The Ten Most Consequential New Ideas?

The Ten Most Consequential New Ideas?    

Please note:  I’ve shifted the order of two posts, and I’ve renamed this one to ‘The Ten Most Consequential New Ideas?’ from ‘Intricate Nuanced Demure Ideas’.  But never-mind the administrative details.  Here we go …

This post involves a request to readers, one that will hopefully get us thinking and help each of us consider the present state of affairs in concrete terms.

The request is this:  Please identify one or more of what you believe to be the ten most consequential new findings or ideas to come out of—that is, result from—academic philosophy in the last fifty years.

The point here is not to attempt to rank-order them or to attempt any sort of consensus, both of which aims would likely be impossible and perhaps meaningless anyhow.  Instead, the point is merely to prompt each of us to think about the matter, to identify to each other some of the most consequential findings and ideas in our various opinions, to allow us all to reflect on the results, and to see what discussion might ensue, and what we might learn.

To begin the process, and as an example, I’ll suggest the so-called veil of ignorance, from John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice (1971).  Although I’m not an historian of ideas, it’s my understanding that the essence of this idea was not entirely new, but nevertheless Rawls propelled it to center stage and, I expect, elaborated and improved upon it.  Too, I can’t personally point to a major concrete instance in which a recent application of the idea “changed the world”;  goodness knows that, in theory anyhow, there are many applications of it that could substantially improve the world, if someone could figure out a way to actually motivate society at large to embrace such good ideas.  However, at least in my case, I do find myself occasionally using the idea to try to explain to someone how we should try to address certain problems in society by using it.  (To my knowledge, nobody has ever taken me up on the proposal, unless it somehow served their own immediate interests to do so, given the place in society they already knowingly occupied.)  That said, it seems to me that this idea is, or at least is potentially, a highly consequential idea, and worth listing.

In any case, in the interest of fairly assessing the state of philosophy today, at least in one important sense, will others please continue the list?  Thanks in advance for your participation!

The Ten Most Consequential New Findings or Ideas to

Result From Academic Philosophy in the Last Fifty Years





Be Well,



Introducing Collective Wisdom Index Alpha

Following up on the blog post “Toward a Wisdom Index” this post introduces the first such index, “Collective Wisdom Index Alpha.” I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback on this nascent effort.

The index recognizes two conditions:

  1. The level of wisdom or folly that emerges from a group is largely independent of the wisdom of the individual group members.
  2. There are many concepts of wisdom and few efforts to measure it.

Therefore it is presented tentatively as version 0.1 of one member of a family of indices I hope can be created.

I encourage you to put this index to use. Use it to assess the various groups you participate in. Perhaps it can directly help us to improve academic philosophy. If those of you who are members of, or connected to, academic philosophy departments use this index to assess and improve the collective wisdom of those departments, it may represent a step forward.

Would it be useful for us to use the index to evaluate the performance of this Global Circle?

What do you think?

Thanks for your consideration of this on-going work.

Toward a Wisdom Index

Where is wisdom coming alive? How can we best assess the level of wisdom of an individual, a group, an organization, an institution, a nation or the world? Developing a reliable wisdom index can provide visibility of where wisdom is thriving and where it is lacking—based on objective measures. Various Individuals or groups striving to increase their wisdom could use the index to assess their current status, identify specific areas for improvement, and measure progress along the journey toward wisdom.

Several existing indices designed to measure positive outcomes provide a range of useful models we can learn from in designing a wisdom index. These include the:

  • Global Peace Index —measures the relative position of nations’ and regions’ peacefulness,
  • Human Development Index — a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and income indices used to rank countries into four tiers of human development,
  • Happy Planet Index — an index of human well-being and environmental impact weighted to give progressively higher scores to nations with lower ecological footprints,
  • Environmental Performance Index — a method of quantifying and numerically benchmarking the environmental performance of a state’s policies,
  • Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® — daily assessment of U.S. residents’ health and well-being,
  • Global Innovation Index — recognizes the key role of innovation as a driver of economic growth and prosperity and acknowledges the need for a broad horizontal vision of innovation that is applicable to both developed and emerging economies,
  • Democracy Index — measures the state of democracy in 167 countries,
  • Gross national happiness —measures quality of life or social progress in more holistic and psychological terms than the economic indicator of gross domestic product,
  • Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recognizes U.S. organizations in the business, health care, education, and nonprofit sectors for performance excellence, and
  • this list of freedom indices.

A useful assessment instrument and index will:

  • Accurately reflect a well-conceived definition of wisdom,
  • Rely on observations, data, and measurements that can be reliably obtained,
  • Be easy to use,
  • Provide valid, reliable, and repeatable results,
  • Provide results that are easy to interpret,
  • Be perceived as providing an accurate assessment of wisdom,
  • Provide a wisdom model that encourages learning how to increase wisdom,
  • Identify specific areas for improvement so that the assessed organization can use the assessment results to guide their improvement efforts, and
  • Be freely available.

Developing an index will begin by choosing a definition of wisdom. Many have been suggested, and several useful definitions are collected in the Wikiversity course on wisdom.

Next the definition of wisdom needs to be translated into operational terms—observable and measurable behaviors. A few instruments have been developed for assessing the wisdom of a particular individual. These include:

New instruments for assessing organizational wisdom need to be developed. These may be based on measures of well-being of members and stakeholders and might also consider environment, inputs, and results of the organization as a whole.

After the assessment instrument is designed it needs to be validated, calibrated, and then put into use.

What are your thoughts on this proposal? Would such an index help bring wisdom to life? What should the design of the index include? How can we best create, apply, and report results from such an index? How would you like to contribute to this project?