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Is it not a settled principle that each academic discipline is autonomous, with its own defined subject matter and methods? Are scholars not free to pursue knowledge within their disciplines without taking theological concerns into account? Is not the modern university founded on this principle? The answer is yes, but a brief examination of the principle underlying the autonomy of the sciences is warranted here. 45 The sciences are abstractions conceived by scientists, who, in agreement with one other, have decided to focus on, and limit their inquiries to, a restricted dimension of reality.

Chapter 3 Berlin: The Prototype of the Modern University In the previous chapter I examined the thought of three medieval thinkers in order to discover if there are principles from the Catholic tradition that can help inform Catholic higher education today. In doing so, I made clear that ideals from the past must not be used to hinder or suppress knowledge and inquiry in the present. Nor can we merely replicate curricular forms from the past, such as the trivium and quadrivium or the Ratio studiorum as models for today.

It is the individual scholars in those academic disciplines who possess autonomy and who have a right to freedom of inquiry. This means they must be able to freely investigate the particular area of reality that falls within the scope of their discipline in accordance with the methods agreed upon by scholars in the field. ” Yet we must not lose sight of a deeper truth: these individual scholars are oriented to God. In their minds is implanted a natural desire to know reality beyond their limited academic disciplines.

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