Spring 2016 Wisdom Course In-Class Notes

From Alfino
Jump to: navigation, search


Return to Wisdom

12/13 JAN

  • First Day Notes:
  • Websites in this course.
  • Roster information -- fill in google form
  • Main Assignments
  • The Prep Cycle -- recommendations for success in the course!
  • Starting the discussion about wisdom. Course questions.
  • To Do list:
  • Send me a brief introduction through the "Tell Me" form on the wiki. (Soon, please.)
  • Login to wiki for the first time and make a brief introduction on the practice page. (3 points if done by Friday.)
  • Create your peerceptiv account and pay. (5 points if done by Friday. -5 points after Monday.)
  • After rosters are posted, login to courses.alfino and look around. Retrieve reading for Thursday (and read it).
  • Browse wiki pages.

19/20 JAN

Hall, Chapter 1 "What is Wisdom?"

  • opening story, point about wisdom: tension between "good judgment" and wanting to make it seem everything is ok.
  • Thinking about wisdom focuses you on how you are leading your life. (e.g. if you read that wise people are compassionate or emotionally even-handed, you naturally ask the same of yourself).
  • p. 11: some traits of wise people (knowledge, uncertainty, emotion), 12: some wise people (many at odds with their society).
  • Perceptions of wise individuals and gender. Why so few women on the list. Is wisdom the same for m/f/...?
  • his approach, p. 16 (using science: break it down) - definition of wisdom, bot. 17 -- list these --

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 (flaw in classical model revealed by cont. science)
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: "gen"
  • 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; also to reality of wisdom??

Small Group Discussions

  • 1st hour: We'll set up two relatively small and specific discussion questions for your group work.
  • What is the significance of the "disappearance of wisdom talk" from mainstream intellectual life in the West after the scientific revolution? How does the term come up (or fail to) in your experience? With what connotations?
  • Is wisdom gendered?
  • 2nd hour: The "irreality" of wisdom. Let's consider the possibility (at least tonight) that wisdom is an illusion. I'll briefly make a case for that drawing on tonight's reading and then we'll work on it in group.

26/27 JAN

Philosophical Method Themes this week

  • Nature of a scientific theory
  • Intercultural interpretation

Philosophical Themes and Models focused on this week

  • Life Span Psychology
  • Aging and Wisdom
  • Historical Models of wisdom: east and west

Observations of Everyday Situations Involving Wisdom

  • With your group, read through these observational accounts and, assuming you agree that they are about wisdom, identify words and phrases that captures the theme or main issue at stake that involves wisdom.
  • St. Isidore of Seville
  • "3 things of wisdom for the week:
  • 1. This morning while my roommate and i were planning out our weekend, she went to her school planner and opened it up to the following week to check and see which assignments would be due for her. This is something i didn't even think of, because I know that i don't have any papers due, I can get most of my HW done on Sunday. I thought it was wise of her to think ahead and be worry free all weekend then to not know and possibly have a big assignment she forgot about due.
  • 2. While doing hw with one of my friends earlier this week, I noticed that she was typing all of her notes, from her notebook onto her laptop. I asked her why this was, and she told me that some of her professors don't allow for laptops, and she doesn't want to risk losing her notes so she types them and uploads them to her one drive. I thought this was wise, because that way she could keep them later, instead of having to save all of her old notebooks, which will inevitably get lost, or ruined.
  • 3. I was out grocery shopping with my friend, and the person in front of us in line was being very rude to the check-stand worker. She just smiled and told him to have a nice day, after he berated her for being so slow because he had somewhere to be. I asked her how her day was going, and tried to be really nice to her while she checked out our items. As she was handing me my change i said something about how the man was being rude to her, and how she was nice, and she just smiled and said that she hadn't taken it personally, she knew how bad days felt. I thought this was very wise of her, because she hadn't had taken what this man was saying at face value, but she was trying to see him as a person as a whole."
  • St Clare of Assisi
  • My older sister went on a solo rock-climbing trip in Bishop, CA this week and, despite my family’s precautions, she decided that she did not need another companion. Wiseness or foolishness is applicable in this choice, yet the response to subsequent actions and decisions is also demonstrative of a kind of wisdom. The first day of the trip, she jumped down from a boulder and severely dislocated her ankle. She was able to get to her car with the help of two people at the same site, call me, and drive herself to the hospital. However, when I spoke to my dad about it that evening, his first words were “I told her that going on this trip was a bad idea.” It may have been a foolish decision to take this trip alone, yet I think it is interesting how people respond to others’ choices – do they contextualize and prioritize or is it more important to point out another’s foolishness? I told him that it was most important that she was safe and that pointing out a folly, in this moment, was perhaps not the most effective course of action. He agreed and we moved on to talk about logistics for getting her though surgery and back home. When I reflected on the whole situation later that night, I realized that my dad’s response more than likely came from a place of deep love and concern. Perhaps when the people that we love make choices that we deem foolish, it is hard to be pragmatic because we are, for lack of a better word, mad that they would make a choice that could take them away from us. Furthermore, I think my first instinct was to assume that my dad was being self-involved in that moment and it was more important that he was right than anything else; however, after I reflected on the situation, I realized that he was worried and maybe scared. Although the episode is not daily in nature, I think analyzing responses to choices that we deem foolish and reflecting to understand the responses of others are wise practices that can be utilized in daily interactions.
  • St. Vincent Ferrer
  • "1. I saw myself acting foolishly this weekend when I tried to get my homework done in front of the TV. I knew from experience that I would not be productive and instead waste my time, although I proceeded to do it anyways. After a couple hours, I noticed my foolishness and corrected my actions. I think that I had a momentary lack of wisdom but ended up finding some. Now that I am reflecting on my mistake, I think the foolishness of multitasking will resonate with me more.
  • 2. I see models of wisdom in my professors. Although I don't have very strong personal relationships with them, most of my professors have influenced my sense of what is means to be wise very much. For example, I believe that wisdom goes hand in hand with respect. Professors have a lot of respect for their students even though their students may not be worthy of their respect. I see this thought my courses and I have modeled my behavior after theirs.
  • 3. We talk a lot about how wisdom and experience are related. As I approach graduation, I have a lot to figure out in regards to the future. I have been looking to friends who have experienced the harsh feelings that come with the completion of college. Their compassion and confidence in me provide a sense of relief. They demonstrate wisdom because they provide advice in a unique, respectful and productive manner."

