Philippe Kourilsky

The Time of the altruism Publication date : October 29, 2009

Philippe Kourilsky is a professor at the Collège de France and a member of the French Academy of Sciences. A former director general of the Institut Pasteur, he is the author of Les Artisans de l’hérédité (1987), La Science en partage (1998), Le Principe de précaution (2000) and Du bon usage du principe de précaution (2002).

Pollution, financial crises, poverty, famine, persistent and new diseases. These global problems have led to constant calls for increased public morality: more ethics, other forms of governance, profound behavioural changes. The information at our fingertips has never been so vast — so we can hardly plead ignorance.
Yet, though the facts, figures and images are widely accessible, though feelings of urgency and the desire to do something seem to be growing, we continue to ignore the many crises that assail us. Are human beings profoundly indifferent? Does “human nature” condemn us to eternal selfishness? Perhaps not, argues Philippe Kourilsky.
Why such apparent public indifference? Could it be due to an erroneous perception of reality, which has altered our awareness of ourselves, of others and of our relationship to them?
For Kourilsky, our difficulty in facing and resolving the world’s problems is primarily due to our inability, as individuals, to perceive reality adequately. The build-up of individual views results in too many differences and not enough consensus — with consequent paralysis.
To overcome it, and to act collectively, Kourilsky urges us to create the intellectual conditions for a shared vision of reality.

An eminent scientist tells us how to alter our thinking so that we can finally face the present global challenges with effective common actions.
Expertise, good intentions and moral platitudes are not enough. Real consensus is needed, and the author gives us the guidelines to establish it successfully.