Spring 2014 Wisdom Course Lecture Notes A

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Return to Wisdom

JAN 14

Course Introduction

1. Call roll. Brief student introductions.

2. Introduction to the course topic.

3. Introduction to the course websites.

4. Turning Point clicker technology.

5. Ereserves, Grading Schemes, and the Prep Cycle.

JAN 16

Themes in today's readings

  • note definitions of wisdom and lists of wisdom attributes
  • some initial reference points in Greek thought on wisdom.

Hall, Chapter 1 "What is Wisdom?"

  • opening story, point about wisdom
  • Perceptions of wise individuals and gender. (Someone look up Lysistrata for next time)
  • his approach, p. 16 (using science) - definition of wisdom, bot. 17 --
  • Hall's initial theoretical definition: bot 18 -- read & note

Robinson, "Wisdom Through the Ages"

This one of several mini-histories of wisdom we'll look at.


  • note on Homeric concept --- p. 13-14: Greek concept of soul/nous
  • distinctions among sophia, phronesis, episteme
  • Socratic "anti-body" view of wisdom


  • Aristotle's concept of wisdom. idion ergon (task, mission, purpose)/ prohaireseis(deliberated choices) / hexeis (dispositions). (Put it together.)
  • Knowing Final Causes. (possible small group discussion)
  • Practical wisdom (phronesis), theoretical (scientific) knowledge (theoretikes), practical knowledge (ergon)

Epicureans & Stoics (Helenist Schools)

  • comment on his gloss of stoics.

Christian Wisdom

  • the difference that revelation makes to your model of wisdom. (cf. back to Hellenists) sophia vs. pistis theon
  • Christian split (influences): Aristotelean vs. Platonic
  • Aquinas: quote on p. 20 -- "perspective shift" is a common theme in wisdom accounts

Post-classical world (Renaissance, scientific rev and beyond)

  • Scientific revolution as challenge to ancient conceptions of wisdom and divinity

JAN 21

Some housekeeping: note study questions (limit Robinson);

Hall, Wisdom, Ch. 2: Socrates + Axial Age

  • Image of Socrates: Does his example support the claim that wisdom is real?
  • Axial Age Hypothesis
  • Dist. characteristics, p. 24.


  • Contrast between Pericles and Socrates, p. 28
  • both selling "deliberation" as a virtue
  • Socrates' treatment of emotion unique
Primary class interest here is to get contrasting images of wisdom across the so-called Axial Age.


  • 6th century BC China
  • characteristics of confucian ideas of wisdom


  • 563-483bc, India
  • "awakening" vs. "wisdom"

Osbeck and Robinson, Philosophical Wisdom

  • Question of "Where did the problem of wisdom go?"; possible effect of science; scepticism;
  • Note on its revival.
  • Necessary Presuppositions of wisdom (?): truth not mere conventional; health and sickness are real.
  • On Homeric concept: details.
  • On Aristotle: read p. 67 three times slowly
  • Importance of quality of deliberation. Matters variable (How does this help you distinguish forms of wisdom here?) Note that different sorts of intelligence are being discussed.
  • The invariant, role of demonstration in.
  • What could intuition and insight be?

JAN 23

Labouvie-Vief, "Wisdom As Intergrated Thought: Historical and Developmental Perspectives"

  • This article applies a psychological analysis of Platonic thought on wisdom, so it makes a nice transition to the pscyh literature.
  • Thesis: The revival of interest in wisdom is important for highlighting the differences between models of cognition in classical thought and over the life span."Many recent writings suggest, instead, that theories of cognition or intelligence that are based on ^ the assumption of the primacy of objective forms of knowing provide an incomplete and possibly distorted picture of the human mind." 52
  • Piaget: inner/outer processes. assimilation/accommodation (Other theorists "oral mode/written mode"), mythos/logos.
  • Good quote: "Prior to Plato, many philosophers already asked such questions as: What is the nature of reality? or What is our nature, and what is our place in the order of things? To the pre-Platonic philosophers, answers to these questions still were permeated with mythic and highly concrete images. Reality still presented itself as an organismic happening integrated with the world of nature. Like nature, reality was animated with life and subject to growth and decay (see Collingwood, 1945; Frankfort & Frankfort, 1946). Mythic and organic conceptions of the universe were mixed with the beginning of systematic and abstracting thought. 57
  • Platonic thought represents a huge break from this. "For Plato, the adult is no longer embedded in a concrete, organic, and participatory reality." 59
  • Small group work: line up and develop the oppositions in the author's opposition between mythos/logos.
  • Piaget: model of child development is initially organic, but only in early stages of life. goal of development. Goal is independence of subjectivity (66)
  • Homeric heroes not self-reflective, embedded in action, see themselves moved by divine forces.
  • "reintegrated thought," seeing goal of adulthood in term of balancing of logos and mythos, 67. embodied thinking 72.

