Cham, Switzerland: Springer Verlag (2019)

Nicholas Maxwell
University College London
Two great problems of learning confront humanity: learning about the nature of the universe and about ourselves and other living things as a part of the universe, and learning how to become civilized or enlightened. The first problem was solved, in essence, in the 17th century, with the creation of modern science. But the second problem has not yet been solved. Solving the first problem without also solving the second puts us in a situation of great danger. All our current global problems have arisen as a result. What we need to do, in response to this unprecedented crisis, is learn from our solution to the first problem how to solve the second one. This was the basic idea of the 18th century Enlightenment. Unfortunately, in carrying out this programme, the Enlightenment made three blunders, and it is this defective version of the Enlightenment programme, inherited from the past, that is still built into the institutional/intellectual structure of academic inquiry in the 21st century. In order to solve the second great problem of learning we need to correct the three blunders of the traditional Enlightenment. This involves changing the nature of social inquiry, so that social science becomes social methodology or social philosophy, concerned to help us build into social life the progress-achieving methods of aim-oriented rationality, arrived at by generalizing the progress-achieving methods of science. It also involves, more generally, bringing about a revolution in the nature of academic inquiry as a whole, so that it takes up its proper task of helping humanity learn how to become wiser by increasingly cooperatively rational means. The scientific task of improving knowledge and understanding of nature becomes a part of the broader task of improving global wisdom. The outcome would be what we so urgently need: a kind of inquiry rationally designed and devoted to helping us make progress towards a genuinely civilized world. We would succeed in doing what the Enlightenment tried but failed to do: learn from scientific progress how to go about making social progress towards as good a world as possible.
Keywords Global crisis  Science  Philosophy of science  Enlightenment  Education  Social progress  Social science  Climate change  Romanticism  Rationality
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ISBN(s) 9783030134198   3030134199
DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-13420-4
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Learning About the Universe and Learning How to Create Civilization

Two great problems of learning confront humanity: learning about the nature of the universe and about ourselves and other living things as a part of the universe, and learning how to become civilized. The first problem was solved, in essence, in the 17th century, with the creation of modern science.... see more

From Knowledge to Wisdom

We have before us two rival kinds and conceptions of academic inquiry, which may be called knowledge-inquiry and wisdom-inquiry. The first of these is what we have inherited from the past. It is the outcome of the blunders of the 18th century Enlightenment. It still dominates academia today. The bas... see more

The Enlightenment and the Romantic Opposition

The idea of learning from the solution to the first great problem of learning how to solve the second problem goes back to the 18th century Enlightenment—especially the French Enlightenment. One might even say that this was the fundamental idea of the French Enlightenment: to learn from scientific p... see more

Questions and Objections

Many objections may be raised to the basic thesis of this book. Humanity is too stupid or selfish to do what needs to be done to become more civilized. This is true, at least, of those who hold power. We are victims of an economic-political power structure which makes progress towards a more civiliz... see more

The New Enlightenment and Academic Inquiry

We need to get clear about the implications for academic inquiry of correcting the blunders we have inherited from the 18th century Enlightenment—so that the basic Enlightenment idea can be put properly into practice. We take two conceptions of scientific method in turn. First, we adopt Karl Popper’... see more

Summary and Conclusion

In order to create a better world, we need to learn how to do it. We need to learn how to resolve our conflicts and problems of living in more cooperatively rational ways than we do at present. And in order to do that, we need traditions and institutions of learning rationally devoted to this end. I... see more

Current Domination of Knowledge-Inquiry

At present knowledge-inquiry dominates academic inquiry, with some elements of social science and the humanities being influenced by Romantic ideals. Evidence that this is indeed the case comes from various aspects of the academic enterprise. A number of factors, such as careers and specialization, ... see more

How Would Wisdom-Inquiry Help?

Would it be possible to put wisdom-inquiry into practice? The answer is that it would not be politically possible in undemocratic, dictatorial regimes, but it would be possible in liberal democracies—although a struggle against hostile social groups would no doubt be required. How would the transiti... see more

The New Enlightenment

Romanticism is right to object to the traditional Enlightenment, but wrong to object on grounds of too much reason. What is wrong with the traditional Enlightenment is not too much reason but, quite to the contrary, not enough. The traditional Enlightenment is a characteristic kind of irrationality ... see more

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A New Task for Philosophy of Science.Nicholas Maxwell - 2019 - Metaphilosophy 50 (3):316-338.

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