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Profile: Nicholas Maxwell (University College London)
  1. Nicholas Maxwell, Nicholas Maxwell.
    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 (...)
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  2. Nicholas Maxwell, Is the Wisdom Revolution Underway?
    The world faces grave global problems. These have been made possible by modern science and technology. We have put knowledge-inquiry into academic practice – a seriously irrational kind of inquiry that seeks knowledge and technological know-how dissociated from a more fundamental concern to seek and promote wisdom. We urgently need to bring about a revolution in academic inquiry, so that knowledge-inquiry becomes wisdom-inquiry – a kind of inquiry rationally designed and devoted to helping humanity make progress towards a wiser world. (...)
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  3. Nicholas Maxwell, Text of TEDxUCL Talk: The Urgent Need for an Academic Revolution.
    We urgently need to bring about a revolution in academic inquiry so that the basic aim becomes, not just knowledge, but rather wisdom, construed to be the capacity and active endeavour to realize what is of value in life for oneself and others, wisdom thus including knowledge and technological know-how, but much else besides. A basic task of academia ought to be to help humanity learn how to make progress towards as good a world as possible.
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  4. Nicholas Maxwell, What’s Wrong With Aim-Oriented Empiricism?
    For four decades it has been argued that we need to adopt a new conception of science called aim-oriented empiricism. This has far-reaching implications and repercussions for science, the philosophy of science, academic inquiry in general, conception of rationality, and how we go about attempting to make progress towards as good a world as possible. Despite these far-reaching repercussions, aim-oriented empiricism has so far received scant attention from philosophers of science. Here, sixteen objections to the validity of the argument for (...)
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  5. Nicholas Maxwell (ed.) (forthcoming). Karl Popper, Science and Enlightenment. Pentire Press.
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  6. Nicholas Maxwell (forthcoming). Popper's Paradoxical Pursuit of Natural Philosophy. In J. Shearmur & G. Stokes (eds.), Cambridge Companion to Popper. Cambridge University Press.
    Philosophy of science is seen by most as a meta-discipline – one that takes science as its subject matter, and seeks to acquire knowledge and understanding about science without in any way affecting, or contributing to, science itself. Karl Popper’s approach is very different. His first love is natural philosophy or, as he would put it, cosmology. This intermingles cosmology and the rest of natural science with epistemology, methodology and metaphysics. Paradoxically, however, one of his best known contributions, his proposed (...)
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  7. Nicholas Maxwell (forthcoming). Recent Advances in Cosmology. Nova Science Publishers.
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  8. Nicholas Maxwell (forthcoming). What's Wrong with Science and Technology Studies? What Needs to Be Done to Put It Right? In R. Pisano & D. Capecchi (eds.), Physics, Astronomy and Engineering. A Bridge between Conceptual Frameworks. Springer.
    After a sketch of the optimism and high aspirations of History and Philosophy of Science when I first joined the field in the mid 1960s, I go on to describe the disastrous impact of "the strong programme" and social constructivism in history and sociology of science. Despite Alan Sokal's brilliant spoof article, and the "science wars" that flared up partly as a result, the whole field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) is still adversely affected by social constructivist ideas. I (...)
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  9. Nicholas Maxwell (2014). How Can Our Human World Exist and Best Flourish Embedded in the Physical Universe? A Letter to an Applicant to a New Liberal Studies Course. On the Horizon 22 (1).
    In this paper I sketch a liberal studies course designed to explore our fundamental problem of thought and life: How can our human world exist and best flourish embedded as it is in the physical universe? The fundamental character of this problem provides one with the opportunity to explore a wide range of issues. What does physics tell us about the universe and ourselves? How do we account for everything physics leaves out? How can living brains be conscious? If everything (...)
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  10. Nicholas Maxwell (2014). How Universities Can Help Create a Wiser World: The Urgent Need for an Academic Revolution. Imprint Academic.
    In order to make progress towards a better world we need to learn how to do it. And for that we need institutions of learning rationally designed and devoted to helping us solve our global problems, make progress towards a better world. It is just this that we lack at present. Our universities pursue knowledge. They are neither designed nor devoted to helping humanity learn how to tackle global problems — problems of living — in more intelligent, humane and effective (...)
