Spring 2015 Wisdom Course Lecture Notes

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Return to Wisdom

JAN 14

1st Day of Class Information

  • Websites in the course
  • Course Website: Alfino.org -- courses -- Spring 2015 Wisdom -- access grading schemes, ereserves (pdfs of readings), audio files, email.
  • Course Wiki: Alfino.org -- wiki -- Wisdom (or from course website). All course information is linked from the course wiki page.
  • Turning Point] -- Download and install Responseware ($19)
  • Peerceptiv -- Register for this peer review site ($5) -- enter expert44 to register for the class.
  • Assignments for your grading schemes.
  • Grading approach -- friendly grading curve.
  • Two rubrics: Flow/Content and Flow/Logic/Insight

The Prep Cycle

  • Read for class. Get main ideas. Show reading knowledge on clicker quiz. (Content portion of class.)
  • Come to class. (Method portion of class.)
  • Note study questions and work to answer them during class. (We will do some short answer exercises to work on this.) Review if you don't feel you can answer the study questions after class. The Flow/Content rubric applies to this.
  • Repeat.
This is our basic pattern, but as we learn more we will build toward larger theoretical questions which are the basis of the exam essays and paper.

JAN 21

Hall, Chapter 1 "What is Wisdom?"

  • opening story, point about wisdom
  • p. 11: some traits of wise people, 12: some wise people
  • Perceptions of wise individuals and gender.
  • his approach, p. 16 (using science) - definition of wisdom, bot. 17 -- list these --
  • Hall's initial theoretical definition: bot 18 -- read & note

Small group questions

Apply Hall's trait list and definition to people you regard as wise, places where wisdom is taught or occurs, or states of mind that promote it.

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

  • Socrates: There is a human version of divine wisdom.
  • Socrates' definition. 24
  • Does his example support the claim that wisdom is real? Consider his fate.
  • Axial Age Hypothesis - 26: thesis about humans coming to accept responsibility for events. Emancipation from magical thinking.
  • Greek wisdom linked to Peraclean age: 450's bc.
  • Greek
  • Contrast between Pericles and Socrates, p. 28
  • both selling "deliberation" as a virtue
  • Socrates' treatment of emotion unique -- Anti-body
Primary class interest here is to get contrasting images of wisdom across the so-called Axial Age.
  • Confucius
  • 6th century BC China
  • characteristics of confucian ideas of wisdom 30-31
  • Buddha
  • 563-483bc, India
  • "awakening" vs. "wisdom"
  • characteristics: 33-34. "mindfulness"
  • Some broad historical observations on wisdom:
  • What is the relationship of wisdom and religion? (Note p. 36: hypothesis on connection/disconnection)
  • Over history, wisdom theorized as "received" from God, but also as product of hard nosed investigation of nature.

Robinson, "Wisdom Through the Ages"

  • Socrates
  • note on Homeric concept --- p. 13-14: Greek concept of soul/nous; nous found in Homeric epics along other terms for psyche, motivations, impulse (menos) and rage (lyssa)
  • distinctions among sophia, phronesis, episteme
  • 14: differences between wisdom and cleverness. wisdom v. intelligence. possible argument for including morality in def. of wisdom.
  • Socratic "anti-body" view of wisdom (again). The soma is a sema.
  • Aristotle
  • Naturalist, empirical, first "biologist". Practical and this worldly in contrast to Plato.
  • Aristotle's concept of wisdom. idion ergon (life lived in conformity to dictates of reason, governed by mission or purpose)/ prohaireseis(deliberated choices) / hexeis (dispositions). This structure of soul/noos is connected to happiness as "eudaimonia" a kind of fulfillment and flourishing of life that brings deep satisfaction. Very developmental thinker.
  • Knowing Final Causes. Review argument on p. 17. Discuss to self-identify in relation to these claims about final cause and the contemplative life.
  • Practical wisdom (phronesis), theoretical (scientific) knowledge (theoretikes), practical knowledge (ergon)
  • Epicureans & Stoics (Helenist Schools)
  • comment on his gloss of stoics.
  • not much now since we'll study this later.
  • 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

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
  • 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.

