Last week, 4 of our scholars—Howard Nusbaum, David Carr, John Haldane, and Robert C. Roberts–and our 2 Principal Investigators, Jennifer Frey and Candace Vogler, all participated in a conference on Character, Wisdom, and Virtue held January 5, 6, and 7, 2017 at Oriel College, Oxford, UK, sponsored by the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham, UK. We are pleased to feature their abstracts and papers here on the Virtue Blog for the next few days, with many thanks to the Jubilee Centre. http://jubileecentre.ac.uk
Robert C. Roberts is Professor of Ethics and Emotion Theory at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, and has a joint Chair with the Royal Institute of Philosophy. Professor Roberts received his Ph.D from Yale University in 1974 and has taught at Western Kentucky University (1973–1984), Wheaton College (1984–2000), and Baylor University (2000–2015), where he retains Resident Scholar status in the Institute for Studies of Religion. He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and Notre Dame’s Center for Philosophy of Religion. He is currently a recipient, with Michael Spezio, of a grant from the Self, Motivation, and Virtue Project at the Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing at the University of Oklahoma, for a study of “Humility in Loving Encounter.”
Below you will find his short abstract, followed by a link to the larger paper discussed at the conference, “Emotions and Practical Wisdom.”
ABSTRACT: “Emotions and Practical Wisdom”
Practical wisdom connects with emotions in at least three ways. First, the perceptions most perfectly characteristic of practical wisdom, whether spontaneous intuitions or results of deliberation, are either emotions or virtual emotions. Second, practical wisdom is a power of judging emotions — one’s own and other people’s. In relation to one’s own emotions, it is an ability to recognize one’s emotions as morally fit or unfit and to understand what is right or wrong about them. As to others’ emotions, practical wisdom turns largely on sympathy, which in turn depends on a breadth of emotional dispositions in oneself and good powers for assessing emotions. Third, practical wisdom is understanding of what to do to correct morally adverse emotions and to confirm oneself in morally appropriate ones, and the motivation to do so.
Read Roberts’ full paper here:
Last week, 4 of our scholars—Howard Nusbaum, David Carr, John Haldane, and Robert C. Roberts–and our 2 Principal Investigators, Jennifer Frey and Candace Vogler, all participated in a conference on Character, Wisdom, and Virtue held January 5, 6, and 7, 2017 at Oriel College, Oxford, UK, sponsored by the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham, UK. We are pleased to feature their abstracts and papers here on the Virtue Blog for the next few weeks, with many thanks to the Jubilee Centre. http://jubileecentre.ac.uk
Howard C. Nusbaum is Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago, and a steering committee member of the Neuroscience Institute. He is an internationally recognized expert in cognitive psychology, speech science, and in cognitive neuroscience. His research explores the cognitive and neural mechanisms that mediate spoken language use, as well as language learning and the role of attention in speech perception. He is also interested in how we understand the meaning of music, and how cognitive and social-emotional processes interact in decision-making and wisdom research. He is currently Division Director for the Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences Division in the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate for the National Science Foundation.
Below you will find his short abstract, followed by a link to the larger keynote paper discussed at the conference, “The Relationship Between Mental and Somatic Practices and Wisdom.”
ABSTRACT: “The Role of Experience in Making Wiser Decisions”
There are many notions that circulate about the development of wisdom, such as the association of wisdom with age. But aging is not just a biological change in the functioning of the body; it is an accumulation of experience. It is likely that wisdom may result from experiences themselves rather than aging. There is some belief that life challenges can increase wisdom, although the benefits of adversity are questioned by research. What kinds of experiences lead to wiser decisions? Wiser decisions may sometimes depend on knowledge and expertise that comes from experience in particular domains, such as medicine or business or law, and may depend on generalizing beyond those experiences to new situations. However, there can be wise experts and not-so-wise experts. From Aristotle’s concept of practical wisdom, wise decisions increase human flourishing, which suggests other kinds of experiences may be important. Deep knowledge of human social interaction and human nature is likely important. Furthermore, beyond knowledge, a set of dispositions and skills may be important for wisdom, such as epistemic humility, emotional self-regulation, curiosity, perseverance, and the ability to reflect and take others’ perspective. In my larger paper I discuss research that is focused on trying to understand how specific types of experiences can strengthen these foundations of wisdom.
