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The science of wisdom

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Wisdom is full of paradoxes. It is one of the oldest topics in the intellectual history of humanity, and yet talking about wisdom can feel odd and disingenuous. People seem to have intuitions about who is and isn’t wise, but if you press them to define wisdom, they will hesitate. Wisdom, with its mystical qualities, sits on a pedestal, inspiring awe and trepidation, a bit of hushed reverence thrown in. It’s easy to distill wisdom’s archetypes in history (druids, Sufi sages) or popular culture (Star Wars’ Yoda, or Harry Potter’s Dumbledore), but harder to apply to the person on the street. Most people would agree that wisdom is desirable, yet what exactly is it?

It’s tempting to claim that the interest in wisdom emerged with the advent of particular Far Eastern philosophical traditions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, each emphasizing lives of sages and ways to make sense of one’s existence in the ever-changing world. Of course, neither the concept of sages nor the process of making sense of the world is specific to a particular school of thought – most religions and ideologies have their own sages and saints, and attempt to provide a certain worldview. The truth is, the concept of wisdom is incredibly ancient, and not unique to any specific culture or way of being.

For instance, more than 5,000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, the Moon-god Nanna, the Lord of Wisdom, symbolized the sum of all other Sumerian deities’ powers, including foresight, justice, fertility, and love. Wisdom was a prominent topic in ancient Egyptian and Jewish texts and featured as a requirement in advising professions such as divinity, sorcery, or at the pharaoh’s court. In his Maxims, the ancient Egyptian vizier Ptahhotep described guidelines for sustaining social order, achieving political success, and cultivating self-control – in other words, the skills of wisdom. In the Old Testament’s Book of Ecclesiastes, where life is beyond comprehension, wisdom recognizes the limits of knowledge.

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Click the link below for the article:

https://aeon.co/essays/how-psychological-scientists-found-the-empirical-path-to-wisdom

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