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The Idea of a University

• 1982 • 428 pages

When John Henry Newman delivered these lectures 150 years ago, it was the heart of the Victorian era. Times have changed, and Cardinal Newman’s insights on the purposes and advantages of a university education are needed even more today. First spoken when Newman assumed the position of first rector of the newly founded Catholic University in Ireland, these messages form an orderly, logical treatment of what a true education entails. Some of the topics: Theology: A Branch of Knowledge * Knowledge: Its Own End * Knowledge Viewed in Relation to Learning * Knowledge Viewed in Relation to Professional Skill * Duties of the Church Towards Knowledge * Christianity and Letters * Literature * Catholic Literature in the English Tongue * Christianity and Physical Science * Christianity and Scientific Investigation * Discipline of Mind * Christianity and Medical Science

In his introduction to this new edition of Cardinal Newman’s classic work, Maj. Gen. Josiah Bunting III (superintendent and professor of humanities at the Virginia Military Institute and author of An Education for Our Time) lists for us three important questions answered in these pages, questions which no thinking believer can ignore:

  • What does it mean to be an educated person?
  • To what extent can education make us not only wiser, but also better?
  • How do you prepare men and women to fulfill themselves in their humanity and in their lives as citizens of sovereignties and of the community of Man?

Professor Bunting then steers us to the center of Cardinal Newman’s thought: “Considering the idea and purposes of a university, Newman developed one of his major themes: the connectedness of all knowledge, theology not excluded; and indeed the necessity of making that connectedness manifest, for and before, undergraduates who would be the beneficiaries of the academic curriculum of the university…. “The value of The Idea of a University for us lies in two things: its analysis of the character and importance of liberal education … and its permanent capacity to inspire and to resummon us to a determination to create and sustain the circumstance in which liberal education may, in fact, be given and earned and lived, and for a lifetime.” An antidote to the modern assault on higher education, this book can show Christians today why the classical tradition is worth reviving.

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