Spring 2014 Wisdom Course Study Questions

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Return to Wisdom

JAN 14

First Class

JAN 16

  1. What aspects of wisdom does Hall's personal experience on 9/11 bring out?
  2. What are the principle traits and defining characteristics of wisdom on Hall's definition? Do they seem justified in light of your own paradigmatic image(s) of wisdom (situtations within you judge or hypothesize wise thought or action of some kind)?
  3. (In Robinson) What are some characteristics of Homeric culture that distinguish its model of wisdom?
  4. Give examples of similarities and differences in the ways that Socrates and Aristotle model wisdom.

JAN 21

  1. Is Socratic legend a testimony to the reality of wisdom?
  2. What is the Axial Age Hypothesis? Evaluate.
  3. Distinguish Periclean and Socratic models of wisdom.
  4. Why is there a problem explaining where the topic of wisdom went? What are some candidates for solutions?
  5. What is Aristotle's view of wisdom?

JAN 23

  1. Describe and evaluate Gisela Labouvie-Vief's criticism of Western models of cognition.
  2. How do Clayton and Birren contrast Western and Eastern models of cognition and wisdom?
  3. What did Clayton and Birren find from their age-cohort MDS study of wisdom?

JAN 28

  1. What are some of the typical components of wisdom constructs and hypotheses in psychology of wisdom since the 1980s?
  2. What does it mean to say that wisdom involves "meta-cognitive" capacities?
  3. Identify your own selection of two to three wisdom research programs (p. 17-25 in B&S) in addition to Baltes, Sternberg, and Holiday and Chandler.

JAN 30

  1. What does Carstenen's research on the elderly tell us about wisdom?
  2. What is emotional regulation (and emotional resilience) and what evidence do we have about it from brain research?
  3. What is the grandparent hypothesis?


  1. Identify some of the major theoretical committments of the Berlin Wisdom Paradigm, including its orientation vis a via implicit/explicit, life span dev theory, its construct and methods of research, conceptions of intelligence, etc.
  2. Identify and assess the major predictions of the early theory (104ff).


  1. Does Wisdom involve a normative component? Does it involve selection of life enhancing goals, for example?
  2. How is Wisdom a meta-heuristic?
  3. How does SOC theory bear on wisdom research?

FEB 11

  1. Identify and explain contemporary features of moral psychology (such as the Trolley Problem and Social Intuitionism) in relation to traditional approaches to ethics?
  2. How does contemporary moral psychology help us imagine the morally wise person?
  3. What is added to the concept of wisdom when you equate it with moral wisdom?

FEB 13

FEB 18

FEB 20

  1. Is Humility compatible with effectiveness in the world and ambition? Consider evidence in your readings and your own theorizing.
  2. Give a summary and analysis of the Buddhist model of suffering and liberation. Does this represent a model for the training of wisdom?
  3. What is the ego? Is it a source of suffering, satisfaction or something else?
  4. Would training to heighten compassion make you a wiser person?

FEB 25

  1. What are some of the key findings in the neuroscience of decision making, according to Hall and Gilbert? What more general hypotheses do they point to?
  2. What is Sternberg's model for wisdom, how is it supported, and how does it relate to others, such as Baltes'?
  3. Why is Stanovich focused on the concept of rationality in wisdom education? Present and assess his view.

FEB 27

  1. What is Epictetus' general outlook as a Stoic?
  2. What considerations should govern our responses to the world, according to Epictetus?
  3. How does the Stoic training program relate to wisdom?


  1. What is the primary evidence of the possible benefit to an individual of an early experience of adversity? Why might we need to qualify implications from this research?
  2. How might we theorize wisdom in age as a balancing of gains and losses?
  3. Reconstruct and assess the significance of Ardelt's longitudinal research on wisdom.
  4. (X)How does SST theory view the connection between changes in our time horizon and goal-shifts that emphasize affective regulation?


MAR 18

  1. What are some of the major themes in Proverbs?

MAR 20

  1. (X) How are voice and rhetoric used to create the effect of proverbial instruction?
  2. How are women portrayed in Proverbs?
  3. What is the purpose of the emphasis on exhortation in Proverbs?

MAR 25

  1. What is the wisdom of Job?
  2. How might Job be understood in a philosophical anthropology?
  3. (same as 1) What, if anthing, are we to admire in Job?
  4. What is the wisdom of Ecclesiastes?

MAR 27

  1. How does the Song of Solomon model love and desire? Is there a wisdom of gratitude in it?
  2. What is the psychology underlying islamic views of spiritual growth and wisdom?
  3. What is the Theory of Nafs?
  4. Does wisdom change us or just give us additional capacities?


  1. What are some of the characteristics of Sufi mysticism that indicate the connection between mysticism and wisdom cultivation?
  2. What are the nafs?
  3. What is the problem of altruism from a biological perspective? What resources do we find in biology to address it, and how are the Prisoner's dilemma and the Ultimatum game helpful in theorizing about it?
  4. Should wisdom recognize the importance of punishment?


  1. Is there a physiological component to our experience of awe and transcendence?
  2. How do behavioral ecologists like Sosis explain religious behavior?
  3. How does the shekel game provide evidence for the adaptive value of religion?


  1. How, and in reference to what background understanding, can we judge cultures as relatively wise or progressive as opposed to sick and/or foolish?
  2. How would you describe the Oneida or Duddie's Branch micro-cultures as unwise or foolish?

APR 10

  1. Explain Boyd and Richerson's theory of gene-culture co-evolution.
  2. How could their model of evolved emotions contribute to a theory of wisdom?

APR 15

  1. Why might we suspect that introspection is more like a narration than shining a flashlight into a room?
  2. How might introspection alter our emotions rather than discover them? Does the evidence of this establish that we are sometimes strangers to ourselves?

APR 17

  1. How can we use third person information (from studies or others) to gain self-knowledge? Are there limits to this?
  2. Are we good at using information from other for self-knowledge? When might we not want to do this?

APR 22

  1. To what extent must we infer our own mental states from external evidence?
  2. What is the right model for self-correction and improvement given the conditions Wilson claims characterize self-knowledge?
  3. How does a narrative approach to self-knowledge pose unique problems about truth and criteria?

APR 24

APR 29