On Wisdom: Attributes: Basis in Human Nature

Music: Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor.
By J.S. Bach. Sequenced by George Pollen.

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1. The principles of wisdom are not only discernible by reason but engraved upon the heart. This is because wisdom is part of human nature, which has evolved over millennia and is in all people the same.

2. One may ask, then, why all are not wise. The answer is that all are wise to varying degrees, just as all are to varying degrees intelligent, dexterous, creative, curious, and so on.

3. Wisdom guides our behavior so as to enable the species to survive. It does this in two ways. First, since society is the principal means of human survival, wisdom enables us to live with one another in relative peace. Second, since reason and will lay before us the alternative of suicide, wisdom enables us to attain happiness and survive despair.

4. If experience were food, wisdom would be taste, enabling us to distinguish good from bad. And although all are endowed with taste, the education of taste enables one to make subtler distinctions and finer judgments.

5. Similarly with wisdom: the principles are inborn, but their application is much enhanced by upbringing, schooling, reading, conversation, the cultivation of good habits, and the emulation of the wise.

6. We are born with a taste for beauty and goodness, finding in them our deepest and most lasting pleasure. This is our gift as humans, though because of varying endowment and education we enjoy this gift to varying degrees.


Next: The Attributes of Wisdom: Goal of Happiness
Previous: The Attributes of Wisdom: Rationality

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