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  11. Nicholas Maxwell (2014). Revolutionary Thought. Times Higher Education (2136):30.
    The crisis of our times is that we have science without wisdom. Modern science and technology lead to modern industry and agriculture which in turn lead to all the great benefits of the modern world and to the global crises we face, from population growth to climate change. The fault lies, not with science, but with science dissociated from a more fundamental concern with problems of living. We urgently need to bring about a revolution in academia so that the fundamental (...)
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  12. Nicholas Maxwell (2014). Three Criticisms of Newton’s Inductive Argument in the Principia. Advances in Historical Studies 3 (1):2-11.
    In this paper, I discuss how Newton’s inductive argument of the Principia can be defended against criticisms levelled against it by Duhem, Popper and myself. I argue that Duhem’s and Popper’s criticisms can be countered, but mine cannot. It requires that we reconsider, not just Newton’s inductive argument in the Principia, but also the nature of science more generally. The methods of science, whether conceived along inductivist or hypothetico-deductivist lines, make implicit metaphysical presuppositions which rigour requires we make explicit within (...)
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  13. Nicholas Maxwell (2014). Unification and Revolution: A Paradigm for Paradigms. Journal for General Philosophy of Science 45 (1):133-149.
    Incommensurability was Kuhn’s worst mistake. If it is to be found anywhere in science, it would be in physics. But revolutions in theoretical physics all embody theoretical unification. Far from obliterating the idea that there is a persisting theoretical idea in physics, revolutions do just the opposite: they all actually exemplify the persisting idea of underlying unity. Furthermore, persistent acceptance of unifying theories in physics when empirically more successful disunified rivals can always be concocted means that physics makes a persistent (...)
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  14. Nicholas Maxwell (2014). What Philosophy Ought to Be. In Charles Tandy (ed.), Death And Anti-Death, Volume 11: Ten Years After Donald Davidson (1917-2003). Ria University Press. 125-162.
    The proper task of philosophy is to keep alive awareness of what our most fundamental, important, urgent problems are, what our best attempts are at solving them and, if possible, what needs to be done to improve these attempts. Unfortunately, academic philosophy fails disastrously even to conceive of the task in these terms. It makes no attempt to ensure that universities tackle global problems - global intellectually, and global in the sense of concerning the future of the earth and humanity. (...)
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  15. Nicholas Maxwell (2013). Does Philosophy Betray Both Reason and Humanity? Changed Without the Author's Knowledge To: 'Knowledge or Wisdom?'. The Philosophers' Magazine (62):17-18.
    A bad philosophy of inquiry, built into the intellectual/institutional structure of universities round the world, betrays both reason and humanity.
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  16. Nicholas Maxwell, From Knowledge to Wisdom: Assessment and Prospects After Three Decades. Research Across Boundaries – Advances in Integrative Meta-Studies and Research Practice.
    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 (...)
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  17. Nicholas Maxwell (2013). Has Science Established That the Cosmos is Physically Comprehensible? In A. Travena & B. Soen (eds.), Recent Advances in Cosmology. Nova Science Publishers.
    Most scientists would hold that science has not established that the cosmos is physically comprehensible – i.e. such that there is some as-yet undiscovered true physical theory of everything that is unified. This is an empirically untestable, or metaphysical thesis. It thus lies beyond the scope of science. Only when physics has formulated a testable unified theory of everything which has been amply corroborated empirically will science be in a position to declare that it has established that the cosmos is (...)
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  18. Nicholas Maxwell, How to Create a Better World: Bring About a Revolution in Universities. Discussion Blog.
    In order to create a better world we need to bring about a revolution in universities so that they become devoted to helping humanity learn how to make progress towards as good a world as possible.
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  19. Nicholas Maxwell (2013). Knowledge or Wisdom? The Philosophers' Magazine 62 (62):17-18.
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  20. Nicholas Maxwell (2013). Misconceptions Concerning Wisdom. Journal of Modern Wisdom 2:92-97.
    If our concern is to help wisdom to flourish in the world, then the central task before us is to transform academia so that it takes up its proper task of seeking and promoting wisdom instead of just acquiring knowledge. Improving knowledge about wisdom is no substitute; nor is the endeavour of searching for the correct definition of wisdom.
