Ernest Gellner (1925–1995): Nought for the University’s Comfort?

  • Ronald BarnettEmail author
Part of the Debating Higher Education: Philosophical Perspectives book series (DHEP, volume 2)


How are we to understand modern society? How are we to understand ‘knowledge’ in modern society? How are we to understand science and how are we to understanding the humanities? How are we to understand ‘culture’? How are we to understand humanity’s understanding of itself? What is it to communicate in the modern world? These are the kinds of question with which Ernest Gellner wrestled and all of them are critical to any serious comprehension as to what it is to be a university. It follows, therefore, that the work of Ernest Gellner is indispensable in studying universities and higher education and it follows, too, that his writings should regularly appear in the bibliographies of work in that field. However, one looks almost in vain to see the name of ‘Gellner’ in the bibliographies of papers and books in the study of higher education. Gellner’s writings are largely ignored there. In this chapter, I try to indicate the pertinence of the work of Ernest Gellner for an understanding of higher education, and offer a suggestion or two to account for his neglect in higher education studies.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University College LondonInstitute of EducationLondonUK

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