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Why Should Universities Contribute to New Utopias?

Geert Bouckaert


What would the ideal society look like, and its university? In 1516 the English humanist Thomas More tried his hand at imagining a perfect society on a distant island. His Utopia was first published in the Flemish town of Leuven, home of a university that was established almost a century earlier in 1425. Five hundred years later, university scholars revisit More’s exercise in an interdisciplinary range of science-based utopias. Like More’s Utopia, later and new utopias have to be read in the light of their own times. Utopias are connected to and embedded in their social realities. They belong to their own realities and evolve with these realities. Just as utopias need their matching realities, realities also need their matching utopias. At first sight there may seem to be an inescapable tension between scientific research and the description of an ou-topos, a non-existent place. Clearly, utopias can neither change nor replace the laws of nature. Yet utopias and science can and should be related, and universities should contribute to developing new utopias.



Utopia; university; Thomas More; governance; SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)

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