Fall 2011 Wisdom Course Class Notes B

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October 10, 2011 (10)

Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life

  • Statement from Philo of Alexander. 20bc-50ad. Note both vision of integrated wisdom and attributes of the sage. Joy, for example.
  • ataraxia, autarkeia -- peace of mind and inner freedom. Note that study of nature was supposed to aid this.
  • distinction between "philosophical discourse" and "philosophy" -Hadot's analogy for the difference on 268.
  • Philosopy as therapeutic.
"Philosophy presented itself as a method for achieving independence andinner freedom {autarkeia), that state in which the ego depends only uponitself. We encounter this theme in Socrates, among the Cynics, in Aristotle for whom only the contemplative life is independent - in Epicurus," among the Stoics." Although their methodologies differ, we find in allphilosophical schools the same awareness of the power of the human self tofree itself from everything which is alien to it, even if, as in the case of theSkeptics, it does so via the mere refusal to make any decision." 266
  • Prosoche -- "care of the self"
  • Note mention of Ignatian Exercises.

Hall, Chapter 6 Moral Reasoning

One question to ask while thinking about this chapter: Do wise people regulate their emotions and does that make for better moral and non-moral decision-making?)
  • Wisdom interpretation of Genesis. problem q. p. 99.
  • Evidence of emotional and automatic cognition in moral responses. 102..disgust, Trolley Prob.
  • Background: Marc Hauser and the Trolley Problem (106)
  • Joshua Greene, fMRIs of people doing the Trolley Problem. Seems to capture moments of emo/cog conflict. Fits with Damasio's research with lesion patients. Some can't factor in emotion.
  • So, conclusions? inferences? Might sound good to say that wise people train their emotions, but in relation to what?

Haidt, Emo Dog

  • This article takes us further into a scientific view that claims that cognition is rarely "causal" in moral decision-making. (The rational tail on the emotional dog.)
  • "social intuitionist model" --
  • Humean emotivism - "moral sense"
  • Kohlberg still a model for rationalist psychology. [1]
  • contrast of Intuitive and reasoning systems.
1. Dual Processing - literature on automatic assessment, close to perception, automatic judgement, attitude formation (820), very scary.
2. Motivated Reasoning Problem -- reasoning more like a lawyer and scientist. biases: relatedness -- favors harmony and agreement. coherence

-- "the desire to hold attitudes and beliefs that are congruent with existing self-definitional attitudes and beliefs" 821 other biases

3. The Post Hoc Problem -- Nisbett and Wilson 77 - experiments, such as placebo study which solicits post hoc and ad hoc reasoning, split brain patients (Gazzaniga... confabulation)
4. The Action Problem -- weak link bt. moral reasoning and moral action. Mischel marshmallow research 823.

  • Theoretical possibilities for theory of wisdom: 1. Can you change responses? 2. In what ways? (again, the problem of criteria)

October 12, 2011 (11)

Hall, Chapters 7 & 8: Compassion & Humility

  • Chapter 7: Compassion
"By compassion is meant not only the willingness to share another person's pain and suffering; in a larger sense, it refers to a transcendent ability to step outside the moat of one's own self-interest to understand the point of view of another; in a still larger sense, it may take this "feeling for" to the level of mind reading, for the theory of mind—one of the most powerfiil implements that evolution placed in the human cognitive tool kit—requires us to understand the way another person's feelings inform his or her intentions and actions." 116
  • Matthieu Ricard and Richard Davidson studies. (no overarching theory here, but note Davidson on p. 121) Davidson believes in poss of "training" toward increased well being.
  • Ricard makes the case, on 122, that compassion is based on an understanding of how things are connected, how happiness and suffering are connected. Knowing that there are ways to address suffering fuels compassion, which also helps us understand how things are connected.
  • general point: importance in this research of thinking of compassion as having a neural substrate and a function in our psychology. We don't have great research on exactly what we can do with it or it's actual function.
  • 126: mirror neurons and empathy.
  • Chapter 8: Humility
  • puzzle about humility. How can Gandhi embody both humility and the kind of great ambition he achieved? Is humility consistent with action in the world?
in religion -- piety and obedience to God. 137
Hall suggests social / evolutionary function for humility: "If we consider obedience in a secular or, even more narrowly, behavioral sense, it may help explain why humility persists as a virtue. It is one of those traits that acts as a social lubricant, greasing the wheels of group interaction, minimizing interpersonal friction, enhancing the odds for cooperation." 138 (anecdote from Inv. Gorrilla - Go)
narcissism among CEOs. may contribute to financial instability of firms. correlates with white collar crime. inverse of humility. best CEOs blend humility with strong will.