JAN 28

Clayton and Birren, "The Development of Wisdom across the Life Span"

  • Note from historical treatment: East/West differences. Compare to Gisela.
  • Western biblical tradition: Three paths. formal education for leadership, parental, faith/devotion (wisdom as gift from divine). 105-106.
  • Eastern traditions. comparison on role of intellect 109. words vs. experience and deeds. meditation (110)
  • Nice definition at p. 112. "for some time, mankind has held the conviction that there is a superior, complex, and understanding and experience of the ultimate nature of reality and man's relationship to this reality."
  • Multidimensional Scaling Study: Note method (see link on wiki) and results. Cognitive, affective, and reflective qualities.
  • Note discussion at 119. Older subjects place wisdom further from age.
  • 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."
  • Erickson, Kohlberg - focused on wisdom as an extra stage near end of life.
  • Piaget -- not well positioned to consider life span.

Small Group Discussion #1

  • Topic of discussion for small groups: Are older people wiser? If experience alone isn't enough, what other factors are required? Also, try to evaluate that cognitive, affective, and reflective capacities are crucial to wisdom. Give examples of each.

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.
  • "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. "paradoxically, it is the awareness oof one's subjectivity or one's projections that allows one to begin the task of overcoming that subjectivity" 16
  • Research hypothesis: "wisdom, rather than objective life conditions, explains most of the variation in life satisfaction during old age."
  • 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 (note: goal-achievement gap model)
  • 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.

Carstensen, "The Influence of a Sense of Time on Human Development"

  • The subjective sense of future time plays an essential role in human motivation. Gradually, time left becomes a better predictor than chronological age for a range of cognitive, emotional,and motivational variables. Socioemotional selectivity theory maintains that constraints on timehorizons shift motivational priorities in such a way that the regulation of emotional states becomes more important than other types of goals. This motivational shift occurs with age but also appears in other contexts (for example, geographical relocations, illnesses, and war) that limit subjective future time.
  • interesting point: child dev mostly about time since birth. she's interested in time remaining.
  • sst: two categories shift: motivation for knowledge acquisition and regulation of emotion.
  • presents the theory in this short article. notes research, such as that older people process negative emotion less deeply and spend more time on positive emotions.

Small Group Discussion #2

  • Can the subjective sense of future time be manipulated by attentional effort or contemplative practices?


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 (in the course)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?
  • Group Discussion Topic: Compare the following two hypotheses:
  • 1. Wisdom disappears after the Scientific Revolution because we know a lot more now about how to live. (post renaissance, Bacon anyone?)
  • 2. Wisdom disappears after the Scientific Revolution because scientific culture downplays the problem of finding "precetps for living" (I'll add notes on each.)
  • Discussion of Plato: repeats a version of Laouvie-Vief's thesis: note p. 5
  • Note Aristotle paragraph at bot of 5. Perfect answer to last week's exercise!
  • What follows from the way wisdom can move from secular to religious culture so easily?
  • Recurrent theme in historical discussion: models of wisdom that involve transcendence or paradigm shift (Greek, Judaic, Christian, Islamic culture, , vs. models that remain "immanent" in daily life (Confucian, Hellenistic, some biblical sources, Aristotlean, contemporary secular (post renaissance/enlightenment)

  • Wisdom in the psychological sciences
    • Not really a central topic immediately. Not susceptible to rigorous definition or a bottom up approach (though now we'll see that in Hall's reporting, in the day (pre-80s), this was harder to see. So you have to have really good vision (like William James and John Dewey) to see it). Also, Erikson, Jung.
    • Definitions of wisdom present in Sternberg. table on 16-18. Look at Baltes and Smith. Note how the relative weight cognitive capacities changes across the definitions. Can you notice tensions between particular definitions. Page through the brief discussion of research projects, p. 16-25. Quick group consultation.
  • 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. Follow statement on p. 43. Also, note from the end of the chapter about her story. Choice.
  • Erikson -- idea of wisdom as end stage "8" of process of self-realization. (really more "rationalist psychology")
  • Interesting hypothesis in face of growth of knowledge in gerontology about decay of faculties. Correction to last week's
  • Hall's account of Genesis myth as also about acquiring "original wisdom" -- wisdom as the price of seeing things clearly. wisdom as necessarily acquired through transgression vs. living within limits. also "dark wisdom".
  • Baltes, Smith, Staudinger, Kunzemann. -- Berlin Wisdom Paradigm -- brief overview, 49ff. Note how he derived his construct and method of research. +96
  • Early critics: Sarstensen and Ardelt -- felt BWP didn't focus enough on emotion.

