In the last half-century, the modern research university has enjoyed an unparalleled success in producing and refining new knowledge. This enormous development both in the quantity and depth of knowledge challenges the university’s ability to show both students and faculty how this knowledge can be integrated into a coherent whole – one that can inform an understanding of the relationship between disciplines and their relevance to society and to our own self-understanding. As the many academic disciplines proliferate new forms of expertise, the rational principles by which achievements can be assessed, weighed, and valued in relation to each other and to the human good ought to be regularly reviewed and reassessed.
Top universities are under enormous pressure to maintain their leadership amid fierce worldwide competition, and find it ever more challenging to shape an education that would train students to recognize and use such principles in the service of an integrated vision of human flourishing. Both students and faculty can become intellectually isolated by the very success of their disciplines, which threatens to deprive them of the capacity to make important judgments about the larger social order and the contours of a life worth living. In this intellectual atmosphere the Institute seeks to make a modest contribution to inquiry into the distinctive constitution of the human person, the nature and limits of our powers and faculties, and the ends to which we are drawn as we live out our lives.
The extraordinary intellectual communities of Cambridge, and the departments, programs and schools of its universities, provides students and faculty alike with an opportunity nearly unmatched for the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. In asking the fundamental questions about such knowledge and understanding as it relates to the individual and society, the Abigail Adams Institute seeks to empower interested students and faculty to better learn from, weigh, criticize, and contribute to contemporary academic disciplines while drawing upon the rich traditions that are their origin.
As part of its effort to examine the interrelationship of specialized academic disciplines and their implications for the common good, the Abigail Adams Institute seeks to support students and faculty in ways otherwise unavailable within, but consistent with, the mission of the university. Committed to the entire breadth of intellectual endeavors, the Institute aims to engage the humane, socio-political, scientific, professional, religious and artistic arenas of human thought and activity as it also reflects on how different modes of academic inquiry can be held together in service of the common good and a fuller understanding of the human person.