GHDI logo

Wilhelm von Humboldt's Treatise "On the Internal and External Organization of the Higher Scientific Institutions in Berlin" (1810)

page 4 of 5    print version    return to list previous document     

A mind thus prepared takes hold of science by itself, since the same diligence and the same talent, with different preparation, bury themselves either momentarily or before the education has been completed into practical activity, and thereby also render themselves useless to it, or become scattered, without the higher scientific striving, among individual bits of knowledge. [ . . . ]

If one declares the university as destined only for the teaching and dissemination of science, but the academy to its expansion, one clearly does the former an injustice. Surely, the sciences have been just as much – and in Germany more so – expanded by university professors as by the academy members, and these men have arrived at their advances in their field precisely through their teaching. For the free oral lecture before listeners, among whom there is always a significant number of minds that think along for themselves, surely spurs on the person who has become used to this kind of study as much as the solitary leisure of the writer’s life or the loose association of an academic fellowship. The course of science is evidently quicker and more lively at a university, where it is continuously mulled over in a large number of strong, robust, and youthful minds. In fact, science cannot be truly lectured on as science without again conceiving of it as self-actuating each time, and it would be incomprehensible if people did not in fact in the process often come upon discoveries. Moreover, university teaching is not such an arduous business that it should be regarded as an interruption of the leisure for study rather than an aid to the same. Also, at every large university there are men who, by lecturing little or not at all, only study and research by themselves in solitude. For that reason, one could surely entrust the expansion of the sciences to the universities alone, provided the latter are properly set up, and for that purpose dispense with the academies. [ . . . ]

For the university stands always in a closer relationship to practical life and the needs of the state, since it always undertakes practical affairs for it, the guidance of the youth, whereas the academy deals only with science as such. The teachers of the university are merely generally connected via aspects of the external and internal order of the discipline; it is merely via its proper business that they communicate with one another only if their own penchant leads them to do so; otherwise, each goes his own way. By contrast, the academy is a society that is truly set up to subject the work of everyone to the judgment of all.

In this way, the idea of an academy must be noted as the highest and last free place of science and as the corporation most independent from the state, and one must take the risk whether such a corporation will prove through too little or one-sided activity that the right thing is not always brought about most easily under the most favorable external conditions. One must take the risk, I say, because the idea is inherently lovely and beneficial, and there can always be a moment where it can also be brought to fruition in an honorable way.

first page < previous   |   next > last page