Clayton and Birren, "Wisdom across the Life Span"

  • Note from historical treatment: East/West differences. Compare to Gisela.
  • Western biblical tradition: Three paths. 105-106.
  • Eastern traditions.
  • Multidimensional Scaling Study: Note method (see link on wiki) and results. Cognitive, affective, and reflective qualities.
  • Topic of discussion: Are older people wiser?
  • Note discussion at 119.
  • Conclusion at 130: Older subjects also connect wisdom more closely with affective understanding and empathy
  • All age groups perceive wisdom as "integration of cognitive, affective, and reflective components."

JAN 28

Birren and Svensson, Wisdom in History (2005)

  • 2005 -- Wisdom in History -- This article gives us a broader historical perspective than earlier ones, but also a good summary of the paths taken by researchers (14-29).
  • 1st historical treatment that hits on the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution.
  • Connects with ancients on relation between knowledge and wisdom.
  • Uncertainty: maybe wisdom is required where there is uncertainty. Knowledge reduces uncertainty. What follows?
  • Wisdom in the psychological sciences
    • Not really a central topic immediately.
    • Definitions of wisdom present in Sternberg. table on 16-18. Look at Baltes and Smith.
  • Discuss "meta-cognitive" dimension of wisdom. (17)
  • Wisdom and age (19)
  • First characterization of Berlin Wisdom Paradigm: also Hall 49. Note method, model included historical study. criticisms (note positive aspect here). Ardelt trajectory (Hall)
  • Sternberg's direction: relation of wisdom to intelligence and creativity (note on method here: use of constructs.)
  • Taranto: focus on human limitation.
  • Kramer: organismic. cognition/affect. five functions.
  • McKee and Barber: "seeing through illusion"
  • Meacham: fallibility of knowledge. balance of positivity/doubt.
  • Chandler and Holliday: most well developed construct after Baltes. (23)

Hall, Wisdom, Chapter 3 "Heart and Mind"

  • Note that Hall is telling something of the "sociology of knowledge" about the rise of wisdom research.
  • Vivian Clayton -- reflects on family member's traits. poses question of meaning of wisdom and relation to age.
  • Erikson -- idea of wisdom as end stage "8" of process of self-realization.
  • Interesting hypothesis in face of growth of knowledge in gerontology about decay of faculties.
  • Hall's account of Genesis myth as also about acquiring "original wisdom" -- wisdom as the price of seeing things clearly. also "dark wisdom".
  • Baltes, Smith, Staudinger, Kunzemann. -- Berlin Wisdom Paradigm -- brief overview
  • Early critics: Sarstensen and Ardelt -- felt BWP didn't focus enough on emotion.

JAN 30

backtrack to catch some things in Birren and Svensen article

Hall, Chapter 4, "Emotional Regualtion"

  • "Carstensen and her colleagues have proposed that successful emotional regulation is tightly connected to a persons sense of time—usually, but not always, time as it is reflected by one's age and stage of life. "According to our theory, this isn't a quality of aging per se, but of time horizons," she explained. "When your time perspective shortens, as it does when you come closer to the ends of things, you tend to focus on emotionally meaningful goals. " 63
  • socioemotional selectivity theory (Cartensen's) - How can the benefits of this view become available to the young?
  • Job's emotional resilience. Is it patience?
  • problem in history of philosophy -- downplaying of emotion. But then Hume, and James' "What is an Emotion?"
  • Gross: "reappraisal" and "reflection" as techniques of emotional regulation. vs. rumination
  • Cartensens' research in assisted living homes. counterintuitive answers. (67) "time horizon" theory. Implications.
  • Carstensen on the paradigmatic tasks of the young (70)
  • 71: neuroscience on learning from loss; affective forecasting; young as steep "discounters"
  • 73: emotional resilience in Davidson's neuroscience research. Gabrielli studies on young amygdalas. Gross on male/female emotional processing.
  • postive illusion (optimism bias)
  • "Grandparent hypothesis"

Grading Schemes

  • We'll take some time at the end of class to discuss your options with the grading schemes.


