QOTD – Purpose of the University – James K.A. Smith

The university remains a charged religious institution not (only) because of the epistemic conditions that undergird knowledge and research, but (also) because the university is a formative, liturgical institution, animated by rituals and liturgies[1] that constitute a pedagogy of desire. The university is not just out to deposit information in our heads with a view to professional success (even if the university increasingly thinks of itself that way); rather, the university can’t help but be a formative institution because of powerful (though often unofficial) liturgies that shape our identity and self-understanding. In short the university is not only, and maybe not even primarily, about knowledge. It is, I suggest, after our imagination, our heart, our desire. It wants to make us into certain kinds of people who desire a certain telos, who are primed to pursue a particular vision of the good life (emphasis mine).

From James K.A. Smith Desiring the Kingdom p. 113


  1. Smith defines liturgies as “rituals of ultimate concern: rituals that are formative for identity, that inculcate particular visions of the good life, and do so in a way that means to trump other ritual formations…another way of putting this, in terms we’ve used before, is to say that liturgies are ritual practices that function as pedagogies of ultimate desire” p. 87  ↩

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