Hall, Chapter 4, "Emotional Regualtion"

  • Emotional regulation as a compensating strength of aging. (Hypothesized as an achievement, but let's reflect on that a moment.)
  • "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 or resilience? What is the diff?
  • 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 66. note mechanism suggested for each. (Note connection to therapeutic writing.)
  • Cartensens' research in assisted living homes. counterintuitive answers. (67) "time horizon" theory. Implications.
  • Carstensen on the paradigmatic tasks of the young: "knowledge trajectory" (70); "collectors" 71,
  • 71: neuroscience on learning from loss; affective forecasting; young as steep "discounters"; greater appetite for risk, less for ambiguity,
  • 73: emotional resilience in Davidson's longitudinal neuroscience research: correlation of emotional regulation and brain pattern. Gabrielli studies on young amygdalas. Gross on male/female emotional processing.
  • postive illusion (optimism bias)
  • "Grandparent hypothesis"
  • Concluding Group Discussion: Is emotional regulation something that a young person could use to mimic the emotional regulative experience of older people? Is such a goal possible, desirable?

FEB 11

Baltes & Smith, "Toward a Psychology of Wisdom and its Ontegenesis" 1990

  • 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.
  • Fundamental assumption #1: Wisdom is an "expert knowledge system" (what is an expert system - mention Affectiva)
  • Fundamental assumption:#2: A dual-process model of intelligence (Mechanics / Pragmatics) is most relevant to understanding wisdom.
  • Fundamental assumption #3: Wisdom is about life pragmatics, understood as life planning, review
  • The "Baltes Five" Criteria Construct for Wisdom:
  • Rich factual knowledge: accumulation of knowledge which facilitates predictive ability to see how relationships, causes, and meanings will interact in a situation. "a representation of the expected sequential flow of events in a particular situation"
  • Rich procedural knowledge: accumulation of knowledge which facilitates understanding of strategies of problem solving, advice seeking.
  • Life span contextualism: understanding a problem in awareness of it's place in the life span.
  • Relativism: Understanding and taking into account the range of values, goals, and priorities in human life.
  • Uncertainty: awareness of limits of knowledge in general and in particular factual cases.

Small Group Exercise

  • For each of the five, identify 3 examples, a word or phrase to describe someone not good at that aspect, a critical question or two.

Baltes & Freund, "Wisdom as Meta-Heuristic and SOC" 2002

  • Sophia vs. Phronesis (one more time)
  • 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. but must be normative. Need to actually know something about what is really important in human flourishing to produce wisdom (this could be seen as a knowledge bias or a legitimate grounding of wisdom in knowledge). Baltes & Co. are siding with the traditions of philosophy and religion on this one. Wisdom is normative.
  • 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."

Quick exercise: identify contemporary meta-heuristics in your experience

  • SOC -- a heuristic for delineating, pursuing, and reviewing goals. (It's a heuristic for life management, so relevant to the Baltes paradigm)
  • Selection -- of goals -- can be either elective selection or loss selection. Deliberate, articulate... approach vs. avoidance goals. loss also from zero sum aspect of goals as when an athlete becomes a scholar.
  • Optimization -- of means. "Acquire and invest" - sub-skills 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".)
  • Rubenstein quote at 265. Brim's "My Father's Window Box"

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.
  • Distinction between implicit and explicit (112).
  • Three types of wisdom constructs:
  1. wisdom as aspect of personality development in later life (Erikson) - characterized by detachment from self-interest (note: not the only option)
  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)
  • Note: We'll add at least a fourth to this when we look at culture and wisdom later in the term.
  • clearer explanation (than Baltes and Smith) of "cognitive mechanics" vs. "cognitive pragmatics" (116)
  • "Big Picture" Review Model on p. 120. Note how it points to further topics that we will discuss in the semester. Note on 122: at young ages, we over identify high IQ individuals as wise. (Parallel to misperception of old as wise.)
  • Discussion Topic: Must wisdom be oriented toward the individual and common good? sketch arguments together briefly.
  • 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).


(Some notes on Ontogenesis of wisdom from these three readings.)

