Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/165

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
161
THE UNIVERSITY IN POLITICS

equally valid: the purpose of the university is to cultivate judgment. The untrained individual will carelessly neglect, wantonly throw away, the most precious things because he is deficient in this quality. Without judgment it is impossible to conserve and add to useful truth, from sheer inability to distinguish what is useful. What is the criterion of utility? Simply the common sense one, a useful truth is one which will serve some purpose, one which has pragmatic ability. We may go deeper than that, however. What purpose can truth serve? Obviously to join with other truth in a system of ideas. There is, as it were, a sociology of thought, a cooperative commonwealth of the mind, not unlike that exhibited by human society, and strictly parallel with it in development. Now in society, where all may share in the fruits of the intellect of the few, numbers and variety are necessary; so is it also with the mind, and thus judgment is not an esoteric ability conferred at random on pensive souls, but is dependent for its very livelihood on sufficient and diverse knowledge.

According to the description we have given of university functions, it must be apparent that the relation between foci of learning and public affairs is fundamental. Knowledge and judgment are the very qualities which necessarily determine the success of a politician in any broad and lasting sense. A successful public man is one who efficiently serves public ends; no other definition is possible, although, according to it, some current motions of success may be reversed. Many there are who unquestionably are successful, and likewise are public men; so there are great fools who are also men, but we do not call them great men. I think we may say without contradiction that the things the university stands for are precisely those most valuable in genuine politics, as distinguished from the mere struggle between predatory interests.

Here it will occur to many that academic bodies are somewhat arrogant, in the face of the fact that so much good knowledge and admirable judgment has resided and does reside in persons who have never been subjected to college influences. Such criticism is justly directed against claims occasionally made, but broadly speaking it has no foundation. The university is an intellectual focus, just as the church is a religious one, and from each the light spreads in all directions. It is not possible to say just where either begins or ceases. Legally, it is true, the university is a definite corporation, with particular precisely indicated members. Spiritually, intellectually, it is nothing more than the nucleus of an intellectual nebula; which nebula, in fact, is world wide, with as many nuclei as there are centers of learning, whether represented by buildings and charters or not. Thus to be a citizen of the university is ipso facto to be a citizen of the world, and the custom prevalent in some European countries of addressing all co-workers in one's subject as "dear colleague" is abundantly justified. So the university need not