A recent review of Nick Maxwell’s book – founder of Friends of Wisdom – met with them in London last month – and my comments interwoven.
From Knowledge to Wisdom
Nick Maxwell’s recently republished book – “From Knowledge to Wisdom” – may be reaching its time. First published a quarter century ago, it got many good reviews. But its ideas didn’t “go” much of anywhere in terms of thinking or practice; a palliative with little action; a “feel-good” approach which we could ignore until…right now – says Nick.
Nick asserts that we are heirs of earlier ideas, committed to the exploration of the universe, but without the thoughtful (moral) bases which gives philosophy and life its groundings and meanings. Philosophical knowledge has taken us far and wide, but…leaves the human condition with little more than promises of the ultimate utility of that knowledge. It contributes little to the “best hope of helping us progressively to resolve our most urgent problems of living…a more humane, a more just, a happier, a saner and more cooperative world.”
As the book takes us from several century old ideas of knowledge to the “needs” of the current era, Nick guides us through the history of thought which has dominated (philosophical) knowledge then and endures to the present moment: what is the universe, how do we study it, how do we know, what is truth? We have come far, in many senses, but now seem to be at some impasses.
He urges us to rethink where we are, how we got here, and the deep necessity to broaden our explorations toward (philosophical) wisdom, rather than being bound to particular and narrow historical ideas of what knowledge consists in.
Wisdom is the perspective that how we go about thinking and pursuing knowledge must include its effects on and implications for the human condition. In so many senses, knowledge has “overstepped” itself, and has endangered our very existence: e.g., the blights of the 20th century – holocausts, atomic bomb, GMO’s, and so much more. Read the rest of this entry »