The Wisdom Page 


11 May 2006

Press release from FRIENDS OF WISDOM

A new group calls for a radical change in the role played by universities in society. Friends of Wisdom, an international group of academics and others are calling on universities to address the most important problems facing humanity.

There is a news item about Friends of Wisdom in this week’s Times Higher Education Supplement (12 May).

According to Friends of Wisdom, the relationship of universities to government, the media, to business, students and the public at large is profoundly inadequate and needs to be re-thought to tackle the pressing current and future problems of humanity.

Universities and academics need to become fully engaged with the societies in which they exist and to which they should be contributing. Such engagement will transform the activity of universities, connecting the pursuit of knowledge to the task of enabling human beings to flourish and work together to solve human problems, reduce human conflict and live in a sustainable relationship with nature.

This radical new group says that universities need to help humanity acquire the wisdom we can no longer afford to be without, challenging politicians, raising public debate, empowering individuals with the highest quality education.  They must also promote critical debate about what is genuinely of value in life and how it is to be achieved.

At present universities seek to help promote human welfare (insofar as they do) by, in the first instance, acquiring knowledge.  First, knowledge is to be acquired; then it can be applied to help solve social problems.

But this is damagingly irrational.  If the basic aim really is to help promote human welfare, then the problems that need to be solved are, fundamentally, problems of living, not problems of knowledge.  The intellectually fundamental task of universities ought to be to help humanity learn how to tackle its problems of living in more rational and cooperative ways than at present, so that we may make progress towards a better world.  The pursuit of knowledge is important, but a secondary matter.

The aim of Friends of Wisdom is to help change our universities and schools so that they take up their proper task of helping all of us learn how to realize what is genuinely of value in life.

Nicholas Maxwell

Emeritus Reader in Philosophy of Science at University College London

Tel:- 020 7263 0279