Craig Carter defends the lecture , the “paradigmatic act of the university professor in the (originally) Western (but now Global) university in the modern age”:

[W]hat kind of event is the lecture? I say it is a moral event first because it is a kind of profession of faith, which is why we are called “professors.” Max Weber, good positivist that he was, would be horrified by this flaunting of the fact/value distinction. But the fact/value distinction is a product of a stunted modern epistemology detached from its metaphysical life source and left to die slowly from its inability to sustain itself in thin air.

To lecture is to take a stand of some kind. It is to present a thesis, propose an interpretation, or make an argument. It is to choose to leave some things out and to put other things in. It takes place in a set period of time and must prioritize ruthlessly. The most important thing in a lecture is to tell the truth and no lecture that does so will ever be boring.

To take a stand is a moral act. A person lectures, not a disembodied ghost or a mechanical voice coming over a speaker that sounds like a robot. A lecture is given in a concrete, specific language and from a certain perspective, whether that is Marxist or Buddhist, Freudian or Augustinian, Christian or Positivist. To lecture is to be forced out on a high wire in front of an audience where it is impossible to be neutral with regard to the truth. Qualify all you want, nuance all you like: your audience expects (and has a right to expect) you to take a position and defend it. This is a moral act. To be insincere here is to be exposed to the world as a hack, a sophist and an intellectual prostitute.

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Articles by Joe Carter


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