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Edited by David Rooney, Greg Hearn and Tim Kastelle
Chapter 11: How Universities Can Help Humanity Learn How to Resolve the Crises of Our Times – from Knowledge to Wisdom: The University College London Experience
Nicholas Maxwell INTRODUCTION We are in a state of impending crisis. And the fault lies in part with academia. For two centuries or so, academia has been devoted to the pursuit of knowledge and technological know-how. This has enormously increased our power to act which has, in turn, brought us both all the great benefits of the modern world and the crises we now face. Modern science and technology have made possible modern industry and agriculture, the explosive growth of the world’s population, global warming, modern armaments and the lethal character of modern warfare, destruction of natural habitats and rapid extinction of species, immense inequalities of wealth and power across the globe, pollution of earth, sea and air, even the AIDS epidemic (AIDS being spread by modern travel). All these global problems have arisen because some of us have acquired unprecedented powers to act, via science and technology, without also acquiring the capacity to act wisely. We urgently need to bring about a revolution in universities so that the basic intellectual aim becomes not knowledge merely, but rather wisdom – wisdom being the capacity to realize what is of value in life, for oneself and others, thus including knowledge and technological know-how, but much else besides. This is an argument I have propounded during the last three decades in six books,1 over 40 papers2 and countless lectures delivered in universities and conferences all over the UK, Europe and North America. Despite this effort, the argument has so far, by and...
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