Fall 2011 Wisdom Course Study Questions

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September 12, 2011

1. How is Pericles wisdom different from Socrates'? What terms from Greek philosophy describe each?

2. Drawing on the Hall reading, how might contemporary science tell us something about wisdom?

3. Identify definitions of wisdom and traits associated with wisdom.

4. Identify the general views on wisdom of Socrates, Buddha, and Confucius.

5. Describe the "perspective shift" in the Aquinas quote in the Robinson article. Does this seem like a basic trait of wise thinking?

September 14, 2011

1. What is Socrates' view of wisdom? How did he come to this view? What insights and limitations does it hold for you?

2. How does Plato connect a belief in the soul to the idea of wisdom as a transcendent state of knowledge? How does the myth of reincarnation fill in his view of the task of pursuing wisdom?

3. What is Aristotle's basic theory of wisdom?

4. According to Osbeck, how is wisdom a kind of "making" for Aristotle?

September 19, 2011

1. What is Labouvie-Vief's critique of Platonic thought and what remedy does she propose?

2. What were the chief results of Clayton and Birren's multidimensional scaling research on wisdom?

3. What explanation might be offered for the result that older people value experience by not necessarily age in defining wisdom?

4. From the Clayton and Birren article, what would you say are the major theoretical claims of life span psychology regarding wisdom?

September 21, 2011

1. How did contemporary psychological work on wisdom get started in the 70s and 80s? Who were the main figures and what initial question and theories did they pose?

2. What, in general, was the Berlin Wisdom Pardigm? What did it's critics say about it?

3. How did researchers like Laura Carstensen investigate the hypothesis that older adults excel at emotional regulation and that this might be related to wisdom? What is her "time horizon" theory?

4. What is the grandparent hypothesis?

September 26, 2011

1. What are the major assumptions and features of the Baltes Paradigm of Wisdom?

2. Explicate and critically evaluate the five-criteria in Baltes' definition.

3. How did Baltes operationalize his definition of wisdom? Can wisdom be studied this way?

4. How does Aristotle figure out what happiness is in Book 1 of the Nichomachean Ethics?

5. Summarize and evaluate Aristotle's view of practical wisdom as "reasoned and true state of capacity to act with regard to human goods". Consider, for example, the relationships among practical wisdom, science, and knowledge.

September 28, 2011

1. What does it mean to think of wisdom as a "meta-heuristic"?

2. What is SOC theory and why might it related to wisdom theory? How is it similar/different?

3. Summarize some of the key research findings from the Berlin Paradigm.

October 10, 2011 (10)

1. Using Philo of Alexander and other sources, describe the hellenistic ideal of wisdom. Identify some problems and challenges it poses.

2. Drawing on both Hall and Haidt, how do our moral and emotional natures relate in moral decision making? How would a wise person experience their emotions?

3. According to Haidt, how do moral reasoning processes interact with other cognitive processes? What implications for wisdom training might follow from this perspective?


October 12, 2011 (11)

1. What is compassion? To what extent can it be studied scientifically?

2. Identify specific challenges or problems to pursuing compassion and humility as a wisdom strategy. Then identify a strong Buddhist response to these challenges and evaluated that response.

3. Follow and evaluate Ricard's presentation of the Buddhist analysis of suffering and the remedy to suffering.


October 19, 2011 (12)

1. From reference sources and Feuerstein, prepare a historical overview of Yoga in its historical and cultural context, and in comparison with early Buddhism. Compare, for example, the 8-fold path in Buddhism with ashtanga yogas. Give a sense of the range of yogic philosophies and the distinctive characteristics of it as a set of practices.

2. Reconstruct and evaluate Patanjali's philosophy in the Yoga Sutras, based on your reading of Barbara Miller. Consider both the goals, theories, and philosophical commitments of this classical yoga philosophy.

3. How does Donna Farhi explain the four Brahmavihara? Raise and consider critical questions about the wisdom of this practical advice.

4. What does Farhi mean by calling yoga a "life practice"?

October 24, 2011 (13)

1. Explain the problem of expected value and the evidence of our difficulty in calculating it in particular cases.

2. How does the "fishing for crabs" experiment and neuroeconomics research in general suggest a way of thinking about the dopamine cycle's involvement in reward and motivation?

3. How might results of cognitive research and theorizing about "attentional blink," "decision paralysis," and "deliberation without attention" relate to traditional philosophies, such as Yoga?

October 26, 2011 (14)

1. Drawing on the Enchiridion, class notes, and the Long essay, reconstruction the Stoics' basic philosophy and rationales.

2. What is the purpose of "negative visualization" according to Irvine. Assess his position.

3. Reconstruction Irvine's analysis of the "dichotomy of control" in Stoicism. Why does he think his revision of this doctrine in an improvement. Is he right?

4. How does Stoic wisdom involve a change in our subjective outlook on things?

October 31, 2011 (15)

1. Explain Parker's research on resilience with vervet monkeys, as well as Meany's work on maternal support, and its relevance to wisdom studies?

2. Summarize research by Fredda Blancard-Fields and others on compensating development factors in aging related to wisdom. What hypotheses does this research support about the nature of wisdom?

3. How does Ardelt research the relationship between wisdom and life satisfaction in old age. What are some potential criticisms of her approach?

4. Develop a more detailed understanding of Carstensen's "time horizon" theory. How does related research help develop this hypothesis?

November 7, 2011 (17)

1. How is the book of Proverbs structured? What was its historical use?

2. How do Proverbs work at a linguistic and verbal level?

3. How might Proverbs have functioned socially to maintain values in a group or tribe?

November 9, 2011 (18)

1. Recount the Job story and it's major "lessons".

2. Does Job's message count as wisdom? Why or why not?

3. What is the philosophical message of Ecclesiastes? How can it's author's find life meaningful given what they say about our insignificance?

November 14, 2011 (19)

1. What "social wisdom role" might Job play?

2. How has Song of Solomon traditionally been interpreted? How do more recent literal interpretations help us understand it in connection with social wisdom?

3. Give an analysis of some of the themes and concerns of Koranic wisdom quotes (Islamic Research Foundation), especially in relation to other proverbs and councils of wisdom we have studied.

4. How do the metaphysical and psychological commitments of Islam provide a model for the pursuit of wisdom?

November 16, 2011 (20)

1. What is Sufism and how, as an instance of mysticism, does it model wisdom?

2. Identify and summarize research on Game Theory, the Ultimatum Game, and the Public Goods Game.

3. How might game theoretic research bear on the problem of modelling social wisdom?

November 28, 2011 (22)

1. How does David Sloan Wilson use cultural evidence from the Balinese, Judaism, and early Christianity to make the argument that there might be group selection effects from religious practices?

2. What is "elevation" for Jonathan Haidt? How would a theory of elevation help explain some aspects of our experience of religion, particularly its ability to form social bonds among believers?

3. How does Haidt relate the experience of awe to a "shift in perspective" (consider the example of Arjuna)? Could the capacity to experience awe be related to wisdom?