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From Knowledge to Wisdom Lecture Series Part 1
Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 11:30 AM (PDT)
San Francisco, CA
TheGlint is honored to be hosting a series of lectures streamed lived from London by Professor Maxwell, Emeritus Reader and Honorary Senior Research Fellow at University College London. Dr. Maxwell claims that:
"We need a revolution in the aims and methods of academic inquiry, so that the basic aim becomes to promote wisdom by rational means, instead of just to acquire knowledge. Acquiring scientific knowledge dissociated from a more basic concern for wisdom leads, via technology and industry, to an enormous increase in the power to act. This has led to much that is good, but also to much that is harmful. All our modern global crises are the outcome of science without wisdom. If we are to avoid in this century the horrors of the last one - wars, death camps, dictatorships, poverty, environmental damage - we urgently need to learn how to acquire more wisdom, which in turn means that our institutions of learning become devoted to that end."
On this first lecture he'll be presenting the outline of his work From Knowledge to Wisdom: A Revolution for Science and the Humanities.
Lecture 1 Summary:
Humanity is faced with two great problems of learning: (1) learning about the universe, and about ourselves and other living things as a part of the universe, and (2) learning how to make progress towards as good a world as possible.
We solved the first problem when we created modern science in the 17th century, but we have not yet solved the second problem. This puts us in a situation of unprecedented danger. Modern science and technology enormously increase our power to act, but not our power to act wisely. All our current global crises have arisen as a result.
What we need to do is learn from our solution to the first great problem of learning how to go about solving the second one. This was the basic idea of the 18th century French Enlightenment. Unfortunately, in carrying out this programme, the Enlightenment made three blunders, and it is this defective version of the Enlightenment programme that we built into academia in the early 20th century with the creation of disciplines and departments of social science.
The outcome is what we have today, an academic enterprise that is a botched attempt to solve the second great problem of learning. We urgently need to bring about a revolution in academia 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 – wisdom being the capacity to realize what is of value in life, for oneself and others, thus including knowledge, technological know-how and understanding, but much else besides.I develop this argument by distinguishing two kinds of inquiry which I shall call knowledge-inquiry and wisdom-inquiry.
Knowledge-inquiry is what we have inherited from the Enlightenment. It is profoundly and damagingly irrational. Wisdom-inquiry is what emerges when knowledge-inquiry is modified just sufficiently to cure it of its intellectual and humanitarian defects. Wisdom-inquiry is what we need to solve the second great problem of learning.
There are two arguments. The first appeals to problem-solving rationality, the second to aim-pursuing rationality. In moving from knowledge-inquiry to wisdom-inquiry almost every branch and aspect of academic inquiry is affected: social inquiry, the humanities, physics, mathematics, natural science, technological research, education, the relationship between different departments of academic inquiry, the relationship between academia as a whole and the rest of the human world, the role of art, politics, values, emotions and desires in academic thought.Universities at present betray both reason and humanity.
We urgently need to transform them so that they come to take up their proper task of helping us make progress towards as good a world as possible. This revolution – intellectual, institutional and cultural – if it ever comes about, will be comparable in its long-term impact to that of the Renaissance, the scientific revolution, or the Enlightenment. There are a few scattered signs that it is already under way. It will need, however, much wider cooperative support – from scientists, scholars, students, research councils, university administrators, vice chancellors, teachers, the media and the general public – if it is to become anything more than what it is at present, a fragmentary and often impotent movement of protest and opposition, often at odds with itself, exercising little influence on the main body of academic work. I can hardly imagine any more important task, as far as the long-term interests of humanity are concerned, than to help promote this revolution.
At the end of the lecture there will be a Q&A session for the audience to ask questions.
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