The new scholasticism

James Lovelock’s list of content for the his knowledge compendium is remarkably similar to that of H. G. Wells. He writes, “It would range from simple things, such as how to light a fire, to our place in the Solar System and the Universe. It would be a primer of philosophy and science — it would provide a top down look at the earth and ourselves.” Lovelock’s survival guide must “by the quality of its writing” also serve as an important source of pleasure, devotion and useful facts. Both Wells and Lovelock imply that humankind must change the direction of its quest for knowledge. The object of inquiry would be less to find new knowledge, but more to learn better and more wisely from what is already known. Imagine the economic consequences, the beneficial environmental impact, if mankind took up a scholastic, self-reflective mentality, in which knowledge is the highest value artifact, while “owning” physical artifacts beyond a personal capacity to use them or having excess money is considered unethical. There is a growing number of people for whom such values would be far from alien.

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