Wisdom at the Khan Academy

The Khan Academy provides thousands of instructional videos for free to anyone around the world with an internet connection. The Academy reaches about 10,000,000 students per month and has delivered over 300,000,000 lessons.  It is a powerful force for advancing knowledge, worldwide.

What would change if the Khan Academy became wisdom-based rather than knowledge-based? If the Khan Academy agreed to create 10-20 (or even 100-200) new videos that were wisdom-based what would you like the topics (and content) of those videos to be? If Sal Khan asked to meet with you to understand what the Academy should do differently next week, next month, or next year, to transform from knowledge-based to wisdom-based what specific requests and recommendations would you offer?

Specifically, what changes would you advise the Khan Academy to make to bring wisdom to life?

CFP: Can Collective Wisdom Save Civilization? [Abstracts deadline: April 1, 2014]

Dear All,

I’ve just stumbled upon a CFP that may be of interest Circle-wise. The core topic of this year’s conference of the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations is the question “Can Collective Wisdom Save Civilization?,” which is essentially a question of a global philosophy in its truest sense, that is, loving and embracing wisdom on a global scale.

You can read the call below. The closing date for abstracts submission is April 1, 2014 so we still have reasonable time to think things over.



P.S. I was somewhat unsure how to categorize this post, so sorry in advance if I’ve made any mess with it.


Call for Papers

Theme: Can Collective Wisdom Save Civilization?
Type: 44th Annual Conference
Institution: International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations, Monmouth University
Location: West Long Branch, NJ (USA)
Date: 11.–15.6.2014
Deadline: 1.4.2014

The Theme for 2014 is “Can Collective Wisdom Save Civilization?”. The conference will be held at Monmouth University on the New Jersey shore, a lively, scenic location with the Atlantic Ocean and boardwalk nearby. An excursion is being planned for interested delegates, and there will also be reduced registration fees for
graduate students.

What exactly is “wisdom” and how can wisdom be promoted on a global level to deal with a number of serious crises now facing the future of civilization? What have been some different definitions of wisdom? This is an ancient topic, but how can it be specifically applied today? What, if anything, can be done to solve these problems

Some applications may be (but are not limited to) the following questions:

  • What exactly is human nature and how is this relevant to civilizational futures?
  • What are some possible solutions to overpopulation and the related problems of over-industrialization, resource-depletion and environmental degradation?
  • What are some possible solutions to the problem of inequality, economic and otherwise?
  • Why do a few have so much while so many have so little? Do rich nations have any responsibilities to the poor ones?
  • Is Capitalism really working today? What did the “occupy” movements signify? Why are many western economies currently floundering? How have technological advances (especially increasing automation) contributed to the current jobs crisis?
  • Does material accumulation really bring happiness? Why/why not?
  • Is humankind naturally prone to conflict or cooperation? How are organizations like the United Nations faring with regard to international responses to regional problems?
  • What is a Utopia? Dystopia? How are these terms relevant today? What roles do utopias and dystopias play for the future of society? Have our leaders run out of inspiration? Is fear now the main rhetoric?
  • In the 20th century, humanity saw the rise of several grand ideologies: Communism, Fascism, Liberalism, etc. We also saw the dismantling of many of the institutions built on these grand visions. Have today’s leaders given up on grand visions? Is narrow self-interest and small scaled-down retraction now the trend? If so, what are the implications of this? Is this ‘realpolitik’ or just the politics of disillusionment?

And of course, papers concerning all questions relevant to civilizational studies are also welcome! These could include:

  • Studies of great civilizationalists, e.g., Spengler, Toynbee, Sorokin. Quigley, etc.
  • Analyses of particular civilizations and/or comparative studies of civilizations.
  • Decline and progress of civilizations.

Please send abstracts via email by April 1, 2014 (@ 300 words) to:

Prof. David J. Rosner
Metropolitan College of New York
ISCSC President and 2014 Program Chair
Email: drosner@mcny.edu



Scientism has become a fashionable topic recently.

The piece by Steven Pinker in New Republic defending science against charges of scientism, whilst nevertheless implying science had all the answers for non-scientific challenges, prompted lots of reaction.

I happen to agree with Wieseltier here, and relate this blind-spot of science, denying the value of any wisdom beyond GOF scientific empiricism to Nick Maxwell’s “Scientific Neurosis”.

What do you think?
It’s an advance on the tedious science vs religion debate, and maybe a public conversation where we can inject some vital philosophy, bring some values of wisdom to life?