Introduction to Buddhism

  • The Four Noble Truths
1 There is suffering.
2 There is the origination of suffering: suffering comes into existence in dependence on causes.
3 There is the cessation of suffering: all future suffering can be prevented by becoming aware of our ignorance and undoing the effects of it.
4 There is a path to the cessation of suffering.
8 fold path. (see above and in Feuerstein.)

Division Eightfold Path factors Acquired factors
Wisdom (Sanskrit: prajñā, Pāli: paññā) 1. Right view 9. Superior right knowledge
2. Right intention 10. Superior right liberation
Ethical conduct (Sanskrit: śīla, Pāli: sīla) 3. Right speech
4. Right action
5. Right livelihood
Concentration (Sanskrit and Pāli: samādhi) 6. Right effort
7. Right mindfulness
8. Right concentration

Holder, The Greater Discourse on the Destruction of Craving

The Greater Discourse on the Destruction of Craving starts with the "bad" monk, Sati, who thinks that reincarnation might involve the same consciousness (and so the survival of the self after death). The other bhikkhus rat him out to the Buddha, who calls him out over the issue (in a gentle Buddha way) and goes on to describe both the process of "devolution" by which ignorance leads us to craving (65) and the process of purification that brings about a reversal (66) of the process. Prior to following the eightfold path, our experience (seeing, hearing, etc.) entails an unhealthy attachment. After, we presumably have the same kinds of experiences, but without unhealthy attachment.
  • ""So, bhikkhus, dependent on ignorance, there are dispositions to action; dependent on dispositions to action, there is consciousness; dependent on consciousness, there is psycho-physicality; dependent on psycho-physicality, there are the six bases of sense; dependent on the six bases of sense, there is contact; dependent on contact, there is feeling; dependent on feeling, there is craving; dependent on craving, there is attachment; dependent on attachment, there is becoming; dependent on becoming, there is birth; dependent on birth, there is aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, despair, and distress. Thus there is the arising of this whole mass of suffering." 65 note corresponding paragraph on p. 66.
  • Note story of "natural" growth and attachment, p. 67, folllowed by realization and pursuit of enlightenment.

Matthieu Ricard, Chs. 6&7: Alchemy of Suffering and Veils of the Ego

Chapter Six: Alchemy of Suffering

  • Shortest history of the kingdom: "They Suffer"
  • Pervasive suffering -- from growth and development
  • Suffering of Change -- from illusion of permanence.
  • Multiplicity of Suffering -- suffering from awareness of the many ways things can go wrong.
  • Hidden Suffering -- anxiousness about hidden dangers
  • Sources of Suffering -- self-centeredness, our unhappiness is caused, 4 Noble Truths.
  • Problem: How can you have a philosophy that tells you that you shouldn't "lose it" in calamity?
  • Methods for responding to suffering -- meditation, use of mental imagery.

Chapter Seven: Veils of the Ego

  • Ego as a fear reaction to the world.
  • Observing the ego at work: example of the vase, the asymmetry of our response is a clue.
  • Problem: How can I live without an ego? R's response: true self-confidence is egoless.
  • Cites Paul Ekman's studies of emotionally exceptional people. egoless and joyful
  • Gives brief account of the illusion of self.

October 19, 2011 (12)

Feuerstein Chapter 1 & Some Miller

Some major concepts we'll fill in during lecture:

  • samadhi - the goal of the spiritual practice of yoga; ecstasy, union; a mystical experience of enlightenment
  • Yoga, defined in various ways, also in relation to Vedanta narrative. dualism and monism in yogic thought.
  • 3 periods pre-classical (or Vedanta), classical (Patanjali 2nd cent. CE), and post-classical (ex. Shankara, 8th cent). Important that Patanjali's period represents a dualist approach. Purusa / Prakrati. Spirit / Nature, roughly.
  • Teacher/disciple model.

From Miller, p 6 and following:

  • Yoga found in ancient Indian (Hindu) thought. Meditative figures on coins from 3,000 bc. Rig Veda has image of a yogi who, by achieving physical control through asanas (poses) and physical austerities (fasting, meditation, etc.), achieves access to a "deeper realm" of insights about reality.
  • Note comparison with Buddhism. See Tables below. Yoga older, but co-development interesting.
  • Yoga in Bhagvad Gita: Arjuna, warrior, locked in battle with his own kin. Important conversation with Krishna. (Pre-classical)
  • note p. 11, Axial Age transition from warrior to moral culture. Sage's powers become moral and lead to personal fulfillment and enlightenment.

  • From Feuerstein and Miller you should gather a general picture of the cultural and historical milleu of Yogic thought and practice.

Miller, Yoga: Discipline of Freedom, Introduction

This is an introduction to her edition / translation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.