  • Note how you can explain the "age of onset" of wisdom as optimization of cognitive mechanics and pragmatics (suggests it can't be too old and that oldsters who maintain good mechanics (rare) might be outliers (high in wisdom)).
  • 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). "

FEB 18

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. alluded to at 44.
  • Evidence of emotional and automatic cognition in moral responses. Darwin's speculation on moral emotions. (102) Haidt, emodog, disgust, Trolley Prob.
  • Video for the Trolley Problem [1]
  • 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 vmPFC. Some can't factor in emotion. "Secret Joke of Kant's Soul" -- this evidence ends the debates in traditional moral philosophy over utility vs. deontology.
  • Wisdom implications: parsing of moral deliberation in various parts of the brain suggests need for wholism. Meta-claim: Wisodom as knowing how to weigh different kinds of moral reasons (some relating to loyalty, development, efficiency), different types of personal goals. If this implication holds for you, try to develop the idea in your group discussion by considering examples from life.
  • Wisdom implications from disgust evidence: extent of trained response. possibility of retraining: examples from personal experience: Can you recall a topic or issue on which you feel that you changed your emotional responses as a result of either personal experience or learning.

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" --
  • Note the critique in "Philosophy and the worship of Reason" parallels Labouvie-Vief's. Hume ends the tradition of denying the importance of emotions.
  • Kohlberg still a model for rationalist psychology. [2]
  • In stead of this, Haidt and moral psychologists contrast Intuitive ("the Elephant") and Reasoning (the "Rider") systems. Reasoning happens after Intuition. Intuition is driving more of our decision making than we think. Illusion of rational cause.
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)
  • What implications are there for this turn in moral philosophy for our thinking about wisdom?
  • Nature and culture have produced a mixed legacy of older and new systems. Need for balance.
  • A Wisdom Retraining project would involve not only emotions themselves (what should I feel disgusted, disapproving, or afraid of?) but noticing when the inner lawyer creates the illusion of rational belief.

Hall, Chapter 7: Compassion

  • [Puzzle to solve by the end of this review of the chapter: Is compassion worth it? Why would I want to share someone's pain? Why not just make an intellectual acknowledgement of it and send a card?]
  • anecdote on the siege of Weinsberg, 1140.
  • "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 Connecting compassion to research on theory of mind.
  • Weisskopf: Knowledge without compassion inhumane. Compassion without knowledge ineffective.
  • 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: gloss on wisdom at 121: mirrors: Mechanics and Pragmatics in Baltes. also 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. (Note this is one answer to the puzzle. A Christian could offer a similar answer.)
  • 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. read. not just cognitive.
  • 130: Richerson and Boyd's cultural hypothesis: imitation - learning - division of labor - other centeredness. All capacities that require a "theory of mind" which includes feeling other's emotions. Theory of mind refers to a set of capacities, but also a way of seeing the world.
  • Wisdom implications: Is cultivation of compassion on your wisdom to do list? Why or why not?

Hall, 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? Halls narrates humility as a source of strength for Gandhi. Let's evaluate this.
  • broader resonances of meaning of humility: groundedness, down to earth, not so much captured by "modest opinion of one's self"
  • In religion -- piety and obedience to God. 137 Aquinas: operating "within one's bounds" and submission. Digression on "recognition of talent -- anecdote on critter game. Good empirical test for humility as self-awareness of one's talents and capacities.
  • 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.
  • Final operationalizable characteristics of humility (from June Tangney): "an ability to acknowledge limitations and mistakes, an openness to new ideas and new contradictory knowledge, a knack for avoiding self-aggrandizement, an ability to keep one's achievements in perspective, and the king of self-aware self-perception that perceives both strengths and weaknesses."
  • Implications for wisdom: Tension between humility and effectiveness. Also, consider humility in the context of the individualism and careerism of US culture. Is humility a viable strategy in this culture?

