Text - science as a vocation



POUR LE SUJET: L'homme est-il réellement libre ?
TAPEZ LES MOTS-CLES: homme libre

POUR LE SUJET: En quel sens la société libère-t-elle l'homme de la nature ?
TAPEZ LES MOTS-CLES: homme nature ou homme nature société
»Créer un compte Devoir-de-philo
»125895 inscrits
<< ? Voici une série de questions à vous poser p ... ?A.P
Education aux médias et a l?inform ...


Text - science as a vocation


Aperçu du corrigé : Text - science as a vocation

Document transmis par : salvadorfezasvital@g

Publié le : 30/9/2020 -Format: Document en format HTML protégé

Sources détectées par CopyScape © :

Aucune source détectée - Document original
Text - science as a vocation

Syntax Error: Expected the default config, but wasn't able to find it, or it isn't a Dictionary
Science as a Vocation
by Max Weber
Published as "Wissenschaft als Beruf," Gesammlte Aufsaetze zur Wissenschaftslehre (Tubingen, 1922), pp.
524-55. Originally a speech at Munich University, 1918, published in 1919 by Duncker & Humblodt,
From H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (Translated and edited), From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, pp.
129-156, New York: Oxford University Press, 1946.
You wish me to speak about 'Science as a Vocation.' Now, we political economists have a pedantic custom,
which I should like to follow, of always beginning with the external conditions. In this case, we begin with
the question: What are the conditions of science as a vocation in the material sense of the term? Today this
question means, practically and essentially: What are the prospects of a graduate student who is resolved to
dedicate himself professionally to science in university life? In order to understand the peculiarity of German
conditions it is expedient to proceed by comparison and to realize the conditions abroad. In this respect, the
United States stands in the sharpest contrast with Germany, so we shall focus upon that country.
Everybody knows that in Germany the career of the young man who is dedicated to science normally begins
with the position of Privatdozent. After having conversed with and received the consent of the respective
specialists, he takes up residence on the basis of a book and, usually, a rather formal examination before the
faculty of the university. Then he gives a course of lectures without receiving any salary other than the
lecture fees of his students. It is up to him to determine, within his venia legendi, the topics upon which he
In the United States the academic career usually begins in quite a different manner, namely, by employment
as an 'assistant.' This is similar to the great institutes of the natural science and medical faculties in Germany,
where usually only a fraction of the assistants try to habilitate themselves as Privatdozenten and often only
later in their career.
Practically, this contrast means that the career of the academic man in Germany is generally based upon
plutocratic prerequisites. For it is extremely hazardous for a young scholar without funds to expose himself
to the conditions of the academic career. He must be able to endure this condition for at least a number of
years without knowing whether he will have the opportunity to move into a position which pays well enough
for maintenance.
In the United States, where the bureaucratic system exists, the young academic man is paid from the very
beginning. To be sure, his salary is modest; usually it is hardly as much as the wages of a semi-skilled
laborer. Yet he begins with a seemingly secure position, for he draws a fixed salary. As a rule, however,
notice may be given to him just as with German assistants, and frequently he definitely has to face this
should he not come up to expectations.
These expectations are such that the young academic in America must draw large crowds of students. This
cannot happen to a German docent; once one has him, one cannot get rid of him. To be sure, he cannot raise
any 'claims.' But he has the understandable notion that after years of work he has a sort of moral right to
expect some consideration. He also expects--and this is often quite important--that one have some regard for
him when the question of the possible habilitation of other Privatdozenten comes up.
Whether, in principle, one should habilitate every scholar who is qualified or whether one should consider
enrollments, and hence give the existing staff a monopoly to teach--that is an awkward dilemma. It is

