“The Spirit of Truth-Seeking”

On Friday evening during First-year Families Weekend, I introduced an event about “The Spirit of Truth-Seeking,” featuring Professors Robert P. George and Cornel West. This topic is core to this University’s mission and to the mission of all great research universities. I was delighted to offer some thoughts about truth-seeking to the audience that night, and I am similarly glad to share my comments with readers of the Princeton Alumni Weekly. Here is an excerpt from what I said. — C.L.E.

Tonight’s discussion addresses a topic, truthseeking, that resides at the heart of this University and, indeed, at the center of any research university worthy of the name. We have many kinds of schools in this country, with many kinds of goals. Schools may aim at skill-building, value formation, vocational training, or the transmission of expertise. None of these goals are absent from a research university’s mission, but neither are they the core of it. Research universities have a more radical, disruptive, thrilling, and demanding mission: they seek truth about questions that matter even when, perhaps especially when, investigating them may threaten conventional wisdom or societal pieties.