Fall 2011 Wisdom Course Study Question Answers

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Hey everyone, so as Dr. Alfino announced, there was interest in a group study page, and so here it is!

September 12, 2011

  • 1. How is Pericles wisdom different from Socrates'? What terms from Greek philosophy describe each?
    • Socrates' wisdom is ideal/abstract, it is ultimately a divine trait. He views it as pure contemplation...(Sophia. **Pericles' wisdom was about enhancing politics in Rome, he was a man of action...(Phronesis)
  • 2. Drawing on the Hall reading, how might contemporary science tell us something about wisdom?
    • Psychologists idea that in "reasoning, emotion plays a major role in reason, and wisdom may have a lot to do with knowing when emotion is helpful and when it is not." The chapter describes a type of emotion regulation. Hall p.16-17.
  • 3. Identify definitions of wisdom and traits associated with wisdom.
    • Practicing one's knowledge.
    • Wisdom is like other things that look simple, but are really complex.
    • Good judgement and advice about important but uncertain matters.
    • Expert knowledge system in the domain, fundamental life pragmatics.
    • empathetic, knowledge, virtuous, innovative, realistic, cautious, accepting experience age/experience, "street smart" (as opposed to book smart), personality and charisma, serenity abstract thinking, simple lifestyle, moral transc., discipline insightful, open-minded, humble, developed capacity for self-reflection sacrifice, experience, age, character, education (formal/informal), well-spoken, just, awareness of world / others, application of knowledge, rational, open minded, looking at the bigger picture, reflective
  • 4. Identify the general views on wisdom of Socrates, Buddha, and Confucius.
    • For Socrates, wisdom is a property of the divine. Paradoxically, humans are wise primarily to the extent that they realize that they do not possess wisdom. Socrates (and Plato) are pretty clear in other dialogues (cf. Meno) that knowing that you do not know something is better than thinking that you do. The Sophists, whom Socrates refers to as the paid teachers of the youth, help people acquire a pretense of knowledge. Poets don't even understand their own poems, so how could they have wisdom? Craftsmen, interestingly, do have some wisdom according to Socrates, but they overgeneralize from the domain in which they do have wisdom to areas in which they do not
    • Confucius described wisdom and goodness as essential to ruling, they still must be carried out with dignity and according to propriety. He believed that the ultimate virtue was the love of man and the ultimate wisdom the understanding of man. He explained why:
      • The one whose wisdom brings one into power, needs goodness to secure that power. Else, though one gets it, one will certainly lose it. The one whose wisdom brings one into power and who has goodness to secure that power, if one has not dignity to approach the common people, they will not respect that one. The one whose wisdom has brought one into power, who has goodness to secure that power, and dignity to approach the common people, if one handles them contrary to the rules of propriety, full excellence is not reached.[Virtue of Confucius]
  • 5. Describe the "perspective shift" in the Aquinas quote in the Robinson article. Does this seem like a basic trait of wise thinking?
    • Wisdom differs from mere science in looking at things from a greater height. The same holds true in practical matters. Sometimes a decision has to be taken that cannot follow the common rules of procedure... Consequently a higher judging virtue is called for, that kind of prudence is called gnome, or the ability of seeing through things.
    • Shifting your perspectives to have a greater understanding of the situation definitely seems like a wise practice.

