From knowledge to wisdom: Assessment and prospects after three decades

Integral Review: Special Issue: International Symposium: Research Across Boundaries, Part 1, ed. M. Markus and M. Edwards, vol. 9, no. 2, 2013, pp. 76-112 (http://www.integral-review.org/current_issue/index.asp).

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We are in a state of impending crisis.  And the fault lies in part with academia.  For two centuries or so, academia has been devoted to the pursuit of knowledge and technological know-how.  This has enormously increased our power to act which has, in turn, brought us both all the great benefits of the modern world and the crises we now face.  Modern science and technology have made possible modern industry and agriculture, the explosive growth of the world’s population, global warming, modern armaments and the lethal character of modern warfare, destruction of natural habitats and rapid extinction of species, immense inequalities of wealth and power across the globe, pollution of earth, sea and air, even the aids epidemic (aids being spread by modern travel).  All these global problems have arisen because some of us have acquired unprecedented powers to act without acquiring the capacity to act wisely.  We urgently need to bring about a revolution in universities so that the basic intellectual aim becomes, not knowledge merely, but rather wisdom – wisdom being the capacity to realize what is of value in life, for oneself and others, thus including knowledge and technological know-how, but much else besides.  This is an argument I have propounded during the last three decades in six books, over thirty papers, and countless lectures delivered in universities and conferences all over the UK, Europe and north America.  Despite all this effort, the argument has, by and large, been ignored.  What is really surprising is that philosophers have paid no attention, despite the fact that that this body of work claims to solve the profoundly important philosophical problem: What kind of inquiry best helps us make progress towards as good a world as possible?  There are, nevertheless, indications that some scientists and university administrators are beginning to become aware of the urgent need for science, and universities, to change.  This is prompted, partly by growing awareness of the seriousness of environmental problems, especially global warming, and partly by a concern to improve the relationship between science and the public.  So far, however, these changes have been small-scale, scattered and piecemeal.  What we require is for academics and non-academics alike to wake up to the urgent need for change so that we may come to possess what we so strikingly and disastrously lack at present: a kind of inquiry rationally devoted to helping humanity make progress towards as good a world as possible.

 

 



(My publication)Posted:May 31 2013, 06:00 PM by NickMaxwell
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