Oxford Magazine (290):13-16 (2009)

Nicholas Maxwell
University College London
For over 30 years I have argued, in and out of print that, for both intellectual and humanitarian reasons, we urgently need a revolution in the aims and methods of academic inquiry. Instead of giving priority to the search for knowledge, academia needs to devote itself 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 includes knowledge but much else besides. A basic task of academia would be to help humanity learn how to create a better world. Now I find the revolution is underway – entirely independent of my own efforts to promote it. During the last ten to twenty years, all sorts of changes have taken place in academia that amount to putting aspects of wisdom-inquiry into practice – even if in complete ignorance of my work. Perhaps the most significant steps are the creation of departments, institutions and research centres concerned with social policy, with problems of environmental degradation, climate change, poverty, injustice and war, and with such matters as medical ethics and community health. Nevertheless, the revolution is happening with agonizing slowness, in a dreadfully muddled and piecemeal way. It needs academics and non-academics to wake up to what is going on – or what needs to go on – to help give direction, coherence and a rationale to this nascent revolution from knowledge to wisdom.
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