Understanding Wisdom

In a review of Stephen Hall’s Wisdom, Bookslut’s Jessa Crispin asks ‘Can we understand wisdom?’ and looks at the evidence for and against.

Wisdom is not the same as knowledge, and so it seems odd it has attracted the attention of science. There is such a thing as “wisdom studies” now, and in his book Hall talks to researchers and neuroscientists in a search for the latest information about wisdom. Scientists treat wisdom the way they treat anything else. They break it down into its smallest components to identify and test, and they attempt to figure out how it works, how to obtain it, and what it is. [Hall says:]

To be wise is not to know particular facts but to know without excessive confidence or excessive cautiousness. Wisdom is thus not a belief, a value, a set of facts, a corpus of knowledge or information in some specialized area, or a set of special abilities or skills. Wisdom is an attitude taken by persons toward the beliefs, values, knowledge, information, abilities, and skills that are held, a tendency to doubt that these are necessarily true or valid and to doubt that they are an exhaustive set of those things that could be known.

According to Hall and the researchers he has spoken to these are the eight “attributes of wisdom”:

  • Emotional Regulation
  • Knowing What’s Important
  • Moral Reasoning
  • Compassion
  • Humility
  • Altruism
  • Patience
  • Dealing with Uncertainty

via Intelligent Life



One response to “Understanding Wisdom”

  1. Ando_F

    I think wisdom feels easier to grasp as a concept when it is put in to context.

    My favourite context model for this is the DIKW hierarchy, which gives a model for how information moves from noise at it’s most basic, through to wisdom when it’s informed by purpose, ethics, principles, memory, and projection (which is a very similar list of terms).

    Here’s a summary of the hierarchy: http://unclutteredwhitespaces.com/2010/07/is-information-overload-getting-you-down/