Who’s to Blame for Global Warming?

By Staff
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Philosophers. Sort of.

Why? Because they haven’t equipped us with the kind of thinking that would help us wrap our minds around the problem and devise a way to stop it. That is to say, they haven’t taught us how to change the way we live in the world.

To do that, we’d need a wholly different kind of academic inquiry, writes Nicholas Maxwell, author of the recently revised From Knowledge to Wisdom, in the latest issue of Philosophy Now (subscription required):

Global warming is the outcome of the way we live, and in order to arrest it we need to change the way we live… Having a kind of academic inquiry that gave intellectual priority to articulating, and working out how to tackle, problems of living, would have helped enormously with alerting the public to the problem of global warming, and to what needs to be done in response to it.

But we have not had, and still do not have, academic inquiry of this type–devoted to helping humanity learn how to tackle its problems in increasingly rationally cooperative ways. Instead we have science–this long tradition of inquiry devoted to improving knowledge and technological know-how.

Take that, science.

In fact, Maxwell isn’t railing against science per se, but rather “science without wisdom.” And this wisdom comes from a sense of purpose: Knowledge should not be an end in itself, but rather a means toward resolving a problem.

So what would this living-oriented academic inquiry look like? Maxwell elaborates in a short piece for the New Statesman:

Academic inquiry as a whole would become a kind of people’s civil service, doing openly for the public what actual civil services are supposed to do in secret for governments. Academia would actively seek to educate, rather than simply study, the public.

Hannah Lobel

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