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Democracy, argument and the university

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Universities are places of argument. But what standards should apply to the argumentative university? The article begins by examining some ideas of Derrida. With reservations, a pertinent question is extracted: is free and fair argument a tenable criterion for the university? The article assesses critically Derrida's account of ‘the lovely competition˚s of ideas, his emphasis on other communicative values. By contrast, Putnam puts faith in argumentative dialogue, and rejects Derrida's paradoxical scepticism. Yet Putnam's theory also exposes problems in formulating definitive criteria to assess argument within an institutional setting. Other views are considered, notably from Habermas, and the conclusion is that argument remains the lifeblood of the academy, despite the dilemmas of evaluation which are unresolvable.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: King's College London

Publication date: June 1, 1995

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