associated with the dual aspect of the academic profession, which we shall discuss presently. In general, one
decides in favor of the second alternative. But this increases the danger that the respective full professor,
however conscientious he is, will prefer his own disciples. If I may speak of my personal attitude, I must say
I have followed the principle that a scholar promoted by me must legitimize and habilitate himself with
somebody else at another university. But the result has been that one of my best disciples has been turned
down at another university because nobody there believed this to be the reason.
A further difference between Germany and the United States is that in Germany the Privatdozent generally
teaches fewer courses than he wishes. According to his formal right, he can give any course in his field. But
to do so would be considered an improper lack of consideration for the older docents. As a rule, the full
professor gives the 'big' courses and the docent confines himself to secondary ones. The advantage of these
arrangements is that during his youth the academic man is free to do scientific work, although this restriction
of the opportunity to teach is somewhat involuntary.
In America, the arrangement is different in principle. Precisely during the early years of his career the
assistant is absolutely overburdened just because he is paid. In a department of German, for instance, the full
professor will give a three-hour course on Goethe and that is enough, whereas the young assistant is happy if,
besides the drill in the German language, his twelve weekly teaching hours include assignments of, say,
Uhland. The officials prescribe the curriculum, and in this the assistant is just as dependent as the institute
assistant in Germany.
Of late we can observe distinctly that the German universities in the broad fields of science develop in the
direction of the American system. The large institutes of medicine or natural science are 'state capitalist'
enterprises, which cannot be managed without very considerable funds. Here we encounter the same
condition that is found wherever capitalist enterprise comes into operation: the 'separation of the worker from
his means of production.' The worker, that is, the assistant, is dependent upon the implements that the state
puts at his disposal; hence he is just as dependent upon the head of the institute as is the employee in a
factory upon the management. For, subjectively and in good faith, the director believes that this institute is
'his,' and he manages its affairs. Thus the assistant's position is often as precarious as is that of any 'quasiproletarian' existence and just as precarious as the position of the assistant in the American university.
In very important respects German university life is being Americanized, as is German life in general. This
development, I am convinced, will engulf those disciplines in which the craftsman personally owns the tools,
essentially the library, as is still the case to a large extent in my own field. This development corresponds
entirely to what happened to the artisan of the past and it is now fully under way.
As with all capitalist and at the same time bureaucratized enterprises, there are indubitable advantages in all
this. But the 'spirit' that rules in these affairs is different from the historical atmosphere of the German
university. An extraordinarily wide gulf, externally and internally, exists between the chief of these large,
capitalist, university enterprises and the usual full professor of the old style. This contrast also holds for the
inner attitude, a matter that I shall not go into here. Inwardly as well as externally, the old university
constitution has become fictitious. What has remained and what has been essentially increased is a factor
peculiar to the university career: the question whether or not such a Privatdozent, and still more an assistant,
will ever succeed in moving into the position of a full professor or even become the head of an institute. That
is simply a hazard. Certainly, chance does not rule alone, but it rules to an unusually high degree. I know of
hardly any career on earth where chance plays such a role. I may say so all the more since I personally owe it
to some mere accidents that during my very early years I was appointed to a full professorship in a discipline
in which men of my generation undoubtedly had achieved more that I had. And, indeed, I fancy, on the basis
of this experience, that I have a sharp eye for the undeserved fate of the many whom accident has cast in the
opposite direction and who within this selective apparatus in spite of all their ability do not attain the
positions that are due them.