Baltes & Smith, "Toward a Psychology of Wisdom and its Ontegenesis"

  • Motivations for the Berlin Paradigm's research: study of peak performance, positive aspects of aging, work on intelligence that reflects a concern with context and life pragmatics, Baltes & Smith p. 87
  • Interesting discussion of problem of giving a scientific treatment of wisdom, p. 89.
  • Explaining "age of onset" of wisdom as optimization of cognitive mechanics and pragmatics (suggests it can't be too old). see chart p. 94.
  • Notice how Baltes & Smith are thinking about the range of wisdom artifacts, including proverbs. p. 97.
  • Discussion of five-criteria definition:
  • expert knowledge system (98),
  • rich factual knowledge ("a representation of the expected sequential flow of events in a particular situation"),
  • procedural knowledge -- overcoming bias, general research on good decision making. How we use what we know.
  • Relativism -- understanding importance of personal goals in assessment of pragmatic situation.
  • Uncertainty -- of life.
  • from Kunzman and Baltes: "... the period of late adolescence and early adulthood is the primary age window for a first foundation of wisdom-related knowledge to emerge." p. 122 for details.
  • from Baltes and Smith, p.110. research on old/young, normative/nonnormative, target age of problem. Suggests that older are not the optimal performance group when considering the different conditions the research looked at.
  • from later reading -- Baltes & Freund, "... we know that the body of knowledge and cognitive skills associated with wisdom has its largest rate of change gradient in late adolescence and young adulthood (Pasupathi & Bakes,2000; Staudinger, 1999a). St). Subsequent age changes are a result of specific circumstances of life and nonintellectual attributes. For instance, the development of wisdom-related knowledge during adulthood is more conditioned by personality, cognitive style, and life experience than by psychometric intelligence (Staudinger, Maciel, Smith, & Bakes, 1998). "
  • Holliday and Chandler 1986 - p. 107 -- distinction between "understanding" and "judgment and communication" -- What skills / aptitudes are involved in each
  • Heckhausen research p. 107-108 -- what does the chart tell us about the age of onset issue?
Narratives and "Think Alouds" -- Berlin Pardigm research method.
Do old people really have wisdom about the problems of younger people? - research by Smith and Baltes suggests no, p. 111.


Kunzman and Baltes, "The Psychology of Wisdom: Theoretical and Practical Challenges"

  • Challenges:
  1. defining wisdom in a way that separates it from other human excellences.
  2. formulating a definition of wisdom that can be empirically investigated.
  • source for distinction between implicit and explicit (112).
  • Three types of wisdom constructs:
  1. wisdom as aspect of personality development in later life (Erikson)
  2. post-formal thinking (gisela); "Dialectical thinking derives from the insight that knowledge about self.others, and the world evolves in an everlasting process of theses, antitheses, and syntheses. From this perspective, wisdom has been described as the integration of different modes of knowing" 115
  3. form of intelligence and expertise (Baltes)
  • clearer explanation (than Baltes and Smith) of "cognitive mechanics" vs. "cognitive pragmatics" (116)
  • Review Model on p. 120. Note how it points to further topics that we will discuss in the semester.
  • Empirical Results from "Think Aloud" research:
  1. High scores rare.
  2. Late adolescence and early adulthood is primary age window for onset of wisdom. Age doesn't predict score increases after that.
  3. Development of wisdom beyond it's early onset depends upon "expertise-enhancing" factors, such as development of social/cognitive style, presence of role models, and motivational preferences such as an interest in understanding others. Personality not predicted as a factor (note contrast to happiness research).

Baltes & Freund, "Wisdom as Meta-Heuristic and SOC"

  • Selection, Optimization, and Compensation is a collection of behavioral strategies for managing life pragmatics.
  • Note definition of wisdom p. 251: strategies for peak or optimal functioning.
  • Good review of Baltes (Berlin) Paradigm: note detail on "recognition and management of uncertainty" p. 253.
  • Wisdom as Meta-heuristic. Definition p. 255. "a heuristic can be defined as a "useful shortcut, an approximation, or a rule of thumb for guiding search" "If wisdom as a meta-heuristic operates effectively, the expectation is that its use creates the cognitive and motivational foundation from which well-being can be achieved. In this sense, wisdom can be seen as the embodiment of the best subjective belief about laws of life that a culture has to offer and that individuals under favorable conditions are able to acquire."
  • SOC -- a heuristic for delineating, pursuing, and reviewing goals.
  • Selection -- of goals -- can be either elective selection or loss selection. Deliberate, articulate...
  • Optimization -- of means. "Acquire and invest" - subskills like "monitoring between actual and desired state" - ability to delay gratification (Mischel)
  • Compensation -- response to loss of means. Response to events.
  • Proverbs as heuristics -- study found that SOC strategies were selected more often and faster than non-SOC strategies.
  • Study showing SOC associated with "positive functioning" (NOTE: This relates to the "hard problem" of wisdom. Figuring out whether wisdom really "works".)
  • Consider types of research questions you can pose regarding heuristics and SOC.

FEB 11

Wisdom Practica

General idea and questions/discussion. Tie in with today's class.