"The aim of yoga is to eliminate the control that material nature exerts over the human spirit, to rediscover through introspective practice what the poet T. S. Eliot called the "still point of the turning world." " This is a state of perfect equilibrium and absolute spiritual calm, an interior refuge in the chaos of worldly existence. In the view of Patanjali, yogic practice can break habitual ways of thinking and acting that bind one to the corruptions of everyday life."

From Samkhya dualism:

The Three Gunas: Lucidity (sattva), Passion (rajas), and inertia (tamas).

follow Miller's discussion of thought proces (citta), "tyranny of uncontrollable thought," reducing thought "traces" or "seeds". goal to make thought "invulnerable" to the chaos of mental and physical stimuli. (discussion: And this is a good thing because....?)

In Patanjali:

  • First, there's a process of "unenlightenment" -- Purusa becomes bound to prakrati. Enlightenment is about undoing the this entanglement.

(from Farhi)

Five Kleshas in Patanjali:

  • 1. Avidha: Ignorance of our eternal nature
  • 2. Asmita: Seeing oneself as separate and divided from the rest ofthe world
  • 3. Raga: Attraction and attachment to impermanent things
  • 4. Dvesha: Aversion to the unpleasant
  • 5. Abhinivesha: Clinging to life because we fail to perceive the seamless continuity of consciousness, which cannot be broken by death (Yoga-Sutra 13)

  • Ashtanga Yoga -- eight fold program (from wikipedia):

Sanskrit English
Yama moral codes
Niyama self-purification and study
Asana posture
Pranayama breath control
Pratyahara sense control
Dharana intention
Dhyana meditation
Samadhi contemplation

Fahri, The Four Brahmavihara

The Brahmavihara are four attittudes Patanjali recommends developing:

  • 1. Friendliness toward the joyful
  • 2. Compassion for those who are sufferuig
  • 3. Celebrating the good in others
  • 4. Remaining impartial to the faults and imperfections of others(Yoga-Sutra 1.33)
  • Note Fahri's more "social" focus.
  • Follow, in some detail, her discussion of each Brahmavihara. Importance of cultivating empathy
  • Note how this stands philosophical wisdom on it's head.

Additional Quote on Goal of Yoga

from T. S. Rumani, " Samkhya-Yoga," Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy

October 24, 2011 (13)

Additional Thoughts on Yoga Philosophy

  • Relation of Yoga to its own metaphysics.
  • Metaphorics of purification by altering the subjective environment for experience (mood, mental noise, negative emotion). Reliance on visualization. Hypothesis.
  • Puzzle about focus on the physical in a dualist point of view.

Hall and Gilbert on Cognitive Bias in Expected Value Problems

  • Expected value problems -- examples of in Gilbert. Problems in both valuation and estimation of odds. p. 87 desc. of problem of valuation.
  • Reinforcement learning and dopamine cycle. read p. 84-85.
  • "Attentional blink" and "decisional paralysis"
  • Ap Dijksterhuis - on "deliberation without attention" - connects with discussion of training subjective states of mind for better decision making.

Sternberg and Stanovich on Wisdom, Intelligence, and Creativity


  • Interested in both implicit and explicit theories that bring out the relationship of wisdom, intelligence, and creativity. Follow his own studies and rubric. More based on implicit research. At p. 147, research found external validation in correlation between wisdom prototype-resemblance and external measures of social intelligence and social judgement.
  • Behavioral ratings experiment (similar to MDS study in Clayton and Birren) [Interesting details on Philosophy and Business Professors!]
  • 2nd and 3rd experiments confirm closer association of wisdon and intelligence vs. wisdom and creativity.
  • Follow Sternberg's explicit model and conclusion. Read p. 152.
  • Explicit research: discuss matrix at 152. note on automatization. mixing of characteristics of intelligence and creativity in wisdom.
  • Conclusion: read p. 157.


  • Reference to a literature on teaching of wisdom (good topic for further research).
  • notes that IQ tests don't typically track cognitive styles, thinking dispositions, and wisdom. 247
  • distinction between rationality of belief and rationality of action, 248. dictionary def of wisdom seems to include both.
  • Elster's distinction between thin and broad theories of rationality. mere instrumental reasoning is "thin" thin theories don't evaluate emotions much, but the difficulty of broad theories is that they require us to make a normative assessment of our desires.
  • Sternberg's view of rationality is broader still, since he includes balancing of perspectives of self and others. Notes other broad theories of rationality like Hargreaves Heap (!) who critiques instrumental theories as ignoring "expressive rationality" -- making sense of the self.
  • Note conclusion: the logic of teaching for wisdom: If teaching wisdom is about more than promoting intelligence, if it's also about changing thinking dispositions, then you have to justify it in terms of a broader notion of rationality than just intelligence. Normative conceptions of rationality could play a role in such a justification.