FEB 25

Siderits, Chapter 2

  • Background on Buddha
  • note heterodoxy, intro/dev karmic theory, moral teaching ind. of focus on ritual and deities.
  • consensus on "moksa" as goal of enlightenment. Buddha's teaching one of many.
  • Siderits presents sramanas as critical and questioning of heterodoxy.
  • The Four Noble Truths
1 There is suffering.
1. Normal pain. Decay, disease, death.
2. Suffering from ignorance of impermanence. Including ignorance of no-self. Suffering from getting what your want or don't want.
3. Suffering from conditions. Rebirth itself is a form of suffering. (So belief in rebirth doesn't solve the problem of suffering in one life.)
2 There is the origination of suffering: suffering comes into existence in dependence on causes.
Note the chain of causal connection advanced on p. 22 of Siderits: ignorance ultimate causes suffering, but the intermediate steps are important. Let's give a psychological reading of this metaphysical chain of causation.
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. "It is the utter cessation and extinction of that craving, its renunciation,its forsaking, release from it, and non-attachment to it." (from pali canon reading)
4 There is a path to the cessation of suffering.
8 fold path. importance of meditation (p. 24)

  • Cessation of suffering: meditation, (non)self-discovery.
  • Need to assess this recommended "training program" more in light of Discourse on Mindfulness and the Eight Fold path (See wiki page Noble Eight Fold Path)
  • Note discussion of meditation, p. 25. Basic theory for mindfulness meditation exercise.
  • Liberation
  • rejection of presentism and annihilationism as models for liberation.
  • paradox of liberation: how can you desire liberation if liberation requires relinguishment of desire. Possible solution: to desire the end of suffering.
  • Problem following the consequences of "non-self": Buddhist maxim: "Act always as if the future of hte Universe depended on what you did, while laughing at yourself for thinking that whatever you do makes any difference."

Introduction to Buddhism

  • from wikipedia
  • 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, but still by referring to him as "you misguided person") 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.
  • This text also has a great representation of the theory of dependent origination: "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. Consciousness is dependently arisen in the world (relying on the 4 nutriments, for example), and conditioned by its connections with the world (bot 62), from perception to bodily and mental. Moreover, consciousness is reckoned by it conditions. Follow analogy to fire on top of 63.
  • After the destruction of craving, the question: "Did we exist in the past? Did we not exist in the past?" doesn't make sense. (As in Ricard, we get to the point of seeing our self as a conditioned and conventional reality.)
  • Sections 15 and 16: description of what it would have been like to take up the challenge of pursuing enlightenment. Destruction of craving (and, in Ricard, of the ego) is a challenging project. (Requires undermining the natural processes that lead to our suffering.) Wisdom involves transcending material nature, but not finding refuge in a spiritual reality. Sections 17 and 18 describe the pleasures of this 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 -- suffering that we don't see (animal suffering for a cheap egg).
  • Sources of Suffering -- self-centeredness, our unhappiness is caused, 4 Noble Truths (65).
  • Progress toward enlightenment can be noted in our response to loss: story at 67-68. how we approach death.
  • Treatment of attachment theory is a bit rough: his point: this is contemporary theory that focuses on the relationship between attachment and suffering.
  • Methods for responding to suffering -- meditation, use of mental imagery.

Chapter Seven: Veils of the Ego

  • In this chapter, Ricard makes the case for the destruction of the ego (parallel to the Pali Canon text on destruction of craving) as a wisdom/enlightenment goal.
  • Starts by calling attention to the variability of affections and preferences.
  • One Buddhist theory: Ego as a fear reaction to the world -- dread of failure, rejection, suffering.
  • What is the right way to think about the ego (acc to Ricard/Buddhism)?
  • great to appreciate our talents and capacities
  • also important to appreciate our dependencies and interrelationships (Even highly contingent things.)
  • catch the defensive reactions of the ego: story about the boats bot of 83) -- (fundamental attribution error)
  • learn from assymetries of response: example of the vase, the asymmetry of our response is a clue. (also in stoicism)
  • Problem: How can I live without an ego?
  • R's main response: true self-confidence is egoless. top 87 - less vulnerability, more secure, resilience.
  • Also: openness to spontaneity and freedom;
  • psycopaths have big egos.
  • Cites Paul Ekman's studies of emotionally exceptional people. egoless and joyful
  • 90-end: Gives brief philosophical reflection on the way a Buddhist thinks about the self in contrast to a western dualist model. Self is "nexus" point of flow of causal processes. Illusion is to reify. (Note, not arguing that the reification is not useful for various purposes, but that it can be a cause of suffering.)


