22 SES 14 A, The University in the Age of Critique (Part 2)
Symposium continued from 22 SES 13 A
Research, education and public engagement are traditionally seen as the three interrelated though distinct tasks of the university. In this contribution we will problematize this tripartition and reconceptualize the relation between university and society – a relation that is most often drawn along these three distinct lines. It is our conviction that research, education and public engagement are intimately connected and can’t be thought separately. We think that education is not confined to the lecture hall, nor is research incarcerated in laboratories, or public engagement condemned to stay forever on opinion pages of newspapers. To support our hypothesis of the unity of research, education and public engagement, that these three tasks are in fact indistinguishable and are part and parcel of one and the same task of the university, namely critique, we will draw on insights from philosophy of science, historical narratives, science and technology studies, educational theory, etc. We start from the assumption that the lecture is the paradigmatic practice of a university. From its inception in medieval Bologna and Paris up to today, lectures have been and will be organized in universities. We argue that, since the lecture is central to the working of a university, the three tasks – which are thus, according to us, one and the same, namely critique – can be discerned in this practice. To provide our argument with some detail we will give four concrete historical examples: First, we will go back to the early years of the university and attend the disputatio of Aquinas in the 13th century. Thereafter we will do a time travel to the 16th century and attend a lecture by Vesalius in the anatomical theater. To conclude we will go to some lectures by Virchow, a biologist, and Wölfflin, an art historian, at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. We will describe these lecturing practices sociomaterially in order to do justice to the emergence of objects, publics, etc. We will analyse how in each of these “theaters of proof” objectivity is enacted. Therefore we draw on Stengers’ concept of experiment: “the invention of the power to confer on things the power of conferring on the experimenter the power to speak in their name". From these explorations we will elaborate an understanding of critique, a task that encompasses education, research and public engagement at the same moment of experiment.
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