By Mark R. Schwehn

In his 1986-87 president's report to the Harvard Board of Overseers, Derek Bok articulated two contemporary conceptions of the academic vocation. On the one hand, Bok repeatedly insisted on the university's obligation to help students learn how to lead ethical, fulfilling lives. On the other, he admitted that faculty are ill-equipped to help the university discharge this obligation. "Professors," Bok writes, " . . . are trained to transmit knowledge and skills within their chosen discipline, not to help students become more mature, morally perceptive human beings."[1] In this essay, I shall endeavor to advance our thinking about college and university education in the United States through a critical study of conceptions such as Bok's--a task more urgent and more difficult now than it has been since the rise of the modern research university.

Notice Bok's assumptions. Teaching history or chemistry or mathematics or literature has little or nothing to do with forming students' characters. Faculty members must therefore be exhorted, cajoled, or otherwise maneuvered to undertake this latter endeavor in addition to teaching their chosen disciplines. The pursuit of knowledge and the cultivation of virtue are, for Bok at least, utterly discrete activities. To complicate matters still further, the Harvard faculty, together with most faculty members at other modern research universities, would probably resist the notion that their principal vocational obligation is, as Bok suggests, to transmit the knowledge and skills of their disciplines. They believe that their calling primarily involves making or advancing knowledge, not transmitting it. How else could we explain the familiar academic lament, "Because this is a terribly busy semester for me, I do not have any time to do my own work"? Among all occupational groups other than the professoriate, such a complaint, voiced under conditions of intensive labor, is inconceivable. Among university faculty members, it is expected. Never mind the number of classes taught, courses prepared, papers graded, and committees convened. Indeed, the more these activities increase, the more deeply the depressing conviction sets in: "I'm not doing enough of my own work."

One is tempted to ask, "Well then, whose work are you doing?" To which the response would be: "You know what I mean; I'm not getting enough writing/composing/experimenting done." This response clears up a certain amount of conceptual confusion by evading the depth grammar of the original remark. Faculty members do say what they mean: they believe that their own work is writing, composing, and experimenting.

In what follows, I shall not attempt to set out various alternative understandings of the academic vocation and then to argue for a preferred version. Indeed, an ethnography of academia in the United States today would probably reveal that, in operational terms at least, the work of university faculty members is defined by all three of the objectives adumbrated above-making knowledge, transmitting knowledge and skills, and helping students learn how to lead more ethical, fulfilling lives. Yet even though these three objectives do not seem inherently competing, much less contradictory, academicians have come to think of them in these terms. Thus, Bok appears to think that transmitting knowledge and skills is not relevant to character formation, and many faculty believe that, though they are expected somehow to pursue many objectives, their own work should be evaluated primarily, perhaps exclusively, in terms of one of them.

Such apparently widespread uncertainty about the purposes of higher learning in the United States has occasioned the present inquiry. My topic is just this uncertainty construed as a vocational problem. I shall endeavor first to show how this vocational problem arose and then to explore its religious dimensions. My thesis is that matters are more complex than Bok imagines. Current conceptions of the academic vocation actually militate against the pursuit of the project he once set before his own university.

The Socialization of the Professoriate

The fact that so many academics labor with an unsettled conscience, even as they tend to think that classroom teaching and collegiality are not part of their "own work", is a tribute to the socializing power of our graduate schools. There, students learn, regardless of their field of study, that research and publication constitute their tasks and that all other activities--teaching, lecturing, university service--just go with the territory. The feeble efforts that most graduate schools make to provide their students with "teaching experience" (it is rather like giving would-be doctors training in "bedside manner"; the training seems vaguely distasteful, but it somehow must be done) merely reinforces the suspicion that pedagogy is really not a part of one's work. Leaving aside the very important question of whether or not any teacher-training program could be successful at the graduate level ("Tell me, Socrates, can teaching be taught?"), the results of five to ten years of graduate training are unmistakable. Publication, graduate students discover, is the vocational aspiration. To expect a recent Ph.D. to think otherwise would be the same as expecting a recent law-school graduate to think like an engineer.

