Van Hasselt Lecture: The Purpose of the University in Democratic Societies

“The theme of the yearly Van Hasselt Lecture will relate to Ethics, Technology, Peace and Justice. The Lecture is named after the Delft student Frans van Hasselt, who held a lecture on 23rd November 1940 denouncing the firing of Jewish professors at the Delft University of Technology. Frans van Hasselt was arrested by the German occupying forces and died in 1942 at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.”

In the contemporary world, universities are often seen as sites of innovation, problem solving, and human capital formation by educating students. Yet throughout history, many philosophers have argued that the first and most important purpose of the university is a different one – a purpose that is related to its important epistemic role in democracies. Do these historic arguments still apply to universities in the contemporary world? In this lecture, Ingrid Robeyns will argue that these arguments have not lost their importance. Moreover, given technological developments and other factors shaping democratic processes, the democratic purpose of universities may well have become even more important than over the last decades. Against this background, what should we think of politicians worldwide who are attacking the universities as epistemic sites? And if we want to protect and foster the democratic purpose of the university, what does this require from the government, businesses and organizations, the university leadership, scholars and scientists, and from its students?

Vice-Rector Rob Mudde TU Delft will award the Mekel Prize to the most responsible innovation at the TU Delft.

Ingrid Robeyns works on issues in contemporary political philosophy and applied ethics, and holds the Chair in Ethics of Institutions at the Ethics Institute of Utrecht University. She is  especially interested in applied and non-ideal philosophy and in interdisciplinary research, as well as in the development of normative theories and methods that are needed to support this kind of research.

This lecture is organized by the department Values, Technology and Innovation of the Faculty of Technology, Policy & Management and Studium Generale TU Delft.

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