Editorial - Issue 4


This issue of Eruditio contains challenging and possibly controversial themes. Nonetheless, overall, these contributions challenge the frontiers of thinking in different spheres of global relevance.

The issue of global peace and security is one of the most important on the agenda of the World Academy. This is a complex subject in the sense that security is frequently prefixed by the term “national” and thus national security seems to detach itself from global security. In “Security Reflections: A Holistic Approach Without Nuclear Weapons”, Jonathan Granoff has provided us with a short but incisive anecdote to the parochial edge of security discourse. His article brings in a concise and clear manner, the importance of global and collective initiatives in advancing the agenda of global peace and security. In doing this, he is giving great clarity to the emerging notion of collective security with traction.

Garry Jacobs’ contribution “Ways of Knowing: Life Beyond Chaos” was inspired by a WAAS seminar on scientific complexity. His understanding of the problem of uncertainty in cognition generated by scientific complexity underlines the important challenge to the evolution of human consciousness and the techniques of understanding not only the self, but the self in the universe. In doing so he confronts the problems of the limits of reliance exclusively on the mind which has a marked tendency to affirm one perspective to the exclusion of others, to reject what it previously embraced, and not arrive at an all-embracing perspective that can reconcile apparent opposites. In effect, the author calls for efforts to develop more synthetic and integrated ways of knowing which have the capacity to overcome the limitations of reductionism and systems thinking. Ultimately, he is suggesting a profoundly important challenge that requires a major shift of emphasis and perspective in how we think. His approach is sympathetic to intuitive insight and the techniques that we can develop to explore this important way of knowing how to discover solutions to pressing problems that we perceive as uncertainty.

David Krieger’s article “Hubris Versus Wisdom” revisits a central theme of the WAAS agenda namely, global security and the abolition of nuclear weapons. He draws out attention to the fact that activism has generated substantial reductions in nuclear warheads around the world. A reduction from 70,000 to just over 17,000 is itself a major accomplishment. The number is still too many, as he notes. He further draws our attention to the importance of understanding the mindset that finds strength and value in nuclear weapons in the concept of hubris and the mindset that seeks to eliminate them from the planet which reflects the wisdom tradition. The mindset vested in retaining nuclear weapons systems captures the hubris of arrogance, an arrogant belief in the supremacy of raw power, and the illusion that these weapons can be controlled by hubris and ensure the safety of humanity. Indeed, a central weakness of hubris is the fragility of its psychological and scientific foundations. It is hubris that may ultimately lead us to self-destruction and it is wisdom that may ultimately save us. The author draws attention to three global wisdom figures, Albert Camus, Mohandas Gandhi, and Albert Einstein. It was Camus who pointed out that our scientific advances here took us to “the greatest level of savagery.” It was Gandhi who noted, when informed of the bomb’s use that non-violence was not simply an ethical mandate but a fundamental moral standard if humanity is to survive the nuclear age. Einstein, a spiritual father of the World Academy, suggested we need new modes of thinking to avert unparalleled catastrophe.

There is an urgent challenge to displace nuclear hubris with the wisdom of human solidarity. Humanity must be mobilized because the movement toward complete abolition is moving at a snail’s pace. He concludes his piece with a poem he composed called “A Few Simple Truths”. Truth is worthy of repetition and I hereby quote those truths:

Life is the universe’s most precious creation.

There is only one place we know of where life exists.

Children, all children, deserve a full and fair chance.

The bomb threatens all life.

War is legitimized murder with collateral damage.

Construction requires more than a hammer.

The rising of the oceans cannot be contained by money.

Love is the only currency that truly matters.

One true human brings beauty to the earth.

In “Being in Superposition: Modern Subjectivity, and the New Collectivity”, Ljudmila Popovich grapples with the classical philosophical person and personality over time problem. Here she adds another dimension, not simply the time artifact, but the space-time artifact. In this case she focuses on the importance of place on feminine identity and the ideal instrument to explore this is the woman in the position of a migrant, meaning that the migrant woman has an identity that is also shaped by special characteristics of exile. The superposition idea is an innovative but highly complex method of observation. It is a set “of the self as a set of positions and relations. Dynamic, relational, multi-positional and diversified individuality.” From this vantage point the observer gets a profoundly more interesting and complex understanding of a multi-dimensional, evolving personality configuration. The author’s essay is provocative and seeks to establish some important insights conditioned by time and space in the nature of human subjectivity.

Richard Hames is a profound social critic. In “To Touch Eternity”, he has given us deep insights on some of the most vital and important questions on science, value and essentially the future of humanity. It is a short paper but insightful enough to be seriously contemplated by the reader.

