A Dilemma about the Final Ends of Higher Education -- and a Resolution

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In this article, written for the generally educated reader, I summarize my latest thinking about a dilemma that I believe current theoretical reflection faces about the proper ultimate aims of a public university. Specifically, I make the following three major points: (1) On the one hand, all dominant theories of how properly to spend public resources entail that academics should not pursue knowledge for its own sake and should rather devote their energies toward promoting some concrete public good (such as citizenship, justice, autonomy or the like). (2) On the other hand, that view of the academic enterprise entails patent absurdities. (3) The dilemma is best resolved by articulating a new theory of how public resources ought to be spent, one according to which the point of the state and its public institutions ought to be to _balance_ the realization of final goods.
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