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  21. Nicholas Maxwell (2013). The Menace of Science Without Civilization. Dialogue and Universalism 22 (3):39-63.
    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 (...)
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  22. Nicholas Maxwell (2013). Taking the Nature of God Seriously. In Jeanine Diller Diller & Asa Kasher (eds.), Models of God and Other Ultimate Realities. Springer.
    Once it is appreciated that it is not possible for an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God to exist, the important question arises: What does exist that is closest to, and captures the best of what is in, the traditional conception of God? In this paper I set out to answer that question. The first step that needs to be taken is to sever the God-of-cosmic-power from the God-of-cosmic-value. The first is Einstein’s God, the underlying dynamic unity in the physical universe which (...)
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  23. N. Maxwell (2012). Arguing for Wisdom in the University: An Intellectual Autobiography. Philosophia 40 (4):663-704.
    For forty years I have argued that we urgently need to bring about a revolution in academia so that the basic task becomes to seek and promote wisdom. How did I come to argue for such a preposterously gigantic intellectual revolution? It goes back to my childhood. From an early age, I desired passionately to understand the physical universe. Then, around adolescence, my passion became to understand the heart and soul of people via the novel. But I never discovered how (...)
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  24. N. Maxwell (2012). In Praise of Natural Philosophy: A Revolution for Thought and Life. Philosophia 40 (4):705-715.
    Modern science began as natural philosophy. In the time of Newton, what we call science and philosophy today – the disparate endeavours – formed one mutually interacting, integrated endeavour of natural philosophy: to improve our knowledge and understanding of the universe, and to improve our understanding of ourselves as a part of it. Profound, indeed unprecedented discoveries were made. But then natural philosophy died. It split into science on the one hand, and philosophy on the other. This happened during the (...)
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  25. Nicholas Maxwell (2012). A Revolution in Universities. Bedales Association and Old Bedalian Newsletter:19.
    For much of my working life I have argued, in and out of print, that we need to bring about a revolution in the aims and methods of science – and of academic inquiry more generally. Instead of giving priority to the search for knowledge, universities need to devote themselves to seeking and promoting wisdom by rational means, wisdom being the capacity to realize what is of value in life, for oneself and others, wisdom thus including knowledge, understanding and technological (...)
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  26. Nicholas Maxwell (2012). Does Science Provide Us with the Methodological Key to Wisdom? Philosophia, First Part of 'Arguing for Wisdom in the University' 40 (4):664-673.
    Science provides us with the methodological key to wisdom. This idea goes back to the 18th century French Enlightenment. Unfortunately, in developing the idea, the philosophes of the Enlightenment made three fundamental blunders: they failed to characterize the progress-achieving methods of science properly, they failed to generalize these methods properly, and they failed to develop social inquiry as social methodology having, as its basic task, to get progress-achieving methods, generalized from science, into social life so that humanity might make progress (...)
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  27. Nicholas Maxwell (2012). How Universities Can Help Humanity Learn How to Resolve the Crises of Our Times - From Knowledge to Wisdom: The University College London Experience. In G. Heam, T. Katlelle & D. Rooney (eds.), Handbook on the Knowledge Economy, vol. 2. Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
    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 (...)
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  28. Nicholas Maxwell (2012). Our Global Problems And What We Need To Do About Them. In Charles Tandy & Jack Lee (eds.), Death and Anti-Death Anthology, vol. 10: Ten Years After John Rawls (1921-2002). Ria University Press.
    How can what is of value associated with our human world exist and best flourish embedded as it is in the physical universe? Or, as we may put it, how can the God-of-Cosmic-Value exist and best flourish embedded as it is in the God-of-Cosmic-Power? This, I argue, is our fundamental problem – fundamental in both intellectual and practical terms. Here, I tackle the practical aspect of the problem. I consider briefly five global problems – climate change, war, population growth, world (...)
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  29. Nicholas Maxwell (2012). Replies to Criticisms and Comments. Dialogue and Universalism 22 (3):133-152.
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  30. Nicholas Maxwell (2012). The Menace of Science Without Wisdom. Ethical Record 117 (9):10-15.