In “Need for a New Economic Theory”, Orio Giarini has given us a clarified walkthrough of the central conceptions of economics that seem to imprison us today. He then brings in the notion that the forms of wealth or value production are in flux. He identifies the importance of the growth of services as a new foundation of economic value. He notes that this perspective introduces uncertainty and probability as the new rules of the game. However, this simply requires a strong need to redefine economic value in order to understand what scientifically reproduces the wealth of nations.

Edy Korthals Altes, in “Quo Vadis? Cultural Reorientation – Our Shared Journey”, states his provocative postulation at the beginning of his article. He challenges us with his proposition that the spiritual renewal of humanity is long overdue. He has seen that deliberation of the enlightenment, which produced the autonomous man, also produced a creature who seems to have inflated himself. This self-inflation has come at the cost of spiritual deficit. We now confront new crises in which the spiritual dimension of human identity is increasingly lost as money and greed overtake any recognition of deeper and transcendent spiritual values. He underscores the misconceptions that this view produces and wants to get us back to values infused with spirit that are universally relevant. He has a focus on such concepts as interconnectedness, vulnerability, yearning, and awe. From these considerations, he thinks we can emerge with a common platform that might more closely patch together the practical world of science and the transcendent world of religion. He concludes by stressing that at the back of his analysis is the centrality of the most inclusive conception of love, and that “God, goodness, and love, both received and given, give meaning to life.”

Graeme Maxton, in “Privacy is not Dead, It’s Just Resting”, rightly notes that our right to privacy is under assault. The assault is not only led by governance, but also by major corporate personalities. Currently we are in the shadow of the Snowden whistleblower disclosures. These disclosures reflect staggering intrusions in the mega collection of data about individuals. Even foreign leaders are not immune from this. Reports from the U.S. government indicate that these NSA intrusions into private communications violate the American Constitution. He has given a broad but incisive description of a multitude of other ways in which the privacy of the individual may be compromised. A great deal of this is not well known or if known, understood. The author has provided us with a useful introduction to these challenges regarding the common sense right to privacy.

Robert W. Fuller, in “Something America and China Can Do Together”, writes with unassuming but profoundly challenging message. In this article, he looks at the position of America and China as the starting point for his meditation on profoundly important future directions of global, social organization. He sees in the Chinese tradition some timeless Confucius values and he sees in the American intellectual tradition the deeper values tied to the idea of universal dignity. It is this concept that may move us past the imperfections of democracy to a deeper system of values rooted in dignitarian governance. This is a short but profoundly challenging thesis, and one that the editors hope will generate continuing discussions in the World Academy.

One of our contemporary conflicts about basic values is the distinction between one’s liberty and the abuse of liberty namely, license. This is at the back of the issue raised in this article by Graeme Maxton and Octavian Ksenzhek on the “Limits to Nature” about the autonomous Homo economicus and the idea that this player’s autonomy is limitless. This theme is explored in terms of the limits of nature itself and the challenge of knowing the limit and knowing the cost of going beyond the limit.

David Peat has provided us with a short essay on “Creativity and Education”. He views creativity as a process that is unconstrained by boundaries and limitations. He reminds us of the creativity of childhood and then underscores the problem as we advance our blocks and further blocks which may constrain creativity. He then explores the challenges important to education about how we can create environments that nurture creativity rather than block or repress it. He does not think that there can be a conscious cultivation of creativity. I am uncertain about this. I suspect as a prior President of our academy has suggested, that human beings can engage in the processes of free fantasy and thereby unlock the inner processes that generate creativity.

Michael Marien’s “Book Reviews” have provided a comprehensive and extensive review of major contributions to enrich our understanding of the state of globalization. The first set of reviews focuses on the annual publication, by Lester Brown and produced through the World Watch Institute. The focus is on contributions to a better understanding of the problems and prospects of sustainable development. Among the important contributions highlighted is the important chapter by Carl Folke of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences dealing with the sustainability metric. Folke summarizes the nine global boundaries of critical boundary processes. These indicate the proposed boundary, the current status and pre-industrial value of the boundaries implicated in climate change, biodiversity, the nitrogen cycle, the phosphorus cycle, the ozone, ocean acidification, fresh water use, changes in land use, and atmospheric aerosol loading. These are important and insightful issues. Other contributions include the strategies of getting to true sustainability, the management of emergencies, and more. Further reviews include summaries from Ideas to Fix the World which include Muhammad Yunus focusing on human capital. Attention is drawn to Will Kymlicka who notes the challenge of staggering inequality. References to Stiglitz, Chang, and Ocampo focus on transforming how the global economy works. Other contributions include understanding the global balance of power, the role of democracy, as well as responses to the economic crisis, and making development possible. Marien also reviews abstracts from a multitude of OECD publications. All of these entries should be of interest to the Fellows of our Academy and should facilitate our own thinking about a new global paradigm.