For Schelling, the eighteenth-century university reproduced the effects of information overload in institutional and pedagogical form. It not only hindered the advancement of knowledge but also threatened the integrity of the individual by producing distracted, unreflective young men. The university, especially the Enlightenment university that valued utility above all else, had been complicit in fomenting this epistemological and ethical crisis, and it was incumbent upon a vanguard of thinkers to reimagine the university as not simply an efficient institution, but rather the institutional embodiment of a distinct practice, namely, science. Only science as a practice, as a source of internal goods and virtues, not better textbooks or more complex encyclopedias, could address the epistemic and ethical effects of information overload. The task of the university was to form subjects of knowledge capable of navigating the oceans of print. It was to transform a student’s vision of the world and shape their character, to fuse epistemology with ethics.
— A characteristically provocative and illuminating passage from Chad Wellmon’s book Organizing Enlightenment: Information Overload and the Invention of the Modern Research University, which I am going to review for Books and Culture. There’s so much wonderful stuff here that I’m tempted to produce just an anthology of quotations. But instead I fear that I’m going to end up writing a very long review. Spoiler: this is a major, major work of scholarship and everyone interested in the fate of the university should read it.