Sunday, August 28, 2022

Oliver O'Donovan on the Corruption of Academic Authority

"The only authority that a particular person or thing may derive from the truth is a didactic authority which is self-effacing and points beyond itself. ... That is why our attachments of loyalty to individual wise men or particular books of wisdom are more problematic than our loyalties to favourite works of art, men of power or cultural traditions. Of course, such attachments may be delightful and enriching, as, for example, when we retain our reverence and affection for an inspiring teacher; but when that happens other elements have entered into his claim upon us which must not be confused with the claim of truth itself. When a wise man or a tradition of thought comes to be thought beyond reach of critical question, he or it is dishonoured. The translucent didactic authority to which it could once lay claim in the service of the truth has been replaced by an authority that is immediate and opaque. This changeling may be the authority of tradition, or it may be the authority of strength .... But either way the fundamental stance of the thinker vis à vis the truth, critical and open to criticism, will be betrayed by the seduction of the wrong kind of authority." - Oliver O'Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 126

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