In This Issue
Editorial: Learning to Make Progress Towards as Good a World as Possible by Nicolas Maxwell
Online Course on the Virtues: Wisdom
New Essay: Arguing for Wisdom in the University
New Essay: In Praise of Natural Philosophy
Book Review: Healing Spaces
Online Resource: Quotes on Wisdom
New Advisory Board Member: Leland Beaumont
Wisdom Page & Futurodyssey Archives
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Tom Lombardo
Director of The Wisdom Page & the Center for Future Consciousness 

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Wisdom Page Updates
February, 2013

This Month's Highlights  





Included in this month's issue of the Wisdom Page Updates are:  

  • Guest Editorial: Learning to Make Progress Towards as Good a World as Possible by Nicholas Maxwell    
  • Online Course on the Virtues: Wisdom  
  • New Essay: Arguing for Wisdom in the University: An Intellectual Autobiography by Nicholas Maxwell    
  • New Essay: In Praise of Natural Philosophy: A Revolution in Thought and Life by Nicholas Maxwell  
  • Book Review - Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being by Esther Sternberg - Reviewed by Leland Beaumont
  • New Online Resource: Quotes About Wisdom
  • New Advisory Board Member: Leland Beaumont 
  • Wisdom Page and Futurodyssey Archives 


Learning How to Make Progress Towards as Good a World as Possible

Nicholas Maxwell is a member of The Wisdom Page Advisory Board and the founder and director of Friends of Wisdom. This month he is being featured in The Wisdom Page Updates, writing our guest editorial, as well as having two new articles being added to The Wisdom Page. (See below)

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Guest Editorial by Nicholas Maxwell

I stumbled across The Wisdom Page years ago, and immediately emailed Cop Macdonald, singing the praises of the website, and telling him about my work.  I was amazed at the response.

For decades I had been arguing that we urgently need to bring about a revolution in academic inquiry so that the basic task becomes to seek and promote wisdom and not just acquire knowledge - 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.  When my book From Knowledge to Wisdom was first published in 1984, in which I spelled out the argument in detail, it got some glowing reviews.  Especially significant was a review in Nature in which the reviewer said: "Maxwell is advocating nothing less than a revolution (based on reason, not on religious or Marxist doctrine) in our intellectual goals and methods of inquiry ... There are altogether too many symptoms of malaise in our science-based society for Nicholas Maxwell's diagnosis to be ignored."  Mary Midgley praised it too, but other philosophers condemned it on such grounds as that I defended indefensible doctrines - doctrines I explicitly criticized and rejected myself in the book.  The book achieved a modest amount of success, and then went out of print.  I did what I could to get my academic colleagues to see that academia, devoted to the pursuit of knowledge, betrayed both reason and humanity, and had been in part responsible for the genesis of our current global problems in the first place - and responsible too for our inability to learn how to ameliorate the dangers we face.  My diagnosis was ignored.

So I didn't expect to be understood when I told Cop about my work all those years ago.  What amazed me was that Cop got the point instantly.  We became firm friends, even if initially only by email.  We exchanged books.  We took part together in a radio discussion programme chaired by Jason Merchey.  Cop contributed to a book about my work called Science and the Pursuit of Wisdom.  Then Cop decided to create an Advisory Board for The Wisdom Page and asked me to join it, and I joined in the phone meetings about the Page.  Cop always seemed to me quite extraordinarily friendly, calm, sane, optimistic, intelligent and, yes, wise.  I got nothing from him but friendship, support and encouragement.  I was immensely fond of Cop, and I admired him enormously.  I was devastated by the news of his death.

We did not see exactly eye to eye.  He was much more hopeful and optimistic than I am.  My optimism is born out of extreme pessimism.  I used to tell my students "Things are so desperate we can't afford the luxury of pessimism".  Also, Cop was much more interested in personal wisdom and how to achieve it than I have been.  My main concern has been to get across the message that academia as at present constituted, devoted to the pursuit of knowledge, is an intellectual and humanitarian disaster.  We need a kind of inquiry that puts problems of living at the heart of the enterprise, and helps us to improve problematic aims - personal, social and global - as we live, so that we may stop destroying the planet and ourselves and learn instead how to realize what is genuinely of value in life.  What we need, as I see it, is social wisdom, institutional wisdom, global wisdom, and for these it is probably essential that we transform academia and create what I call "wisdom-inquiry" (very different from research into wisdom).  I see the transformation of academia as the key to the salvation of humanity - even possibly our survival.  Global warming, population growth and our proclivity for war threaten to destroy our world.  I am not sure Cop saw things in quite such stark terms, although he was certainly sympathetic to my point of view.

