On the Heterodox Academy website, Dr. Jonathan Haidt explains eloquently why universities must choose one telos: truth or social justice. Furthermore, he elaborates that Aristotle often evaluated a thing with respect to its “telos”–its purpose, end, or goal. The telos of a knife is to cut. The telos of a physician is health or healing. What is the telos of university?
The most obvious answer is “truth”–-the word appears on so many university crests. But increasingly, many of America’s top universities are embracing social justice as their telos, or as a second and equal telos. But can any institution or profession have two teloses (or teloi)? What happens if they conflict?
Dr. Haidt believes that the conflict between truth and social justice is likely to become unmanageable. Universities will have to choose, and be explicit about their choice, so that potential students and faculty recruits can make an informed choice. Universities that try to honor both will face increasing incoherence and internal conflict.
To further illuminate his point, consider two quotations:
The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.–Karl Marx, 1845
He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion…–John Stuart Mill, 1859
As Dr. Haidt puts it: Marx is the patron saint of what he calls “Social Justice U,” which is oriented around changing the world in part by overthrowing power structures and privilege. It sees political diversity as an obstacle to action. Mill is the patron saint of what he calls “Truth U,” which sees truth as a process in which flawed individuals challenge each other’s biased and incomplete reasoning. In this process, all become smarter. However, Truth U dies when it becomes intellectually uniform or politically orthodox.
Universities Must Choose One Telos: Truth or Social Justice
Truth is paramount to sapience, and the antithesis to sapience is modern progressivism. Not only does progressivism deny commonly held truths across all cultures of the world, today’s progressivism has evolved to many degrees into a twentieth century version of Marxism lite—without the horrific calories of human sacrifice, failed regimes, and economic ruin.
When progressivism madness is incubated in the right condition on campus, illiberalism will follow, and when illiberalism follows, so do social justice warriors and campus radicals. Put simply enough by Dr. Haidt, “no university can have Truth and Social Justice as dual teloses. Each university must pick one. He shows that Brown University has staked out the leadership position for Social Justice University (SJU), and the University of Chicago has staked out the leadership position for Truth U.
The Distinction Between Progressive vs. Progressivism
Throughout The SAPIENT Being I sometimes use the phrase “so called” progressive. The reason is because so many of the left’s and “current” liberal platforms, policies, and agendas are actually regressive in regards to developing sapience. They are the antithesis to sapience! Please note this and the important distinction between progressive vs. progressivism as follows:
Progressive: One favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are, especially in political matters. Today, a conservative or Republican can be just as progressive as a liberal or a Democrat because they both advocate progress, change, improvement, or reform as well, but they have vastly different agendas and ideologies in this regard.
Progressivism: A political philosophy in support of social reform based on the idea of progress in which advancements in science, technology, economic development, and social organization are vital to improve the human condition. It would be safe to say conservatives and Republicans favor addressing political matters vs. social ones so most who favor and/or part of the progressivism movement will be liberals and Democrats.
Furthermore, there’s also a misconception that professors are leading their student disciples towards a path of Marxist indoctrination. That’s partially true and a lessor of two influences. But if professors are not swaying student opinions in the classroom, and the lessor of two influencers, what is making them more sympathetic to socialism and less tolerant of conservative views about free markets and limited government?
Unknown to many, the greater influence is from college administrators which will be discussed later in future articles. It’s demonstrably true as previous articles have pointed out that professors are overwhelmingly liberal and have become more so in the past three decades. Some observers blame leftist professors for the socialist connection. This makes sense on the surface because the renewed sympathy for socialism seems most pronounced among recent college graduates.
However, it is far from conclusive that this kind of classroom and dormitory indoctrination is driving students to the far left. If it’s not—what is?