Theory Note

  1. Turning question from whether wisdom requires moral outlook to what does wisdom look like when it takes on a moral outlook, especially on the approach of contemporary moral psychology?
  2. Beginning to a turn in the course toward thinking about wisdom as embodied and trainable.

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
  • Various motives for ad hoc reasoning: relatedness, coherence (terror management), bias,
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. vmPFC - Damasio research.
  • Theoretical possibilities for theory of wisdom: 1. Can you change responses? 2. In what ways? (again, the problem of criteria)

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. p. 99.
  • Evidence of emotional and automatic cognition in moral responses. (102) Haidt, 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.
  • What implications are there for this turn in moral philosophy for our thinking about wisdom?

FEB 13

Review Day.

FEB 18

Optional Midterm Exam.

FEB 20

Wisdom practica note

  • Note that today's readings introduce you to meditation as a contemplative practice related to wisdom through cultivation of compassion, humility, and the alleviation of suffering (which involves working with the ego). While the focus here is on meditation as a contemplative practice, this could be applied to a wide range of practices.

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 powerful 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.
  • 128: notion of "embodiedness" of our responses to the world. not just cognitive.
  • 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.

FEB 25

  • leave time for meditation practicum launch

Hall, Chapter 5: Neuroscience and Decision Making

  • Problem of Free Will comes up throughout the chapter -- not directly our concern with wisdom, is it?
  • Expected value problems -- Getting $20 now or more in the future.
  • 81-3: Problem of Valuation -- Decision making works on pre-existing value that we access in the event.
  • 83: Glimcher 06-07 fMRI research on expected value decision making: Factors affecting test subjects' answers: time horizon and impulsivity.
  • Reinforcement Learning -- dopamine cycle
  • Rutledge's "fishing for crabs" research: dopamine shift from reward to anticipation. always diminishing doses.
  • "Success breeds habit and failure breeds learning" -- brain is reactive to unexpected results.
  • Glimcher claims predictive power in fishing for crabs game.
  • Problems comparing this research to wisdom problems: speed of decision, narrowness of the problem
  • Ap Dijksterhuis - on "deliberation without attention" - connects with discussion of training subjective states of mind for better decision making.
  • "Attentional blink" and "decisional paralysis" - Davidson research on meditation effect on these phen.
  • Decision paralysis -- Iyengar and Lepper gourment jelly studies 93-94 -- connection with Parkinson's

Daniel Gilbert, TED talk, "Why We Make Such Bad Decisions"

  • Bernouli's formula for expected value: odds of gain x value of gain
  • two kinds of mistakes: odd and value
  • Availability heuristic: works when estimating likelihood of seeing dogs vs. pigs on a leash, not when estimating odds of good or bad things happening.
  • Mistakes estimating value
  • comparisons to the past - price cuts vs. price increases; theatre tickets (mental accounting), retailing (comparison of wine by price), potato chip / chocolate / spam study, speaker comparison.
  • time frames matter. When both expected value calculations are in the future we do better (pay offs in 12 vs. 13 months)
  • Explanatory hypothesis: brain evolution not geared toward abstract caluculation of rational alternatives.
  • Implications for wisdom

Sternberg, "Wisdom and Its Relations to 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.
  • Objectivity of wisdom: At p. 147, research finds 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.

Stanovich, "The Rationality of Educating for Wisdom"

  • 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.

FEB 27

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.

Epictetus, Enchiridion

Key Idea: To realize our rational nature (and the joy that only rational being can know), we need to adjust our thinking about our lives to what we know about reality.

  • "Some things are in our control and others are not."
  • "Confine your aversion" and understand the limits of things. (Sounds like an “aversion” retraining program based on knowledge claims.)
  • Infamous #3. Read with #7, #8, and #14, in case we’re being too subtle.
  • Something like mindfulness, #4
  • Limits of pride. Catching the mind exaggerating.
  • Desire: #15
  • Comportment in later points of the enchiridion. (Unabashedly hierarchal -- recall "mix of elements")

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
  • 50-135 Epictetus
  • 121-180 Marcus Aurelius


Hall, Chapter 12: 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.

Hall, Chapter 13: Older and Wiser

  • 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): read it. At 232: use it or lose it.
  • 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 followup 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 (Note on "detachment from criticism" in some olders).

  • 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. leaving the cog/delib model in earlier theories. (What if wisdom is achieve through a kind of
  • "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
  • 17: wisdom as latent variable. integration of cog, affective, reflective. note use of validated instruments within the research.
  • 21: alternate correlates considered: objective health and financial condition might be 35% (poss. 46% in men!) of variation. but authors claim better fit from wisdom as independent variable.
  • results p. 22-- pos. correlation for both men and women, but stronger for men.
  • 24: follow theoretical discussion, argument for focusing on wisdom. note at 25.


