Wisdom Page Updates
This Month's Highlights
Included in this month's issue of the Wisdom Page Updates are:
- Editorial: A Theory of Wisdom (Part III) by Tom Lombardo
- Online Course on the Virtues: Justice
- New Book Review: Ethics and the Golden Rule by Harry Gensler - Reviewed by Leland Beaument
- New Book Review: The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet by Ramez Naam - Reviewed by Leland Beaumont
- New Book: How Universities Can Help Create a Wiser World by Nicholas Maxwell
- West Side Salon for Philosophy and the Future
- Wisdom Research at the University of Chicago - Compassion, Courage, Science, and Spirit
Wisdom Page and Futurodyssey Archives
A Theory of Wisdom (Part III)
"The sages do not consider that making no mistake is a blessing. They believe, rather, that the great virtue of a person lies in their ability to correct their mistakes and continually to make a new person of themselves."
Wang Yang-mingIn the two previous issues of the Wisdom Page Updates, I presented Parts I and II of my virtue theory of wisdom, identifying what I take to be the core virtues embodied in wisdom. In this month's issue I complete the process, listing and describing the final set of virtues essential to wisdom.
As I have described wisdom in various published essays, and many wisdom writers and thinkers would agree, wisdom is as much a journey as a destination. If one is to pursue wisdom, one should expect to continually transform and grow in one's understanding of wisdom. Putting together my ideas on wisdom for this three-part editorial provoked me into further thinking and reflection on the list of virtues that I identified as key to wisdom (a list I derived from previous papers and workshops), and in the process of further examination, I revised and hopefully improved my "virtue theory of wisdom," streamlining, reconfiguring, and balancing out the set of virtues.
After this re-crafting of the list of virtues, there were five virtues in my new list that I had clearly not covered in the first two editorial installments. These five virtues are:
Balance and temperance
I have included descriptions for each of these five virtues below. I have also included some concluding thoughts on the uniqueness of wise people and how one develops wisdom.
Moreover, based on a request from a reader, I wanted to create a complete and updated single essay that covers the entire list of virtues of wisdom, as I presently understand them. I have revised the first two installments and included these revisions in my new essay. So, if you want to see the entire new list and descriptions of each virtue, with introduction and concluding comments, see "A Virtue Theory of Wisdom." I have placed this new essay on The Wisdom Page. Because I believe simplicity, when it is realistic and possible, is a virtue in one's understanding of the world, I have streamlined the list down to thirteen virtues (See the essay).
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The informed and thoughtful belief in and pursuit of the ideal and the good; the informed and thoughtful belief in standards of excellence and the distinction between virtue and vice--presupposed in the aspiration toward virtue; the informed and thoughtful belief in and practice of standards pertaining to learning, knowing, and thinking; the informed and thoughtful belief in the possibility of defining progress or improvement--presupposed in optimism; and the opposite of nihilism and relativism.
The capacity to see and feel the value of things--to have highly positive emotional experiences in the face of existence; appreciation and gratitude; to experience compassion and concern for others; the desire and skill to cultivate positive interactions and experiences with others; and to see, facilitate, and/or create beauty in the world.
The desire and capacity for, and demonstrated realization of, facilitating the good life for oneself and others in the context of the world; high practical knowledge or practical wisdom; engagement and constructive action in the world; the capacity to synthesize knowledge, ethics, and action; and concern with the problems and challenges of life and disposition to constructively address them.
The future is the act of creation and everyone is participating within it. Creativity is a skill, but also a virtue that requires the cultivation of courage and optimism, the pursuit of learning and knowledge, a spirit of adventure and growth, a resistance to conformity (for the sake of conformity), an independence of mind, and well-developed thinking skills and modes of understanding. Creativity balances disciplined work and study with play and spontaneity. Wise people show practical creativity. Love is a creation; happiness is a creation; beauty is a creation; the good life is a creation.
Balance and Temperance
Key dimensions of balance and temperance include the intellect/mind and emotion/heart; logic and intuition; concern for oneself and concern for others; humility/flexibility/openness and conviction/determination; gratitude/contentment and desire/motivational drive; risk/change and security/stability; order and chaos; discipline/action and play/relaxation; and the weighing of different, and at times, conflicting values, pertinent to wise and balanced decision making. Wisdom integrates and balances the above key character virtues and values.