The fact that hazard rather than ability plays so large a role is not alone or even predominantly owing to the
'human, all too human' factors, which naturally occur in the process of academic selection as in any other
selection. It would be unfair to hold the personal inferiority of faculty members or educational ministries
responsible for the fact that so many mediocrities undoubtedly play an eminent role at the universities. The
predominance of mediocrity is rather due to the laws of human co-operation, especially of the co-operation
of several bodies, and, in this case, co-operation of the faculties who recommend and of the ministries of
A counterpart are the events at the papal elections, which can be traced over many centuries and which are
the most important controllable examples of a selection of the same nature as the academic selection. The
cardinal who is said to be the 'favorite' only rarely has a chance to win out. The rule is rather that the Number
Two cardinal or the Number Three wins out. The same holds for the President of the United States. Only
exceptionally does the first-rate and most prominent man get the nomination of the convention. Mostly the
Number Two and often the Number Three men are nominated and later run for election. The Americans have
already formed technical sociological terms for these categories, and it would be quite interesting to enquire
into the laws of selection by a collective will by studying these examples, but we shall not do so here. Yet
these laws also hold for the collegiate bodies of German universities, and one must not be surprised at the
frequent mistakes that are made, but rather at the number of correct appointments, the proportion of which, in
spite of all, is very considerable. Only where parliaments, as in some countries, or monarchs, as in Germany
thus far (both work out in the same way), or revolutionary power-holders, as in Germany now, intervene for
political reasons in academic selections, can one be certain that convenient mediocrities or strainers will have
the opportunities all to themselves.
No university teacher likes to be reminded of discussions of appointments, for they are seldom agreeable.
And yet I may say that in the numerous cases known to me there was, without exception, the good will to
allow purely objective reasons to be decisive.
One must be clear about another thing: that the decision over academic fates is so largely a 'hazard' is not
merely because of the insufficiency of the selection by the collective formation of will. Every young man
who feels called to scholarship has to realize clearly that the task before him has a double aspect. He must
qualify not only as a scholar but also as a teacher. And the two do not at all coincide. One can be a
preeminent scholar and at the same time an abominably poor teacher. May I remind you of the teaching of
men like Helmholtz or Ranke; and they are not by any chance rare exceptions.
Now, matters are such that German universities, especially the small universities, are engaged in a most
ridiculous competition for enrollments. The landlords of rooming houses in university cities celebrate the
advent of the thousandth student by a festival, and they would love to celebrate Number Two Thousand by a
torchlight procession. The interest in fees--and one should openly admit it--is affected by appointments in the
neighboring fields that 'draw crowds.' And quite apart from this, the number of students enrolled is a test of
qualification, which may be grasped in terms of numbers, whereas the qualification for scholarship is
imponderable and, precisely with audacious innovators, often debatable--that is only natural. Almost
everybody thus is affected by the suggestion of the immeasurable blessing and value of large enrollments. To
say of a docent that he is a poor teacher is usually to pronounce an academic sentence of death, even if he is
the foremost scholar in the world. And the question whether he is a good or a poor teacher is answered by the
enrollments with which the students condescendingly honor him.
It is a fact that whether or not the students flock to a teacher is determined in large measure, larger than one
would believe possible, by purely external things: temperament and even the inflection of his voice. After
rather extensive experience and sober reflection, I have a deep distrust of courses that draw crowds, however
unavoidable they may be. Democracy should be used only where it is in place. Scientific training, as we are
held to practice it in accordance with the tradition of German universities, is the affair of an intellectual


