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Robert Maynard Hutchins
1899 -

Law professor at Yale University, long-time president and chancellor of the University of Chicago, founder of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, California


The spirit of Western civilization is the spirit of inquiry. Its dominant element is the Logos. Nothing is to remain undiscussed. Everybody is to speak his mind. No proposition is to be left unexamined. The exchange of ideas is held to be the path to the realization of the potentialities of the race.

1952 - from "The Tradition of the West", published in The Great Conversation: The Substance of a Liberal Eduation, Encyclopedia Britannica
To put an end to the spirit of inquiry that has characterized the West it is not necessary to burn the books. All we have to do is to leave them unread for a few generations. On the other hand, the revival of interest in these books from time to time throughout history has provided the West with new drive and creativeness. Great books have salvaged, preserved, and transmitted the tradition on many occasions similar to our own.

1952 - from "The Tradition of the West", published in The Great Conversation: The Substance of a Liberal Eduation, Encyclopedia Britannica
The liberally educated man has a mind that can operate well in all fields. He may be a specialist in one field. But he can understand anything important that is said in any held and can see and use the light that it sheds upon his own. The liberally educated man is at home in the world of ideas and in the world of practical affairs, too, because he understands the relation of the two. He may not be at home in the world of practical affairs in the sense of liking the life he finds about him; but he will be at home in that world in the sense that he understands it. He may even derive from his liberal education some conception of the difference between a bad world and a good one and some notion of the ways in which one might be turned into the other.

1952 - from "The Tradition of the West", published in The Great Conversation: The Substance of a Liberal Eduation, Encyclopedia Britannica
The specialized pursuit of knowledge, as we know it today, must abort all efforts to bring an intellectual community to birth and must kill off any that exist. I am inclined to think that over the long term this will have unfortunate effects upon the pursuit of knowledge; for I believe understanding is indispensable to continuing scientific advance and that understanding cannot be obtained except in an intellectual community in which the circle of knowledge can be drawn and everything can be seen in the light of everything else.

Mar. 1968 - from his essay "The Mind Is Its Own Place", published in Center Magazine, University of Chicago
The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.

1954 - from The Great Book of the Western World, Encyclopedia Britannica
Liberal education seeks to clarify the basic problems and to understand the way in which one problem bears upon another. It strives for a grasp of the methods by which solutions can be reached and the formulation of standards for testing solutions proposed.

1952 - from "The Tradition of the West", published in The Great Conversation: The Substance of a Liberal Eduation, Encyclopedia Britannica
A civilization in which there is not a continuous controversy about important issues . . . is on the way to totalitarianism and death.

1953 - from The University of Utopia