Spring 2015 Wisdom Course Study Questions

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JAN 14

JAN 21

  1. What are the principle traits and defining characteristics of wisdom on Hall's definition? Do they seem justified in light of your own paradigmatic image(s) of wisdom (situtations within you judge or hypothesize wise thought or action of some kind)?
  2. (In Robinson) What are some characteristics of Homeric culture that distinguish its model of wisdom?
  3. Is Socrates' legend a testimony to the reality of wisdom?
  4. What is the Axial Age Hypothesis? Evaluate.
  5. Distinguish Periclean and Socratic models of wisdom.
  6. What is Aristotle's view of wisdom? (Consider both Robinson and next week's Clayton and Birren)
  7. Describe and evaluate Gisela Labouvie-Vief's criticism of Western models of cognition.

JAN 28

1. What, if anything, does Clayton and Birren's multi-dimensional scaling study show? about how the nature of wisdom is perceived by age cohorts?

2. How does Ardelt explain variation on life satisfaction of older adults in terms of wisdom?

3. How might the subjective sense of "time remaining" affect the onset of wisdom or create a condition for it's emergence?


1. How should we account for the way wisdom moves from religious to secular forms of culture and "disappears" after the scientific revolution?

2. What are the distinctive themes and foci of the 1st generation of empirical wisdom research?

3. What does research on emotional regulation tell us about the nature of wisdom in the life span?

FEB 11

1. What is the basic construct of wisdom in Baltes' paradigm. What assumptions underlie his team's approach?

2. What is a meta-heuristic and what is it's relevance to wisdom? What is SOC theory and how might it qualify as a meta-heuristic for wisdom?

3. What are some of the constraints and limits of social science theorizing about wisdom?

FEB 18

1. What can contemporary moral psychology (Hall Ch. 6 and Haidt EmoDog) tell us about the connection between emotion, moral decision making, and wisdom?

2. What is the value of compassion? How could experiencing the pain of others be connected to wisdom? What experiences can disclose my capacity for compassion?

3. What is humility, what would I look for to know if I have it, and how, at a psychological level, is it related to wisdom? Can humility survive in a careerist, individualist competitive (rather than cooperative) society?

FEB 25

1. What is the Buddhist analysis of suffering and enlightenment?

2. How would a Buddhist (such as Ricard) make the case for egolessness as a personal wisdom goal? Evaluate the case.


1. What are some of the lessons and insights from the neurological study of decision making and reinforcement learning for wise decision-making?

2. Why do we make such bad decisions, according to Gilbert, and what can we do about it?

MAR 18

1. What is the Stoic diagnosis of suffering and how is it to be relieved? Bring in background concepts and assumptions in order to make your characterization effective.

2. Critically assess stoicism as a philosophy of wisdom.

3. What is the principle evidence and counterevidence for the hypothesis that resilience might be cultivated by exposure to adversity?

MAR 25

1. How do cultural evolution theories like R&B's model cooperation as a property of cultures.

2. How do cultural formations like religions function to potentially increase adaptiveness of groups?

3. Does it make sense to think of cultural theories of cooperation (whether through learning or commitment to religious communities) as suggestive of models of wisdom at the cultural level? Assess, considering also other properties and values that might indicate a cultural system that was relatively "wise".


1. Is there a distinctive emotional response called "elevation" as Haidt argues for it? What function might it serve in relation to wisdom?

2. What are the primary implications of viewing altruism, fairness, and punishment through the lense of the prisoner's dilemma and public goods games? What lessons for wisdom might be inferred? Assess.

3. Are there "sick societies"? Do our cultural theories from this week and last week give us resources of explaining how sick societies might emerge and persist in spite of not serving human well-being?


1. What are some of the structural features of proverbs and how might they have effects in daily life.

2. What are some of the specific themes of the Book of Proverbs? What themes would contemporary Proverbs focus on?

APR 15

1. What are the distinctive wisdom teachings in Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon?

2. What is the significance of God's approval of Job's response to his suffering?

3. What is the "vanity" that Ecclesiastes rails against?

4. Do the wisdom lessons of these three books for a unity?

APR 22

1. What are some of the main reasons Wilson doubts our implicit theories and metaphors for introspection?

2. Is it true that reasoning and analysis can distort feeling? How?

3. How does the research reported in Chapter 9 support the view that we need third person evidence to have 1st person knowledge?

APR 29