INTRODUCTION: THE UNIVERSITY AS MILIEU
In Chapter 1 Newman's idea of a university was explored (yet again) in relation to the famous definition of his lasting work. A university was (is) ‘a place of teaching universal knowledge’. The emphasis falls on the word ‘teaching’. This was opposed to several other conceptions of a university but specifically to what eventually became the dominant transatlantic idea, at least in the view of an international community of researchers, that is to say, the German idea of original inquiry.
This opposite idea focuses on wissenschaftliches Methoden, the methods or process needed to convert information into knowledge. The stress falls on the process of conceptualisation, analysis and the organisation of facts into connected hypotheses and theories, to be added and corrected as an on-going scientific commitment. Whether that process is absolutely valuefree, or relatively so, whether it is teleological and biased is an indissoluble part of the knowledge enterprise, provoking further reflections and debate and a vast literature on evidence and proof, the sociology of theory manufacture or the historiography of disciplinary specialisation. At issue are certainty not authority and the modes of inquiry best suited to representing actuality. Furthermore, the German idea of a university implies that certain fields of knowledge may become obsolete, in which case the careers of their practitioners can be in jeopardy.
To build, to plant, whatever you intend,
To rear the Column, or the Arch to bend,
To swell the Terras, or to sink the Grot;
In all, let Nature never be forgot.
Consult the Genius of the Place in all,
That tells the Waters or to rise, or fall,
Or helps th'ambitious Hill the Heav'ns to scale,
Or scoops in circling Theatres the Vale,
Calls in the Country, catches opening Glades,
Joins willing Woods, and varies Shades from Shades,
Now breaks, or now directs, th'intending Lines;
Paints as you plant, and as you work, Designs