Science in the Institution
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO is to be found Massey College, a residence housing about sixty graduate students, with three rooms set aside for the Canadian Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics. At breakfast, residents regularly meet physicists of international repute or postdoctoral fellows. Among the latter, a common worry is expressed: when the one-year postdoc runs out, "Should I take a job teaching high school physics, with almost no prestige, not much of money, and no future in research? Or should I take a well-paid, prestigious research job working for the American military?" What happens to knowledge when scientists face such a choice? Who decides the direction and focus of research?
The Nazi appropriation of the German university toward political ends presented academics of that day with such a dilemma. Heidegger's analysis of science in the institution is a developing critique of the university when it is thus appropriated. In his account, the sciences stand at the core of the modern university, and the latter is a place in which to unify knowledge and evaluate it by asking the question, What is worth knowing? Heidegger's eye-opening experience as rector in Freiburg disillusioned him with respect to the possibility of raising such a question within the academy. He objected to the political appropriation of the university and its conversion into professional schools. And he witnessed his university in the 1930s powerless to resist its appropriation to a political program.
Heidegger's involvement with the Nazis began with his election to the post of rector of the university in Freiburg. His infamous Rectoral Address upon assuming that position is central to his critique of the Betriebscharakter of the sciences in the university. Accordingly, there are ethical and political reasons for coming to grips with the question of science in the institution in Heidegger's thinking. But I do not intend to contribute to the