  • St. Bridget
  • This was a busy weekend for me. I worked a lot more than usual and I should've prepared and planned out how I was going to use my free time because of that. I knew that I had assignments due on Monday but I neglected to check the blackboard page prior to class and therefore I missed that we were supposed to submit the assignment online and also submit a hard copy in class. I missed the online submission due date and I had to explain to my professor why. I felt like it was an immature mistake and one that could've been easily avoided with some wise planning ahead of time. Luckily I learned from my mistake and I am starting to track all my assignments and I am keeping careful notes on when everything is due so that I am prepared ahead of time.
  • St. John the Apostle
  • This week, both my computer and phone broke at the same time. This coincidence put me in a sticky situation academically and brought to light what I think is a very important aspect of wisdom. Foresight and preparedness are characteristics of a wise person that allow them to sidestep petty obstacles and pitfalls and focus on more important issues in their lives. Luckily, I did not lose any of my saved files on my computer when it broke, but I was very close to losing everything. A wise person would have backed up their computer on an external hard drive. This situation also forced me to ask for homework extensions in my classes. With the foresight of a wise person, I would have looked at the assignments earlier and been able to get at least some of them on time. Wisdom requires balance in all parts of life to be as prepared as possible for any situation.
  • St. Lucy
  • "I saw wisdom in question over the weekend when some of my friends were drinking. They decided to have a designated driver to go to and from where they were going, and although they could probably walk or uber there, I believe there is wisdom in a D.D. I think it is wise because it doesn't even give you the opportunity to drink and drive since someone is automatically coming to get you with no cost. People always say they will walk or uber, but in the rare case they are tired or don't want to pay, the opportunity for drinking and driving is created. I think having a designated driver is always the wisest option.
  • The second time I saw wisdom this past week was during class. A student was talking to my professor about being absent for a quiz due to some activity, and was asking to try to make up the quiz or re-schedule. The professor had previously told us that we cannot make up quizzes when we are absent. The professor decided to help the student out and let let them make it up, which I saw to be wise. I think as a general rule, that policy makes sense, but when a student comes to a professor asking for help and is actively trying to complete everything they can, I don't see why a professor wouldn't help. Some professors are not wise on this aspect of classes, but I believe this professor was wise."
  • St. John Baptist de la Salle
  • My sister recently had a baby and I just went to visit. One of the books she is reading to prepare for parenthood had wisdom in the title. It is interesting to hear about all the different camps of how to raise a child and it made me wonder if it's really wisdom and if it's something you can even learn from it reading about.

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.

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.

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 cognitive, affective, and 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--
  • positive correlation for both men and women, but stronger for men.
  • wisdom not significantly correlated with objective conditions in later life (for women) -- discussion of the reasons the data for men were different (see p. 22).
  • 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 time horizons 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.

Some results:

  • SST predicts that young are more likely to endure negative affect to pursue goals, older more likely to have small social networks, less focus on novelty
  • Research studies @ bot of col 1 p. 1914.
  • Less activation in amygdala of negative emotion in older people. Note hyposthesis on why younger people might need higher activation of negative emotion.

