migration of the scholastic temperament (47)

Mon, 13 Mar 89 19:32:05 EST

Humanist Mailing List, Vol. 2, No. 712. Monday, 13 Mar 1989.

Date: 12 March 1989
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: migration of the scholastic temperament

The following has been taken, with much gratitude to the author,
from David Bromwich, `Making thought possible', Times Literary
Supplement, no. 4483 (March 3-9 1989), p. 220.

"Ever since the preservers of writing gave up a monastic
asceticism, they have earned what respect still lingered for them
largely by their character of therapists-of-the-word. Within that
class of interpreters, they enjoyed less emotional authority than
psychoanalysts or pastors. At the same time their lack of
spiritual pretensions gave them a wide and self-respecting
audience. Not until recently would it have seemed quaint,
therefore, to think of the professor's work as a calling. Part of
what outsiders to the academy are seeing now, and not always
liking, might be described as the fast disappearance of the
scholastic temperament.

This is a poor term for a quality that has no other name. It
describes the sort of person who would rather toil for a week
with a hundred books than travel across a continent to address a
colloquium for a thousand dollars. The scholastic temperament has
not, of course, vanished, it has only migrated. But there is less
of it than there used to be where people expect to see it, in the
classrooms and offices of a modern university. Humanities
academics are now less like pastors than they once were, and more
like lawyers. How far this different temperament ought to be
fostered, and how far discouraged, the profession surely will
decide, but it will not decide alone. The bad fortune of British
education was not that such matters were ever broached outside
the profession, but that someone did undertake the final decision
alone -- Mrs. Thatcher."

Willard McCarty