The Urgent Need for an Academic Revolution: The Rational Pursuit of Wisdom

In Charles Tandy (ed.), Death And Anti-Death, Volume 7: Nine Hundred Years After St. Anselm (1033-1109. Ria University Press (2010)
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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, involving preventable deaths of millions, have arisen because some of us have acquired unprecedented powers to act without 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 to help humanity acquire the capacity to resolve conflicts and problems of living in more cooperatively rational ways. The revolution we need would affect every branch and aspect of academic inquiry. The basic intellectual task of academia would be to articulate our problems of living (personal, social and global) and propose and critically assess possible solutions, possible actions. This would be the task of social inquiry and the humanities. Tackling problems of knowledge would be secondary. Social inquiry would be at the heart of the academic enterprise, intellectually more fundamental than natural science. On a rather more long-term basis, social inquiry would be concerned to help humanity build cooperatively rational methods of problem-solving into the fabric of social and political life, so that we may gradually acquire the capacity to resolve our conflicts and problems of living in more cooperatively rational ways. Natural science would change to include three domains of discussion: evidence, theory, and aims – the latter including discussion of metaphysics, values and politics. Academia would actively seek to educate the public by means of discussion and debate. These changes all come from demanding that academia cure its current damaging structural irrationality, so that reason – the authentic article – may be devoted to promoting human welfare.
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