Vital Philosophy—a timely series

In the interest of expressing what I think, helping to get things going, engaging readers and catalyzing productive conversation (hopefully), and revitalizing philosophy, I will be presenting a series of reasonably brief and pointed posts in the next several weeks.

I’ve listed the titles, as currently planned, below.  As some readers may recognize, the first post—Vital Philosophy and Global Philosophy—was posted earlier this week, and provides helpful context for the rest, which (ideally) would be read in the order presented.

Thanks in advance for your consideration.

Be Well,

Jeff Huggins

Vital Philosophy—a timely series 

Vital Philosophy and Global Philosophy (already posted:  Sept. 15, 2013)

Life-Aims and Aimlessness

Alien Observations

What Good Am I?


“Modern Philosophy”—as normally practiced

Intricate Nuanced Demure Ideas

Actions speak louder than papers

Philosophy, philosophers, and cooperation

Welcome on the bus!

First steps in the revolution

Knock Knock

Afterwords —

The ground we stand on

Vital Philosophy revisited


Vital Philosophy and Global Philosophy

“What’s in a name?  that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet


Nick has understandably applied the label Global Philosophy to what we are up to, and has highlighted the following as one way to summarize the matter (here, in the form of a so-called Mission Statement):

“The Global Circle consists of philosophers sympathetic to the idea that philosophy should tackle, and promote awareness of, global problems—global intellectually, and global in the sense of concerning the planet and the future of humanity.”

I’d like to offer a complementary label—not instead of Global Philosophy, but in addition to it, to augment it—in order to highlight a different vital aspect of the matter:  Vital Philosophy.

In my view, and if I understand Nick’s work correctly, Vital Philosophy and Global Philosophy are the same—that is, two different names for the same rose, that shed light on it with different but complementary emphases.

Vital Philosophy is …

Vital— in the sense of having to do with life; involving life; regarding life and the things that enable and enrich life.

Vital— in the sense of relevant to life; necessary to life; crucial.

Vital— in the sense of lively and alive; active; energetic; advancing.  Here, even the aim of Vital Philosophy is never dead or final, and is always subject to being better understood and advancing—in other words, the aim itself is alive.

It’s interesting to consider the etymology of ‘vital’—going back to ‘vita’, life.  A great fit!

Viva Vital Philosophy!

So what else might be said of Vital Philosophy in a brief blog post?

Of course, Vital Philosophy is philosophy that, among other things, draws from the life-sciences.  A great Vital Philosophy reading list would include the historic classics and modern leading-edge works of biology, zoology, and (so forth) as well as many of the historic classics and modern works of what is presently considered to be modern philosophy.

Some of its historic and present-day leading thinkers include Darwin, of course, and also Franz de Waal, for example.  In crucial and of course impressive ways, Socrates was a Vital Philosopher.  Among many of his arguments and approaches, consider his discussion of the lessons he learned from Diotima; consider the fact that he wanted those who caught glimpses of the light to return to the Cave to help others find it; consider his brief but prophetic warning, and clear description, regarding the lack of sustainability that results from insatiable material appetites; consider his persistent activism in the public forum; and consider that he refused to go away and disengage from the public, even at pain of death (all of which we receive by way of Plato, of course).

Vital Philosophy is not yet-another distinct, separate thing, divorced from other specific “philosophies”.  Instead, it is, among other things, a re-bringing-together—a bringing back together—of “philosophy” and the sciences, especially the life-sciences but also the others.  And it’s an appreciation that life is at the center of the matter, so to speak.  (See again the description that includes the three senses of ‘Vital’, above.)  Too, among other things, Vital Philosophy recognizes that the Earth is a finite planet, that this matters, and that this idea—this reality—has very real implications for what it means to be wise and live wisely.  Also among other things, Vital Philosophy recognizes that we, humans, are part of the broader kingdom of life and interdependent with other life.  And, it recognizes that this matters and that this has very important implications for what it means to be wise and live wisely.

Vital Philosophy recognizes that, if you genuinely love something, you want it to achieve its own ends—to realize (in the fullest sense) what it wants, so to speak—and you want to help it do so; you actually act accordingly.  I mention this in relation to philosophy’s love of wisdom, of course.

Of course, labels can only go so far and say so much—not very far, and not very much, really.  So, we should all keep in mind the substance of the matter.  My next post will have much more to do with that.

Cheers and Be Well,

Jeff Huggins

P.S. — This is my first post on this, a new blog.  So, if it ends up garbled or ugly because of formatting or for other technical reasons, I apologize and will work with the blog experts to try to fix it and do better next time.  Thanks for your consideration.