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2011-10-09
From Knowledge to Wisdom
Since 1976, a growing body of work has argued that we urgently need to bring about a revolution in academic inquiry so that the basic aim becomes wisdom and not just knowledge - wisdom being the capacity to realize what is of value in life, for oneself and others, wisdom thus including knowledge, understanding and technological know-how, but much else besides.  What we have at present, academic inquiry devoted, in the first instance, to the pursuit of knowledge is, it is argued, profoundly and damagingly irrational.  The generation of our current global problems, and our current incapacity to tackle them intelligently, effectively and humanely, is in part due to the long-standing structural irrationality of our institutions of learning.

The revolution we require would change every branch and aspect of academic inquiry. A basic intellectual task of academic inquiry would be to articulate our problems of living (personal, social and global) and propose and critically assess possible solutions, possible actions. This would be the task of social inquiry and the humanities. Tackling problems of knowledge would be secondary. Social inquiry would be at the heart of the academic enterprise, intellectually more fundamental than natural science. On a rather more long-term basis, social inquiry would be concerned to help humanity build cooperatively rational methods of problem-solving into the fabric of social and political life, so that we may gradually acquire the capacity to resolve our conflicts and problems of living in more cooperatively rational ways than at present. Natural science would change to include three domains of discussion: evidence, theory, and aims - the latter including discussion of metaphysics, values and politics. Academic inquiry as a whole would become a kind of people's civil service, doing openly for the public what actual civil services are supposed to do in secret for governments. Academia would actively seek to educate the public by means of discussion and debate, and would not just study the public.

We urgently need, in short, a dramatic change in the philosophy of inquiry built into academia all over the world.  The issue goes to the heart of philosophy, and yet most academic philosophers have shown no interest in the issue whatsoever.

Why is this?  Is the argument that knowledge-inquiry - what we have at present - needs to become wisdom-inquiry, valid?  If not, why not?  If the argument is valid, what can be done to alert more philosophers to the fundamental importance of the issue for philosophy, for academia, and for the future of humanity?

A detailed exposition of the argument can be found in N. Maxwell, From Knowledge to Wisdom (Blackwell, 1984; 2nd ed., Pentire Press, 2007).  For a summary, see: http://philpapers.org/archive/MAXFKT-4.1.doc .  For a summary of the summary, see: http://philpapers.org/archive/MAXDSP.1.doc .

Nicholas Maxwell

2012-03-12
From Knowledge to Wisdom
Nicholas,I am with you on this. You may find my paper at http://markpharoah.net/reductiveexplanation.html interesting as it supports your views rather effectively.