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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 4. March 27, 1952

For Mr Benda (and the Staff) — A Clarification:

page 2

For Mr Benda (and the Staff)

A Clarification:

Because we are talking about the same thing from different points of view it is difficult to comment on Mr. Benda's letter. He sees truth subjectively ("who may hold their own views concerning truth"). Truth as an objective standard is not the same thing.

He first makes a point concerning the University as a corporate body. The University as a corporate body is supported because it may better avoid too deep a rift between a staff and student, it fosters the growth of common ideals and is related to Society as a unit and not as a College Council, a Senate, a Students' Association, individuals and organisations.

The failure of the University to retain its corporate life is probably explained but is not excused by the collapse of the surrounding corporate framework. This collapse is no reason to discard an ideal if that ideal is admitted as desirable.

Having decided that the University has little unity of life or learning it does not follow, as Mr. Benda appears to think, that the suggested solution in regard to learning is "decreed absolute truth." This becomes more clearly a confusion between objective and subjective truth when Mr. Benda implies that Salient's suggestions may imply that "the truth must be the same for all citizens." Subjectively each citizen must follow his own conscience but objectively, whether individually admitted or not, 2 plus 2= 4.

The point at issue is does the staff, or do the students, in fact have either an objective standard of truth or a subjective view of truth?

If we may judge by the historical approach to many speculative questions no truth is sought. No judgments are, in fact, made. This attitude can be contrasted with the empirical sciences where such judgments are forced on all who have anything to do with scientific theories.

Nor is the inculcation of absolute values desired but that is not the same thing as expressing an opinion as to the truth or falseness of any concept. It is, of course, impossible to be entirely impartial. Again it does not follow, as Mr. Benda suggests, that the expression of such opinion will mean a loss of impartiality.

He puts it better, and is quite right when he says that the failure is "perhaps in the direction of not making our choice more explicit to the students." The justification of a choice would, we agree, be essential. Salient's contention is, as he suspects, that no apparent choice is made, and we suspect that no choice has been made which could be made explicit or justified.

As to absolute values—not inculcation but acknowledgment, even of the view that there are no such things as absolute values would eliminate time-wasting controversy.

To suggest platitudinously that the University exists to seek the truth, or to seek knowledge, or to equip people for various walks of life is righteous cant. From Mr. Benda's letter it is clear that no one agrees why the University exists, and if that is so let us confess our confusion.

Does it not appear desirable to attempt to think our way out of the confusion? Our University gives no evidence of so doing and Salient suggested that most of the staff avoid such basic issues, if they do consider such issues, we the students, the other part of this Universitas, have little evidence of any such activity in the speculative portions of study and less in the field of University life, extra-curricular activity and administration.

—M. F. McI.

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