Nicholas Maxwell (born 3 July 1937) is a philosopher who has devoted much of his working life to arguing that there is an urgent need to bring about a revolution in academia so that it seeks and promotes wisdom and does not just acquire knowledge.
For nearly thirty years he taught philosophy of science at University College London, where he is now Emeritus Reader. In 2003 he founded Friends of Wisdom, an international group of people sympathetic to the idea that academic inquiry should help humanity acquire more wisdom by rational means. He has published eleven books spelling out different aspects of the argument for an intellectual revolution, from knowledge to wisdom, and has contributed to over thirty other books. He has published over eighty papers in scientific and philosophical journals on problems that range from consciousness, free will, value, and art to the rationality of science, simplicity, scientific realism, explanation, time and quantum theory.
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 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.
Maxwell's books have been widely reviewed. 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.
- 1976, What’s Wrong With Science?, Bran’s Head Books, Hayes, Middlesex.
- 1984, From Knowledge to Wisdom: A Revolution in the Aims and Methods of Science, Basil Blackwell, Oxford.
- 1998, The Comprehensibility of the Universe: A New Conception of Science, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- 2001, The Human World in the Physical Universe: Consciousness, Free Will and Evolution, Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham.
- 2004, Is Science Neurotic?, Imperial College Press, London.
- 2007, From Knowledge to Wisdom: A Revolution for Science and the Humanities, 2nd edition, revised and enlarged, Pentire Press, London.
- 2008, ed., with R. Barnett, Wisdom in the University, Routledge, London.
- 2009, What's Wrong With Science?, 2nd edition, revised with new preface, Pentire Press, London.
- 2009, L. McHenry, ed., Science and the Pursuit of Wisdom: Studies in the Philosophy of Nicholas Maxwell, Ontos Verlag, Frankfurt.
- 2010, Cutting God in Half – And Putting the Pieces Together Again: A New Approach to Philosophy, Pentire Press, London.
- 2014, How Universities Can Help Create a Wiser World: The Urgent Need for an Academic Revolution, Imprint Academic, Exeter.
- 2014, Global Philosophy: What Philosophy Ought to Be, Imprint Academic, Exeter.
- 2016, Two Great Problems of Learning: Science and Civilization, Rounded Globe. Free online.
- 2017, In Praise of Natural Philosophy: A Revolution for Thought and Life McGill-Queen's University Press, Montreal
- 2017, Understanding Scientific Progress: Aim-Oriented Empiricism, Paragon House, St. Paul, MN.
- 2017, Karl Popper, Science and Englightenment, UCL Press, London. [open access book, free to download]
- 2019, Science and Enlightenment: Two Great Problems of Learning, Springer, Cham, Switzerland.
- 2019, The Metaphysics of Science and Aim-Oriented Empiricism: A Revolution for Science and Philosophy, Springer, Cham, Switzerland.
- "Birthdays". The Guardian. 3 July 2014. p. 33.
- Knowledge to Wisdom
- See UCL Discovery
- 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.
- 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.
- Maxwell, N., 1999, Are There Objective Values?, The Dalhousie Review , vol. 79, pp. 301–317.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Maxwell, N. 1998, The Comprehensibility of the Universe: A New Conception of Science, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Miller, D. Out of Error Aldershot & Burlington VT: Ashgate 2006, Chapter 4.3,
- Nicholas Maxwell’s website
- The website of Friends of Wisdom
- Intellectual autobiography
- Outline of contributions to philosophy: How Can Life of Value Best Flourish in the Real World?
- Publications available online at UCL Discovery
- Publications available at PhilPapers
- Papers available at PhilSciArchive
- Reviews of Books by Nicholas Maxwell
- TEDxUCL talk: The Urgent Need to Bring About a Revolution in Academia
- Review in Nature of From Knowledge to Wisdom
- Videos and broadcasts by Nicholas Maxwell
- Details about Is Science Neurotic?
- Interview on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation