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The Real University 

by Robert Pirsig

The real University has no specific location. It owns no property, pays no salaries and receives no material dues. The real University is a state of mind. It is that great heritage of rational thought that has been brought down to us through the centuries and which does not exist at any specific location. It’s a state of mind which is regenerated throughout the centuries by a body of people who traditionally carry the title of professor, but even that title is not part of the real University. The real University is nothing less that the continuing body of reason itself. 

In addition to this state of mind, “reason,” there’s a legal entity which is unfortunately called by the same name but which is quite another thing. This is a nonprofit corporation, a branch of the state with a specific address. It owns property, is capable of paying salaries, of receiving money and of responding to legislative pressures in the process.

But this second university, the legal corporation, cannot teach, does not generate new knowledge or evaluate new ideas. It is not the real University at all. It is just a church building, the setting, the location at which conditions have been made favorable for the real church to exist.

Confusion continually occurs in people who fail to see this difference, and think that control of the church buildings implies control of the church. They see professors as employees of the second university who should abandon reason when told to take orders with no backtalk, the same way employees do in other corporations. They see the second university, but fail to see the first.

from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

3.20.18

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