Small Group Discussion #2

  • In light of Carstensen's work, what can we say about the "wisdom of endings"? How does a wisdom person approach endings as opposed to beginnings?
  • In light of life span psychology, how would you describe the challenges of being wise at 22 vs. at 62?

2/3 FEB

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?
  • 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 might have thought wisdom one of the "idols of the tribe")
  • 2. Wisdom disappears after the Scientific Revolution because scientific culture downplays the problem of finding "precepts for living" (We've talked about this already, but perhaps there are second thoughts.)
  • New detail on Socratic wisdom: Socrates' mantra: No man (or woman) errs willingly.
  • Discussion of Plato: repeats a version of Laouvie-Vief's thesis: note p. 5
  • Note Aristotle paragraph at bot of 5.
  • 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.
  • 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. Compare to Gisela. Also, note from the end of the chapter about her story. Choice, seeing wisdom easier than doing it.
  • 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: Carstensen and Ardelt -- felt Baltes Wisdom Paradigm (BWP) didn't focus enough on emotion.

Hall, Chapter 4, "Emotional Regulation"

  • Emotional regulation as a compensating strength of aging.
  • "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?
Emotional Resilience: *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. Possible topic for short research.) Notice this way of thinking suggests that emotional regulation is trainable.
  • 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; affect 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.
  • positive illusion (optimism bias) (compare to Seneca's advice
  • "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?

Wisdom Observations #2


  • "(1) My roommate had a big paper due for her nursing class yesterday, but we had a few birthday parties this past weekend. I saw wisdom in my roommate’s decision to skip some of the weekend’s festivities to get her paper done, instead of saving it until Sunday night. I think she made a good choice in her decision to put school first, and she exhibited a good amount of wisdom.
  • (2) I had a tough decision to make over the weekend, and as I was problem-solving with my mom, she showed strong wisdom in the advice she gave me. I respect my mom’s advice for my situation, and the suggestions she gave me were very wise and had my best interests in mind."


  • Places I've seen wisdom:
  • -In my jazz class, my jazz professor decided on the first day that he was no longer going to use a textbook or traditional teaching methods to teach the course; instead, he wanted to focus entirely on listening and the music in order to teach jazz. He said he believed the music should be felt and this could only be gained through listening and experience.
  • I have a good friend who played soccer on a few teams up to high school. She was one of the best players and by her junior year she started getting offers from a few large colleges who began competing over her. She was offered a full ride to Nevada and was planning on going there. In one of the final games of her senior high school season she tore her ACL for the third time in her left knee. It was heartbreaking and she had to decide what to do. She made the hard decision to stop playing soccer forever and to give up the sport she loved. Now she is a junior engineer at GU and excelling in many ways.


  • "Daily experience of wisdom
  • When having coffee at a downtown location of Starbucks, a woman in a wheelchair passing by caught the attention of two female religious studies students and came in to talk to them. The students joined in conversation with her over her pet dog (which was a wooden sculpture of a dog), and after a short chat, they chose to pray over her. While the conversation was short, the eye contact they all maintained appeared to be sincere and the woman was pleased to be in conversation with the students.
  • After she left, another patron came over and praised the students for their kindness and generosity to the woman. He commented that their spontaneity inspired him. What I thought was a moment of foolishness in choosing to walk the dog on campus in the afternoon, instead of writing this, turned out to have been a good choice. I met a student, who after spending some time playing with my dog, told me that this meant a great deal to her today, as the day had not been going well. I wished her well.



  • "There are many situations in my daily experiences in which I think wisdom is evident or in question. Last week, one of my roommates was treating the rest of our house pretty poorly. She was being very unkind, and I just tried to ignore it and let her cool off. That was foolish because I should have told her that behavior isn't okay with the rest of us instead of let her get away with it. Because the situation lasted longer than one would anticipate, I eventually felt the need to talk to her. I asked her how she was doing and tried to engage in dialogue about her actions which I felt was wise because it showed her I cared about her feelings but also let her know that she can't act that way in the future.
  • Another situation in the week where I was unwise, as you could guess, would be with homework. I had an assignment due for one of my classes on Monday morning at 9am. I had plenty of time to work on it, but it seemed extremely quick and easy so I put it off until Sunday night. That was stupid because there were parts to the assignment I couldn't complete. To combat that - I was wise and used my resources to complete the assignment on time.
  • The final situation was one where I showed wisdom. My friend was having issues with his girlfriend and their relationship and I was able to put myself in her shoes and try to make the situation best for both of them. Even though it was not the easiest route, it was the best thing to do and showed wisdom on his part as well to be mature and do the right thing. "


Last week I went to visit my grandpa. He asked me to do some of his laundry, so I did. While loading the wash machine, I noticed a plethora of notes hanging on the cabinet above. They said things like, "Add 3/4 cup of soap," "Select REGULAR wash," and "Need to turn water on because you turned it off before leaving last time." It was wise of him to first recognize his forgetfulness, and then make accommodations that would help him in the future. While leaving the notes for himself, he had to somewhat predict that his forgetfulness would limit his ability to do laundry the way it is supposed to be done. The notes help eliminate difficulty and confusion for him (that is, when I'm not there to do laundry for him)!


