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«Humanitarian» (2018г. №42)

ISSN 2078-9823 (Print), ISSN 2587-7879 (Online)

DOI: 10.15507/2078-9823.042.018.201802.184-196

Andrey V. Prokofiev

Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow, Russia),

e-mail: avprok2006@mail.ru

ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5015-8226.




Introduction. The contemporary crisis of the university makes it vital to study the experience of previous efforts to comprehend the essence and mission of this institution. The paper analyses one of these efforts – the model of the university proposed by J. S. Mill. The analysis has two purposes. The first one is purely historical and consists in the reconstruction of the philosophical content of the Inaugural Address delivered by Mill in the University of St. Andrews in the capacity of its ornamental rector. The second purpose pertains to the domain of social ethics and consists in specifying the range of values grounding different university activities. Materials and Methods. Interpreting Mill’s address, the author uses some traditional hermeneutical strategies capable of clarifying major points of philosophical texts; specifying the mission of the university, he employs the evaluation of social institutions against the background of basic normative ideas of social ethics (common good, good society, human flourishing, capacity for self-realization etc.). Results. Mill considers the university as an institution designed for providing students with “higher” but “general” education. It should be separated from different types of professional training and the sphere of highly specialized advanced studies. The “raison d’être” of the university, according to Mill, is to fulfill the intergenerational duty to transfer the core of knowledge into the future and to create conditions for maintaining “enlightened public” capable to form the “competent public opinion”. The crucial factor shaping university curricula is that the higher general education aims at producing persons with the “expanded intellect” and acute sense of responsibility for the improvement of human nature. This sense cannot be inculcated into students’ minds by a blunt moralizing. So Mill believes that the university life contributes to understanding that the deepest and most persistent satisfaction can be attained in struggling for a noble cause. Discussion and Conclusions. Mill’s model of the University contributed to the development of two understandings of the university’ purpose: а) focused on the formation of critical thinking (R. Rorty), b) focused on the formation of the capacity for existential self-determination (P. Gibbs). Mill’s ideas on the essence and mission of the university remind us about some its foundations that lay beyond social and economic pragmatics.

Keywords: social ethics, higher education, mission of the university, critical thinking, individual self-realization, J. S. Mill.


For citation: Andrey V. Prokofiev. J. S. Mill: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Mission of the University. Gumanitarian : aktual’nye problemy gumanitarnoi nauki i obrazovaniia = Russian Journal of the Humanities. 2018; 18(2): 184–196. (In Russ.). DOI: 10.15507/2078-9823.042.018.201802.184-196


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