WISDOM IN PRACTICE
for Nicholas Maxwell
Attaining wisdom is a noble aim
Though often just an intellectual game;
Whereas, far better than a brainy sport
Are efforts of a consequential sort,
Pursuing not abstruse enlightenment,
But working with a practical intent
To turn the world from foolish practices,
Impediments to our collective bliss.
For instance, global warming is a threat
That science and philosophy have yet
By abstract cogitation to resolve;
Instead, a resolution will involve
Both shrewd deliberation and a plan
Of action to protect the fate of man.
Alan Nordstrom, PhD, LVP
Professor of English
Winter Park, FL 32789
BLOG: verses, essays and images
"Don't let school interfere with your education."
From: Group concerned that academia should seek and promote wisdom <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Ian Glendinning <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, June 30, 2014 3:37 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Campaign for Wisdom-Inquiry
Nick and all,
Accepting that the aim of this particular group is:
(B) To transform academia so that it puts wisdom-inquiry into practice.
With the wider objective of:
(A) To help make progress towards a wiser world (or, more modestly, to
help promote wisdom in the world).
.... towards a better world generally.
The question is "How" to transform what academia does, how to change
its values and decision-making, so that it does put "wisdom enquiry",
or the equivalent by any other name, when deciding on curricula and
course content. Simply repeating and communicating the (B) message
that it should, doesn't make it so, doesn't address the how.
Money is a key component of decision-making in academia, what pays and
what do money and debt mean, etc.
Money is the supremely objective marker in real-number-quantifiable
terms, the "currency" of choice, the epitome of rational objective
decision-making generally, and that scientistic neurosis is more
general as you have yourself pointed out Nick.
However right "Wisdom Enquiry" and Aim Oriented Rationality messages
are, they are described technically and hard to "sell". You said
yourself when presenting your latest book earlier this year at
UCL,that it's the same message you been proclaiming for 40(?) years.
In order to sell it / them we need to change hearts and minds about
how academic decisions are made and accepted as valid by those
On Sun, Jun 29, 2014 at 8:30 PM, Alan Nordstrom <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Dear Nick, et al.,
> With respect to the alleged environmental problem of curtailing carbon
> emissions assumed to harm the health of our biosphere, what roles should
> universities—as seedbeds of wisdom—play in addressing this problem?
> Since "a basic task [of universities] ought to be to help humanity learn how
> to create a better world" [FOW], it seems clear that universities are indeed
> appropriate venues for investigating the parameters of this apparent threat
> and seeking apt means to mitigate it, scientifically, politically and
> Thereby "Academic inquiry . . . would become a kind of people's civil
> service" [FOW]. This would be one way that academia could "put wisdom
> inquiry into practice" [FOW].
> Cheer, Alan
> Alan Nordstrom, PhD, LVP
> Professor of English
> Rollins College
> Winter Park, FL 32789
> (407) 629-1785
> BLOG: verses, essays and images
> "Don't let school interfere with your education."
> From: Group concerned that academia should seek and promote wisdom
> <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Maxwell, Nicholas
> <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Sunday, June 29, 2014 8:38 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Campaign for Wisdom-Inquiry
> Dear Friend of Wisdom,
> I would like to thank all those who
> have replied to my request for ideas as to how we might get a campaign for
> wisdom-inquiry underway – especially those with helpful suggestions as to
> how we might do it.
> Before I attempt to summarize what has
> been said so far, there is one crucial distinction I need to make. There
> are two quite distinct campaigns before us, namely:
> (A) To help make progress towards a wiser world (or, more modestly, to help
> promote wisdom in the world).
> (B) To transform academia so that it puts wisdom-inquiry into practice.
> My concern is with (B). Friends of
> Wisdom was founded over ten years ago with (B) in mind. Or rather, with a
> somewhat more modest (though still immodest) goal in mind, namely to create
> awareness, within and without academia, of the urgent need to transform
> academia so that something like wisdom-inquiry is put into practice.
> (A) is the campaign we all care about.
> All sorts of groups are struggling to put all sorts of aspects of (A) into
> practice all over the world: groups concerned with peace, justice, civil
> rights, the environment, the economy, global warming, slavery, poverty,
> hunger, preventable disease, democracy, individual liberty, the flourishing
> of wisdom, and so on. (B) is primarily a means to the end of (A) – yet
> another potential contribution to (A). What makes (B) so important,
> however, is that (1) it is vital that humanity possesses wisdom-inquiry if
> it is to learn how to make progress towards a better, wiser world, but (2)
> hardly anyone appreciates this point, and hardly anyone is actively engaged
> in the task of helping to transform our institutions of learning so that
> they do put something like wisdom-inquiry into practice.
> We are, above all, the species that learns.
> We really can learn how to make progress towards a better, wiser world. But
> in order to do that, it is essential that our public institutions of
> learning, our schools and universities, are rationally designed for, and
> devoted to the job. For what we require, above all, is social learning,
> public learning, learning of our institutions, our corporations, social
> arrangements and governments. Our problem is that academia as constituted
> by and large around the world, shaped by what I have called
> “knowledge-inquiry” is profoundly and damagingly irrational when judged from
> the standpoint of promoting human welfare (or helping us make progress
> towards a better world). The argument is spelled out on our website at
> http://www.knowledgetowisdom.org/basic_arg.htm . (For a more detailed
> summary of the argument see http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/16142/1/16142.pdf .
> For a list of things that need to change if knowledge-inquiry is to become
> wisdom-inquiry, see
> I do not think we stand much hope of making
> real progress towards a better, wiser world if we continue to have in our
> possession institutions of learning damagingly defective when judged from
> this standpoint, as at present. Indeed, in terms of one entirely legitimate
> notion of “cause”, the cause of our current global problems is our
> long-standing implementation of knowledge-inquiry, our failure to implement
> wisdom-inquiry. (The astonishing success of modern science and
> technological research leads to modern industry and agriculture, modern
> hygiene and medicine, and so, along with much that is good, all our current
> global problems.)
> We need to do many things in pursuit of (A).
> One vital, much neglected thing we need to do is successfully achieve (B).
> It is (B) that should be our concern here.
> And I would like to suggest that we take the
> campaign (B) as characterized on our Friends of Wisdom website, as our
> starting point at least, since it is that which has brought us together. If
> wisdom-inquiry, as it has been characterized, does not seem to be what we
> should be aiming for, in some respect or other, then arguments need to be
> put forward as to what is wrong with it, and why such and such would
> constitute an improvement. But, until there is general agreement about some
> improvement, we should take our goal to be what our Friends of Wisdom
> website advocates (at http://www.knowledgetowisdom.org/index.htm ).
> In my next email I will try to summarize
> responses to my request for ideas as to how we might get a campaign
> underway, and try to see what the next steps might be.
> Best wishes,
> Nick Maxwell
> Website: www.ucl.ac.uk/from-knowledge-to-wisdom
> Publications online: http://philpapers.org/profile/17092