This weekend I was going to the basketball game with some of my friends. One of them decided she had too much homework and studying to do because she has tests this week, so she didn’t go to the game. I thought she portrayed wisdom in this decision because although she had the opportunity to go have fun and wanted to, she instead made the better, more beneficial decision of getting work done so she wasn’t as stressed for the week.

For the last couple of weeks my housemate has been making the wise decision of on every Sunday, making a meal schedule of what she will be making for lunches and dinners all week so that way when she goes grocery shopping, she knows exactly what to buy and doesn’t waste money on unnecessary items. I think this is wise because she then has her week planned out for her, which eliminates stress and also is not wasting money, which leaves her more money for other expenses instead.

My friend is worried about the amount of money she has been spending lately, so she sat down and made a budget to manage her expenses. After that, she went along with our friends while they went shopping and found a jacket that she really wanted. She ended up making the wise decision of not getting the jacket because she knew it would exceed her budget and she wouldn’t have enough money for groceries for the week.

9/10 FEB

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
  • Point on method in discussion of problem of giving a scientific treatment of wisdom, p. 89. Wittgenstein quote. Baltes acknowledges that there are limits and differences in studying wisdom, for example, need to compare results with lived experience of wisdom. Not typical in science.
  • Fundamental assumption #1: Wisdom is an "expert knowledge system"
  • Fundamental assumption:#2: A dual-process model of intelligence (Mechanics / Pragmatics) is most relevant to understanding wisdom.
  • Focus on p. 94 figure 5.1. Mechanics of intelligence decline, but pragmatics increase over time.
  • Fundamental assumption #3: Wisdom is about life pragmatics, understood as life planning, management, review.
  • Wisdom defined as "expert knowledge involving good judgement and advice in the domain, fundamental pragmatics of life" 95
  • 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" (both general: knowing how people work, for example; and specific: knowing how a particular person might respond or think about something; how a particular life problem tends to go...
  • Rich procedural knowledge: accumulation of knowledge which facilitates understanding of strategies of problem solving, advice seeking. "A repertoire of mental procedures." (This would include characteristic bias and ways that knowledge seeking goes wrong.)
  • 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 that specific human lives embody.
  • Uncertainty: awareness of limits of knowledge in general and in particular factual cases. but also "strategies for managing and dealing with uncertainty" 103.
  • Two sets of predictions:
  • Wisdom has a culturally accessible and commonly held meaning
  • Ontogenesis of wisdom in general, specific, and modifying factors (Fig 5.2)
  • Research on everyday concepts of wisdom (106)
  • Implicit theories (Holiday and Chandler)
  • Sworka - good character increasing associated with wisdom by older test subjects
  • Research on wisdom as expert knowledge (108)
  • follow preliminary findings 110

Think Aloud Exercise

Tuesday Wisdom Think Aloud Scenarios
Wednesday Wisdom Think Aloud Scenarios

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 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. The "Socrates criterion"
  • 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. gloss on loss aversion research.
  • Optimization -- of means. "Acquire and invest" - sub-skills like "monitoring between actual and desired state" - ability to delay gratification (Mischel [1]) - note practicum skills here!
  • Compensation -- response to loss of means. Response to events. from getting glasses and hearing aid to giving up goals like golf or running. but also giving up developmentally inappropriate goals (throughout the life span)
  • Proverbs as heuristics -- study found that SOC strategies were selected more often and faster than non-SOC strategies. Proverbs can be associated with S, O, or C.
  • Study showing SOC associated with "positive functioning" (NOTE: This relates to the "hard problem" of wisdom. Figuring out whether wisdom really "works".) p. 264, read par.
  • 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).

More Constructs, or, What's still Missing...