* * * * * *
As two concluding points:
It seems to me that although the list of virtues provides an abstract and analytical description of wisdom, the reality of wisdom is that it is always manifested within a unique individual. (There are probably also wise organizations and groups as well.) Wise persons have their own special and distinctive personalities. They share personal traits (as listed in the virtues above) but each brings their own irreducible color and memorable quality to their expressions of wisdom. This personal and distinctive quality to wisdom is undoubtedly connected to the creative dimension of the virtue of wisdom.
The question, of course, could be asked: If these are the virtues and capacities of wisdom, how can they be developed?
First, I should note that because these virtues are an interdependent set of personal qualities, working on individual qualities will frequently have positive and growth promoting effects on other qualities. The virtues of wisdom, to a great degree, hang together--are mutually self-reinforcing.
Second, it seems to me that the first two qualities on the list--self-responsibility and realistic idealism--are essential first steps toward the development of any of the other virtues. Accepting responsibility for improving oneself and believing in the concept of standards of excellence are foundational for the development of wisdom.
Third, following from recent research by Roy Baumeister (2011) on the capacity for willpower and self-control, as well as the age-old wisdom of Aristotle, one develops any skill or capacity through disciplined practice. It may seem overly simplistic, but to develop wisdom one needs to self-consciously work on acting wise. Capacity follows from repeated action. As Gretchen Rubin (2009) states, "Do good, be good."
Fourth, results emerge (when they do) from desire; one grows in wisdom from wanting to be wise. Wanting to be wise may not be a sufficient condition for realizing wisdom, but it is necessary. Philosophy is the love of wisdom; one realizes wisdom by loving the pursuit of it. To be wise, one needs to be a philosopher.
And finally, along with self-responsibility, effort, and love, there needs to be hope and optimism (another one of the virtues); one needs to believe that one can realize or achieve wisdom. Hope, along with love, empowers action.
The answer to how to develop wisdom lies within the virtues of wisdom itself.
* * * * * *
Baumeister, Roy and Tierney, John Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength
. New York: The Penguin Press, 2011.
Lombardo, Thomas "The Wisdom of Future Consciousness" in Innovation and Creativity in a Complex World
(Ed. Cynthia Wagner). Bethesda, Maryland: World Future Society, 2009.
Lombardo, Thomas "Wisdom Facing Forward: What It Means to Have Heightened Future Consciousness" The Futurist
, Vol. 44, No. 5, September-October, 2010.
Lombardo, Thomas "Wisdom in the 21st Century: A Theory of Psycho-Social Development" World Affairs Journal
, April, 2011.
Rubin, Gretchen The Happiness Project
. New York: Harper, 2009.
Sternberg, Robert (Ed.) Wisdom: Its Nature, Origins, and Development
. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Sternberg, Robert "A Balance Theory of Wisdom" Review of General Psychology
, Vol.2, No.4, 1998.
Sternberg, Robert and Jordan, Jennifer (Ed.) A Handbook of Wisdom: Psychological Perspectives
. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Online Course on the Virtues:
"Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected
are as outraged as those who are."
"...moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."
"Never pray for justice, because you might get some."
Continuing our online course on the virtues, this month we study Justice
, the virtue of fairness. John Rawls
claims that "Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought." The excellent Harvard University lecture series "What's the Right Thing to Do?" is used to explore this virtue in depth.
* * * *
The course includes Instructions for contacting the instructor. In addition, the Wikiversity
platform encourages your participation in improving the course. Comments on each page are welcome on the accompanying "Talk"
page, accessed via the "Discuss" tab. We want to hear from you.
If you are interested in participating in a forum of active students to discuss assignments and share your thoughts, please let us know and we will work to provide a space for that. Also, we would like to be able to provide conscientious students a completion certificate at the end of the course, but we have not yet decided how best to assess completion. What are your ideas?
We certainly hope you continue to enjoy this tour of the virtues.
New Book Review:
Ethics and the Golden Rule by Harry Gensler - Reviewed by Leland Beaumont
An excellent, informative review by Leland Beaumont--the workhorse book reviewer for The Wisdom Page - concerning one of the most universal ethical principles across human cultures.
New Book Review:
The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet by Ramez Naam - Reviewed by Leland Beaumont
If wisdom involves getting the big picture of things, then this book is wise, pulling together environmental, technological, demographic, and economic dimensions of our contemporary global reality. Further, again in resonance with the various capacities of wisdom, the book offers innovative and integrative solutions for our global challenges. Never underestimate the power of the mind.
