Dear Global Circle Philosophers,

Now that we exist, what do we do – or attempt to do?

Here are some suggestions, in ascending order of ambitiousness and difficulty.

(a) We talk to each other about our efforts, our successes and failures, at doing philosophy as the rational (imaginative and critical) tackling of global problems, in both senses. We give each other support, discuss different approaches, share successes and failures, make suggestions, criticize rival views, suggest things to read, recommend organizations and websites. Our concern is with both education and research.

(b) We campaign for the view that philosophy should have, as its proper basic task, to keep alive awareness of what our fundamental problems are, what our best attempted answers are, how they are inadequate, and how their inadequacy has detrimental implications for science, politics, economics, and other areas of life. We strive to get across the idea that philosophy has, as a proper basic task, to try to improve our attempted solutions to our global problems by putting forward possible solutions and subjecting them to critical scrutiny. And we practise what we preach.

(c) We campaign for universities to include sustained exploration of global problems, in both senses, by means of seminars, symposia, undergraduate and graduate Courses, and public Lectures. We argue that such thinking about global problems should interact, in both directions, with more specialized academic research, and with the social world beyond the university – the public, politicians, the media, bankers, industrialists, and so on. All this, we argue, is essential if universities are to serve humanity rationality – help humanity learn how to make progress towards as good and wise a world as possible.

(d) We campaign to get universities around the world to bring about a revolution in academic inquiry so that they come to put into practice what I have called “wisdom-inquiry” rather than “knowledge-inquiry” – absolutely essential, in my view, if our institutions of learning are to be rationally devoted to helping us solve our grave global problems, and make progress towards as good a world as possible. I have spelled out the case for the urgent need for an academic revolution in book after book, paper after paper. The best detailed account is probably my book “From Knowledge to Wisdom” (Blackwell, 1984; 2nd ed., Pentire Press, 2007). A paper with the same title, published in 2007, giving a summary of the argument, is available online at http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/view/people/ANMAX22.date.html.

(e) We do what we can to work out what policies we need to implement world-wide to save us from disaster, and what technologies we need to try to develop, and we associate ourselves with those organizations and campaigning groups already working away to resolve our grave global problems. We throw ourselves into the effort to make progress towards as good and wise a world as possible.

These are not meant to be mutually exclusive. And they are not meant to exclude other possible tasks. But (a) to (e) are different from one another, and if we decide to include all of them, then those trying to change the world need to exercise patience with those merely trying to change philosophy, or merely do philosophy, and of course vice versa.

There are other things to consider. Do we get in touch with the media about this amazing new initiative? Do we need to start up a new philosophy journal devoted to philosophy concerned to tackle global problems? Do we need a Big International Conference? Do we need to take part in existing philosophy conferences? Should we respond very publicly next time Stephen Hawking says philosophy is dead?

All good wishes,

Nick Maxwell