The Mathematics of Wisdom
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As a psychologist steeped in quantitative methods, I am drawn to the fantasy that probabilistic thinking can enrich our understanding of any concept, even one as venerable as wisdom. I will offer two examples of how our understanding of wisdom might be enhanced by statistical thinking.
The first is what I will call the (possible) myth of the wise. There is a tradition in both moral philosophy and religion of talking about groups of people who have achieved a level of wisdom that sets them apart from the rest of humanity. Examples include the saint or bodhisattva in religion, the superman or the virtuous in philosophy. Is this an accurate description of the nature of wisdom, or is it—as Campbell (1949) suggested for the heroic archetype—merely a useful cultural fiction?
There are statistical methods that have been developed to address questions of dimensions versus categories. My colleagues and I have now conducted two studies applying these methods to data reflecting level of positive...