March 14, 2008

Towards a Wisdom Revolution

Current academia is more devoted to acquiring expert knowledge and technological know-how, in the hope that that knowledge will be used to better the lot of humanity. However the scientific pursuit of knowledge dissociated from a more fundamental concern with problems of living remains fraught with danger.

What we urgently need to do - given the unprecedented opportunities bequeathed to us by the vast array of knowledge systems and information available - is to learn how to tackle our immense, intractable problems of living in rather more intelligent, humane, co- operatively and integral ways than we do at present.

And for that, in turn, we need to creatively design institutions of learning that facilitate more engaged, dialogical, and integrated educational approaches. Fundamentally, we need a new kind of academic inquiry that gives intellectual priority to practical human life. It is imperative that formal systems of education and research increasingly focus on exploring opportunities for actualizing human potentials, advancing the health of planetary ecologies, and understanding the challenges we face as a species - to clarifying what our problems are, and to proposing and critically assessing the possible solutions.

Nicholas Maxwell is a researcher and educator who has spent the past 35 years trying to understand what the overall aims and methods of science, and of academic inquiry more generally, ought to be if it is to help humanity achieve a more civilized and healthy world. Maxwell writes:
The revolution we need would change every branch and aspect of academic inquiry. Social inquiry would become social methodology or philosophy, and would not be, primarily, social science. Its primary task would be to help people resolve conflicts and problems of living in more cooperatively rational ways. Social inquiry would be more intellectually fundamental than natural science. 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.”

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