MAR 18

  • Estes List of Themes: cheerfulness, contentment, decisions, driendship, generosity, humility, kindness, parenting, purity, righteousness, truthfulness.
  • Emphasis on social function of these virtues.
  • What would our list look like?

MAR 20

  • voices in Books 1-10 of Proverbs
  • thematics of righteousness and wickedness; exhortation
  • Favorites - share in group
  • Make a Proverb exercise

MAR 25


  • "our" question of Job: Why do the righteous suffer?
  • alternate frame for question: why is there contingency? why isn't the covenant a biconditional?
  • Anthropological wisdom reading: Beginning of awareness of our nature as subjective; gap between ours and divine consciousness due to our nature. Develops in Christian as overcoming gap between subjects through love (agape).
  • review details
  • What's wrong with the friends advice.
  • Why does God give Job a pat on the back at the end?


  • Most directly philosophical book. Stands out.
  • But then, what is the objective correlate of my awareness of subjective limits, but awareness of finitude of my objective existence?
  • Ecclesiastes as confrontation with finitude.
  • Nothing new under the sun
  • Questioning of purpose beyond toil. Purposes are finite and repetitive.
  • Bk2: the author acquires wealth
For everything there is a season...
He sees moral imperfection (finitude) and oppression
  • Bk5:18 -advice
  • Bk7 - proverbs of "limits"
  • Importance of 'vanity'

MAR 27

Song of Solomon

  • What is the model of love and pleasure?
  • Is there a tone of gratitude?
  • What is different about the range of experiences we might endorse under the heading of "ways that we experience deep and profound pleasure from life".

Frager, Chapter 6, Mind of Islam

  • dualism of body and spirit, but with gradations of psycho-spiritual states which place one, during life, in a different relationship with God and the world.
  • "heart" and "soul" vs. "acquired intellect"
  • Theory of Nafs (ego-states).
  • Prophets, Saints, Believers, Religious, Worldly, Deniers

Song of Solomon Notes from Catholic Enc.

This is from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Contents. As a collection of love lyrics, this book is not easy to summarize. The poems follow no logical sequence; rather, they express the various moods of love: the joy of union, the pain of separation. There are protestations of love and fidelity, reminiscences of courtship, descriptions of each other's beauty. The mood of mutual love is sustained throughout, but a high-point is reached in 8.6–7, "Set me as a seal on your heart… ." The imagery is spontaneous and varied: gazelles and hinds, pomegranates and mandrakes, myrrh and spices, vineyards and wine. The rich use of geographical references suggests the disparate origins of the lyrics: Cedar, Engaddi, Lebanon, etc.
Interpretation. If identifying the literary structure is difficult, the interpretation of the meaning is more so. Both Christian and Jewish interpretations have agreed on a religious meaning: this book describes the love of Yahweh and Israel (or Christ and the Church) in terms of human marriage, thus continuing the theme inaugurated by Hosea (ch. 1–3) and echoed in many later prophets (Is1.21–22; 62.5; Jer 3.1–10; Ez ch. 16, 23).
As Parable or Allegory. In detail, this interpretation is worked out as a parable, or as an allegory. The parabolic view is presented by D. Buzy, who claims that the work as a whole deals with the covenant relationship under the guise of human marriage. One should not press the details here; they serve to create the marriage atmosphere and to carry on the theme. Others argue that the Song is an allegory; the details have each a transferred meaning, referring to various aspects of Yahweh's dealings with Israel. This approach was first given a strong philological and exegetical basis by P. Joüon, and it has been supported by the method of style anthologique, applied by A. Robert. The "anthological style" refers to the Biblical practice (e.g., in Prv ch. 1–9, Sir, Wis) of composing a work in phrases and diction borrowed from earlier Biblical works; presumably the allusions to the previous books betray the intention of the writer of this book.
As Cultic Songs. Another interpretation, by such scholars as T. Meek, M. Haller, H. Ringgren, H. Schmökel, finds in this book cultic songs of the pagan myth of Tammuz and Ishtar. Presumably these could have been sung in the temple (e.g., during the reign of Manasseh) and might later have entered the Passover liturgy. But the contacts that are pointed out between the Song and the myth are not sufficient to establish this interpretation. Nor can one easily imagine that Israel would have glossed over such origins in eventually accepting the poems into the canon. Any similarity is more easily explained by the influence that popular beliefs might have had on the love poetry and the wedding imagery of the Israelites themselves.
As Extolling Human Love. In recent times several Catholic scholars have criticized both the allegorical and parabolic approach. The principal reason for this criticism is that the obvious meaning of the Song is human love. When human love is used in the prophetical writing as referring to Yahweh and Israel, the explanation of the symbolism is always given. Hence we may not presume that the intent of this book goes beyond the obvious and direct meaning. The use made by the prophets is usually in terms of Israel as the adulterous spouse (Hos 2.18–22; Is 62.5; etc. are clear exceptions), but the Song presents a picture of idyllic love. The elaborate use of anthological style by A. Robert and A. Feuillet has not convinced many, especially for the reason that there is no indication in the Song of alleged mercy toward an unfaithful spouse.
There is a strong trend among recent Catholic scholars to agree with many of their Protestant colleagues (H.H. Rowley, W. Rudolph, etc.) that the literal sense of this book is the extolling of love and fidelity between man and woman; so say J. P. Audet, A. Dubarle (at the Louvain journées bibliques of 1963), M. van den Oudenrijn, and others. Comparison of this book with the love poems of the ancient Near East, especially Egypt, shows a common atmosphere and similarity of theme. The Song would be the "voice of the bridegroom" and the "voice of the bride" mentioned in Jer 7.34 (Audet). Such praise of love is entirely consonant with inspiration, since God himself is the author of that love (Gn 1.27).
In line with this deeper understanding of love, these scholars also allow that a higher sense, fuller or typical, can be found here. Human love is a participation in divine love, to which it is oriented; the family reflects the people of God. Here exegesis would join the age-old interpretation that sees in the Song the description of the love between God and his People. Christian tradition has developed this theme, already found in the NT (Eph5.23–25, marriage compared to the relationship between Christ and his Church). The famous medieval writers, such as St. Bernard, and the mystical writers, such as St. John of the Cross, have exploited the richness of this interpretation.