  • The Baltes paradigm is impressive, but does show some limits to a scientific construct for wisdom.
  • Defining what you look for and then trying to find it through a rigorous procedure.
  • Need for an empirical and countable phenomenon might be structuring the focus of the construct.
  • Some additional criticisms of the Baltes' pardigm:
  • Wisdom scenarios not encompassed by "life pragmatics":
  • What would it be like to approach an experience (such as graduation, relocation, new relationships) in a wise way?
  • What ideals of wisdom do I see myself having strengths in and what areas require training?
  • Am I making the "right effort" (a category of training in many ashtanga-based philosophies) to achieve my goals (for wisdom)? I don't see where these kinds of questions would fit in Baltes' rubric.
  • Notice that neither class produced any life review scenarios. Maybe they don't fit the rubric quite as well as planning and management. For example, here is a life review prompt: Now that I'm near the end of my Gonzaga career, how should I look back on the experience? I think there are wiser and less wise ways to do this, but I wonder if it isn't very different from the action and decision oriented scenarios in our class exercises.
  • Some dimensions of wisdom still ahead in the course:
  • How is wisdom connected to morality?
  • Is there more depth to wisdom than the Baltes paradigm finds?
  • Shouldn't we expect wisdom to change us? Sage models imply this.

16/17 FEB

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. Provides resources for a philosophical argument that wisdom and morality are necessarily related. Kind of judgement in wisdom doesn't arise without "valuing" in ways that include morality.
  • Hall's point is more that morality is connected to biology (through evolutionary psychology), hence to prehistory
  • Evidence of emotional and automatic cognition in moral responses. Darwin's speculation on moral emotions. (102) Haidt, odors and moral emotions, "often/take" study, disgust and dumbfounding scenarios (incest), Trolley Prob.
  • Video for the Trolley Problem [2]
  • 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.
  • Point for us in wisdom: we have multiple resources for achieving moral convictions. These are being observed at a neural level in new ways. Some involve the capacity to abstract, while others favor loyalty and emotional commitment. In the case of the trolley problem, we have elicited a conflict of systems that dumbfounds us. Why are we inconsistent when it seems like the same outcomes are at stake? Wisdom is surely needed for this.
  • Wisdom implications:
  • Parsing of moral deliberation in various parts of the brain suggests need for wholism. (We'll be trying to focus on more philosophical implictions than this in class.)
  • Wisdom as knowing how to weigh different kinds of moral reasons (some relating to loyalty, development, efficiency), different types of personal goals.
  • Morality works from a relationship between evolved responses and rational reflection. We can redirect and retrain our responses (famously, for example, our triggers for strangers -- people who look different than us or live differently than "we" do)
  • 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.
  • Hall's image of Wisdom as an "elephant whisperer"

Haidt, Emo Dog

  • Disgust research: incest story.
  • 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" -- review p. 815.
  • Note the critique in "Philosophy and the worship of Reason". Denigration of emotion in western thought. parallels Labouvie-Vief's criticism of Greek views of wisdom. Hume ends the tradition of denying the importance of emotions. Reason a slave to the passions.
  • Kohlberg still a model for rationalist psychology. [3]
  • Instead of this, Haidt and moral psychologists contrast Intuitive ("the Elephant") and Reasoning (the "Rider") systems. (818) Reasoning happens after Intuition. Intuition is driving more of our decision making than we think. Illusion of rational cause. (comment on predictions of the model/construct at 818.)
  • Four Reasons to Doubt the Causal Importance of Reason
1. Dual Processing - literature on automatic assessment, close to perception, automatic judgement, attitude formation (820), very scary, but social intuitionist model helps because it is social. Zajonc research on priming; csness is thoroughly "valenced". Attitude formation is largely automatic, especially at first.
2. Motivated Reasoning Problem -- reasoning more like a lawyer than a scientist. biases: relatedness -- favors harmony and agreement. relatedness motives (impression management and smooth interaction) and coherence (response to cog disonance).
  • impression motivation: desire to hold attitudes and beliefs that will satisfy current social goals.
  • coherence motivation: "the desire to hold attitudes and beliefs that are congruent with existing self-definitional attitudes and beliefs" 821 other biases, such as "my side bias".
  • Various motives for ad hoc reasoning: relatedness, coherence (terror management), bias.
3. The Post Hoc Problem -- Nisbett and Wilson 77 - experiments, such as Nisbett and Schachter 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. Note on the relationship between cultivation of wisdom and the "cool" system. 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

  • Story of the seige of Weinberg, 12 cent.
  • [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. Note claim at the end of the paragraph: Compassion might be thought of as a source of a variety of moral emotions and behaviors.
  • note the contrast with Plato, as exemplified by Socrates behavior in the Phaedo.
  • Weisskopf: Knowledge without compassion inhumane. Compassion without knowledge ineffective. 118 (Note heuristic!)
  • 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. 123
  • Ricard: gloss on wisdom at 121: (discerning reality and selecting opportunity for compassion) 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 or Buddhist could offer distinct, yet roughly compatible answers.)
  • general point: importance in this research of thinking of compassion as having a neural substrate and a function in our psychology. But also suggestive of Davidson's thesis that responses can be trained.
  • 126: mirror neurons and empathy. (Some notes on the limits of this on the basis of subsequent research.)
  • 128: notion of "embodiedness" of our responses to the world. not just cognitive. Dolan's lab, research suggesting that localization of pain at suffering of loved ones in anterior cigulate cortex and insular cortex.
  • 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.
  • empathy research
  • 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. 135: "the annihilation of the self" 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 fact, can't you have a rather high opinion of yourself and still be humble?)
  • 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?

