Nicholas MaxwellNicholas Maxwell is a British philosopher who has for decades criticized academic science and philosophy for advancing what we know about the world - knowledge - rather than seeking "wisdom" about what is of most value, which can tell us how to live better. At one level, this is David Hume's famous "fork" between "facts" and "values." At another, Maxwell is optimistic that we can find the wisdom we need to solve the problems of living we are faced with in the modern world. And Hume himself thought he had discovered "moral sentiments" in his "human sciences."
We face grave global problems - climate change, population growth, habitat destruction and extinction of species, lethal modern war, vast inequalities of wealth and power around the world. If we are to tackle these problems effectively and wisely, thus making progress towards as good a world as possible, we need to learn how to do it. That in turn requires that our institutions of learning, our schools and universities, are rationally organized for, and devoted to, the task. At present, devoted as they are to the pursuit of knowledge, they are not. Priority needs to be given to tackling problems of living, above all our grave global problems. The basic intellectual aim needs to be to help people realize what is of value in their lives, the scientific pursuit of knowledge and understanding being undertaken as an aspect of that endeavour. A basic task needs to be to help people around the world acquire a good understanding of what our global problem are and what we need to do about them. It needs to be recognized much more widely that the kind of academic inquiry we have inherited from the past, devoted primarily to the pursuit of knowledge, is damagingly irrational, in a wholesale, structural way, when judged from this standpoint. The long-standing, successful pursuit of scientific knowledge and technological know-how dissociated from a more fundamental concern with problems of living is a key factor in the creation of our current global problems, and our current incapacity to resolve them.Normal | Teacher | Scholar