October 26, 2011

Stoicism Basics

  • Stoic View of the God, Self and Nature
  • Rationality of the Cosmos
  • Corporealism
  • Pantheism
  • Rationality in us: the "hegemonikon"
  • Stoic View of Virtue
  • Virtue required by our rational nature.
  • Virtue should be a sufficient goal for a rational creature.
  • Happiness is welcome but may depend upon many things I can't control.
  • Stoic Psychology
  • Rationality and the goal of tranquility
  • Analysis of suffering as "mismatch" between reality and our desires
  • Reason to think that achievement of virtue will create conditions for happiness.

Stoic Dates

  • 368- 283 Crates of Thebes - friend of Antisthenes (445-365), who was a pupil of Socrates (469-399)
  • 333-262 Zeno of Citium - credited as founder of Stoicism
  • 331-232 Cleanthes
  • 277-204 Chrysippus of Soli - 705 rolls written, 0 survive to date
  • fl. 200 Zeno of Tarsus
  • 230-150 Diogenes of Babylon - famous visit to Rome to spread stoicism (156-155)
  • 200-129 Antipater of Tarsus
  • Posidonius of Apemen - contemporary of Cicero (106-43)
  • 3-65 Seneca
  • 50-120 Epictetus
  • 121-180 Marcus Aurelius

Two Problems in Stoicism

Negative Visualization

  • Negative Visualization as a technique in cultivating Stoic Wisdom.
  1. Helps prevent neg outcome
  2. Helps lessen impact of neg event
  3. Forestalls/Reverses hedonic adaptation.
  • Is Negative Visualization a bad idea?
  • Could increase desire for good things and hence disappointment at loss.
  • Could neg. visualization increase pessimism?
  • Projective Visualization - p.79

Stoic Control

  • Dichotomy and Trichotomy of Control
  • Need to account for mixed cases -- some control
  • Need to internalize goals -- goal is playing best game (working) vs. winning (getting a grade, a job). Good advice?
  • Is the Stoic focus on things under our control a counsel of withdrawl?
  • Is the Stoic focus on "wanting what you can get vs. getting what you want" a low standard?

October 31, 2011

Youth, Adversity, and Wisdom (Hall 12)

  • Story of the scientist, Capechhi.
  • Parker (Stanford) research on squirrel monkeys.
  • In theorizing about this, we need to acknowledge, as Hall does, that abnormal stress can also cause psychopathologies.
  • Note competing theory: Maternal support causes resilience. McGill researcher Michael Meaney.

Getting deeper into the "age of onset" question

  • Fredda Blancard-Fields -- on how people of different ages respond to stressful situations. shows that older adults have measureable gains in social knowledge and emotional judgement, increasing problem solving skills. Both she and Carstensen have found evidence of comparatively better performance among older people when it comes to devising strategies for solving problems, precisely because older people tend to process emotion differently. (232)
  • Decay of the brain (230)
  • Background: reminder that Baltes didn't find older were wiser.
  • Need for longitudinal study to see connection bt wisdom and age. Vaillant's secondary research on the Harvard longitudinal study, The Grant Study of Adult Development.
  • Hall tries to push through the Fredian rhetoric of Vaillant's "Adaptation to Life" -- finds older people use "productive tricks" (234) and strategies: "1? Vaillant, echoing Anna Freud, came around to the view that successfully mature adults displayed such emotional strategies as "altruism, humor, suppression, anticipation.and sublimation." (Glosses "sublimation" as "emotional regulation")
  • Ardelt worked with Vaillant on follow studies with this data: "Her preliminary analysis has turned up a strong correlation between those same mature defense mechanisms identified by Vaillant and a more charitable, compassionate pattern of behavior. This other-centeredness was independent of wealth, she found; some well-to-do Harvard men were especially effective in their charitable donations and activities, while others came from more modest backgrounds." 237
  • point from Anna Freud: Maybe older people get better at social strategies like "altruism, humor, suppression, anticipation, and sublimation." 235

  • 238: research on older adults. note that if this hypothesis is correct, then research on college aged students is of limited value in filling in the whole picture.

Ardelt, Wisdom and Satisfaction in Old Age

  • three tiered theory of wisdom: wisdom occurs on cognitive, reflective and affective levels.
  • note bottom of first page. busting out of cog/delib model (from September).
  • "the domain of wisdom-related knowledge is interpretative knowledge, or the rediscovery of the significance of old truths through a deeper and more profound understanding of phenomena and events." 16
  • associates wisdom of old with decentered self - awareness of limitations liberating.
  • working with population from the Berkeley Guidance Study. administered a life satisfaction instrument "satisfaction with different areas of life, satisfaction with one's lot in life, and congruence between desired and achieved goals." 17
  • note how research works - 18
  • results p. 22-- pos. correlation for both men and women, but stronger for men.