Sufism -- Mysticism in Islam

  • Term -- associated with purity, rough wool, "first row" devotees of Mohammed,
  • Sufis practice simple life.
  • Process of sufi devotion: Devotion, Service, remembrance (of the name of God), meditation and contemplation.
  • Note proverbs on p. 83.
  • Follow the psychology of the Nafs on p. 84 - 88.
  • tyrannical nafs - characterize everything that alienates from God. deniers and narcissitics
  • regretful nafs - recognized in retrospect. power of ego to harm. interesting connection with karmic ideas
  • inspired nafs - dangerous because of presence of spirit and ego.
  • serene nafs - bring contentment, right action, spiritual joy, trust in God.
  • pleased nafs - evidenced by resilience?
  • nafs pleasing to god - unity of soul and psyche
  • pure nafs -- sage level -- prophets and saints
  • "Adab" -- right action -- note: social virtue.

Hall, Ch 9, Altruism, Social Justice, Fairness, and the Wisdom of Punishment

  • Hall's point about the wisdom of Solomon (from beginning and end of chapter) -- implication for theory.
  • Problem of altruism
  • from Darwin, then from Hamilton and Trivers "reciprocal altruism" and "kin selection"
  • Research by Ernst Fehr -- behavioral studies of subjects in Prisoner's Dilemma situations (digress on Prisoner's Dilemma), bias toward cooperation.
  • 2002 finding by Rilling -- mutual cooperation stimulates learning and pleasure responses. (Later, on p. 161, same is true for punishment.)
  • Ultimatum Game
  • Interpretation of Ultimatum Game regularity (25% or less gets rejection). Example of NFL revenue sharing.
  • Alan Sanfey's work on neural response in ultimatum game -- areas for emotion and disgust "light up" on low offers.
  • Fehr research using TMS --- respondents accepted unfair offers. p. 161
  • Public Goods games and punishment / Wisdom and punishment

Prisoner's Dilemma Intro

  • for more depth, see Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on game theory.
Prisoner B: Smith stays silent(cooperates) Prisoner B: Smith betrays (defects)
Prisoner A (you) stays silent (cooperates) Each serves 1 year Prisoner A (you): 3 years
Prisoner B: Smith: goes free
Prisoner A (you) betrays (defects) Prisoner A (you): goes free
Prisoner B: Smith: 3 years
Each serves 2 years
  • Pay off matrix for any outcome:
  • Smith stays silent (cooperate), you betray (defects): 3, 0 (Smith's a sucker)
  • Smith betrays (defects), you stay silent (cooperate): 0,3 (You're a sucker)
  • Both betray (defect): 2 years each (Game theoretic outcome)
  • Both (cooperate): 1 year each (Optimal outcome for combined interests/utility - allegedly only achievable with an enforceable social contract - even one enforced by bad guys!)
  • Why should you defect in the the face of uncertainty about Smith's cooperation?
  • Analyze both possibilities for Smith
  • He stays silent (cooperates)
  • He betrays you (defects)
  • Note on iterated prisoner's dilemma


Haidt Chapter 9: Divinity with or without God

Elevation as a vertical axis in relationship.