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?
    • Socrates believed that people had a pretense to knowledge, and that was how philosophy was born. The Socratic irony was that Socrates thought the only way of knowing something for certain was through transcendence, when it would no longer be of use. His two beliefs were that humility is a big part of wisdom, and that there is likely no such thing as human wisdom. Socrates came to this view through annoying much of the people of after the Oracle at Delphi said he was the wisest man.
    • Socrates is contemplative. He believes wisdom is transcendent/divine knowledge. His view of wisdom is ideal and abstract. Human wisdom has little value. Wisdom is knowing your ignorance (negative wisdom) and one who knows that he/she knows nothing.
    • INSIGHT(S). Socrates claim says we can’t possess knowledge.I still have confidence that we can have objective certainty because of positive knowledge. We can question authority figures or presuppositions.
    • LIMITATION(S). Complexity in fundamental limits to our ability. An example of this is marriage and parenting. We will never overcome this ignorance.
  • 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?
    • Plato believed that the soul was immortal, and therefore knowledge would be eternal, specifically invariable knowledge. If we can understand eternal knowledge, then we must be in part eternal as well. In Phaedo, Plato discusses how reincarnation leads to sage hood and with disembodiment would come wisdom.
    • Plato’s philosophy marks the beginning of organizing thought in a more structured manner. This is the contrast between Homeric wisdom and Platonic wisdom; Homeric wisdom is embedded in action, like Achilles. Platonic wisdom emphasizes rationality and logos. Logos vs. Mythos – mythos is observed more as an emotional state (most obvious in children) while, Logos is like when older children and adults assume roles from the outside world which are systematic and reasoned. For Plato, mental functioning is no longer identified with the organic and the mythic – the senses, with action, with poeticized accounts of reality. Rather it resides in our ability to step back from the purely sensory. The artistic, the poetic, and the mythic, he claims, deal not with the truthful eternal nature of things, but rather with their phenomenal appearance. The mind hence is completely stripped of its mythos roots.
    • This relates back to the idea of Platonic Dualism, which says that someone can only achieve wisdom if his or her soul is disconnected from the body (the body creates barriers to achieving wisdom because of all its needs). He believes that knowledge is abstract and ideal, and therefore the knower of the knowledge also needs to be abstract and ideal. Plato wanted to believe that each time the body is reincarnated, the person becomes more pure because it is detaching itself from physical needs and objects. However, he realized that this is not always true and that even through reincarnation, you could still come back not any wiser (like a slug).
  • 3. What is Aristotle's basic theory of wisdom?
    • Aristotle's basic theories of wisdom were pretty opposite of Plato's; the soul dies when the body does, there are no forms, no eternal place, but believed their was invariable knowledge. For Aristotle, there was two types of knowledge within the rational part of the soul: the science part, and the calculative part. Science lead to laws and invariable truths, where the calculative mind lead to deliberation (judgement/variable), intellect, and desire, which had to be controlled. The Greek words for the two parts are episteme and phronesis, respectively. Aristotle thought that deliberation was a human good, and key to wisdom.
    • The virtuous action consists of the mean between two extremes: excess and deficiency. In any given situation, one can be said to act in a brave manner (which would be the virtuous choice), in a rash manner (the extreme of excess) or cowardly (the extreme of deficiency). Thus not only is the mean not easily determined, but it also varies with each individual: a nurse will not be expected to be brave in the same way a fireman would be. Thus it is important for individuals to find the mean that suits them best. Finding the mean path of action for each event is not an exact science – that is why Aristotle insists that a repeated practice is essential to leading a virtuous life; one cannot be called virtuous based on a single action. In fact, to be called virtuous a person should possess all virtues. Moreover, the goal of all things and of all actions is happiness and the good. Thus by avoiding all extremes, virtue’s aim is to achieve the good. A person with a good character will possess all virtues and will therefore act virtuously. This also means that there will be happiness and enjoyment in the choice of the virtuous action: though it may not be the case from the beginning, proper training will allow for enjoyment. For example, a stingy person will learn, after enough experiences, to enjoy generous acts.
  • 4. According to Osbeck, how is wisdom a kind of "making" for Aristotle?
    • Osbeck said that Aristotle saw wisdom as an art form, like sculpting and chipping away at the self to find the invariable truths that would make one wise. Through living and deliberating on practical knowledge given from past experiences, one could attain wisdom.
    • Aristotle considers knowledge & understanding reflective of “art” more than experience (Page 70, third paragraph)
    • Art consists in “knowledge of how to make things”…the “making” here implies the making of human life, implying purposeful effort in directing choices toward the development of character in accordance with knowledge of what is good
      • “A man should have practical wisdom for the sake of becoming good”
    • Experience may influence & shape, but purposeful self-direction toward the good life is not implied or required by experience alone.
    • Many are experienced but unwise
    • Aristotle’s theory of virtue states that if you practice virtue you will be virtuous. Therefore, if you practice being virtuous you will become virtuous. Unless you make an effort to be virtuous you will not succeed. You must motivate yourself and make a habit of being virtuous. It is something that must be self taught and is not known strait from birth. This sort of self-training is possible if there is motivation to become virtuous. This type of training is desirable because no one can tell someone else to be virtuous the individual must decide for themselves that they indeed want to be virtuous.

