«The Idea of a University»: Preface, University Teaching, Theology a Branch of Knowledge (Notas de estudio 22.9.20)


Source: John Henry Newman, Preface in The Idea of a University (1852)


  • Universal knowledge
  • Diffusion and extension of knowledge
  • Scientific and philosophical discovery
  • Intellectual education
  • Gentleman
  • Revealed Truth
  • Knowledge
  • Reason
  • Faith
  • Culture of the intellect
  • Cultivation of mind

Inventory of Questions

  • What is a University?
  • What is the object of a University?
  • What is the scope of its end?
  • What is the relationship between the Church and the University?
  • What is the reason for establishing a University?
  • For the sake of whom or of what is a University established?
  • To what purpose will the students of a University serve?
  • What is the first and chief and direct object of a University?
  • What is the formation a University should give to its students?
  • What is the difference between a University and an Academy of science?
  • What can we learn from the aproach to education of the Protestants?
  • What is our desideratum for the students of a University?
  • What are the aims of Education?
  • What are the principles of Education?


*All emphases in bold in the following quotations are mine. Italics are from the original.

«The view taken of a University in these Discourses is the following:—That it is a place of teaching universal knowledge. This implies that its object is, on the one hand, intellectual, not moral; and, on the other, that it is the diffusion and extension of knowledge rather than the advancement.»

«His [that of he who establishes a University] first and chief and direct object is, not science, art, professional skill, literature, the discovery of knowledge, but some benefit or other, to accrue, by means of literature and science, to his own children; not indeed their formation on any narrow or fantastic type, as, for instance, that of an “English Gentleman” may be called, but their exercise and growth in certain habits, moral or intellectual.»

«Just as a commander wishes to have tall and well-formed and vigorous soldiers, not from any abstract devotion to the military standard of height or age, but for the purposes [pg xi] of war, and no one thinks it any thing but natural and praiseworthy in him to be contemplating, not abstract qualities, but his own living and breathing men; so, in like manner, when the Church founds a University, she is not cherishing talent, genius, or knowledge, for their own sake, but for the sake of her children, with a view to their spiritual welfare and their religious influence and usefulness, with the object of training them to fill their respective posts in life better, and of making them more intelligent, capable, active members of society.»

«The nature of the case and the history of philosophy combine to recommend to us this division of intellectual labour between Academies and Universities.»

«What are these advantages? I repeat, they are in one word the culture of the intellect

«Our desideratum is, not the manners and habits of gentlemen;—these can be, and are, acquired in various other ways, by good society, by foreign travel, by the innate grace and dignity of the Catholic mind;—but the force, the steadiness, the comprehensiveness and the versatility of intellect, the command over our own powers, the instinctive just estimate of things as they pass before us, which sometimes indeed is a natural gift, but commonly is not gained without much effort and the exercise of years.»

«This is real cultivation of mind; and I do not deny that the characteristic excellences of a gentleman are included in it.»

«When the intellect has once been properly trained and formed to have a connected view or grasp of things, it will display its powers with more or less effect according [pg xvii] to its particular quality and capacity in the individual.»

«But these Discourses are directed simply to the consideration of the aims and principles of Education. Suffice it, then, to say here, that I hold very strongly that the first step in intellectual training is to impress upon a boy’s mind the idea of science, method, order, principle, and system; of rule and exception, of richness and harmony.»

«Hence, too, Metrical Composition, when he reads Poetry; in order to stimulate his powers into action in every practicable way, and to prevent a merely passive reception of images and ideas which in that case are likely to pass out of the mind as soon as they have entered it.»

University Teaching

Source: John Henry Newman, Discourse 1 «University Teaching» in The Idea of a University (1852)


  • What are the principles on which Liberal Education should be conducted?
  • What are the charges brought against University studies in previous controversies?
  • How do we attain the principles on which we conduct the inquiry?
  • On what is the philosophy of Education founded?
  • What can we learn from the Protestants?
  • What is the supreme rule in matters of religion?
  • What is the supreme rule in intellectual matters?
  • Should Catholicism be the fundamental principle of a University?

Inventory of Questions

  • Liberal Education
  • Revelation
  • Experience of life


«And here I am brought to a second and more important important reason for referring, on this occasion, to the conclusions at which Protestants have arrived on the subject of Liberal Education; and it is as follows: Let it be observed, then, that the principles on which I would conduct the inquiry are attainable, as I have already implied, by the mere experience of life. They do not come simply of theology; they imply no supernatural discernment; they have no special connexion with Revelation; they almost arise out of the nature of the case; they are dictated even by human prudence and wisdom, though a divine illumination be absent, and they are recognized by common sense, even where self-interest is not present to quicken it; and, therefore, though true, and just, and good in themselves, they imply nothing whatever as to the religious profession of those who maintain them.»

«If this be in any measure the state of the case, there is certainly so far a reason for availing ourselves of the investigations and experience of those who are not Catholics, when we have to address ourselves to the subject of Liberal Education.»

Theology a Branch of Knowledge

Source: John Henry Newman, Discourse 2 «Theology a Branch of Knowledge» in The Idea of a University (1852)


  • Useful arts and sciences
  • Liberal studies
  • Spheres of knowledge
  • Sentiment and feeling
  • Intellectual truth

Inventory of Questions

  • Is it consistent with the idea of University to exclude Theology from a place among the sciences?
  • Is it consistent, too, with making the useful arts and sciences its direct and principal concern?
  • Should it consist mainly in liberal studies?
  • What are the implications of the aim of the  University as being the teaching of universal knowledge?
  • Is Theology a science?
  • What compromises are permissible in the combination of efforts of men in incorporating a university?
  • Are there things known about the Supreme Being so as to render its study a science?
  • What are the different kinds and spheres of knowledge?
  • What is our criteria for choosing which kind of knowledge should be taught in a University?
  • How do the different sciences differ and how do we choose which of them should have a place in University teaching?
  • Is faith base on intellect and truth, or in feeling or sentiment?
  • Is there a place for the inculcation of sentiment in the University?
  • What are the objects, advantages and pleasures of science?
  • Is religious doctrine knowledge?


«I cannot so construct my definition of the subject-matter of University Knowledge, and so draw my boundary lines around it, as to include therein the other sciences commonly studied at Universities, and to exclude the science of Religion. For instance, are we to limit our idea of University Knowledge by the evidence of our senses? then we exclude ethics; by intuition? we exclude history; by testimony? we exclude metaphysics; by abstract reasoning? we exclude physics. Is not the being of a God reported to us by testimony, handed down by history, inferred by an inductive process, brought home to us by metaphysical necessity, urged on us by the suggestions of our conscience?»

«The pleasure derived from this study is unceasing, and so various, that it never tires the appetite. But it is unlike the low gratifications of sense in another respect: it elevates and refines our nature, while those hurt the health, debase the understanding, and corrupt the feelings; it teaches us to look upon all earthly objects as insignificant and below our notice, except the pursuit of knowledge and the cultivation of virtue, that is to say, the strict performance of our duty in every relation of society; and it gives a dignity and importance to the enjoyment of life, which the frivolous and the grovelling cannot even comprehend.” (This is a quote Newman attributes, simply, to a certain «learned person» of «the Protestant See of Durham»; no name is provided)

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