; neither of them is directly intended to make men religious or to serve some immediate practical purpose.

In arguing that the end of a university was intellectual culture, Newman was defending the university against those who burdened it with some other end, such as practical utility or religious training and morality. Following Aristotle’s argument that everything has its own perfection, whether intellectual, aesthetic, moral or practical, Newman held that,

To open the mind, to correct it, to refine it, to enable it to know, and to digest, master, rule, and use its knowledge, to give it power over its own faculties, application, flexibility, method, critical exactness, sagacity, resource, address, eloquent expression, is an object as intelligible […] as the cultivation of virtue, while, at the same time, it is absolutely distinct from it. (Idea of a university)

Defending what he maintained was the proper business of a university, Newman wrote:

‘Its direct business is not to steel the soul against temptation or to console it in affliction, any more than to set the loom in motion, or to direct the steam carriage; be it ever so much the means or the condition of both material and moral advancement, still, taken by and in itself, it as little mends our hearts as it improves our temporal circumstances.’ (Idea of a university)

Newman argued that ‘A University is not ipso facto a Church Institution’; like a hospital, it ‘has no direct call to make men Catholic or religious, for that is the previous and contemporaneous office of the Church’.  Nevertheless the indirect effects of a university can be religious; ‘As the Church uses Hospitals religiously, so she uses Universities’. In order ‘to secure its religious character, and for the morals of its members, she has ever adopted together with it, and within its precincts, Seminaries, Halls, Colleges and Monastic Establishments’. (First draft of an Introduction to Discourse VI, 16 July 1852)


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