September 19, 2011

  • 1. What is Labouvie-Vief's critique of Platonic thought and what remedy does she propose?
    • Labouvie-Vief's critique is that Plato separates the emotions from wisdom, and was anti-body in terms of wisdom (attained through logos). L-V's remedy is "reintegrated thought" and embracing the body in the theory of wisdom, i.e. applying mythos to the theory of wisdom. She believed that since logos was a static idea and mythos was a more relative idea, they could be equally valued to bring about human wisdom. In order to have wisdom, the concept that humans are constantly moving and changing, that the good is changing meant that knowledge would have to be applied to culture with this aspect in mind (using mythos).
    • Labouvie-Vief's criticism of Platonic thought, as it pertains to wisdom, is based in Plato's dualism. Plato's view of disembodiment ignores some of Labouvie-Vief's fundamental attributes of wisdom for example; Platonic thought would place little importance upon subjective and psychological dimensions of life. Plato made the assumption that a person can think independently of the influence of their own subjective experience. Plato’s separation of mythos and logos and overall denial of the importance of mythos denies the roots of the human experience. This mechanization of thought to the extent that there can be thought without thinkers was viewed as a fundamental flaw. While Piaget (formal cognitive developmental theorist) acknowledged that mythos is the root from which logos is formed, Piaget like Plato devalues mythos in later forms of development. On the other hand, Perry (post formal cognitive development) explained the shift to logos as a lack of development of meta-language to connect logos and mythos, suggesting that intelligence and wisdom are associated with the mature reconnection or development of logos and mythos used interdependently. According to Labouvie-Vief, “the mature individual, in turn, realizes that the subjective and communal are a necessary part of one’s endeavors to be objective” (72).
  • 2. What were the chief results of Clayton and Birren's multidimensional scaling research on wisdom?
    • History has claimed that wisdom is a positive quality associated with the onset of old age. Compared attributes associated with the young and old with attributes of the wise. Although the older subjects did not judge themselves as any wiser than the younger subjects, the younger subjects attributed wisdom to the older subjects.
    • All subjects perceived wisdom as a "multidimensional attribute involving the integration of general cognitive, affective, and reflective components" (130).
  • 3. What explanation might be offered for the result that older people value experience by not necessarily age in defining wisdom?
    • An old person that has never been outside couldn't possibly give advice on when a coat would be acceptable and for what weather, despite their age, something not similarly experienced before couldn't be advised upon. Older people would value experience more than age, because they are already at the age where young people thought that the wisdom would be pouring in, but the old people realize it isn't the years of life they have but the quality of life.
  • 4. From the Clayton and Birren article, what would you say are the major theoretical claims of life span psychology regarding wisdom?
    • Wisdom is a type of knowledge, with attributes that are multidimensional, and is used as a guiding principle in society (grandparent hypothesis). Current society's end are for high production, and not for reflection and values problem solving abilities over the value of asking broader questions (relative versus universal). The specialization of one type of knowledge is not wisdom, it is the multidimensional aspect of knowledge that leads to 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?
    • In the late 1970's, psychology began to wonder about wisdom. Psychology was a practically new field, only been around for less than a hundred years. Vivian Clayton started to wonder about development and if wisdom was the final stage. She wondered if wisdom could compensate for deterioration in the old people (heightened study of gerontology). Could old people balance emotion better?
  • 2. What, in general, was the Berlin Wisdom Pardigm? What did it's critics say about it?
    • The Berlin Wisdom Paradigm was the experiment used to study wisdom scientifically. As a function of an expert knowledge system, wisdom would certainly surface thus the five criteria that collectively make up what is classically called wisdom was born. Critics believed that since wisdom was mysterious, and empirically hard to find, science couldn't possibly be used to determine who was wise. The idea was that if a model for wisdom was created it could be held up by society as a proof.
  • 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?
    • The time horizon theory is an idea that when the person begins to see their life coming to a close, the person becomes more oriented to accepting events, and more in control of emotional responses and therefore brings about a certain element of wisdom. The fatalist ideology of the time horizon is that emotional balance and perspective are huge components of attaining wisdom.
    • Older people are generally better at regulating emotions because of their sense of (limited) time left to live. "When your time perspective shortens...you tend to focus on emotionally meaningful goals. When the time horizon is long, you focus on knowledge acquisition" (Hall 63). "Older people experience negative emotions less frequently than younger people, exercise better control over their emotions and...rebound quickly from adverse moments" (Hall 63).The fact that older people have a shorter "time horizon" makes them more concerned with social connections and emotional richness - while young people have an "open-ended sense of the future" and pursue the acquisition of knowledge instead."Carpe diem" attitude is not necessarily tied to age, it occurs whenever a persons "time horizon" shifts. "It has already been detected, for example, in young people exposed to life-altering public events, like the September 11 attacks in the United States" (Hall 71-72).
  • 4. What is the grandparent hypothesis?
    • Idea that older people play and evolutionary role by passing on life knowledge. Contribute personal and material resources. A response to people beyond child bearing years cannot contribute anything.

