Join the Friends of WISDOM

This is an association of people sympathetic to the idea that academic inquiry should help humanity acquire more wisdom by rational means. Wisdom is taken to be the capacity to realize what is of value in life, for oneself and others. It includes knowledge, understanding and technological know-how, and much else besides. Friends of Wisdom try to encourage universities and schools actively to seek and promote wisdom by educational and intellectual means. At present, Friends of Wisdom communicate with one another in the main by email (JISCMAIL). If you wish to join, click HERE, and then click on "join or leave the list", or email: nick [at]

Copyright Nicholas Maxwell All Rights Reserved


We need a revolution in the aims and methods of academic inquiry. Instead of giving priority to the search for knowledge, academia needs to devote itself to seeking and promoting wisdom by rational means, wisdom being the capacity to realize what is of value in life, for oneself and others, wisdom thus including knowledge but much else besides. A basic task ought to be to help humanity learn how to create a better world.

Acquiring scientific knowledge dissociated from a more basic concern for wisdom, as we do at present, is dangerously and damagingly irrational.

Natural science has been extraordinarily successful in increasing knowledge. This has been of great benefit to humanity. But new knowledge and technological know-how increase our power to act which, without wisdom, may cause human suffering and death as well as human benefit. All our modern global problems have arisen in this way: global warming, the lethal character of modern war and terrorism, vast inequalities of wealth and power round the globe, rapid increase in population, rapid extinction of other species, even the aids epidemic (aids being spread by modern travel). All these have been made possible by modern science dissociated from the rational pursuit of wisdom. If we are to avoid in this century the horrors of the last one - wars, death camps, dictatorships, poverty, environmental damage - we urgently need to learn how to acquire more wisdom, which in turn means that our institutions of learning become devoted to that end.

The revolution we need would change every branch and aspect of academic inquiry. A basic intellectual task of academic inquiry 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 than at present. Natural science would change to include three domains of discussion: evidence, theory, and aims - the latter including discussion of metaphysics, values and politics. 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 the public by means of discussion and debate, and would not just study the public.

These changes are not arbitrary. They all come from demanding that academia cure its current structural irrationality, so that reason - the authentic article - may be devoted to promoting human welfare.

For more detailed presentations of the above argument see the following by Nicholas Maxwell:
"Can Humanity Learn to become Civilized? The Crisis of Science without Civilization", Journal of Applied Philosophy 17, 2000, pp. 29-44.
Is Science Neurotic?, Imperial College Press, London, 2004.
From Knowledge to Wisdom: A Revolution in the Aims and Methods of Science, Blackwell, Oxford, 1984.
Second edition, additional material, brought up to date throughout, new introduction and three new chapters,
Pentire Press, November 2007.
See also the websites,, and

Join the Toronto Chapter, or Found a Chapter!

You can re-visit or join this groupspace to stay informed of events in Toronto presented or supported by Friends of Wisdom. To start a discussion with group members one can email from one's own email client (e.g. Gmail, Outlook, Hotmail) after joining.

If you don't live in Toronto, or if you're part of an academic institution other than U of T (see, please feel free to create a Friends of Wisdom chapter/group.

- Daniel Lewis

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News & Announcements

A Seminar Devoted to Solving Global Issues

  • Sunday, 1st December 2013 at 7pm - 9pm
    Location: University of Toronto, St. George Campus, Hart House, East Common Room

    Please click to view the event description.

"Wisdom Revolution" Reading Group - October 2013 Meetup

  • Monday, 28th October 2013 at 6:30am - 8:30am
    Location: University of Toronto, St. George Campus, Multi-Faith Centre (located in the Koffler House, 569 Spadina Ave Toronto), 2nd floor, Multi-Purpose Room

    Please click to see the…

A Seminar Devoted to Solving Global Issues

  • Monday, 14th October 2013 at 6:30pm - 8:30pm
    Location: University of Toronto, St. George Campus, Hart House, South Sitting Room

    Please click to see the event description.

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RSS feed of the most recent conversations on the Friends of Wisdom listserv:

Welcoming your participation at the Level 5 Research Center

Friends of Wisdom,

I am pleased to announce creation of the Level 5 Research Center.

Consider the possibilities!
* Living the level 5 values<> prepares us for the transition to level 5.
o We can choose level 5 living<>.
? These level 5 phrases<> can be helpful during level 4 encounters.
* Aligning worldviews<> prepares us for the transition to level 5.
* Annealing and healing can allow Culture crystals<> to emerge at level 5. [...]

on 1st February
The Essential Task of Enlightenment

Friends of Wisdom,
It is wise to align our worldviews with the real world.


Lee Beaumont

on 17th January
Re: The World We Want in 2035

My latest:

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On Friday, 15. January 2021, John Lindsay Falvey <john.falvey@UNIMELB.EDU.AU> wrote:

#yiv6193234624 P {margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;}Thanks Lee and Phil, Indeed it is critical to 'count ourselves' (as in Phil's example) as being within nature, yet must of what is written has difficulty in really doing this. It was a theme of the book (Agriculture & Philosophy'), hardcover copies of which were offered earlier to 'friends of wisdom' who shared a postal address - a few copies still available if interested. [...]

on 15th January

Friends of Wisdom: Toronto

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