23/24 FEB

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
Wisdom (Sanskrit: prajñā, Pāli: paññā) 1. Right view
2. Right intention
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 processes. 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.)

1/2 MAR

Hall, Chapter 5: Knowing What's Important: Neuroscience of valuing and deciding

  • Brief exploration of "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? Compare this to things that you have become habitual, but which maybe you used to have to make decisions about (taking out the trash, brushing your teeth, etc.)
  • Problem of Free Will comes up throughout the chapter -- a short digression on compatabilism.
  • Compatibilists on free will believe that free will and determinism are compatible.
  • Several sources of evidence: research on the timing of neural and muscular events in relation to conscious awareness (Wegner, Illusion of Conscious Will). Also, conceptual arguments about how we talk about free will. Stacefreewill
  • You could think of free will as the power of our "agency" to operate within a deterministic, but self-modifying system.
  • 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 -- absent training, longitudinal results were significant.) (Maybe digress on Gilbert TED talk)
  • Reinforcement Learning -- dopamine cycle (read about the design of slot machines.) (Digression on food science. Moss, Salt, Sugar, Fat, Neurogastronomy)
  • 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? (Spring '16: What a weird question.)
  • 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. Meditation again.
  • "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: expected value = odds of gain x value of gain.
  • two kinds of mistakes: estimating odds and value
  • Errors estimating odds:
  • 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.) (Already implications for wisdom if you think living well requires a rational approach to threats and gains. Do mostly fools play the lottery?
  • Example of not buying a 10th lottery ticket because Leroy has the other nine.
  • Mistakes estimating value
  • Big Mac example - we compare to the past, instead of the possible; vacation package with price change; salaries that increase over salaries that decrease (but note happiness research on this).
  • comparisons to the past - price cuts vs. price increases; theatre tickets (mental accounting) (11:00), liberals relative affection for Bush1, retailing (comparison of wine by price), potato chip / chocolate / spam study (14:30) (Note possible application to wisdom for wealthy culture), speaker comparison.
  • People have trouble with future value calculations(discounting): "now" is better and "more" is better, but we don't do well when those rules conflict. 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 calculation of rational alternatives.
  • Implications for wisdom: 22 min: interesting comment about Bernouli in relation to evolutionary history 22:30 (and biases such as those underlying these expected value problems).
  • What part of living well is comprised of expected value problems?

Small group questions

  • What would some good "decision making heuristics" be in light of the research on the expected value problem, dopamine cycle, and attentional focus?
  • What part of living wisely involves expected value problems?

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.

Sternberg, "Wisdom and Its Relations to Intelligence and Creativity" (recommended)

  • 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.

15/16 MAR

Stoicism Basics

  • Stoic View of the God, Self and Nature
  • Rationality of the Cosmos
  • Corporealism
  • Pantheism - God is force in nature, life. Not a unified consciousness.
  • Rationality in us (also God in us): the "hegemonikon"
  • A metaphysical insight from stoic determinism: Because the cosmos is rational and determined by a benign force, everything that happens is providential and our appropriate (wise) attitude toward it should be acceptance. (a perfection!) (Note that this idea profoundly influenced Christianity. Seeing it in the pantheist corporealist Stoic might make it easier to imagine as a possible belief for an atheist. FATE =GOD) -- discussion
  • 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

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: Three objections
  • 1. Men of Stone objections
  • Stoics have an unnatural theory of emotions.
  • Stoic theory of emotions would lead to a counsel of passivity.
  • Too much focus on reason. (think Haidt)
  • 2. The Dichotomy of Control
  • That it is false
  • That is also leads to resignation.
  • 3. Unrealistic view of social life
  • Focus is on one's own subjective responses to the cosmos. Other people seem to be there...
  • Social life necessarily involves concern for reputation and honor.
  • 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

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 and threatened by freeloaders. (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. Easter Islanders. 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?

