THE STUDENT'S OBLIGATION

The Mail

To the Editors of the CRIMSON:

One can hardly fail to marvel at the dedication of Thomas M. Welch '66 who, on the subject of the function of the University, writes in a recent letter to the CRIMSON: "Those who would seek the Truth by endeavoring to synthesize a liberal knowledge of natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities are welcome at Harvard." Nor, surely, does he blaze new intellectual trails by resolutely declaring his opposition to Harvard's degeneration into "an intellectual factory capable of nothing more than spewing out a myriad of narrow-minded technicians and pedants." Yet Mr. Welch's stirring prose seems informed by a basic misconception of the student's obligation.

We learn because we have an interest in understanding: we notice because our vision fulfills a need in our lives. In the extreme case Mr. Welch poses, we engage in inquiry to acquaint ourselves with enough technical knowledge to enable us to earn a living, build a bridge, or attain whatever finite goal we posit. The answers we obtain have meaning only in terms of the purposes behind the questions we ask; there is no realm of "truth in itself," towards which it is the duty of the student to yearn in a pointless idealism.

I admire his ambition for a divine interdisciplinary synthesis. Yet unless he sees the need for finding a reason for his researches, he neglects all that is human in learning, and precludes the possibility of knowledge itself. Christopher Mitchell '66