The Academic Ethos of Shaping the Future: Cultivating a Sense of History and a Sense of Purpose

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:10
Oral Presentation
Lars Geer HAMMERSHOJ, Aarhus University, Denmark
The aim of the paper is to inquire into the role of the university in shaping future society. In order to do so, it is necessary to clarify the present condition of the accelerating pace of societal change and to clarify the characteristic of research-based education. My hypothesis is that the more open the future is, the more need is there for cultivating a sense of history and a sense of purpose in order to understand, guide and drive change, and this is a central part of the academic ethos today.

The point of departure is that the acceleration of the pace of change is not mainly due to rapid knowledge production or exponential technological developments (Foray 2004; Brynjolfsson & McAfee 2014), but is due to a general ‘crisis consciousness’ in society, which can be traced back to the enlightenment and is constituted by the expectation that the future will be different from the past (Koselleck 1959). Today, this expectation appears to have been generalized in that it now concerns all parts of society and aspects of life (Beck 2016; Hammershøj 2017).

The academic ethos expresses the research approach characteristic of the university and consists in clarifying existing knowledge for the purpose of creating new knowledge (Humboldt 1809; Jaspers 1926). Today, however, academic ethos must also concern knowledge of change. This consists in understanding change by using a sense of history to identify the patterns of societal change and of guiding change by using a sense of purpose to help imagine alternative ways for the future by constructing diagnostic concepts and future scenarios.

Thus, the findings are that the role of the university in shaping future society is not to attempt to influence external forces of change, but to cultivate the ‘crisis consciousness’ that drives and makes possible change.