  • Flatland
  • Major speculative hypothesis: 183: In addition to relationship and status, we perceive/experience "divinity" as a kind of "moral purity".
  • But this is puzzling, given that we are also ANIMALS
  • Research on disgust. Why do we experience disgust? 186. Purity opposite impulse from disgust. Disgust brings us "down".
  • Psychological anthropologist Richard Shweder, U Chicago: Haidt worked with him on research in morality in India: "Shweder's research on morality in Bhubaneswar and elsewhere shows that when people think about morality, their moral concepts cluster into three groups, which he calls the ethic of autonomy, the ethic of community, and the ethic of divinity." 188 -- evidence on diff. distribution of these ethics by class. Note observations on research in India. Link bt. purity/divine.
  • Cites approvingly: Eliade, The Sacred and Profane -- perceiving sacredness universal among humans. 189: Interesting examples: handedness, space in houses.

Elevation and Agape

  • Looking for a name for the emotions that we experience when we observe morally outstanding deeds. "Elevation"
  • Jefferson: Experience of aesthetic value triggers physical changes in the body and recognizable feeling of elevated sentiments.
  • 196: wants to see if elevation is a kind of happiness. research with student Sara Algoe, (three conditions: doing something good for someone, saw someone tell a joke, saw extraordinary non-moral performance) results seem to separate out different responses: moral elevation vs. response to non-moral excellence like basketball player.
  • initial research documents elevation as response. Unclear how moral/non-moral triggers work.
  • Vagus Nerve theory -- operation of vagus nerve, relationship to oxytocin. Since oxcytocin causes bonding rather than action, this theory might explain the lack of evidence in an earlier study that elevation leads to action.
  • Puzzle about moral elevation and lack of action -- in two studies no sig increase in "signing up" to volunteer after elevation.
  • Lactating moms study 198 -- (answers puzzle: oxcytocin is about bonding, not acting. we've managed to make moral conduct a trigger for oxcytocin.)
  • Letter from religious person distinguishing two kinds of tears in church. compassion/celebration
  • Latter like agape : objectless love

Awe and Transcendence

  • cites Darwin / Emerson, idea of elevation from exp of nature.
  • Drugs - -entheogens. reports old experiment with mushrooms and religion.
  • Emerson's "transparent eyeball" experience. Awe and transcendence of the ego. (also in flow)
  • Awe: "As we traced the word "awe" back in history, we discovered that it has always had a link to fear and submission in the presence of something much greater than the self." 202
  • Emotion of awe: "Keltner and I concluded that the emotion of awe happens when two conditions are met: a person perceives something vast (usually physically vast, but sometimes conceptually vast, such as a grand theory, or socially vast, such as great fame or power); and the vast thing cannot be accommodated by the person's existing mental structures." 203
  • Story of Arjuna Pandava from Gita. Gets a cosmic eye. Extreme case, but Haidt implies this is a model for how we describe spiritual transformation.
  • Maslow's work on peak experiences. Side note on clash about the nature of science in psychology. Maslow is considered a founder of humanistic psych.
  • Mark Leary, Curse of the Self: Self as obstacle to -- mental chatter -- self as obstacle to vertical development . Read p. 207.

Sosis, The Adaptive Value of Religion

  • Behavior ecology of religion: typical questions
  • Related hard to explain behavior in nature: Stotting behavior
  • What are religious rituals?
  • communication of commitment to both in group and out group members
  • "costly signal theory"
  • in relation to Vatican II
  • Shekel game research
  • game and results
  • gender diffs


Edgarton, Sick Societies, Chapters 1 and 2

Ch 1

  • myth of primitive harmony in 20th c anthr and pop culture.
  • Rousseau and history of European exp. of non-Euro cultures.
  • leads us to believe too much in the adaptiveness of cultural beliefs.

Ch 2

  • recognition of adaptive/maladaptive in our own culture.
  • Oneida Community 1848-1879 John Noyes
  • sexual practices
  • changing the rules
  • Duddie's Branch, 1960, Eastern Kentucky 238 ind.
  • gov't support, deterioration of hygiene, basic values
  • non standard tracking of patrimony.
  • fierce loyalty to community, showed "pride, dignity, courage, and generosity"
  • 23-45: Review of the issue of relativism in anthropology, especially in mid-late 20th century.

