Friday, April 29, 2016


for Nicholas Maxwell

                    Knowing what's most valuable to do
                    And doing it is how you prove you’re wise;
                    It’s not some arcane knowledge you accrue,
                    But deeds you contemplate and realize
                    That bring to needy ones some benefit:
                     A truth our great philosophers have writ.

* * *

Dear Alan,

                  I am very touched to receive “Philosophy” dedicated to me.  Funnily enough, there are, I think, three main motives behind my efforts to get a hearing for wisdom-inquiry.  One is that I think wisdom-inquiry is necessary if humanity is to learn how to create a better, wiser world something that is essential if we are to resolve the global problems that loom before us.  Another is personal: it would be gratifying to make a contribution to thought.  And the third has to do with the role that wisdom-inquiry might play in relieving suffering, and waste of life, of the world’s poor.  But very few people think philosophy has anything to do with relieving suffering – and indeed most of it does not seem to have much, if anything, to do with it.  The distance between an argument for wisdom-inquiry, and a better life for poor people living in what used to be called ‘the third world’ seems immense, almost to the point of no contact between the two being possible at all.  On the other hand, I cannot help but feel that a world in which universities put wisdom-inquiry into practice would do better in helping all of us to live flourishing lives.

               All good wishes,