When Truth and Social Justice Collide, Choose Truth

Jonathan Haidt
Chronicle of Higher Education

Excerpt: In 2016 I gave a lecture at Duke University: “Two Incompatible Sacred Values in American Universities.” I suggested that the ancient Greek word telos was helpful for understanding the rapid cultural change going on at America’s top universities that began in the fall of 2015. Telos means “the end, goal, or purpose for which an act is done, or at which a profession or institution aims.” The telos of a knife is to cut, the telos of medicine is to heal, and the telos of a university is truth, I suggested. The word (or close cognates) appears on many university crests, and our practices and norms — some stretching back to Plato’s academy — only make sense if you see a university as an institution organized to help scholars get closer to truth using the particular methods of their field.