This socializing process leads to what is perhaps the major internal contradiction within the enterprise of higher learning: the vast majority of those Ph.D.s who remain within the academy do not publish very much at all. Instead, "their own work" really consists of transmitting knowledge and skills and perhaps helping students to learn how to lead more ethical, fulfilling lives. Moreover, we have many institutions of higher learning in this country that explicitly emphasize and reward such endeavors as much as, in a few cases more than, published research. The internal contradiction remains unresolved, however, for three reasons. First, faculty at all colleges and universities are trained and socialized at modern research universities where the supreme value of making and advancing knowledge is instilled within them. Second, lateral or upward mobility from one institution to another depends primarily upon research and publication. Finally, aspirations to higher levels of excellence among the vast majority of colleges and universities are invariably linked to publication and research, i.e., to becoming more like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Chicago. In brief, we might have a variety of conceptions of the academic vocation both in theory and in practice, but one conception--the conception of the academic as one who makes knowledge--has long since attained hegemony over all the others.

This predominance was, moreover, achieved in the course of struggles against both the conception of the academic vocation that emphasized the transmission of knowledge and skills and the conception of the academic vocation that emphasized the cultivation of character. These conflicts, though they emerged everywhere in the Western world during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, were experienced most dramatically in Germany. Because the German professoriate commanded inordinately great prestige and wielded commensurate influence, rival conceptions on the academic vocation were more sharply drawn and more culturally momentous there than in the United States, France, or even England. Max Weber's famous address, delivered at the end of this period at Munich University in 1918 and entitled "Wissenschaft als Beruf" (Academics as a Calling) remains even today the locus classicus for the elucidation of what has become the predominant understanding of the academic vocation.[2]

Abandoning his ordinarily dry and measured style, Weber issued a series of impassioned and uncompromising statements about the character of the academic calling.

Whoever lacks the capacity to put on blinders, so to speak, and to come up to the idea that the fate of his soul depends upon whether or not he makes the correct conjecture at this passage of his manuscript may as well stay away from academics. He will never have what one may call the "personal experience" of academics. Without this strange intoxication, ridiculed by every outsider; without this passion, this "thousands of years must pass before you enter into life and thousands more wait in silence";--according to whether or not you succeed in making this conjecture; without this, you have no calling for academics and you should do something else.[3]

Remarks such as these were addressed to two audiences, one of them immediate, the other implied. The immediate audience consisted of German students, many of whom were demanding that their teachers become seers and prophets. Some were also seeking to avoid the rigors of disciplined learning and to pursue instead a cult of immediate experience. In refusing the role of prophet, and in defending methodical intellectual procedures, Weber was reaffirming what he took to be the great legacy of the Enlightenment against the perilous irrationality of his contemporaries.

Weber's implied audience consisted of the guardians of what Fritz Ringer has called the German mandarin tradition of learning. This tradition, whose tenets virtually defined the shape and the substance of higher learning in Germany during the nineteenth century, had emphasized the cultivation of the mind and the spirit (Bildung), in other words the formation of character, as the supreme end of education. Those called to academics were, according to the mandarins, obliged to select those materials that would, through proper pedagogy, form the souls of students in accordance with certain classical notions of wisdom and virtue.[4] Accordingly, for a mandarin like Karl Jaspers, scholarship, however specialized, had a spiritual aspect insofar as it "does not forget the end for the means, does not become emerged in mere details, and does not lose. . . the idea of universitas."[5] education, as opposed to instruction, involved the "forming of the personality in accordance with an ideal of Bildung with ethical norms . . . education is the inclusive, the whole."[6]

Weber relentlessly attacked such elevated notions. He insisted that separate departments of learning were finally so many warring gods, self-sufficient spheres in permanent and irreconcilable collision, not parts of some larger whole. Academics were, therefore, true to their own calling when they steadfastly refused to address questions about the meaning of the whole or the purpose of human life. Under such circumstances academic life could no longer be understood as "the way to true being, the way to true art, the way to true God, or the way to true happiness."[7]

The relevance of formulations such as these to the present academic experience in the United States is everywhere apparent, but nonetheless difficult to explain. Weber began "Wissenschaft als Beruf" by stressing the difference between the social and material conditions of higher learning in the United States and Germany. And indeed the founders of the modern research university in this country consistently discovered that German models, however attractive they seemed in theory, were not readily adaptable in practice. From the 1860s through World War I and beyond, leading educators in this country stressed the importance of good teaching as a way of transmitting a tradition of liberal learning as much as they celebrated the importance of specialized, original, and published research.[8]