aristocracy, and we should not hide this from ourselves. To be sure, it is true that to present scientific
problems in such a manner that an untutored but receptive mind can understand them and--what for us is
alone decisive--can come to think about them independently is perhaps the most difficult pedagogical task of
all. But whether this task is or is not realized is not decided by enrollment figures. And--to return to our
theme--this very art is a personal gift and by no means coincides with the scientific qualifications of the
In contrast to France, Germany has no corporate body of 'immortals' in science. According to German
tradition, the universities shall do justice to the demands both of research and of instruction. Whether the
abilities for both are found together in a man is a matter of absolute chance. Hence academic life is a mad
hazard. If the young scholar asks for my advice with regard to habilitation, the responsibility of encouraging
him can hardly be borne. If he is a Jew, of course one says lasciate ogni speranza. But one must ask every
other man: Do you in all conscience believe that you can stand seeing mediocrity after mediocrity, year after
year, climb beyond you, without becoming embittered and without coming to grief? Naturally, one always
receives the answer: 'Of course, I live only for my "calling." ' Yet, I have found that only a few men could
endure this situation without coming to grief.
This much I deem necessary to say about the external conditions of the academic man's vocation. But I
believe that actually you wish to hear of something else, namely, of the inward calling for science. In our
time, the internal situation, in contrast to the organization of science as a vocation, is first of all conditioned
by the facts that science has entered a phase of specialization previously unknown and that this will forever
remain the case. Not only externally, but inwardly, matters stand at a point where the individual can acquire
the sure consciousness of achieving something truly perfect in the field of science only in case he is a strict
All work that overlaps neighboring fields, such as we occasionally undertake and which the sociologists must
necessarily undertake again and again, is burdened with the resigned realization that at best one provides the
specialist with useful questions upon which he would not so easily hit from his own specialized point of
view. One's own work must inevitably remain highly imperfect. Only by strict specialization can the
scientific worker become fully conscious, for once and perhaps never again in his lifetime, that he has
achieved something that will endure. A really definitive and good accomplishment is today always a
specialized accomplishment. And whoever lacks the capacity to put on blinders, so to speak, and to come up
to the idea that the fate of his soul depends upon whether or not he makes the correct conjecture at this
passage of this manuscript may as well stay away from science. He will never have what one may call the
'personal experience' of science. Without this strange intoxication, ridiculed by every outsider; without this
passion, this 'thousands of years must pass before you enter into life and thousands more wait in silence'-according to whether or not you succeed in making this conjecture; without this, you have no calling for
science and you should do something else. For nothing is worthy of man as man unless he can pursue it with
passionate devotion.
Yet it is a fact that no amount of such enthusiasm, however sincere and profound it may be, can compel a
problem to yield scientific results. Certainly enthusiasm is a prerequisite of the 'inspiration' which is decisive.
Nowadays in circles of youth there is a widespread notion that science has become a problem in calculation,
fabricated in laboratories or statistical filing systems just as 'in a factory,' a calculation involving only the
cool intellect and not one's 'heart and soul.' First of all one must say that such comments lack all clarity about
what goes on in a factory or in a laboratory. In both some idea has to occur to someone's mind, and it has to
be a correct idea, if one is to accomplish anything worthwhile. And such intuition cannot be forced. It has
nothing to do with any cold calculation. Certainly calculation is also an indispensable prerequisite. No
sociologist, for instance, should think himself too good, even in his old age, to make tens of thousands of
quite trivial computations in his head and perhaps for months at a time. One cannot with impunity try to
transfer this task entirely to mechanical assistants if one wishes to figure something, even though the final


result is often small indeed. But if no 'idea' occurs to his mind about the direction of his computations and,
during his computations, about the bearing of the emergent single results, then even this small result will not
be yielded.
Normally such an 'idea' is prepared only on the soil of very hard work, but certainly this is not always the
case. Scientifically, a dilettante's idea may have the very same or even a greater bearing for science than that
of a specialist. Many of our very best hypotheses and insights are due precisely to dilettantes. The dilettante
differs from the expert, as Helmholtz has said of Robert Mayer, only in that he lacks a firm and reliable work
procedure. Consequently he is usually not in the position to control, to estimate, or to exploit the idea in its
bearings. The idea is not a substitute for work; and work, in turn, cannot substitute for or compel an idea, just
as little as enthusiasm can. Both, enthusiasm and work, and above all both of them jointly, can entice the
Ideas occur to us when they please, not when it pleases us. The best ideas do indeed occur to one's mind in
the way in which Ihering describes it: when smoking a cigar on the sofa; or as Helmholtz states of himself
with scientific exactitude: when taking a walk on a slowly ascending street; or in a similar way. In any case,
ideas come when we do not expect them, and not when we are brooding and searching at our desks. Yet
ideas would certainly not come to mind had we not brooded at our desks and searched for answers with
passionate devotion.
However this may be, the scientific worker has to take into his bargain the risk that enters into all scientific
work: Does an 'idea' occur or does it not? He may be an excellent worker and yet never have had any
valuable idea of his own. It is a grave error to believe that this is so only in science, and that things for
instance in a business office are different from a laboratory. A merchant or a big industrialist without
'business imagination,' that is, without ideas or ideal intuitions, will for all his life remain a man who would
better have remained a clerk or a technical official. He will never be truly creative in organization.
Inspiration in the field of science by no means plays any greater role, as academic conceit fancies, than it
does in the field of mastering problems of practical life by a modern entrepreneur. On the other hand, and
this also is often misconstrued, inspiration plays no less a role in science than it does in the realm of art. It is
a childish notion to think that a mathematician attains any scientifically valuable results by sitting at his desk
with a ruler, calculating machines or other mechanical means. The mathematical imagination of a
Weierstrass is naturally quite differently oriented in meaning and result than is the imagination of an artist,
and differs basically in quality. But the psychological processes do not differ. Both are frenzy (in the sense of
Plato's 'mania') and 'inspiration.'
Now, whether we have scientific inspiration depends upon destinies that are hidden from us, and besides
upon 'gifts.' Last but not least, because of this indubitable truth, a very understandable attitude has become
popular, especially among youth, and has put them in the service of idols whose cult today occupies a broad
place on all street corners and in all periodicals. These idols are 'personality' and 'personal experience.' Both
are intimately connected, the notion prevails that the latter constitutes the former and belongs to it. People
belabor themselves in trying to 'experience' life--for that befits a personality, conscious of its rank and
station. And if we do not succeed in 'experiencing' life, we must at least pretend to have this gift of grace.
Formerly we called this 'experience,' in plain German, 'sensation'; and I believe that we then had a more
adequate idea of what personality is and what it signifies.
Ladies and gentlemen. In the field of science only he who is devoted solely to the work at hand has
'personality.' And this holds not only for the field of science; we know of no great artist who has ever done
anything but serve his work and only his work. As far as his art is concerned, even with a personality of
Goethe's rank, it has been detrimental to take the liberty of trying to make his 'life' into a work of art. And
even if one doubts this, one has to be a Goethe in order to dare permit oneself such liberty. Everybody will
admit at least this much: that even with a man like Goethe, who appears once in a thousand years, this liberty