September 26, 2011

  • 1. What are the major assumptions and features of the Baltes Paradigm of Wisdom?
    • “Lifespan psychology”. Attempt to test wisdom in an empirical fashion. It involved participants conducting “read-alouds” and giving honest answers. Answers that spanned the five factors of wisdom were considered wise.
  • 2. Explicate and critically evaluate the five-criteria in Baltes' definition.
    • Dual Process:
      • 1. Mechanics-Basic Information Processing
        • content free
        • universal, biological
        • genetic differences
      • 2. Pragmatics-Factual and Procedural
        • content rich
        • cultural dependent
        • experience based differences
    • Expert system (1&2)
      • Factual knowledge: general specific knowledge about conditions of life and its variations
      • Rich procedural knowledge: general and specific knowledge about strategies of judgment and advice concerning matters of life
      • Life Span Contextualism: knowledge about the contexts of life and their temporal (developmental) relationships
      • Relativism: knowledge about differences in values, goals, and priorities
      • Uncertainty: knowledge about the relative indeterminancy and unpredictability of life and ways to manage it
  • 3. How did Baltes operationalize his definition of wisdom? Can wisdom be studied this way?
    • Wisdom is a developed factual and procedural knowledge with judgments, cultivated with the daily pragmatics of life. Wisdom is developed in the human mind with in the context it is observed/experienced. This leads to the progression of contextual intelligence which I linked to the theory of experiential knowledge. Given Baltes' theory that wisdom is a matter of adaptive cognition given a personal set of experiential knowledge, he comes up with the conclusion that wisdom is not empirical. He concludes that humans develop their skills (sort of like bow-staff skills) through active cognition, or simply put active reflection on past life experiences of learned/observed knowledge
  • 4. How does Aristotle figure out what happiness is in Book 1 of the Nichomachean Ethics?
    • Aristotle's method for happiness is found through asking "Why?" By evaluating what desires are means to an end, and ends, Aristotle theorizes that happiness must be the ultimate end because one would like to achieve happiness to be happy. Since there is no greater end, so virtues lead to a happy soul.
  • 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.
    • Read Pg 5 of Nicomachean Ethics
      • "Therefore, wisdom must be intuitive reason combined with scientific knowledge –scientific knowledge of the highest objects which has received as it were its proper completion”
      • “…what is wise is the same but what is practically wise is different; for it is to that which observes well the various matters concerning itself that one ascribes practical wisdom, and it is to this that one will entrust such matters. This is why we say that some even of the lower animals have wisdom, viz. those which are found to have a power of foresight with regard to their own life.”
      • Therefore, they are different.
    • "It is evident also that philosophic wisdom and the art of politics cannot be the same; for if the state of mind concerned with a man’s own interests is to be called philosophic wisdom, there will be many philosophic wisdoms; there will not be one concerned with the good of all animals, but a different philosophic wisdom about the good of each species.”
      • Philosophical wisdom- Scientific knowledge combined with intuitive reason, of the things that are highest by nature, e.g. Anaxagoras & Thales- They know things that are remarkable, admirable, difficult, and divine…but usless.
      • Practical Wisdom- Concerned with things human and things about which it is possible to deliberate, i.e. not concerned about universals only, put also the particulars about life, not specific tasks concerned with action defined: "Practical wisdom ... must be a reasoned and true state of capacity to act with regard to human goods."
    • For human good:
      • Idion ergon: distinguished humans from other animals…this is living out & fulfilling your purpose
      • Human good is objective; happiness is the activity of the soul in accordance with virtue
      • Human good is objective, but all people pursue through excellence (unique to their particular function)
      • So…wisdom is related to happiness, or human good.