Hall, Chapter 5: Neuroscience and Decision Making

  • Quick small group exercise on "how decision making feels"
Choose several kinds of decisions that you make (both those on a regular basis (whether to work out, buy something, what to eat, whether to go to a party) and those less frequent decisions, like choosing a college) and try to describe some of the phenomenal characteristics of the decision. What does it feel like as you make different kinds of decisions?
  • 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. Glimcher: what's happening in the brain when people decide evps?
  • 81-3: Problem of Valuation -- Decision making works on pre-existing value that we access in the event.
  • Factors: time, impulse control, prudence. (note that these are independently trainable to some extent, but recall Mischel's marshmallows!)
  • Reinforcement Learning -- dopamine cycle (read about the design of slot machines.)
  • Rutledge's "fishing for crabs" research:
  • dopamine responses shift from reward to prediction, then diminishes.
  • neural activity from failure seem to stimulate learning in some way. "Success breeds habit, failure breeds learning." (a heuristic for our times.)
  • Pause on the issue of predictive power of the model behind the "fishing for crabs" game. Should good decision making be predictable?
  • Problems comparing this research to wisdom problems: speed of decision, narrowness of the problem 89 (but note that the simplified problem can still tell us something about the more complex one.)
  • Is deliberation really so separate from intuition (ethics students recall Haidt).
  • "attentional blink" - def 92, might show limits of focused attention.
  • 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. 2007 Vispassana meditation research.
  • 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 = expected value.
  • two kinds of mistakes: estimating odds 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 (4:30). (example of words with R is diff places, things that get on the news.)
  • Example of not buying a 10th lottery ticket because Leroy has the other nine.
  • Mistakes estimating value
  • Big Mac example; vacation package with price change;
  • comparisons to the past - price cuts vs. price increases; theatre tickets (mental accounting), liberals relative affection for Bush1, retailing (comparison of wine by price), potato chip / chocolate / spam study (14:30), speaker comparison.
  • People have trouble with future value calculations(discounting) 18min. Example also from Hall. 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: 22 min: interesting comment about Bernouli in relation to evolutionary history (and biases such as those underlying these expected value problems).
  • Quick small group discussion: What would some good "decision making heuristics" be in light of the research on the dopamine cycle and attentional focus?

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.

MAR 18

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")
  • Moving toward assessment:
  • traditional objections: overdominance of reason - not sure the cosmic plan requires me to devalue everything "slavish" or nonrational; "men of stone"; counsel of passivity; rejection of determinism; rejection of providential character or universe.
  • Does stoic theory nec. involve passionlessness?
  • Passivity: reason an active force. more about finding the line between things we can control and not (consider contemporary non-stoic culture, e.g. end of life care)
  • Group Discussion: Consider the stoic diagnosis of suffering (note comparison to Buddhism) and the remedy proposed. Consider typical objections and defenses. How does stoicism fare as a wisdom outlook and therapy?

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. Long list of "adversity achievers" (watch out for confirmation bias).
  • 215: note how an adversity -- wisdom connection would fit with "early onset" hypothesis.
  • Parker (Stanford) research on squirrel monkeys. stress inoculated monkeys less clingy, anxious, more curious and exploratory.219
  • Davidson's left side prefrontal correlation: infants who coped with separation best also showed greater left side prefrontal activity in previous test.
  • 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 past the Freudian 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.

MAR 25

Boyd and Richerson, "Culture and the Evolution of Human Cooperation"

  • Gene culture co-evolution (also, "dual inheritance" or "bio-cultural") theory. Three necessary hypotheses:
  • 1. Learning is a form of rapid cultural adaptation that accounts for key aspects of human culture. (extension of "Baldwin effect")
  • 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. Mention next week's guest: Duddie's Branch. Positive Example: Pro-social emotions. might be a culturally created selection pressure for this via learning.)
  • For B&R, this gene culture co-evolution makes group selection plausible. 3282-
  • cooperation: "costly behavior performed by one individual that increases the payoff of others. (start with reciprocal altruism - explain - arrive at civic virtue)
  • multiple "stable equilibrium points" create variation among groups. Something environment can select over.
  • Mechanisms of cultural transmission:
  • intergroup competition
  • imitation of success
  • migration
  • discussion at p. 3286: evolved emotions: shame and guilt. But also "awe" and transcendence?