What do I do to try to get my message across?  Books, articles in academic journals, letters to The Guardian, emails shot out to all and sundry, the odd broadcast, talks all over the UK, in Europe, North America and even in Taiwan.  I have even held a seminar up a tree in Regents Park, London.  My latest effort is my intellectual autobiography.  I have founded Friends of Wisdom, a group concerned that universities should seek and promote wisdom.  But, perhaps unsurprisingly, it all seems to fade into thin air.  Have universities taken note, and started to put into practice the 23 changes needed if knowledge-inquiry (what we have, by and large, at present) is to become wisdom-inquiry?  No.  (For the 23 changes I have in mind, see my website.)  My own university, University College London, has taken some initial steps in the right direction with its Grand Challenges Programme.  It even talks about the wisdom agenda on its website.  And initial steps towards wisdom-inquiry have been made in recent years by other universities too.  But it is academic inquiry as a whole that needs to change: natural and technological science, social inquiry, the humanities and education, and the relationships these have with each other and the world beyond academe.  No university on its own can make such changes.

What we need is a high profile campaign to transform universities so that they become rationally organized and devoted to helping humanity learn how to make progress towards as good a world as possible.

Nicholas Maxwell

Website: From Knowledge to Wisdom

Publications online: Philosophical Papers
University College London Discovery


Online Course on the Virtues: Wisdom

Continuing our online course on the virtues, this month we study wisdom, the virtue of good judgment. Wisdom extracts meaning and significance from information by understanding interrelationships and their implications. Wisdom is a profound understanding of our existence, the human situation, our possibilities, and especially our limitations. Please study the article, practice wisdom by applying your best judgment to the many decisions you make every day, and complete the assignment.

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The course includes Instructions for contacting the instructor. In addition, the Wikiversity platform encourages your participation in improving the course.  Comments on each page are welcome on the accompanying "Talk" page, accessed via the "Discuss" tab.

We want to hear from you.

If you are interested in participating in a forum of active students to discuss assignments and share your thoughts, please let us know and we will work to provide a space for that. Also, we would like to be able to provide conscientious students a completion certificate at the end of the course, but we have not yet decided how best to assess completion. What are your ideas?

We certainly hope you continue to enjoy this tour of the virtues.

Leland Beaumont

New Essay: Arguing for Wisdom in the University: An Intellectual Autobiography by Nicholas Maxwell

"For forty years Nicholas Maxwell has argued that we urgently need to
bring about a revolution in academia so that the basic task becomes to seek and promote wisdom. How did he come to argue for such a preposterously gigantic intellectual revolution? This autobiographical essay explains the development of this thesis."

Read the complete essay      

New Essay: In Praise of Natural Philosophy: A Revolution in Thought and Life by Nicholas Maxwell
"Modern science began as natural philosophy. In the time of Newton, what we call science and philosophy today - the disparate endeavours - formed one mutually interacting, integrated endeavour of natural philosophy: to improve our knowledge and understanding of the universe, and to improve our understanding of ourselves as a part of it. But in the 18th and 19th centuries philosophy and science split apart. It is time to re-unite them."

Read the complete essay

Book Review Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being by Esther M. Sternberg, M.D. - Reviewed by Leland Beaumont

"Spaces affect healing and well-being. Patients in hospital rooms with windows overlooking a grove of trees healed faster than similar patients in rooms overlooking a brick wall, according to a study by Roger Ulrich published in 1984 in
Science magazine. Medical Doctor Esther Sternberg examines the intersection of architecture and neuroscience - how spaces influence our minds and bodies - in this well-written and informative book."

New Online Resource: Quotes about Wisdom 

"All of our nearly 22,000 quotes were hand picked! Comprised of authors, quote makers, artists, novelists, lyricists, poets, politicians, philosophers, comedians, theologians, activists, celebrities, scientists, spiritual pathfinders, iconoclasts, journalists, judges and historians!"

Jason Merchey

A long time contributor to The Wisdom Page and creator of the website Values of the Wise, Jason Merchey, has launched a second website Quotes about Wisdom. His website is now featured on our home page under The New and the Popular.

New Advisory Board Member: Leland Beaumont

Leland Beaumont is joining The Wisdom Page Advisory Board. Lee is the creator and teacher of our online Wikiversity course on Virtues, which, in fact, is part of a multi-course Wisdom Curriculum Lee has developed. Moreover, Lee has contributed a large number of essays and book reviews to
The Wisdom Page. He is a devoted teacher, scholar, and a real workhorse - a very positive addition to the Advisory Board.

Futurodyssey & Wisdom Page Updates: Newsletters and Archives

Beginning this fall, I began publishing two newsletters: the revitalized and redesigned Wisdom Page Updates and  Futurodyssey (the monthly publication of the Center for Future Consciousness).  So readers can view earlier issues, both newsletters now have Archive Pages. View the Wisdom Page Updates Archive Page; view the Futurodyssey Archive Page. The reader can subscribe to the Wisdom Page Updates on The Wisdom Page Contact Page; the reader can subscribe to the Futurodyssey newsletter by going to the CFC website.  

That's it for this month. Our appreciation to Nicholas Maxwell and Leland Beaumont for their contributions. Thank you for your interest in The Wisdom Page.
Tom Lombardo