September 28, 2011

  • 1. What does it mean to think of wisdom as a "meta-heuristic"?
    • Thinking of wisdom as a "meta-heuristic," is thinking of wisdom as a form of a fast, time saving rule of thumb or short-cut when making life choices. The difference between a meta-heuristic from a proverb is that proverbs are usually tailored to a more detailed part of life, e.g. measure twice, cut once. This is likely more a proverb as it is not general enough to help govern a life choice, but the proverb could be more meta-heuristic if it was along the lines of "think twice before you act." Meta-heuristics can be learned from experiences, if you are always losing money through making bad choices, it would only reaffirm your stock in "Quit while your ahead."
  • 2. What is SOC theory and why might it related to wisdom theory? How is it similar/different?
    • SOC theory is a theory in life-span psychology that can be broken down into the three components: Selection, Optimization, Compensation. The theory delineates and reviews life goals by using three heuristics; 1., selection of gain-based goals, through deliberating, articulating and life planning; 2., optimization of means, or management of life using procedural knowledge; 3., compensation, that is the response to loss or response to events.
    • This seems to be a type of practical wisdom that enables a person to over come their deficiencies or disabilities with learned behavior or tricks. An example of this that relatively easy to relate to is found in Space Cowboys, I thank it was Donald Sutherland’s character that was having problems reading the eye chart. So he quickly memorized it and recited it off to the doctor to pass the sight portion of his flight physical. People as animals find ways to succeed in their lives some times this requires adaptation early on in life, other time it becomes a compensation for a disability. I think that most of the wisdom characteristics we see comes out of the compensation portion SOC, after all age and deceit will always trump youth and strength.
  • 3. Summarize some of the key research findings from the Berlin Paradigm.
    • Some of the research finding were that high scores were rare amongst the groups. Also, from late adolescence to early adulthood, the data supported a development of wisdom and found that there was no increase in wisdom in relation to age. Scores had some correlation to three factors: context-related (age, religion, and education), expertise-related (mentors, role models, professional training, and life experiences), and person-related (intelligence, personality traits, and motivation), which appeared to be contributing factors.

October 10, 2011

  • 1. Using Philo of Alexander and other sources, describe the hellenistic ideal of wisdom. Identify some problems and challenges it poses.
  • 2. 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?
    • Emotion in moral decision making means that the emotion or intuition comes first, then rationalization. Haidt describes this at the “emotional dog with the rational tail.” One example of where we use emotion to make a moral decision is in Marc Hauser’s Trolley Problem. fMRIs were taken of people doing the trolley problem, and evidence of emotional and automatic cognition was found in the brain scans. This “social intuitionism” is not just about consulting our emotions, but the ability to actually change our emotional structure. What causes us to act is our relatively intuitive automatic part of our brain. Implications that the evidence on emotion in moral decision making are concentrated around several key questions: can we change our responsibilities? What guidelines do we use? and can we train our emotional responses? In what ways? It might sound good to say that wise people train their emotions, but in relation to what?

October 12, 2011

  • 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.
    • Humilty is supposed to be expressed in a limited way, compassion maybe helpful to our flourishing, see buddhism (relief from ignorance), but wisdom has a lot to do with the making of ourselves (Aristotle).
  • 3. Follow and evaluate Ricard's presentation of the Buddhist analysis of suffering and the remedy to suffering.

October 19, 2011

  • 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.
    • Yoga's path to wisdom involves having good intentions and leading a good life, rather than focusing on gaining knowledge of wisdom. (?)
    • Meditation and the physical practice of Yoga can change one's emotional state of control to be able to think through life's situations, changes one's approach
    • Suffering is a part of life. And so, there is also an origin of suffering, which can be causally analyzed. Find the cause of suffering, allows one to put an end to it, but in order to put an end to suffering, one must follow a specific path. This path is most commonly the 8 Fold Path that Feuerstein presents. This however is no enough to overcome suffering. One must also understand that permanence is not found on earth and so one must sever all feelings of permanence in order to eliminate suffering. This means that one must relinquish the self, the ego, all material objects, attachments, cravings, etc. And so, what a person has to do is to see reality “as it is” and adjust one’s response to that understanding (the 4 Noble Truths). Which would actually be very helpful because it would allow one to realize that all things come to an end and so it is unreasonable to hold on to material objects and attachments when all will be lost in the end anyway. For many people however, this theory would be difficult, maybe even near impossible to put into action because materialism tends to have a strong hold upon people who relate their status and character to material things.
  • 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.
    • Patanjali concludes that the human condition is one in which the soul or person (purusa) is entangled in concerns and distractions of the material world (prakrati). He proposes that Yogic practices "break habitual ways of thinking and acting that bind one to the corruptions of the everyday world." Yoga's aim is to reassert the independence of the human spirit in the world at large, and to liminate the control exerted by material nature.
    • Kleshas Patanjali lists the five causes of suffering, or kleshas, as:
      • 1. Avidha: Ignorance of our eternal nature
      • 2. Asmita: Seeing oneself as separate and divided from the rest of the 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 hy death (Yoga-Sutra 2.3) -note rough parallel to Buddhist thought -return of the issue of the body - clinging to body a source of suffering.
    • The four Brahmavihara (attitudes):
      • 1. Friendliness toward the joyful
      • 2. Compassion for those who are suffering
      • 3. Celebrating the good in others
      • 4. Remaining impartial to the faults and imperfections of others (Yoga-Sutra 1.33) -note outward and social orientation - discuss individual / social in connection with justice. -role of visualization in this (see later on cog. psych.)
  • 3. How does Donna Farhi explain the four Brahmavihara? Raise and consider critical questions about the wisdom of this practical advice.
    • The 4 virtues or states are cultivated through mediation and are inter-related and support each other.
      • Metta- Loving kindness: being kind to all beings without discrimination or selfish attachment
      • Karuna - compassion; Active sympathy towards all beings from the realization that all sentient beings exist ::and form their identy from each other
      • Mudita - sypathetic joy; Altruistic joy in the happiness of others. The antitode to envy and jealousy.
      • Upekka- eqaunimity; A balanced mind, free of bias and based on insight. Not unbalanced by passion or aversion ::and maintained by active mindfulness and a refusal to be indifferent.
  • 4. What does Farhi mean by calling yoga a "life practice"?