Sosis, "The Adaptive Value of Religion"

  • Behavior ecology of religion: typical question: Why does particular behaviors persist in a human population?
  • "Optimal foraging theory" suggests we optimize our energy exchanges with an environment (in food sourcing for example). Likewise, maybe other behaviors....
  • Related hard to explain behavior in nature: Stotting behavior
  • What are religious rituals?
  • rituals are a form of communication of commitment to both in group and out group members.
  • "costly signal theory" (Zahavi, explaining odd behaviors like stotting and rattling, warning signals)
  • higher commitment in a group is related to realizing group goals. Applied to religion. . .
  • note on Vatican II p. 170.
  • Shekel game research
  • game and results
  • gender diffs

Wilson, David Sloan. "Chapter 4: The Secular Utility of Religion: historical examples"

  • Some background on this Wilson: group selection advocate
  • Theoretical claim: The demise of group selection theories keeps us from seeing the secular utility of religion in a way similar to Darwin's inability to see evidence for glaciers in absence of theory of glaciation.
  • Example 1: Water Temple System in Bali
  • water religion and irrigation; the "subak" 127, egalitarian as hunter/gathers often are, but the water system involves hierarchy. problem of management of a common good. tragedy of the commons... note that the agricultural system was separate from politics. rare.
  • religious figures "Jero Gde" function also as ag extention agents.
  • Example 2: Judaism
  • recalls his speculative theses that golden rule and 10 commandments are almost certainly adaptive for groups.
  • Key features of Judaism: injunction to multiply and two sets of rules: one for intra group interaction, the other for out group policy.
  • conflicting advice: ethics of host; ethics of warrior.
  • assessment: in group / out group morality is hypocritical relative to our current ideals, but we need to look at it to see the mechanisms of selection at work among groups and cultures.
  • this example suggests that cultural isolation mechanisms of religion might be part of the mechanism for group effectiveness. (such as endogamy, required conversion)
  • note at 138: very concerned not to play into anti-Semitic criticism of Jews. Groups really do compete in different ways.
  • Example 3: Early Christianity
  • Stark's population theory of Christianity: at 40% per decade, on the high end of the range (like periods in contemporary Mormonism).
  • Basic theory, p. 148: Early Christianity became attractive to Jews and Gentiles because it offered continuity with Judaism and reformed rules that made inter-ethnic religion possible. Empirical evidence that growth of early Christianity was more influenced by Judaism than Roman culture.
  • Christianity offered a competitive alternative to the social disorganization of life in many Roman cities, such as Antioch. cultural practices like high female infanticide; high ratio of males, cultural values about status and lineage; all cited as dysfunctional at this time and opposed by early Christians.
  • Functioned like "cells" to isolate social networks of people willing to submit to moral rules and observances. high level of care during outbreaks of illness; differential survival. quote at 154 and 155 (mentioin perputua and felicitas)


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.

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

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.



  • Please listen to the short audio "Alfino Comments on Proverbs" on ereserves.
  • Divides, rhetorically at Book 10. First 10 books seem like instruction (Estes). Note misogyny. Women are temptresses.
  • Look at Proverb form: from Estes: contrast, enigmatic, compresses, pithy, uses analogy, understood to be generalizations.
  • analogies and similes: 26:7ff (also literary convention in Illiad)
  • my favorite: 26:11 "As a dog turneth again to his own vomit, so a fool turneth to his foolishness."
  • Themes
  • Wise lead orderly lives in fear of the Lord and they proper because of it.
  • Attitude of the wise is consistent and cheerful, even in the face of poverty. 15:15-17, also 19:1
  • Proverbs offer integration of behavioral norms we should hold ourselves to with a vertical and transcendent moral order.
  • Could we write proverbs for our time?