Yet even though the hegemony of the Weberian conception of the academic calling took hold later here than in Germany, mainly because of the comparatively pluralistic and decentralized character of higher learning in the U.S., our own history is marked by debates very similar to those within Germany. Thus, for example, Hofstadter and Metzger characterize the rise of the university in this country as a movement "from inculcation to inquiry," from the transmission of knowledge and tradition to research.[9] Thus too, the formation vs. information debates that occupied Harvard in the 1870s and 1880s were framed in terms that were remarkably similar to Jaspers's distinction between education (Erziehung), which involved Bildung, and instruction (Unterricht), which involved "merely" imparting information and skills.[10] Finally and quite recently, Derek Bok could assume without question that teaching and research have little or nothing to do with character formation. He therefore proceeded to argue that Harvard should dedicate itself (a better sense of history would have led him to say that it should rededicate itself) to helping students lead more ethical and fulfilling lives in the face of a faculty not at all prepared to undertake this task.

This cursory historical review might tempt us to suppose that the rise of the modem research university and the concurrent ascendancy of the Weberian notion of the academic calling entailed only a rearrangement of priorities within the general field of higher learning in America. Yes, scholarship has been promoted in importance, and transmission of knowledge and skills, as well as character formation, have been demoted; but all three remain, in fact and in theory, purposes that inform current conceptions of the academic vocation. Some such account as this is the conventional view of matters.

The view turns out to be largely mistaken, however, for reasons that Weber himself acknowledged. He realized that by promoting original scholarship to the position of "our own work," he was advancing an account of the academic calling that was inimical to the kind of character formation associated with Bildung. And if Weber was correct on this point, as I believe that he was, it would be more accurate to claim that Harvard University has in part caused the problems that Bok and others have so recently discovered, that the modem university in its present form militates against some of the very purposes that it occasionally espouses. To see how and why this is so, I should like to turn to Weber once again, this time with special attention to the religious origins of his account of the academic calling.

A Renunciatory Hero

At the same time that he was preparing "Wissenschaft als Beruf," Weber was revising what eventually became his most widely studied work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. This coincidence, together with other revealing facts about Weber's personality and career, have led scholars to notice how much Weber's own conception of the academic vocation was based upon his earlier interpretation of Protestant worldly asceticism. Thus, for example, Arnold Eisen has argued that Weber's idea of Puritan asceticism shaped both the method and the substance of much of his sociological writings.[11] And Sheldon Wolin has demonstrated that Weber's Puritan actor was "the prototype for Weber's ideal types, Political Man and Scientific Man, and their respective vocations."[12]

My aim here is to ponder the contemporary significance of Weber's paradoxically basing his conception of our academic task upon religious views of life even as he simultaneously insisted that we must and do live in a world without God. Like much of Nietzsche's work, Weber's analysis of the academic vocation demonstrated the impossibly exacting, even absurd, psychological consequences of attempting to live out a Christian ethic absent any belief in the God of Christianity. But whereas Nietzsche proceeded from this demonstration to urge us to abandon the Christian ethos altogether, Weber urged us to retain the Protestant ethic while at the same time abandoning the system of religious beliefs that made such an ethic bearable. Indeed, Weber's account of our calling as academics can seem, for these reasons, alternatively ennobling and devastating.

Consider first of all Weber's pronouncement that all valuable academic work is highly specialized work. In The Protestant Ethic, Weber had shown that, for all Protestants, vocations were ordained by God for the purposes of ordering the world and serving humanity on earth. Division of labor was part of God's providence, and so Christians could find meaning in their vocations precisely because they could trust that God would orchestrate their separate and specialized endeavors into a kind of divine economy directed toward serving neighbors (Luther) or the common good (the Puritans).[13] Thus, the Puritan Berufsmensch "neither inquires about nor finds it necessary to inquire about the meaning of his actual practice of a vocation within the whole world, the total framework of which is not his responsibility, but his God's."[14] In sum, the source of all callings was God and their collective end was human flourishing.