    We urgently need to bring about a revolution in the aims and methods of science – and of academic inquiry more generally. Instead of giving priority to the search for knowledge, universities need to devote themselves to seeking and promoting wisdom by rational means, 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. A basic task ought to be to help humanity (...)
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  31. Nicholas Maxwell (2012). The Menace of Science Without Civilization: From Knowledge to Wisdom. Dialogue and Universalism 22 (3):39-63.
    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 (...)
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  32. Nicholas Maxwell (2012). Wisdom: Object of Study or Basic Aim of Inquiry?,. In Michel Ferrari & N. Weststrate (eds.), The Scientific Study of Personal Wisdom. Springer.
    We face severe global problems, many that we have inadvertently created ourselves. It is clear that there is an urgent need for more wisdom. One response is to improve knowledge about wisdom. This, I argue, is an inadequate response to the problems we face. Our global problems arise, in part, from a damagingly irrational kind of academic enterprise, devoted as it is to the pursuit of knowledge. We need to bring about a revolution in academic inquiry so that its basic (...)
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  33. Nicholas Maxwell (2011). A Priori Conjectural Knowledge in Physics: The Comprehensibility of the Universe. In Mkichael Shaffer & Michael Veber (eds.), What Place for the A Priori? Open Court.
    In this paper I argue for a priori conjectural scientific knowledge about the world. Physics persistently only accepts unified theories, even though endlessly many empirically more successful disunified rivals are always available. This persistent preference for unified theories, against empirical considerations, means that physics makes a substantial, persistent metaphysical assumption, to the effect that the universe has a (more or less) unified dynamic structure. In order to clarify what this assumption amounts to, I solve the problem of what it means (...)
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  34. Nicholas Maxwell (2011). Creating a Better World: Towards the University of Wisdom. In Ronald Barnett (ed.), The Future University: Ideas and Possibilities. Routledge.
    Universities need to change dramatically in order to help humanity make progress towards as good a world as possible.
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  35. Nicholas Maxwell (2011). Is the Quantum World Composed of Propensitons? In Mauricio Suarez (ed.), Probabilities, Causes and Propensities in Physics. Springer.
    In this paper I outline my propensiton version of quantum theory (PQT). PQT is a fully micro-realistic version of quantum theory that provides us with a very natural possible solution to the fundamental wave/particle problem, and is free of the severe defects of orthodox quantum theory (OQT) as a result. PQT makes sense of the quantum world. PQT recovers all the empirical success of OQT and is, furthermore, empirically testable (although not as yet tested). I argue that Einstein almost put (...)
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  36. Nicholas Maxwell, Looking for Ultimate Explanations in the Wrong Place. Metascience.
    Review of Michael Heller, Ultimate Explanations of the Cosmos, Springer, 2009.
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  37. Nicholas Maxwell (2011). Three Philosophical Problems About Consciousness and Their Possible Resolution. Open Journal of Philosophy 1 (1):1-10.
    Three big philosophical problems about consciousness are: Why does it exist? How do we explain and understand it? How can we explain brain-consciousness correlations? If functionalism were true, all three problems would be solved. But it is false, which means all three problems remain unsolved. Here, it is argued that the first problem cannot have a solution; this is inherent in the nature of explanation. The second problem is solved by recognizing that (a) there is an explanation as to why (...)
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  38. Nicholas Maxwell (2011). We Need an Academic Revolution. Oxford Magazine (309):15-18.
    Universities today betray both reason and humanity. They are still dominated by the idea, inherited from the past, that the best way the academic enterprise can help promote human welfare is, in the first instance, to pursue the intellectual aim of acquiring knowledge. First, knowledge and technological know-how are to be acquired; then, secondarily, they can be applied to help solve social problems. But academic inquiry conducted in this way – knowledge-inquiry as it may be called – violates the most (...)
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  39. Nicholas Maxwell (2011). Zagrożenie nauką bez cywilizacji: od wiedzy do mądrości. Zagadnienia Naukoznawstwa 47 (3):269-294.
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  40. Nicholas Maxwell (2010). Cutting God in Half - And Putting the Pieces Together Again: A New Approach to Philosophy. Pentire Press.