APR 15


Big Questions / Themes in Job

  • Our question of Job: Why do the righteous suffer?
  • Alternate frame for question: why is there contingency? why isn't the covenant a biconditional?
  • Is there a cosmic justice and order or should the wise be prepared for a fundamentally unjust cosmos? (cf. Stoic faith)
  • If there were cosmic justice, would you understand it?
  • How should we approach suffering?
  • (Problem of Job's visitors: What attitude to take to someone suffering if you suspect they are at fault?
  • Anthropological wisdom reading of Job: Beginning of awareness of our nature as subjective; gap between ours and divine consciousness due to our nature. Develops in Christian practice as overcoming gap between subjects through love (agape). (So we might experience the gap between Job and God as beta of agape.)
  • review details:
  • Opening scene:
  • Eliphaz: not direct accusation, but cosmic reminder: No mortal is justified before God. Lower yourself.
  • Job's observations on life and "candor": 7:1-16
  • Bildad the Shuhite: come on. can't imply God doesn't notice. Maybe it's something your kids did?
  • Job's reply (really to Eliphaz): can't judge God, but that means he's remote. There's no go-between, mediator. (Problem is Job isn't supplicating, he's kind of willing to acknowledge that he's alone, can't understand what's happening to him, and wants to die.
  • Zophar: finally makes the accusation. You must have done something really really bad, Job.
  • Job's reply: still defiant, but open to hearing from God, if he gets a minute to tell him where he messed up. his iniquities.
  • cycles of speech and reply from Bildad, Zophar, Job increasingly aware of his isolation, lower than human in his friends eyes, and by the way: the wicked go unpunished all the time, Job offers more detailed accounting of his life, but still affirms a clear conscience.
  • Elihu (Book 32, a later addition)
  • Book 38: God answers Job out of the whirlwind: summary.
  • What is the meaning of God's approval of Job's conduct and his disapproval of the friends?


  • 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'

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".

APR 22

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 like wirting a self-biography from limited source information (or bad memory)
  • Julian Barnes story: Ander Boden becomes aware of his love for Barbro due to his wife's accusation.
  • 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..."168
  • 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 171.
  • 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, implicit motives.

  • Major piece of "implicit feelings" research:
  • 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 imaging" 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. Our natural bias toward life kicks in.
  • 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 (yourself) to write a wise narrative?

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

  • Using 3rd person information to gain self-knowledge.
  • Research as one type of 3rd person information. Examples from chapter:
  • Research on ineffectiveness of subliminal ads could correct our mistaken choice for regular ads.
  • Implicit Bias test 188 92-3: really gets into the question of how to explain results. what's the construct? Real life implications: white police reacting from their constructs of African-Americans.
  • Using information from others to modify our "self-theory:
  • Mike's shyness.
  • "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.
  • Airforce recruits study: (sounds like Peeceptiv?) .2 correlation.
  • Should we try to see what other think about us?
  • positive illusions
  • Einstein example
  • Catherine Dirks. 201
  • For discussion: How do you balance external appraisal with the need to be committed to a self-theory that might usefully include positive illustions?

APR 29

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

  • 205: People can sometimes infer their internal states just as an outside observer would"
  • Note how we "bifurcate" our consciousness at will. "There you go again..."
  • Bem's self-perception theory: If you practice inferring your own internal states from your behavior you might get the sort of insight that you have into other people's internal states.
  • Tension between self-revelation and self-fabrication
  • fundamental attribution error, we tend to think of our own behaviors as driven by situational factors whereas we attribute other's behaviors to their character and motivations.
  • but under strong situational influence (if you are paid a lot to do something you love, you might eventually lose you sense of internal motivation -- passions become "just a job").
  • ultimately, observing yourself as a third party might be difficult if your "adaptive unconscious" is already "cooking the books" (makes judgements and attributions of behavior).
  • Another strategy: Doing good in order to be good. (211) (mention new happiness book - behavioral approach)
  • James quote 212: point: Keeping your best self-description in mind and acting on it.
  • relate slogans: Fake it till you make it. Sometimes you have to treat yourself like a dog! (explain)
  • example of a teen volunteer program that works indirectly on teens by involving them in meaningful volunteering. Turns out to promote wise behaviors.

Closing Remarks on Wisdom: Successes, Failures, Follies

  • we often confuse failures and follies.
  • Folly is marked by patterns of repeated unproductive effort or perception in which we continue to practice the same behavior without new effects. This can happen in any aspect of our lives, from work to relationships. (chain saw story)
  • Folly is often marked by the kind of lack of self-awareness and self-perception that would have helped you see the futility or repetition in the behavior.
  • Put positively:
  • Mindfulness is a master concept for the cultivation of wisdom, because it commits us to the kind observational practice that would help us spot patterns.
  • Contemplative practices help alter states of mind that pose obstacles to mindfulness.
  • Accountability practices: Cognitive behavior therapy: What is the evidence for this belief or thought? What else could be true? This seems like another way to get at the accountability problem.


Official Final Exam Time 8-10pm