October 24, 2011

  • 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 (and later Stoicism)?
    • Neural tick, if you are intently focused on the initial example, you will miss the second example being shown. Gorilla video. Can also be called change blindness. One dilates on a particular detail, so that they miss the second one. "When presented with a sequence of visual stimuli in rapid succession at the same spatial location on a screen, a participant will often fail to detect a second salient target occurring in succession if it is presented between 200–500 ms after the first one. [[1]]
    • Example of the blink: [[2]Gorilla Video]]
    • Decision paralysis refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual, after a long session of decision making. It is now understood as one of the causes of irrational trade-offs in decision making. For instance, judges in court have been shown to make poorer decisions later in the day. Decision fatigue may also lead to consumers making poor choices with their purchases.
    • From class, decision paralysis can occur when faced with two many choices.
    • Deliberation without attention; Alfino's example of ordering food at a restaurant, allow the menu to speak to your appetite and not your logic.
    • These come into play with yoga by the judgement faculty that is keeping people from seeing the full scope of things. Being aware and sensitive to one's environment, we must be wise, which would lead to us not missing things in our environment.

October 26, 2011

  • 1. Drawing on the Enchiridion, class notes, and the Long essay, reconstruction the Stoics' basic philosophy and rationales.
    • Theology and Ontology: Pantheism: belief that God is everything; the belief that God and the material world are one and the same thing and that God is present in everything
    • Corporeality: belief that everything is made of corporal or physical matter; relating to or involving the physical body rather than the mind or spirit
    • Theos is a rational order in things. Humans express theos because we have reason; to stoics humans are partially divine
    • Active versus Passive matter: Humans are considered active, while rocks are considered passive
    • Emotions are a judgment or a choice.
    • Determinism and Choice: Everything happens by necessity and it is compatible with choice. Stoics believe a trained response is better. By training our emotions and responses to situations we can make better choices. It involves changing our disposition. Stoics believe we are embedded in reality, not separated from it, and that our choices come from theos, or reason. For Stoics, happiness consists not in pleasure or in individual interest but in the demands of the good, which are dictated by reason and transcend the individual. Happiness, that is, the moral good, is accessible to all, within human life.
    • Hegemonic- The hegemonic is the “ruling principle” or authority. This is what guides you through life. Stoics believe the ruling principle is under your control and it comes into interaction with a reality that is not under your control. We must adjust our responses to our understanding of reality. A stoic extremist believes such principles involving achievement of virtue, character, will, integrity, and moral order are all worth dying for.
    • The Stoic philosophical commitments or four unifying concepts are freedom, judgment, volition, and integrity. One of the main ideas with Stoicism is that some things are in our control and some things are not in our control, but that everything is physical (meaning God is in all things). The Stoics way for cultivating wisdom is to make sure your responses to the world reflect what you say you know about the world.
  • 2. What is the purpose of "negative visualization" according to Irvine. Assess his position.
    • Lessens the impact of negative events; increase desire for good things; increase pessimism?
    • Tragic events, even one's that would normally produce grief, should not elicit emotions that betray a lack of understanding of the world.
  • 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?
    • It is a mixed case: we have some, but not all control of our emotions or situations in life
    • We should therefore base our goals on where we can have control (for example, not a goal to win the game, but to play our best during the game)
    • Irvine's treatment of the dichotomy of control in consistent with Stoic thought. In a practical manner, it instructs how specifically to respond to the world, and to realize human limitations.
    • Trichotomy
  • 4. How does Stoic wisdom involve a change in our subjective outlook on things?
    • The stoic realizes that he has only developed an intellectual model for good conduct and unfortunate events that happen in this world. The stoic realizes that everything happens for a reason even though he might not understand the reasons. This is not a call to inaction or indifference in life, because that would still be a choice and be failing to practice good “hegemonikon” with things under our control, and would be scrutinized as carelessness for society/community.
    • The greater wisdom would be understanding that everything happens for a reason, and that if we adjust our emotional responses to situations we'll be more prepared to deal with them when they arise. This means any situation, good or bad. We're better off if we know that some things are under our control and some things are not. It's a matter of balancing our emotions when these things interact. Looking at life this way, though there will be surprises, we won't strike out against those curve balls. We'll just deal with them and move on.
    • Well being and wisdom – No the stoic realizes that he has only developed an intellectual model for good conduct and unfortunate events that happen in this world. **The stoic realizes that everything happens for a reason even though he might not understand the reasons. This is not a call to inaction or indifference in life, because that would still be a choice and be failing to practice good “hegemonikn” with things under our control, and would be scrutinized as carelessness for society/community.

