Synthesis of Knowing
The WAAS Program Framework is based on the view that each of the disciplines of art, science and humanities has a valid contribution to a complete perspective on any issue. Reliable knowing is inclusive and reconciles diverse perspectives. That is with regard to different disciplines. The same is true of different nations and cultures. Each brings a unique perspective to the understanding of knowledge and solution to problems.
For instance, one could argue that Greece gave rise to pure intellectual reflections on ethics, society and nature. Rome gave birth to modern conceptions of law and social organization. The scientific outlook was born in Europe and most of the profound theoretical discoveries were made by Europeans. America’s unique contribution has been the practical translation of scientific knowledge into technology and organization expressing through a spirit of individualism (e.g. Ford, Apple and Amazon). Japan has excelled in evolving knowledge that is founded on values of social harmony, beauty and honor. China has developed intellect and administration to an extraordinary degree based on communal values. India’s focus has been on the inner law and essential reality governing processes, rather than on external mechanisms. It applies analogy, metaphor and intuition to overcome the limitations of logical thinking.
Some of these examples may be more appropriate than others in bringing out differences in perspective. The scope for differentiating perspectives is not limited to continent-wide generalizations. A series of books by a Spanish diplomat written early in the 20th century elegantly bring out the differences in thought and perspective of England, France, Germany, Spain, etc. Churchill said that the British have an anathema for analyzing anything from first principles, an approach more characteristic of the French who give greater weight to pure ideas. Such variations exist in other regions as well.
Instead of arguing who is right, it is rational to base ourselves on the premise that each of these perspectives represents a valid aspect of knowledge. A comprehensive way of understanding and acting would need to take into account many or all of them. The best solution to humanity’s problems and to arriving at a global consensus would be founded on a wider conception of knowing than any one country or region affirms today. An approach based on this premise could have immense practical value for the evolution of global governance.
We would like to propose that WAAS organize a project to identify the varied ways of knowing and different conceptions of what constitutes knowledge according to different cultural traditions and attempt a synthesis of the world’s perspectives. This might be a first concrete and original step toward evolving an informal World University as our founders envisioned in the Academy’s charter, based on a truly global conception of reliable knowing.
We might start publishing articles on different cultural perspectives of knowing in Cadmus, organize a conference (Library of Alexandria would be the perfect place) or a series of conferences and e-conferences, and ultimately publish a book presenting not only diverse views but an attempt at a Synthesis of Knowing.
This project ties in closely with the project on Limits to Rationality and would embrace all fields of art, science and humanities. It could unite the work of many Fellows and attract the interest of other individuals and organizations.
Integrating Art & Science
Solving and overcoming the numerous problems and threats we face today require understanding, and as Blaise Pascal wrote, we understand both with our brain and our heart. Understanding and creating are two centers of human activity. Science and art are examples of the two organized systems of research, understanding and creativity. Our Academy – World Academy of Art and Science− strives for global welfare by integrating art and science. Global welfare is our goal; art and science, our tools.
Weisskopf claimed that science progressed when instead of asking the most general questions, it focused on narrow, seemingly simple questions. That was the root of many scientific disciplines. Today, most of the problems and threats we face require multidisciplinary, inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary approaches. The world needs unity of science – consilience, as E.O. Wilson entitled his book. Many national and regional academies are organized in sections of scientific/scholarly disciplines. World Academy focuses on the problems that the world faces: peace, governance, ecology, new economic theory, global employment and human capital. Their solutions require ideas, initiatives, proposals, projects, policy-making, decision making and actions.
World Academy encompasses researchers, artists, business leaders, policy and decision-makers from many countries and cultures. Every culture has contributed to art and science, as reflected in our motto Unity in Diversity. Our Academy endeavors to achieve sustainable global welfare and equitable development based on programs enriched by cultural diversity, by approaches integrating scientific and artistic perspectives and, most importantly, by wisdom cumulatively augmented through generations. Creation of such programs is clearly a bottom-up approach, but also a cumulative approach where leadership in thought generated from a variety of cultures leads to a united action for sustainable global welfare.
Garry Jacobs and Ivo Šlaus