By contrast, the powers that bear down upon modern humans and ordain their callings are not divine; rather, they are the inexorable conditions of modernity itself--specialization, rationalization, and intellectualization. Though the development of these conditions was linked historically (not logically or inevitably) to the Puritan ethic, their character is wholly secular. The specialized nature of the academic calling is then given, not by God, but by the "fate of our times." To what human good or goods is specialized academic work directed? Simply to the end of Wissenschaft--making knowledge. The specialized products of academic work are not, however, part of a larger whole in terms of which they can be said to have meaning and significance. Nor can their value be understood in terms of some substantive goal beyond themselves like human well-being or the public good. Whereas the larger implication of their work had been left by the Puritans to God, "in the modern setting, it is simply left...."[15]

Sheldon Wolin has argued that the specialized academic became, for Weber, a renunciatory hero.

Like the Calvinist, scientific man [sic] accumulates, only his activity takes the form of knowledge; yet what he amasses has no more lasting value than other things of the world. Scientific knowledge is always being superseded. Finally, scientific man is also a renunciatory hero. His form of renunciation is dictated by the demands of specialization that require him to abandon the delights of the Renaissance and Goethian ideal of the universal man who seeks to develop many facets of his personality and as many different fields of knowledge as possible."[16]

Weber's academics had to renounce more than the ideal of universal man, however. They had also to renounce, in their callings, spontaneous enjoyment, emotional satisfaction, and communal affections. And again, academics had to subject themselves to this ascetic regimen without the religious consolations, assurances, and commitments that might have made sense of such self-abnegating behavior. "The Puritan," Weber writes, "like every rational type of asceticism, tried to enable a man to maintain and act upon his constant motives, especially those which it taught him itself, against the emotions.... Contrary to many popular ideas, the end of this asceticism was to be able to lead an alert, intelligent life: the most urgent task the destruction of spontaneous, impulsive enjoyment, the most important means was to bring order into the conduct of its adherents.[17]

The constant motives of the academic were, for Weber, supplied by the inner logic of the academic disciplines themselves, and the true academic acted from a sense of duty to these disciplines, never from purposes external to them, much less from inclination or the pursuit of pleasure.

Like the Puritan Berufsmensch, modern academics gained a certain measure of alertness, intelligence, even freedom, by virtue of devotion to their callings, but they purchased these things at enormous cost. By becoming more aware of the character of the forces that bore down upon them, academics became less ignorant of their constraining hold. By practicing means-end rationality, they became clearer about the nature and the implications of their own values. And by systematic control over the spontaneous and emotional, they gained a certain measure of rational freedom, the ability to act from reason rather than from impulse. Mastery of the world and self-mastery were interconnected. The price of mastery, for the Weberian academic, was resigned acceptance of the retreat from academic life of "the ultimate and most sublime values." Whereas Protestants had made the whole world and their own callings within it a sacred realm of God's providential care, academics systematically advanced the process of secularization. Weber himself was especially determined to control his own inclinations toward prophecy and moral exhortation within the academic sphere. As Don Levine has noted, Weber "experienced a deep conflict between the commitment to the professional norms of scientific work and an urge to play some kind of prophetic role."[18] He was less successful in managing this conflict in "Wissenschaft als Beruf" than in any of his other academic exercises; the address remains possibly the greatest prophecy against prophecy ever composed. On the other hand, he proclaimed to his dying day that "the intrusion of normative statements into scholarly questions is the work of the Devil."[19]

Finally, the academic calling was, for Weber, a peculiarly anxious and lonely business. He had noted in The Protestant Ethic that the English Puritans' emphasis upon an "exclusive trust in God" had led them to issue "warnings against any trust in the aid of friendship of men."[20] And he had insisted that, in spite of the crucial importance of church membership for the Calvinist, "his intercourse with his God was carried on in deep spiritual isolation."[21] Indeed, Calvinism tended "to tear the individual away from the close ties with which he is bound to this world."[22] These accents carried over into Weber's own understanding of the modern academic calling as an impersonal and solitary undertaking. He invariably referred, when he spoke of the academic community, not to specific webs of human beings working in close personal relationship to one another, but to such abstract entities as fields of study, scientific disciplines, and forms of rationality.

Again, Weber's academic was more acutely lonely than his Puritan precursor. However profound were the depths of the Puritans' spiritual isolation, they at least had intercourse with God. But Weberian academics could merely wait alone, in disciplined attention, for the chance infusion of mundane grace that would lead them to temporary salvation through making correct conjectures in their manuscripts. Peter Lassman and Irving Velody sum these matters up very well.