22/23 MAR

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.
  • system requirements, p. 127-8. justice issues as well as practical problems.
  • Neither Dutch colonists nor Green improved on Balinese water system. Lansing simluation to show efficiency of model. 130
  • 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.
  • isolation mechanisms within Judaism: 136-7. Including gene-culture effects from cultural selection.
  • 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.
  • literary example, Isaac Singer: image of cultural disgust.
  • 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. 149: growth of christianity correlates with jewish influence, negatively with Roman.
  • 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)

Sosis, "The Adaptive Value of Religion"

  • How do you explain aspects of religious behavior that appear to be madness?
  • Early anthropology. negative, Malinowski's view, couldn't explain ritual
  • 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. 168
  • "costly signal theory" (Zahavi, explaining odd behaviors like stotting and rattling, warning signals)
  • study of relationship between costly requirements and longevity of communes in 19thc US.
  • higher commitment in a group is related to realizing group goals. Applied to religion. . .
  • It's possible that a religion will fail by not imposing costly requirements. note on Vatican II p. 170.
  • religious vs. secular kibbutzim
  • Shekel game research
  • game and results
  • gender diffs: note that wisdom cultures do not necessarily make similar opportunities available to all genders. implications?
  • "Dark side" of promoting cooperation by promoting costly commitments
  • [some of the commitments are problematic for some members of the community]
  • may promote inter-group conflict

Small Group Work

  • Given the examples and theories of cooperativeness and group competitiveness conferred by religion, as well as the fact that contemporary societies are not homogeneously religious and that religion is on the decline, what is the future of wisdom culture? Are there other ways to harness to power of costly and hard to fake commitments to promote cooperation and trust?
  • Is it still adaptive (wise) in a global environment to see human flourishing in terms of absolute competitions between human groups?

29/30 MAR

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.

Edgarton, Sick Societies, Chapters 1 and 2

Ch 1: Paradise Lost

  • myth of primitive harmony in 20th c anthr and pop culture.
  • Supported by assumption that it is misery that needs explaining, cities as cause of dysfunction; early anthropology ranged from idealistic misrepresentations and glossing over of the violence in trad. societies to racist accounts of non-Europeans as subhuman.
  • Examples of anthropologists doing follow-up studies and finding big discrepancies with earlier accounts. Redford. 6
  • Story of Ik tribe in Uganda. Controversy over Turnbull's judgement, but also evidence of a disrupted culture: forced to horticulture by gov't
  • also, ethos of being a guest in a culture; expression of solidarity might rationalize some concealment of disfunction. Calling something maladaptive seems to violate anthropologists "methodological relativism".
  • examples of attempts to explain genital mutilation as adaptive. but also counter examples "ecologically oriented" anthropologists who were willing to judge practices as maladaptive.
  • example of Siriano Indians of Bolivia -- very asocial and low family bond. p. 13. unclothed, lack of knowledge to make fire.

Ch 2: From Relativism to Evaluation

  • recognition of adaptive/maladaptive in our own culture.
  • Oneida Community 1848-1879 John Noyes
  • sexual practices -- reservatus also part of other traditions
  • changing the rules -- justifying rape and sexual child abuse. 18
  • Duddie's Branch, 1960, Eastern Kentucky 238 ind. p. 19 - the horror of it - interestingly, very low levels of social communication.
  • 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.
  • comparisons are inevitable, and some involve evaluation.
  • traces relativism in the methodology of anthropology 26ff.
  • "suttee" - wife joining deceased husband by being burned to death.
  • [Note diff between "methodological" and "principled" relativism]
  • [Too strong on Spir-Whorf: the weak version of the thesis survived.]
  • 31ff: racist past of non-relativistic anthropology. yet functionalism can go to far. quote from Malinowski 31.
  • Example: Ruth Benedict praising burdensome marriage practices of the Kurnai

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. Was Solomon's behavior unwise?
  • Problem of altruism
  • from Darwin, then from Hamilton and Trivers "reciprocal altruism" and "kin selection" - golden rule, also in Confucius, a proverbial version of reciprocity.
  • Adam Smith, Moral Sentiments, top 153.
  • "Strong reciprocity" Bowles and Gintis.
  • Research by Ernst Fehr -- wanting to study "fairness" judgements in pay and motivation. behavioral studies of subjects in Prisoner's Dilemma situations (digress on Prisoner's Dilemma), bias toward cooperation.
  • 2002 finding by Rilling -- mutual cooperation in a PD game stimulates learning and pleasure responses. (Later, on p. 161, same is true for punishment.)
  • Ultimatum Game 157
  • Interpretation of Ultimatum Game regularity (25% or less gets rejection). Example of NFL revenue sharing. "altruistic punishment"
  • 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

5/6 APR

Some proverbs, sayings, and slogans

  • Live simply that others may simply live.
  • Measure twice cut once.
  • Just do it.
  • All work, no play makes jack a dull boy.
  • Cleanliness is next to godliness.
  • Don't shit where you eat.
  • If at first you don't succeed,. . .
  • Pride goeth before a fall
  • A friend in need is a friend indeed
  • Talk is cheap
  • Keep calm and carry on.
  • Two wrongs don't make a right.
  • The early bird catches the worm.
  • Do it or not, there is no try.
  • An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
  • First things first.
  • It is what it is.
  • When life gives you lemons, make lemonaid.
  • It takes two to tango.
  • A stitch in time saves nine.

