The concept of the university as a distinctive tertiary institution is now defunct, according to author and philosopher Raimond Gaita. Yet with writer’s festivals, public lecture series and festivals of ideas all flourishing, he says that there is a need to reassess the role of the universities in cultural life more generally.
Professor Gaita will give a public lecture on August 19 in association with the Adelaide Festival of Ideas and will also be present at a Flinders University conference dedicated to discussion and analysis of his ethical writings.
Professor Gaita said that the shift to an emphasis on vocational and professional education in universities has diminished respect for the humanities and discouraged radical, critically reflective thinking.
He also said that “a narrow conception of what counts as research discourages, I believe, critical reflectiveness… and devalues, indeed implicitly disparages, teaching and engagement with cultural institutions outside of the university unless that engagement is narrowly professional.”
Professor Gaita is one of Australia’s best-known thinkers and the author of the award-winning memoir Romulus, My Father. He is currently Professorial Fellow in the Melbourne Law School & the Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne and Emeritus Professor of Moral Philosophy at King’s College London.
He will present To civilize the City? at the Science Exchange, 55 Exchange Place, Adelaide, at 6 pm on August 19. Author and commentator Professor Robert Manne will chair the lecture.
The conference, A Sense for Humanity: The Ethical Thought of Raimond Gaita, convened by Flinders University philosopher Dr Craig Taylor, will be held at Hetzel Lecture Theatre in the State Library, on August 18 and 19.
In addition to the academic program, the conference will feature three public events. The film version of Romulus, My Father will be screened at 7pm on August 17, followed by a Q&A session with Professor Gaita and screenwriter Nick Drake. A round-table discussion of the book by a panel that includes Nobel prize-winner JM Coetzee will be held at 5pm the following day and Professor Gaita’s new book After Romulus will be launched at 3.30pm, before the round table discussion.
For information and registration details, go the Flinders events entry.