    Cutting God in Half argues that, in order to tackle climate change, world poverty, extinction of species and our other global problems rather better than we are doing at present we need to bring about a revolution in science, and in academia more generally. We need to put our problems of living – personal, social, global – at the heart of the academic enterprise. How our human world, imbued with meaning and value, can exist and best flourish embedded in the (...)
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  41. Nicholas Maxwell (2010). Wisdom-Inquiry. The Philosophers' Magazine 22 (50):84-85.
    The most exciting and important new philosophical idea of the past decade, in my view, is the discovery that we urgently need to bring about a revolution in science, and in academic inquiry more generally, so that the basic intellectual aim becomes to seek and promote wisdom. We urgently need to transform our schools and universities so that they become rationally devoted to helping humanity learn how to tackle our grave global problems, and thus make progress towards as good a (...)
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  42. Nicholas Maxwell (2010). Review of Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal. [REVIEW] Metapsychology 14 (10).
    In this book Heather Douglas argues that widespread acceptance of the value-free ideal for science adversely affects the way science is used in policy making. The book is about an important issue. It is clearly written, and is a pleasure to read. I must confess, however that, as the author of at least four books that cover some of the same ground, and in many ways develop the argument much further than the author does here, I was disappointed to find (...)
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  43. Nicholas Maxwell (2010). Reply to Comments on Science and the Pursuit of Wisdom. Philosophia 38 (4):667-690.
    In this article I reply to comments made by Agustin Vicente and Giridhari Lal Pandit on Science and the Pursuit of Wisdom (McHenry 2009 ). I criticize analytic philosophy, go on to expound the argument for the need for a revolution in academic inquiry so that the basic aim becomes wisdom and not just knowledge, defend aim-oriented empiricism, outline my solution to the human world/physical universe problem, and defend the thesis that free will is compatible with physicalism.
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  44. Nicholas Maxwell (2010). The Urgent Need for an Academic Revolution: From Knowledge to Wisdom. In W. Karpiuk & K. Wisniewski (eds.), III International Interdisciplinary Technical Conference of Young Scientists: Proceedings.
    At present the basic intellectual aim of academic inquiry is to improve knowledge. Much of the structure, the whole character, of academic inquiry, in universities all over the world, is shaped by the adoption of this as the basic intellectual aim. But, judged from the standpoint of making a contribution to human welfare, academic inquiry of this type is damagingly irrational. Three of four of the most elementary rules of rational problem-solving are violated. A revolution in the aims and methods (...)
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  45. Nicholas Maxwell (2010). The Urgent Need for an Academic Revolution. In Mark Levene, Rob Johnson & Richard Maguire (eds.), History at the End of the World? History, Climate Change and the Possibility of Closure. Humanities-EBooks.
    Two great problems of learning confront humanity: first, learning about the nature of the universe and about ourselves as a part of the universe, and second, learning how to live wisely – learning how to make progress towards as good a world as possible. The first problem was solved, in essence, in the 17th century, with the creation of modern science. A method was discovered for progressively improving knowledge and understanding of the natural world, the famous empirical method of science. (...)
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  46. Nicholas Maxwell (2010). The Urgent Need for an Academic Revolution: The Rational Pursuit of Wisdom. In Charles Tandy (ed.), Death And Anti-Death, Volume 7: Nine Hundred Years After St. Anselm (1033-1109. Ria University Press.
    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 (...)
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  47. Nicholas Maxwell (2010). Universities: From Knowledge to Wisdom. Scientists for Global Responsibility Newsletter (38):18-20.
    Nicholas Maxwell argues that the growth in academic work devoted to policy issues could mark the beginning of a shift from ‘knowledge-inquiry’ to ‘wisdom-inquiry’, leading to importance benefits for society.
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  48. Nicholas Maxwell (2010). Wisdom Mathematics. Friends of Wisdom Newsletter (6):1-6.
    For over thirty years I have argued that all branches of science and scholarship would have both their intellectual and humanitarian value enhanced if pursued in accordance with the edicts of wisdom-inquiry rather than knowledge-inquiry. I argue that this is true of mathematics. Viewed from the perspective of knowledge-inquiry, mathematics confronts us with two fundamental problems. (1) How can mathematics be held to be a branch of knowledge, in view of the difficulties that view engenders? What could mathematics be knowledge (...)
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