October 31, 2011

  • 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?
    • Parker would separate the monkeys from their mothers at a young age to stress them. She used a cortisol method to check stress of the monkeys after having been separated and found that they had become almost inoculated from stressful events after the stress at a young age (sudden and significant impoverishment). From this we can see that one with a harder life as a child, will have better responses to hard events later on. Stress can cause psychopathological issues or benefits.
  • 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?
    • 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)
  • 3. How does Ardelt research the relationship between wisdom and life satisfaction in old age. What are some potential criticisms of her approach?
    • 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." p. 237
    • She also was 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.
    • Has a three fold criteria. She thought that Baltes' was to cognitive.
    • Three tiered theory of wisdom: wisdom occurs on cognitive, reflective and affective levels.
  • 4. Develop a more detailed understanding of Carstensen's "time horizon" theory.

November 7, 2011 (17)

  • 1. How is the book of Proverbs structured? What was its historical use?
    • Divides in four places, at 9.18, 22.16, and 25.1. First 10 books seem like instruction (Estes), later books full of specific proverbs.
    • Also:
      • The Proverbs of Solomon (Proverbs 1-24)
        • Title and Prologue (Proverbs 1:1-7)
        • Main Text Divided Into Discourses (Proverbs 1:7-9:18)
        • Proverbial Sayings (Proverbs 10:1-22:16)
        • Thirty "Sayings of the Wise" (Proverbs 22:27-24:22)
        • Additional "Sayings of the Wise" (Proverbs 24:23-34)
      • Proverbs of Solomon copied by the men of Hezekiah (Proverbs 24-29)
      • Sayings of Agur (Proverbs 30)
      • Sayings of King Lemuel (Proverbs 31)
        • Duties of a King (Proverbs 31:1-9)
        • Praise of the Virtuous Woman (Proverbs 31:10-31)
  • 2. How do Proverbs work at a linguistic and verbal level?
    • Proverb: Brief, pungent maxim, crystallizing experience
      • It is not intended to be a precise statement that can be taken as a promise or an absolute, but instead is a general principle crafted to be memorable
      • Brief, particular expression of a truth
      • Link everyday behavior to another level (transcendent, God, or different point of view)
      • Straightforward psychological priming/training
      • If you live in accordance with these rules, you will thrive
      • Direct correlation/integration of the transcendent & the social
      • You can think of proverbs like viruses (things that catch on ☺)
      • Because they are salient, have pithiness, or because the community shares a background or text
    • Values & themes expressed in proverbs on Cheerfulness, 

  • 3. How might Proverbs have functioned socially to maintain values in a group or tribe?
    • Taken from the wiki article [[3]]. Throughout Proverbs, wisdoms are mostly come from father to son or mother to son structure.[6] This wisdom literature is concerned with the realities of human experience, from the mundane to the sublime, and with the relationship between that experience and the divine. Not only that, we can also find many wisdoms of woman over and over, especially we find reference to Wisdom as a female figure who speaks to the young man and invites him into her house. When we talk about this Woman Wisdom, it speaks frequently in the first person [7] and identifies herself not just as the divine companion, but also as the source of order in society and success in life.[8] Over and over in the book of Proverbs, it addressed a warning to the young man to avoid sexual relationships with a foreign or strange woman.[9] In here women as "foreign or "strange" (that is, a stranger, a non-Israelite) reflects the frequent biblical insistence on marriage within the community

November 9, 2011 (18)

