The narrator is nervous to return to the college in Bozeman, because it holds a great deal of significance in Phaedrus’s personal development. Teaching there made Phaedrus very anxious, because of his solitary nature. Right-wing state politicians began to suppress academic freedoms at the college, and Phaedrus protested this mistreatment by working to remove the college’s accreditation.
Phaedrus refused to let socialized codes of conduct interfere with his academic pursuits, and this intellectual purity is what motivates him to stand up to the university administration.
Phaedrus’s efforts against accreditation scandalized some students, and during one of his classes, he delivered a defense of his actions that he called the Church of Reason lecture. In this lecture, Phaedrus compares the university to a church. A church building can be repurposed without affront to the religion because religion is not dependent on any physical structure. Similarly, the real university exists not as the physical campus, but as a body of reason within the minds of students and teachers. Stripping the university of its accreditation is like de-consecrating and repurposing a church building; it simply signifies that a requisite mindset is no longer present.
Phaedrus’s Church of Reason lecture offers a helpful analogy that highlights the ways in which a rigid, dualistic mode of thinking can stand in the way of an understanding of the true meaning of various phenomena.
The narrator praises the logical prowess of Phaedrus’s Church of Reason speech. He goes on to explain that true adherents of the Church of Reason are beholden to the pursuit of truth alone, not to any sort of university bureaucracy. Though Phaedrus’s behavior was impolitic, he was spared from outright condemnation because people recognized he was simply speaking out of his obligation to pursue rational truth.
Phaedrus’s devotion to reason transcends more worldly concerns.
The narrator also observes that Phaedrus’s devotion to the Church of Reason likely came as a result of his understanding of its weaknesses. Phaedrus’s mastery of reason allowed him to comprehend its deficiencies—thus, he devoted himself fanatically to a cause he didn’t quite have faith in himself.
Paradoxically, Phaedrus’s lack of faith in reason is what motivates his passionate dedication to the institution. This parallels the counterintuitive way in which Phaedrus uses reason to question reason itself.