did not go unpaid for. In politics matters are not different, but we shall not discuss that today. In the field of
science, however, the man who makes himself the impresario of the subject to which he should be devoted,
and steps upon the stage and seeks to legitimate himself through 'experience,' asking: How can I prove that I
am something other than a mere 'specialist' and how can I manage to say something in form or in content that
nobody else has ever said ?--such a man is no 'personality.' Today such conduct is a crowd phenomenon, and
it always makes a petty impression and debases the one who is thus concerned. Instead of this, an inner
devotion to the task, and that alone, should lift the scientist to the height and dignity of the subject he
pretends to serve. And in this it is not different with the artist.
In contrast with these preconditions which scientific work shares with art, science has a fate that profoundly
distinguishes it from artistic work. Scientific work is chained to the course of progress; whereas in the realm
of art there is no progress in the same sense. It is not true that the work of art of a period that has worked out
new technical means, or, for instance, the laws of perspective, stands therefore artistically higher than a work
of art devoid of all knowledge of those means and laws--if its form does justice to the material, that is, if its
object has been chosen and formed so that it could be artistically mastered without applying those conditions
and means. A work of art which is genuine 'fulfilment' is never surpassed; it will never be antiquated.
Individuals may differ in appreciating the personal significance of works of art, but no one will ever be able
to say of such a work that it is 'outstripped by another work which is also 'fulfilment.'
In science, each of us knows that what he has accomplished will be antiquated in ten, twenty, fifty years.
That is the fate to which science is subj...

Signaler un abus

Echange gratuit

Ressources Gratuites

Pour pouvoir consulter gratuitement ce document et


Vous disposez de documents dont vous êtes l'auteur ?

monnaie-euro-00008Publiez-les et gagnez 1 euro à chaque consultation.
Le site vous offre le meilleur taux de reversement dans la monétisation de vos devoirs et autres rapports de stage.
Le site accepte tous les documents dans toutes les matières (philosophie, littérature, droit, histoire-géographie, psychologie, etc.).

N'hésitez pas à nous envoyer vos documents.

, nous vous prions tout simplement de faire don d'un document pour le site en cliquant sur le boutton ci-dessous :

Le corrigé du sujet "Text - science as a vocation" a obtenu la note de : aucune note

Text - science as a vocation

 QCM de culture générale