  • 1. Recount the Job story and it's major "lessons".
    • "A pious man's faith is dependent on good fortune." Nature of piety and discussion of problem of evil. Visitors tell Job that if you are suffering, you must have done something wrong. "If you appreciate the divide between yourself and God, you will endure your suffering w/o accusing god or yourself.
  • 2. Does Job's message count as wisdom? Why or why not?
    • Wisdom involves being prepared for our lives to suddenly to become Job-like. Key idea to understand is that we must understand our limits of understanding. Also:
      • Key lesson of wisdom is to understand limits of understanding
      • We go wrong to think that God's care for us implies that allowing suffering is unjust. Presumes we understand all the competing goals of creation. (note similarity and difference from Greeks -- you have a version of Socratic humility, but none of the aspiration toward complete knowledge.
      • Wisdom involves being prepared for one's life to become Job-like.
      • Fate / God
  • 3. What is the philosophical message of Ecclesiastes? How can it's author's find life meaningful given what they say about our insignificance?
    • Wisdom requires us to understand insignificance. The book is about human nature driving after "the wind."
    • Enjoying ourselves through our work, we have things that we toil through, but there are still things that we may enjoy. There is a season for everything. The goal of life is pleasure, but pleasure is only something a virtuous person can experience because they have balance in their life. Even though your life is cosmically insignificant, you can still find pleasure in that.

November 14, 2011 (19)

  • 1. What "social wisdom role" might Job play?
    • You can't have the good, without taking the bad. Suffering yields pleasure. Narratives about suffering are important to social groups because it channels suffering in socially useful and functional way. When you are living with other people, you or they may experience suffering, you want to make sure there story of suffering to be socially disrupted, i.e. you don't want there suffering to be laid at the feet of the town or a friend. In the story of Job, even if you are pious, it may just be the structure of reality for you to suffer, when people experience profound suffering to don't turn to blame but understand the limits of one's own understanding.
  • 2. How has Song of Solomon traditionally been interpreted? How do more recent literal interpretations help us understand it in connection with social wisdom?
    • The Song of Solomon is a text, written like love poems. The two main interpretations are:
      • Allegory for our relationship with God. “Married to God”. Combines physical and psychological love.
      • Modern interpretations believe that the poems are simply about love.
      • Horizontal vs. Vertical
  • 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?
    • Sufism is the core of area of Islam in which the values of living out the Islamic faith are defined. The ultimate goal is the direct experience with God. Again, similar to Christianity's idea of living in communion with God, Islam strives to live actions in unison with God. Some of their distinct characteristics are the ideas of devotion, purity, and living a simple life. As demonstrated in the proverbial quotes of wisdom, actions are rooted in "adab," or right action. The process of Sufi devotion is devotion, service, remembrance, meditation, and contemplation.
    • Mystic influence in Islam, and a devotional movement. Sufism as a mystical practice operates on the idea that through devotional practices we can achieve a mystical union with God, and if that is true, this is a conduit for wisdom. Turkish Sufis are whirling dervishes, they dance and twirl to instill a type of mystical state, singing and chanting to religious music are likely to occur as well while the whirling ceremony takes place.
  • 2. Identify and summarize research on Game Theory, the Ultimatum Game, and the Public Goods Game.
    • Altruistic punishment can be a key ingredient in developing values. People tend to be overly concerned with fairness, and cooperation levels drop incredibly when there is an element of perceived unfairness in a situation. Cooperation is driven by the thought of punishment. Stronger values lead us to realize that cooperation and defying self-interests can help us achieve greater goals. With no punishment, we risk the possibility of free-riders and cheaters because their values may be underdeveloped.


  • 3. How might game theoretic research bear on the problem of modelling social wisdom?
    • Part of developing wisdom is to be part of a culture keeping ourselves in check. Social cooperation loosely equals social wisdom. The public goods game: each person gets endowment, then you get some money from the public good. People stop contributing to freeloaders, people will spend money to punish the freeloaders. We understand the social values of people, and will approve of them or not based on the value. Type of negotiating that occurs when meeting new people. Idea of delayed reciprocal altruism; I help you and will get something back eventually.

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?
    • Discussion about isolation of culture due to religion leading to biological similarity. Group selection: leader of the pack gets gyped. Kin selection; relative altruism in a family of organisms. Turchen: "asabiya- the ability of a group to cooperate to make a water system in Bali: terraced rice fields.
  • 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?
    • Perspective shifts - flatlander's 2D people and 3D people, religious vs. non, or outside group. Perspective shifts due to ethenogens, is awe connected to wisdom? Can a person that gets a perspective shift be wise? In the sublime you experience something bigger than yourself so radically, it changes perspective. Example from class was a lightning storm.