In the disenchanted public world there can be no objective ranking of values, the scientist or the scholar can be no more certain of the value of science or scholarship than can the Calvinist be certain of election. The inner world of such a person is one threatened by anxiety and doubt in which those who "live for" rather than "live off» science are placed in an unbearable position."[23]

Unlike the Calvinist, the Weberian academic had to occupy this unbearable position alone.

Who among present-day academics can live in such a manner? Few can, few do, few desire to do so. Most of us lack Weber's discipline and courage. But more to the point, Weber offers us an ideal type, not a group profile. Furthermore, academics in the United States have grown accustomed to rhetorical strategies and institutional practices that have sought, from the beginnings of the modern research university in this country, to connect scholarly research to public service and the public good. I have examined Weber's ideal type at such length in order to clarify many of the academic practices, internalized among us in habits of mind and language, that reward or otherwise tend to promote the kind of personality that Weber describes. To reinforce this point, let me now return briefly to the problems raised at the beginning of this essay.

The Communion of Truth

I began by noting three possible accounts of the meaning and purpose of the academic vocation--the cultivation of character (Bildung or formation), the transmission of knowledge and skills (information), and the making of knowledge (Wissenschaft). I suggested that faculty at Harvard and at other research universities currently understand "their own work" in terms of the third objective (Wissenschaft), and I observed that Harvard's recently retired president and other educators are now urging the modern university to think in terms of the first objective (formation), sometimes as distinct from or as opposed to the second (information). These matters, I said, were more complex than Bok imagined. It should now be easier to see why and how this is so.

In the first place, the transmission of knowledge, unless it is construed as mere inculcation rather than as the development of a tradition of thought and learning, is not obviously distinct from character formation. At the beginning of his 1983 Jefferson Lecture on the subject of tradition, Jaroslav Pelikan remarked the irony that we are now "better equipped to deal with tradition than were our scholarly predecessors, although they and their audiences may have had a better concrete grasp of one or another of the specific traditions than we do."[24] We have come to understand tradition at the very moment that "the home, the community, the school, and the church have all declined gravely in their ability (or willingness) to transmit one or another constituent element of the tradition."[25]

If my own analysis of Weber is at all correct, these ironies can to some extent be explained. Weber argued that in order to understand tradition we must rationalize it, must make it purely an object for impersonal inspection and formal analysis, and once we do that it ceases to be tradition for us. Although, as Pelikan has demonstrated, for example, Christian intellectuals have simultaneously thoughtt about, criticized, and developed the tradition, the Weberians have temporarily prevailed; schools, especially universities, have declined in their willingness to transmit tradition of any kind. The activity has been reduced to the "transmission of knowledge and skills" (information or inculcation), and so it seems irrelevant to shaping the moral substance or the habits of mind and action that determine character.

Let me try to clarify this point further by offering a more concrete example. If I were to consider further Weber's own complicated conception of rationality, I might and probably should also consider thinkers like Luther, Calvin, Rousseau, Kant, Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, and a wide range of contemporary critics of the tradition that these men represent--such as Elizabeth Minnich, Parker Palmer, Martha Nussbaum, and Carol Gilligan. These writers, men and women alike, have their own deep though differing senses of the powers and limits of reason. In order really to study these thinkers, I must learn to understand what they said and consider whether it is true and important.

To think about thinkers and texts and to think with them: this is conversation, the conversation of the present with its own past. To think only about a text and to claim that one cannot, as an academic, responsibly think with it: this is Weberianism. Weberian academics ask only whether what someone says about what a text or a social practice means is true or false and what such a saying might imply. Tradition-minded academics ask these questions too, but they also ask whether what the text itself says about how we are to live and what we are to do is true or false. Tradition-minded academics may disagree about the answers to these latter questions, but they can and should agree, against the Weberians, that such questions should be asked and answered truthfully throughout the academy. And in the course of doing so, academics would most definitely help students "lead more ethical, fulfilling lives."