APR 10

For background and detail, see "Culture and Cognitive Science" in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Boyd and Richerson

  • Gene culture co-evolution (also, "dual inheritance" or "bio-cultural") theory. Three necessary hypotheses:
  • 1. Learning (extension of "Baldwin effect") is a form of rapid cultural adaptation that accounts for key aspects of human culture.
  • 2. This process naturally produces "evolutionarily stable" but diverse strategies which divide humans into competitive groups. Imitation plays a key role in eliminating comp. adv. over time, but groups are often competitors. (This is where "large scale cooperation" comes into play. Note their puzzle about this.)
  • 3. Culture exerts a selection pressure on individuals who have traits that directly or indirectly favor the group's strategy (note: whether it is a successful one or not. Duddie.)
  • Mechanisms of cultural transmission:
  • intergroup competition
  • imitation of success
  • migration
  • discussion at p. 3286: evolved emotions: shame and guilt. But also "awe" and transcendence?

APR 15

Wilson, Chapter 8, Strangers to Ourselves, "Introspection and Self-Narratives"

  • Introspection -- flashlight metaphor -- Freud's metaphor: archaeology
  • Wilson doesn't support these metaphors, seems sceptical that we get such clarity, thinks evidence supports a different view:
  • "Introspection is more like literary criticism in which we are the text to be understood. Just as there is no single truth that lies within a literary text, but many truths, so are there many truths about a person that can be constructed." 162
  • Do we introspect too much?
  • Real Estate story -- Do we know or show what we want?
  • Analytic methods vs. Intuitive or behavioral
  • People are "too good" at giving reasons for their feelings, but not necessary accurate when they do. They rarely say, "I don't know why I feel this way..."
  • Major Claim -- Somtimes we use faulty information to decide what our reasons for our feelings are. Then, using faulty reasons, we actually may alter our feelings.
  • Study in which subjects in one condition analyze their relationships and in a control condition others don't. Analyzed condition showed greater change in feeling. Also, weeks later, subjects cite very different reasons for how they feel. It's as if a story were being retold rather than objective reasons being located. "availability bias"
  • Which is the real you? The analyzed or unanalyzed? Wilson is saying that you shouldn't assume the analyzed is.
  • Poster satisfaction study
  • Wilson's advice isn't to act on impulse, but to delay rational analysis, in some situations, let yourself say "Not sure how I feel" -- gather external information and perceptions. Those in the poster study who knew a lot about art didn't experience a change in satisfaction.
  • "The trick is to gather enough information to develop an informed gutfeeling and then not analyze that feeling too much." 172
  • Wilson's advice: try to become aware of implicit feelings.
  • Schultheiss and Brunstein study -- determined implicit feelings (such as need for power or affiliation) and then asked subject to predict their happiness in being in a situation that is geared to stimulate those needs. Subjects don't accurately predict impact of the experience (they are strangers to themselves). "Consistent with many studies that find that people are not very aware of their implicit motives, people who were high in the need for affiliation and power did not anticipate that the counseling session would make them any happier or feel more engaged than other participants." 174 But "goal imager" and "prefeeling" changed that.
  • Rumination -- definition 175 -- increases depression in depressed.
  • Pennebaker Study -- subjects write about negative experiences from their lives and it makes them happy? How to explain this? How is it different from rumination? -- Wilson claims that it's because writing involves construction of a meaningful narrative.
  • [One lesson from the chapter: Be careful of the reasons and stories you use to narrate your experience. You might actually conform your experience (feelings) to the narrative. But the positive side of that . . . ? Could you prime someone to write a wise narrative?]

APR 17

Wilson, Chapter 9, "Looking Outward to Know Ourselves"

  • Using 3rd person information to gain self-knowledge.
  • Research as one type of 3rd person informtion. Examples from chapter:
  • Research on ineffectiveness of subliminal ads could correct our mistaken choice for regular ads.
  • Implicit Bias test
  • Information from others:
  • Mike's shyness. shyness as a particular example.
  • "reflected appraisal" and "looking glass self" p. 195
  • How well do we see what others think about us? 1. people conceal impressions. 2. We don't always get it.
  • Study: .2 correlation.
  • Should we try to see what other think about us?
  • positive illusions
  • Einstein example
  • Catherine Dirks. 201

APR 22

Wilson, Timothy, Chapter 10, "Observing and Changing Our Behavior"

  • 205: People infer their internal states just as an outside observer would" (Bem's self-perception theory)
3 cases of self-fabrication:
  • fundamental attribution error,
  • but also goes the other way under strong situational influence.
  • multiple sources; nonconscious influence
  • What's the goal in responding to discrepancies in our self-image? Bring one in line with the other? Reject both?
  • Starting with behavior.
  • Theoretical problem with narrative approach. Truth.

APR 24

APR 29