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Nicholas Maxwell

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Nicholas Maxwell (born 3 July 1937[1]) is a British philosopher.

Maxwell taught philosophy of science at University College London, where he is now Emeritus Reader. In 2003 he founded Friends of Wisdom.[2] He has published fifteen books.[3] He has published over eighty papers in scientific and philosophical journals on problems that range from consciousness,[4] free will,[5] value,[6] and art[7] to the rationality of science,[8] simplicity,[9] scientific realism,[10] explanation,[11] time[12] and quantum theory.[13]

Philosophical contribution


Maxwell's work has been devoted to tackling two fundamental interlinked problems:-
Problem 1: How can we understand our human world, embedded as it is within the physical universe, in such a way that justice is done both to the richness, meaning and value of human life on the one hand, and to what modern science tells us about the physical universe on the other hand?
Problem 2: What ought to be the overall aims and methods of science, and of academic inquiry more generally, granted that the basic task is to help humanity achieve what is of value – a more civilised world – by cooperatively rational means (it being assumed that knowledge and understanding can be of value in themselves and form a part of civilised life)?

In connection with Problem 1, Maxwell has put forward a version of the double-aspect theory, according to which experiential and physical features of things both exist.[14]

In connection with Problem 2, Maxwell argues that the problematic aims of science, and of academic inquiry more generally, need much more honest and critical attention than they have received so far.[15]



Maxwell's books have been widely reviewed.[16] His work is discussed by twelve scholars in Science and the Pursuit of Wisdom, edited by Leemon McHenry. David Miller and Maxwell had a short exchange about Aim Oriented Empiricism, which was the central thesis of Maxwell's The Comprehensibility of The Universe.[17][18][19][20]




  1. ^ "Birthdays". The Guardian. 3 July 2014. p. 33.
  2. ^ Knowledge to Wisdom
  3. ^ See UCL Discovery
  4. ^ Maxwell, N., 1968, Understanding Sensations, Aust. J. Phil., vol. 46, pp. 127–145; 2000, The Mind-Body Problem and Explanatory Dualism, philosophy, vol. 75, pp. 49–71; 2011, Three philosophical problems about consciousness and their possible resolution, Open J. Philosophy, vol. 1, pp. 1–10.
  5. ^ Maxwell, N., 2001, The Human World in the Physical Universe, Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, ch. 7; 2010, Cutting God in Half – and Putting the Pieces Together Again: A New Approach to Philosophy, Pentire Press, London, ch. 8.
  6. ^ Maxwell, N., 1999, Are There Objective Values?, The Dalhousie Review , vol. 79, pp. 301–317.
  7. ^ Maxwell, N., 2003, Art as its Own Interpretation, in Ritivoi, AD, (ed.) Interpretation and its Objects: Studies in the Philosophy of Michael Krausz, Rodopi, Amsterdam, pp. 269–283.
  8. ^ Maxwell, N., 1972, A Critique of Popper's Views on Scientific Method, Phil. Sci., vol. 39, pp. 131–152; 1974, The Rationality of Scientific Discovery, Part I, Phil. Sci., vol. 41, pp. 123–153; 1974, The Rationality of Scientific Discovery, Part II, Phil. Sci., vol. 41, pp. 247–295; 2002, The Need for a Revolution in the Philosophy of Science, J. Gen. Phil. Sci., vol. 33, pp. 381–408; 2005, Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, and Aim-Oriented Empiricism, Philosophia, vol. 32, pp. 181–239; 2006, Practical Certainty and Cosmological Conjectures, in Rahnfeld, M, ed., Gibt es sicheres Wissen?: aktuelle Beiträge zur Erkenntnistheorie, Leipziger Universitätsverlag, Leipzig, pp. 44–59.
  9. ^ Maxwell, N., 1998, The Comprehensibility of the Universe, Clarendon Press, Oxford, chs. 3 and 4; 2004, Is Science Neurotic?, Imperial College Press, London, pp. 160–174; 2004, Non-empirical requirements scientific theories must satisfy: simplicity, unification, explanation, beauty, PhilSci Archive.
  10. ^ Maxwell, N., 1968, Can There be Necessary Connections Between Successive Events?, BJPS, vol. 19, pp. 1–25; 1993, Does Orthodox Quantum Theory Undermine, or Support, Scientific Realism?, Phil. Quarterly, vol. 43, pp. 139–157; 1993, Induction and scientific realism: Einstein versus van Fraassen. Part two: aim-oriented empiricism and scientific essentialism, BJPS, vol. 44, pp. 81–101.
  11. ^ Maxwell, N., 1998, The Comprehensibility of the Universe; 2013, Has science established that the cosmos is physically comprehensible?, in Travena, A and Soen, B, eds., Recent Advances in Cosmology, Nova Science Publishers Inc., New York.
  12. ^ Maxwell, N., Special Relativity, Time, Probabilism and Ultimate Reality, in Dieks, D, ed., Philosophy and the Foundations of Physics: The Ontology of Spacetime, Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp. 229–245.
  13. ^ Maxwell, N., 1972, A New Look at the Quantum Mechanical Problem of Measurement, Am. J. Phys., vol. 40, pp.1431–1435; 1976, Towards a Micro Realistic Version of Quantum Mechanics, Part I, Found. Phys., Vol. 6, pp. 275–292; 1976, Towards a Micro Realistic Version of Quantum Mechanics, Part II; 1988, Quantum propensiton theory: a testable resolution of the wave/particle dilemma, BJPS, vol. 39, pp. 1–50; 1994, Particle creation as the quantum condition for probabilistic events to occur, Phys. Lett. A, vol. 187, pp. 351–355; 2011, Is the quantum world composed of propensitons?, in Suárez, M, ed., Probabilities, causes and propensities in physics, Springer Verlag, Dordrecht, pp. 221–243.
  14. ^ Maxwell, N., 1966, Physics and Common Sense, BJPS, vol. 16, pp. 295–311; 2001, The Human World in the Physical Universe: Consciousness, Free Will and Evolution, Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, USA; 2009, How Can Life of Value Best Flourish in the Real World?, in Science and the Pursuit of Wisdom, ed. L. McHenry, pp. 38–57; 2010, Cutting God In Half – And Putting the Pieces Together Again: A New Approach to Philosophy, Pentire Press, London.
  15. ^ Maxwell, N., 1984, From Knowledge to Wisdom, Blackwell, Oxford (2nd ed., 2007, Pentire Press, London); 2004, Is Science Neurotic?, Imperial College Press, London; 2007, From Knowledge to Wisdom: The Need for an Academic Revolution, London Review of Education, vol. 5, pp. 97–115; 2014, How Universities Can Help Create a Wiser World: The Urgent Need for an Academic Revolution, Imprint Academic, Exeter, UK.
  16. ^ "Reviews". 21 February 2019.
  17. ^ Maxwell, N. 1998, The Comprehensibility of the Universe: A New Conception of Science, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  18. ^ Miller, D. Out of Error Aldershot & Burlington VT: Ashgate 2006, Chapter 4.3,
  19. ^ "Aim-Oriented Empiricism: David Miller's Critique". December 2006.
  20. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 October 2012. Retrieved 23 April 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)