Wisdom and Courage: Two Universal Virtues
· Wisdom and Courage have been linked throughout history
· Both are considered cardinal virtues by many philosophers, along with justice and temperance.
· Both are believed to improve personal functioning and community well being
· Distinguishing between courage and wisdom can be difficult
· Example: The cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz
· Philosophers have disagreed about whether wisdom precedes courage or courage precedes wisdom
Theories of Wisdom
· Classic conceptualizations of Wisdom
· Sophia – seeking the contemplative life
· Phronesis – the practical nature of great statesmen
· Episteme – scientific understanding
· Theoretikes – theoretical thought and knowledge
· Implicit theories of wisdom
· Developed by evaluating words and behaviors commonly associated with wisdom
· Clayton identified three dimensions: affective, reflective and cognitive
· Sternberg identified six qualities of wisdom: reasoning ability, sagacity, learning from ideas and environment, judgment, expeditious use of information, perspicacity
· Holliday and Chandler identified five factors underlying wisdom: exceptional understanding, judgment and communication skills, general competence, interpersonal skills, and social unobtrusiveness
· Baltes analyzed historical writings to determine how wisdom is communicated in everyday language. Found that wisdom:
· Addresses important/difficult matters of life
· Involves special or superior knowledge, judgment and advice
· Reflects applicable knowledge with extraordinary depth, scope
· Is well intended and combines mind and virtue
· Is very difficult to achieve, but easy to recognize
· Implicit definitions of wisdom also differ by cultural context. Though some similarities exist across cultures, members of Western and Eastern ideology differ on their views of what makes someone wise, with Westerners valuing cognition and Easterners valuing affect Westerners may value intelligence, problem-solving and planning, and Easterners may value compassion, open-mindedness, and humbleness
· Explicit theories of wisdom
· Explicit theories focus more on behavioral manifestations
· Riagel built open Piaget’s stage theory of cognitive development, proposed an additional stage to represent wisdom: Dialectical Operations Stage
· Erikson and other lifespan theorists view wisdom as a part of optimal development
· Sternberg’s Balance Theory
· Wisdom involves making judgments when there is no clear solution
· Practical intelligence is used to balance self-and-other interests in order to achieve a common good
· The wise person also considers the environmental context
· Berlin Wisdom Paradigm – Baltes and colleagues
· Identified five criteria common to wisdom and wisdom-related performances
· Two basic criteria: Factual and Procedural knowledge – indicate that wise performance requires expertise, both ‘know what’ and ‘know how’
· Three meta-criteria specific to wisdom
· Life-span contextualism
· Relativism of values
· Managing uncertainty
· Baltes uses real-life scenarios to determine levels of wisdom
· Baltes and colleagues have added the concept of Sehnsucht (or life longings (recurrent strong feelings that life is incomplete or imperfect, coupled with a desire for ideal alternative states and experiences of life
Becoming and Being Wise
· Developing Wisdom
· Many theorists argue that wisdom develops from knowledge, cognitive skills and personality factors
· Understanding culture and the environment also considered vital
· Mentors are believed to be an important mechanism for developing wisdom
· “Two heads are better than one”
· Wise People and Their Characteristics
· The quality of the social environment in early adult hood has an impact on the development of wisdom
· Orwell and Achenbaum suggest that women’s acts of wisdom typically occur in private whereas men’s acts of wisdom are more public
· Baltes and Staudinger report no age differences between 25 and 75 years but that the time between 15 and 25 is particularly important in developing wisdom
· Some professions associated with higher levels of wisdom: clinical psychologists
· individuals in Japan show evidence of wise traits throughout their lifespan; those in the US exhibited increased wisdom with age.