How Universities Can Help Create a Wiser World: The Urgent Need for an Academic Revolution
by Nicholas Maxwell
How Universities Can Help Create a Wiser World: The Urgent Need for an Academic Revolution, to be published on the 1st January 2014 by Imprint Academic, in paperback priced at a mere £9-95, so that even students can buy it!
The book does what it says it does in the title. We really can create a wiser world, but in order to do it, it is absolutely essential that we bring about a revolution in universities so that they become rationally devoted to seeking and promoting wisdom.
In order to make progress towards a better world we need to learn how to do it. And for that we need institutions of learning rationally designed and devoted to helping us solve our global problems, make progress towards a better world. It is just this that we lack at present. Our universities pursue knowledge. They are neither designed nor devoted to helping humanity learn how to tackle global problems - problems of living - in more intelligent, humane and effective ways. That, this book argues, is the key disaster of our times, the crisis behind all the others: our failure to have developed our institutions of learning so that they are rationally organized to help us solve our problems of living - above all, our global problems. Having universities devoted almost exclusively to the pursuit of knowledge is a recipe for disaster. Scientific knowledge and technological know-how have unquestionably brought great benefits to humanity. But they have also made possible - even caused - our current global crises, above all the impending crisis of global warming. In the book, I argue in as lively and accessible a way as I can that we need urgently to bring about a revolution in universities round the world so that their basic aim becomes wisdom, and not just knowledge.
Emeritus Reader, University College London
West Side Salon for
Philosophy and the Future
Beginning in April I started hosting a new philosophical dialogue group that meets every two weeks on Tuesday evenings from 6 to 8 pm. The location is Sun City Grand, Chaparral Center, Navajo Room, 19871 Remington Drive, Surprise, AZ. Locations may vary for later meetings.
The title "Philosophy and the Future" is intended to cover a very broad range of topics, including all the general issues of philosophy, such as wisdom, the philosophy of mind and consciousness, ethics, and cosmology. On the "futures" end of things, included are the future of science and technology, the human mind, and human society and culture; science fiction scenarios about the future; and space travel and exploration. Often we will weave together philosophy and the future.
This first month we began with the theme "Consciousness and the Cosmos" discussing the American philosopher Thomas Nagel's new book Mind and Cosmos. In our second meeting, we brought in Christof Koch's new book Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist and my article "The Ecological Cosmology of Consciousness." The first two meetings went very well. Good attendance and lots of participation and debate.
Future meetings will frequently (though not always) take the form of selecting out a new book (in either philosophy or the future) and discussing it. After Nagel and Koch's books, we plan to discuss at least the following three additional books this summer: Ray Kurweil's How to Create a Mind, Jim Holt's Why Does the World Exist?, and David Brin's science fiction novel Existence. This coming meeting, May 14th, we will dive into Brin's colossal (900 page) and epochal science fiction novel. I've written a review of Brin's book in the CFC newsletter. We will look at the idea of the cosmic evolution and the significance of mind, consciousness, and intelligent civilization in the universe.
There will be a $5.00 nominal charge for attending Salon meetings through the entire remaining spring and summer. If you are interested in attending, you can register online
. If you don't get to registering before attending a meeting, come and we will work something out.
You can also register for the Salon on Meet-Up: West Side Salon for Philosophy and the Future
Salon Meetings in May: May 14 and 28th.
Email me at email@example.com if you have any questions.
Wisdom Research: University of Chicago
Compassion, Courage, Science, and Spirit
Essays and research reports in this month's issue of
Wisdom Research at the University of Chicago focus on
compassionate mindfulness (or heartfulness), moral courage, spiritual and pragmatic approaches to wisdom and the scientific study of personal wisdom, and post-traumatic growth
. One can read the articles and subscribe to the regular newsletter on the website
Beginning this fall, I began publishing two newsletters: the revitalized and redesigned Wisdom Page Updates and Futurodyssey (the monthly publication of the Center for Future Consciousness). So readers can view earlier issues, both newsletters now have Archive Pages. View the Wisdom Page Updates Archive Page; view the Futurodyssey Archive Page. The reader can subscribe to the Wisdom Page Updates on The Wisdom Page Contact Page; the reader can subscribe to the Futurodyssey newsletter by going to the CFC website.
|That's it for this month: Part III of my virtue theory of wisdom, the virtue of justice, the new salon on philosophy and the future, two new book reviews by Leland Beaumont, a new book by Nicholas Maxwell, and ongoing wisdom research at the University of Chicago. Thanks for reading the Updates. |
Special thanks to my wife, Jeanne Lombardo, for editing every month all the material I write for inclusion in the Updates.