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The scandal of the irrationality of academia

Maxwell, N; (2019) The scandal of the irrationality of academia. Philosophy and Theory in Higher Education (1) pp. 105-128. Green open access

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Abstract

Academic inquiry, in devoting itself primarily to the pursuit of knowledge, is profoundly and damagingly irrational, in a wholesale, structural fashion, when judged from the standpoint of helping to promote human welfare. Judged from this standpoint, academic inquiry devoted to the pursuit of knowledge violates three of the four most elementary rules of rational problem-solving conceivable. Above all, it fails to give intel¬lectual priority to the tasks of (1) articulating problems of living, including global prob¬lems, and (2) proposing and critically assessing possible solutions—possible social actions. This gross, structural irrationality of academic inquiry stems from blunders of the 18th century French Enlightenment. The philosophes had the brilliant idea of learning from scientific progress how to achieve social progress towards an enlightened world, but in implementing this idea they made three disastrous blunders. They got the nature of the progress-achieving methods of science wrong; they failed to generalize these methods properly; and most disastrously, they applied these methods to acquiring knowledge about society, and not directly to solving social problems. These blunders are still inherent in academia today, with dire consequences for the state of the world. All this has been pointed out prominently many times since 1976, but has been ignored.

Type: Article
Title: The scandal of the irrationality of academia
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://www.peterlang.com/fileasset/Journals/PTIHE...
Language: English
Additional information: © 2019 Nicholas Maxwell - http://doi.org/10.3726/ptihe.2019.01.06 - The online edition of this publication is available open access. Except where otherwise noted, content can be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0). For details go to http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Keywords: Global problems, Irrationality of academia, Knowledge-inquiry, Wisdom-inquiry
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Science and Technology Studies
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10076860
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