· Measuring Wisdom
· Wisdom Development Scale includes dimensions for self-knowledge, altruism, inspirational engagement, judgment, life knowledge, life skills, and emotional management
· The Wise Thinking and Acting Questionnaire taps the cognitive facets of wisdom
· Important to distinguish between wisdom, intelligence and creativity
· Wisdom is timeless whereas intelligence may be time-bound
· Baltes developed measure by assessing solutions to difficult life problems
· Values in Action Classification of Strengths – brief self-report measure
Benefits of Wisdom
· Wisdom associated with a coherent sense of self, solid and consistent ego, less investment in hedonistic pursuits, more interest in reflection and personal growth, and positive links to happiness in life satisfaction
The Neurobiology of Wisdom
· Wisdom has not often been included in neuroscience
· Frontotemporal lobe deficits may be associated with deficits in social appropriateness, emotional processing, impulsivity control.
Theories of Courage
· Like Wisdom, courage is universally valued
· Historical definitions
· Hemingway: “Grace under pressure”
· Cicero: magnificence, confidence, patience and perseverance
· Philosophers have typically focused on physical and moral forms of courage
· Implicit Theories of Courage
· Values in Action Classification System
· Conceptualized courage as a core human virtue encompassing valor, authenticity, enthusiasm/zest, and industry/perseverance
· O’Byrne identified three types of courage
· Physical courage
· Physical behavior grounded in the pursuit of socially valued goals
· Evolved from ancient Greek concept of Andreia or military courage
· Moral Courage
· Behavior that preserves justice and the common good in the face of challenges
· Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage compiles notable examples of moral courage in action
· “Equal Opportunity” form of courage – requires no training
· Story of Malala Yousafzai’s defiance of the Taliban
· Vital Courage
· Persevering through a disease or disability despite an ambiguous outcome
· Not limited to patient, can be displayed by the caregivers and relatives of the patient
· Profile of amputee Melissa Stockwell
· Shelp found that vital courage, along with competence and compassion is highly desirable in health care providers.
· Shelp identified three components of courage: freedom of choice, fear of a situation, and willingness to take risks.
· Psychological courage
· A form of vital courage describe by Putnam, consists of strength in facing one’s destructive habits
· Little training available and few exemplars of psychological courage.
· Differs from altruism in degree of physical risk, anger, and civil obligation.
· Modern conceptualizations fits well with Cicero’s ancient definition
· Becoming and Being Courageous
· Finfgeld argues courageous behaviors take place when, after identifying a threat, perceptions shift from viewing the problem as insurmountable to a challenge
· Szagun found that children and adults view courage differently, the tendency to equate courage with experiencing fear increases with age
· Haase’s research indicates that courage stems from developed attitudes and coping methods more than innate abilities
· Miep Gies, who sheltered Anne Frank, viewed helping (civil courage) as a duty, not a choice.
· Measuring Courage
· Numerous self-report measures exist, but they are limited by the lack of a comprehensive theory of courage on which to base the measurement
· It is also unclear whether measures should focus on the tonic or phasic manifestations of courage or both
· Relationship Between Fear and Courage
· courage in fearfulness are not synonymous; perseverance despite fear is the purest form of courage.
· Rachman proposed that true courage is approaching a situation despite experiencing fear
· Limited findings suggest that courageous people might respond differently, both behaviorally and physiologically, to fear
Benefits of Courage
· Courage is positively correlated with agreeableness, openness, and extroversion, and negatively associated with anxiety.
Courage and Culture
· Acts deemed courageous might differ from culture to culture.
· Asian cultures may value the pursuit of harmony over personal opinion.
· Western cultures may view speaking up at all costs as courageous.
· Some cultural groups might find courage to be necessary more often than others. Courage may be a necessary component of life for women across the world.
Finding Wisdom and Courage in Daily Life
· courage is the ability to act in spite of fear and overwhelming opposition, and sometimes imminent physical danger
· profiles of Winston Churchill suggest that courage cannot be taught, but can be inspired
· Raqchman uses of military bomb disposal officers to illustrate the value of knowing that one is prepared.
The Value of Wisdom and Courage
· Despite the difficulties in conceptualizing and identifying both wisdom and courage, it is clear that both virtues have adaptive personal and evolutionary benefits and should be cultivated