In the second place, I have tried to demonstrate that the academic vocation understood in terms of Wissenschaft finally does shape character or, more exactly, personality. Initially, making knowledge seems to preclude character formation, and it does indeed preclude or replace Bildung. But in Weber's account, the process of knowledge formation, if conducted rationally, really does favor and cultivate the emergence of a particular personality type. And this personality does exhibit virtues-clarity but not necessarily charity, honesty but not necessarily friendliness, devotion to the calling but not necessarily loyalty to particular and local communities of learning. At the end of The Protestant Ethic, Weber seemed to warn us all against the appearance of personalities that would some day fully conform themselves to the ideal type of the worldly ascetic. "For of the last stage of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: 'Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved.' "[26] The problem here is obvious: these are not the sorts of characters that Derek Bok wanted research universities to form.

Though the modern university has managed with remarkable success to institutionalize Weberianism since the time of "Wissenschaft als Beruf," contemporary thinkers, inside and outside the academy, have begun seriously to question the epistemological basis of Weber's account of the academic calling. Alasdair MacIntyre insists upon both the traditional character of all rationality and upon the rationality of all traditions. Martha Nussbaum, in Love's Knowledge, argues brilliantly that we read primarily in order to consider who we are and how we ought to live, questions that Weber virtually banned from academic discourse. Parker Palmer, in To Know As We Are Known, urges us to think of truth in terms of relationships. Elizabeth Minnich and other feminist scholars seek to expose systematic errors in contemporary curricular practices and to offer intellectual and pedagogical strategies to counter certain aspects of what I have called Weberianism. In Transforming Knowledge, Minnich demonstrates that many accounts of "rationality," some of them very much like the accounts offered by Weber, are radically deficient in that they mistake the local and privileged practices of a small group of men for the rational activities of the human mind. Wayne Booth, in The Company We Keep, insists that we should think of texts as potential friends, and gives as the golden rule of hermeneutics: "read as you would have others read you; listen as you would have others listen to you." Jeffrey Stout, in Ethics after Babel, seeks to place "the critical study of religious ethics back on the intellectual agenda" of our times.

This discourse about higher learning among both religious and secular intellectuals should lead us not so much to solve the problems of the Weberian legacy as to reconceive them in fresh and productive ways. This process of reconception is already well under way in many areas of American intellectual life. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has published a widely influential study by Ernest Boyer, Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. Like the present essay, Boyer's work challenges the Weberian conception of scholarship by subsuming it under a much broader and richer understanding of the research activities proper to the academy. Other foundations, such as the Lilly Endowment and the Pew Charitable Trusts, have been and are actively engaged in supporting projects and activities that reconceive and refurbish the linkages between religion and public life, between higher learning and religious commitment, and between the intellectual, the moral, and the spiritual virtues. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, established disciplinary and professional associations have become, for many academics, replaced by other communities of inquiry that have grown to love the very questions that the academy has ignored. I am thinking here of associations such as ARIL itself, the Society for Values in Higher education, and the Institute for Religion and Public Life.

These individual works and communal activities represent a congress of efforts, not wholly consistent with one another, but united by a sense that Weberianism has bequeathed to us an account of academic life that is far too attenuated for our times. At their best, they seek to preserve what is most valuable in the Enlightenment tradition of higher learning while seeking to correct and reinvigorate that tradition in part by reconnecting it to some of the spiritual sources, such as the Protestant concept of vocation, that originally gave rise to it. At their worst, these reconstructive activities can deteriorate into sectarianism, anti-intellectualism, and what Jeffrey Stout has called "terminal wistfulness," the collective longing for a world that never really was and that, in any case, cannot be restored.

From my own vantage point as a Christian (and I am reasonably confident that many educated people of all religious faiths will agree with me here), these several endeavors might be construed as proposed correctives to a distinctively modern heresy. I use the term "heresy" here to refer to a certain truth that has been exaggerated by Weber and other modernists to the point of pernicious distortion. Yes, academics do to some extent "make" knowledge, meaning, and truth, as do all human beings. But humans did not make themselves, nor do their constructs by themselves constitute the world. To think of academics as creators of knowledge is to capture one aspect of what Christians and Jews mean when they agree that human beings are made in the image of God. But to remember only that human beings create is to forget that knowledge, meaning, and truth are also gifts. And this forgetfulness, as Genesis teaches, can involve aspiration to deity, the pursuit of knowledge as power, the failure to acknowledge limits, and the resulting disruption of community. It can lead, in short, to a conception of the academic vocation founded upon the dangerous Weberian notion that "we can in principle master all things by calculation."