Proverbs: Table of Contents and brief notes

  • 1. 1.1-9.18: 3rd-4th bc, discourses of admonition and warning; 2 poems personifying wisdom (1.20-33 and 8.1-36); allegory of Wisdom and Folly 9.1-6, 13-18)
  • 2. 10.2-22.16 Proverbs of Solomon (not authorship, but designates form - parallelisms and content - virtues/vices)
  • 3. 22.17-24.22 Egyptian - "Instructions of Amen-em-ope"
  • 4. 25.1 - 29.27 - Proverbs of Solomon
  • Appendices:
  • 24.23-34
  • 30.1-9 - dialogue between a sceptic and believer
  • 30.10-33 - admonition and proverbs - "progressive and numeric"
  • 31.1-9 - queen mother's advice to young king
  • 31.10-31 - ideal wife of prominent man.


  • 1. 1.1-9.18: Divides, rhetorically at Book 10. First 10 books seem like instruction (Estes). Note misogyny. Women are temptresses. But note also that this section begins and ends with Wisdom personified in a female voice.
  • 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 prosper because of it.
  • Attitude of the wise is consistent and cheerful, even in the face of poverty. 15:15-17, also 19:1
  • Contentment
  • Decisions
  • Diligence
  • Friendships
  • Generosity
  • Humility
  • Kindness
  • Parenting
  • Purity
  • Truthfulness
  • 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?


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?

12/13 APR


  • 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.
  • Repetitiveness and pointlessness of reality.
  • All is vanity...all things are full of weariness...Nothing new under the sun...all is vanity and a striving against the wind.
  • Questioning of purpose beyond toil. Purposes are finite and repetitive.
  • Invokes identity of Solomon

  • Bk2: the author acquires wealth, great works, great pleasures
  • Question at 2:15: If fate comes to the foolish and the wise, why bother being wise?
  • all is vanity and a striving after the wind.
  • An answer: 2:24 "There is nothing better for us than that we should eat and drink, and find enjoyment in our toil."
  • Bk3: Poetic redescription of the problem
  • "For everything there is a season...
  • God has made everything beautiful at a time, put eternity in human mind
He sees moral imperfection (finitude) and oppression. First at 3:16, then Book 4,
  • Bk4:
  • note 4:6 You should choose less toil if you can also choose less trouble. (A kind of qualification of the "enjoy your toil" message.)
  • game theory at 4:9 -- importance of cooperation.
  • Bk5 -specific advice
  • speech, heart, vows, hierarchy, the poor,
  • 5:20. For he will not much remember the days of his life because Good keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.
  • Bk6:
  • it is an evil not to enjoy the fruits of your work. the advantage of the wise is control of desire.
  • Bk7 - proverbs of "limits"
  • Note the counter-intuitive nature of the
  • Bk8 -
  • Kind of a difficult message. I take it to be roughly that the wise and the foolish both perish, but we can still judge them by their vanity, which comes to each in different ways.
  • continues in 9. Follow 9:3-4 (A living dog is better than a dead lion!)
  • Bk10
  • themes: the fly can ruin the ointment, wisdom should be above foolishness (in social order)
  • the fool talks too much, showing that he/she doesn't know the limits of what can be said, can't enjoy his toil.
  • 8-12: seems to be acknowledging that you are likely to be injured by life.
  • "Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything."
  • Bk11 "Cast your bread upon the waters" Venture your career.
  • theme of acceptance how things turn out.
  • Enjoy your youth, 9. Note that you should remove your vexation because youth is also vanity.
  • Bk12:
  • Remember your Creator might really mean, remember your grave, but the philosopher's message is being qualified by a religious editor.
  • Remember that you will die. Momento mori...

Song of Solomon

Celebration of regenerative love, and especially courtship.
  • How do we differ?
  • Less about mutual possession?
  • Less patriarchal -- Though we should assess this. In some of the images the lovers give themselves to each other. There are two voices here.
  • Dominant message is to celbrate the "coming to love" or courtship. The moment of mutual possession and it's timeliness (presumably to the wise) "I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you stir not up nor awaken love until it pleases."

  • Symbolic levels
  • anatomical comparisons to nature connect SoS with regeneration (in addition to being erotic to the home culture).
  • historically, writers have suggested that SoS is symbolic for God as "husband" of his creation, image of divine love, Christ as a spiritual lover.
  • SoS is dated to the 3rd cent. bc, but includes ancient mythological imagery. Part of its ability to resonate.

19/20 APR

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?

26/27 APR

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.