Centre for Cognitive Science (COGS)

Dr Nicholas Maxwell: The Urgent Need for an Academic Revolution: From Knowledge to Wisdom


Nicholas Maxwell, Science and Technology Studies, University College London  
November 25th, 2008

We urgently need to bring about a revolution in our universities. 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 including knowledge but much else besides. The revolution we need would change every branch and aspect of academic inquiry. A basic intellectual task 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. 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. A basic task would be to help humanity learn how to create a good world.