This book is about education, learning, rational inquiry, philosophy, science studies, problem solving, academic inquiry, global problems, wisdom and, above all, the urgent need for an academic revolution. Despite this range and diversity of topics, there is a common underlying theme. Education ought to be devoted, much more than it is, to the exploration real-life, open problems; it ought not to be restricted to learning up solutions to already solved problems – especially if nothing is said about the problems that provoked the solutions in the first place. A central task of philosophy ought to be to keep alive awareness of our unsolved fundamental problems – especially our most fundamental problem of all, encompassing all others: How can our human world – and the world of sentient life more generally – imbued with the experiential, consciousness, free will, meaning and value, exist and best flourish embedded as it is in the physical universe? This is both our fundamental intellectual problem and our fundamental problem of living.
The essays in this volume seek to provoke a concerted effort to transform our institutions of learning so that they become rationally and effectively devoted to helping us learn how to create a wiser world.
Our most serious problems of living are so grim, so imbued with suffering, wasted lives and unnecessary death, that the idea of approaching them in a playful spirit seems sacrilegious. We need to keep alive tackling of intellectual problems so that playful capacities can be exercised – if for no other reason (and other reasons there are, of course, aplenty). There are two really worthy impulses behind all rational inquiry: delight and compassion.