The best corrective to Weberianism is not what Weber himself most feared, anti-intellectual and superstitious retreat. It is rather the effort to recover a vision of the academic vocation that places the pursuit of truth and understanding in a communal context within which these pursuits can flourish most fully. This vision was captured centuries ago by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. "There are many who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge: that is curiosity. There are others who desire to know in order that they may themselves be known: that is vanity. But there are some who seek knowledge in order to serve and edify others: and that is love."


[1.] The most accessible source of the relevant portions of Bok's report is the brief excerpt published in the "Opinion" section of the Chronicle of Higher Education 34 (April 27, 1988): B4, and entitled "Universities have an obligation to help students learn how to lead ethical, fulfilling lives."

[2.] Max Weber, "Science as a Vocation," in H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, trans. and eds., From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (Oxford University Press: New York, 1977), 129-56. Gerth and Mills have translated Wissenschaft as "science." Because "science" in the U.S. context is often understood to mean simply "natural science," and since the German word has a much wider range of reference, I have translated Wissenschaft as "academics." Weber was speaking about and he referred to all of the academic disciplines in his 1918 address.

[3.] Ibid., 135.

[4.] Ringer, The Decline of the German Mandarins (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1969), 87.

[5.] Jaspers quoted by Ringer, ibid., 106.

[6.] Jaspers again quoted by Ringer, ibid., 87.

[7.] Weber, "Science as a Vocation," 143.

[8.] Hugh Hawkins, "University Identity: The Teaching and Research Functions," in Alexandra Oleson and John Voss, eds., The Organization of Knowledge in America, 1860 1920 (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979), 285-89. This important article provides an excellent account of the earliest efforts to distinguish, in both practical and theoretical terms, between teaching and original research. For two extensive studies of the German influence upon the development of research universities in the United States, see Laurence R. Vesey, The Emergence of the American University (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1974), esp.121-79, and Richard Hofstadter and Walter P Metzger, The Development of Academic Freedom in the United States (New York Random House, 1955), 367-402. A more recent, sharply focused but nonetheless very instructive account of the German influence upon the University of Michigan challenges or modifies many of the important claims made by Vesey and Hofstadter; cf. James. Turner and Paul Bernard, "The Prussian Road to the University? German Models and the University of Michigan, 1837-c. 1895," Rackham Reports (University of Michigan, 1988-89), 16.

[9.] Metzger, The Development of Academic Freedom, 367.

[10.] Hugh Hawkins, Between Harvard and America: The Educational Leadership of Charles W.Eliot (New York Oxford University Press, 1972), 3-33.

[11.] Eisen, "Called to Order: The Role of the Puritan Berufsmensch in Weberian Sociology," Canadian Journal of Sociology 13 (1979): 203-18.

[12.] Wolin, "Max Weber: Legitimation, Method, and the Politics of Theory," Political Theory 9 (1981): 412.

[13.] Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons (New York Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958), 160-61.

[14.] Weber, Economy and Society: Essays in Sociology, eds. and trans. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich (New York: Bedminster Press, 1967), 548.

[15.] Eisen, "Called to Order," 214.

[16.] Wolin, "Max Weber," 413.

[17.] Weber, Protestant Ethic, 119.

[18.] Levine, The Flight from Ambiguity: Essays on Social and Cultural Theory (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1987),186.

[19.] Weber quoted by Levine, ibid., 192. Italics mine.

[20.] Weber, Protestant Ethic, 106.

[21.] Ibid., 106-7.

[22.] Ibid., 108.

[23.] Lassman and Velody, "Max Weber on Science, Disenchantment and the Search for Meaning" in Lassman and Velody, eds., Mar Weber's "Science as a Vocation" (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989), 183.

[24.] Jaroslav Pelikan, The Vindication of Tradition (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984), 5-6.

[25.] Ibid.

[26.] Weber, Protestant Ethic, 182.

MARK SCHWEHN is dean of Christ College, the honors college of Valparaiso University. He is also the project director of the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts, a programmatic effort designed to address the problems he defines in this essay. Much of the essay appears as chapter 1 of his book, Exiles from Eden: Religion and the Academic Vocation in America (Oxford, 1992)

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