The Return of Wisdom?

[T]he terms “Wise” and “Wisdom” have largely gone out of fashion.

First, because they mix the observation that one is knowledgeable with the compliment for it, and we have grown to favor more sterile, scientific, terms when giving intellectual compliments. So we say “that was smart” not “that was wise”.

An old adage claims that education makes one cunning but not moral, and a life of experience, study and age makes one both wise and moral, when we wish education to make our next generation wise. But what do we refer to with these terms?

We use the trio: cunning, smart, and wise as a spectrum; using cunning to describe one who takes a shortcut, saves effort, or outwits others; smart to describe one who does the skilled or insightful thing; and wise to one who does that which reaches beyond general rules into nuance of particular cases, and in doing so produces extra benefits in addition to skilled and knowledgeable response. So we call a young thief cunning, a talented engineer smart, and old judge wise.

Second, we discuss three kinds of ethics: Virtue, Rule, and Outcome, often as if they were very different things. But instead, they describe our ethical evolution through life, from someone who has little knowledge but seeks to be the best person that he or she can be(virtue ethics), to someone who has accumulated knowledge of general rules(rule ethics), to someone who has achieved wisdom(outcome ethics).

Wisdom is the product of experience having learned virtues, having learned rules, and having learned nuance to rules if not to virtues.

Third, since the 1920’s, we have passed through a century-long phase of pseudoscience in public discourse not seen since the closure of the stoic schools and forcible institution of christianity, whereby wisdom has been systematically attacked by pseudoscientists in the social sciences, literature, and the fine arts. It spread from Columbia University, to nearly all faculties, first in America, and then in Europe.

One of the central arguments used by the pseudo-scientists was that accumulated wisdom was not from observation – and therefore empirical – but from bias and design. An ironic position since this was the strategy used by the pseudoscientists.

So over the course of the second half of the twentieth century we saw generations taught this pseudoscience emerge and actively and constantly criticize accumulated wisdom – knowledge, to be replaced by the new pseudoscience.

Starting in 1999, with Stephen Pinker, helped by a generation of new technology in cognitive science and in genetics, we have slowly seen the daily constant reversal of the pseudoscientists, and the return of wisdom – exhaustive observation – in genetic, cognitive, behavioral, social, economic and political sciences.

Wisdom slowly returns to us thanks to science. So one day soon, some of us will again be called “wise”.

Curt Doolittle
The Philosophy of Aristocracy
The Propertarian Institute
Kiev Ukraine

Source: Curt Doolittle

Leave a Reply