The full paper can be found here http://jubileecentre.ac.uk/userfiles/jubileecentre/pdf/conference-papers/CharacterWisdomandVirtue/Nusbaum_H.pdf
Our Scholar Tahera Qutbuddin gave this public lecture in September 2015 as part of “Sayings, Sermons, and Teachings of Imam Ali: Islamic Wisdom and Universal Values,” an invited talk in the public lecture series “Islam in Conversation” for the Office of Religious Life: Muslim Life Program at Princeton University.
Tahera Qutbuddin is Associate Professor of Arabic Literature, The University of Chicago, and a Scholar with Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.
In his encyclopedic book exploring the mysteries of science and philosophy, Guy Murchie (1978) identifies polarity and transcendence as the two great mysteries of all life systems.
Murchie’s profound insight is essential to our research and understanding of virtue, happiness, and meaning—the three constituents of the good life. Contrary to the predominant binary thinking of only pursuing what is positive, Guy supports the dialectical approach of second wave positive psychology (PP 2.0). That is, we need to accept the principle of polarity that permeates every aspect of human existence—good and evil, God and the devil, happiness and sadness, life and death…
Transcendence is also necessary because it integrates the opposites and moves towards greater connectiveness and higher consciousness. In terms of evolution, it is the inevitable process of moving from single-celled organisms towards more complex living systems, and from simple ideas such as “positive is good; negative is bad” towards more complex concepts like yin-yang.
Thus, the deep secret of the good life is to accept and transcend polarities. From the perspective of PP 2.0, acceptance and transcendence are the essential yin-yang processes. Acceptance represents the yin process of enduring and embracing life in its totality, with letting go and humility; transcendence represents the yang process of growth and self-expanding to the point of losing oneself in something greater and grander.
Murchie draws heavily from Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535-c. 475 BCE). Heraclitus is best known for his doctrines that things are constantly changing (universal flux) and that opposites coexist (unity of opposites). “The way up and the way down are one and the same… It is sickness that makes health pleasant… And evil leads to good.” (Murchie, 1978, p. 472).
Evidence of the polarity principle is everywhere—positive-negative, subject-object, predator-prey, action-reaction, stress-relaxation… However, there is an underlying harmony and unity below the surface reality of opposites, as symbolized by yin-yang. Awareness and acceptance of the sameness of opposites result in transcendence.
This polarity principle sheds a new light on our understanding of positive psychology. Happiness is no longer the presence of positive affect and the absence of negative affect, but the acceptance of the inevitable polarity of feelings, and being attuned to the ebb and flow of emotions with a sense of contentment (Kwee, 2012; Wong, 2014a).
Maturation means the acceptance of inevitable losses that come with aging (Reker & Wong, 2012; Ryff, 2012) and personal mortality (Wong, Reker, & Gesser, 1994). Furthermore, virtue is no longer the absence of vice, but the triumph of virtue in spite of the reality of the dark side (Wong, 2016).
Similarly, meaning in life takes shape through the endless process of transforming and assimilating absurd and meaningless moments into a larger meaningful design. This process of personal growth is made possible only through the constant struggle and stretching to overcome challenges and obstacles (Wong, 2011).
The end result of accepting the polarity principle is that we are more likely to develop the practical wisdom of moderation or the “middle way” and less likely to develop radical beliefs and the polarized mind (Schneider, 2013). It will also contribute to what Jung saw as the individualization process of balancing and integrating all the opposites within one’s self-system (Wong, 2009).
Such dialectic thinking opens up many new frontiers for research and applications. For instance, gratitude exercises are no longer limited to the good things that have happened to us; we are challenged to express gratitude for the bad things as well, because of the valuable lessons and benefits that come from suffering. This type of spiritual gratitude exercise may be more helpful to those suffering from trauma. The Psalms are full of examples of a voice beginning with complaints and ending with thanksgiving.
In sum, the best way to increase the well-being of individuals and organizations is to accept and transcend the pervasive polarities of life such as success-failure, happiness-sadness, and virtue-vice. This perspective is similar to the medical practice of assuming that we live in a world full of bacteria, viruses, and illnesses that we can acclimate ourselves to and survive. Thus, positive psychology is no longer a refocus away from disease to well-being, but a broader focus on the reality of polarities.
Tomorrow – part 2, The Transcendence Principle
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Haidt, J. D. (2012). Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence. TED. Retrieved from www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_humanity_s_stairway_to_self_transcendence?language=en
Kwee, M. G. T. (2012). Relational Buddhism: A psychological quest for meaning and sustainable happiness. In P. T. P. Wong (Ed.), The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (2nd ed.; pp. 249-276). New York, NY: Routledge.
Murchie, G. (1978). The seven mysteries of life: An exploration of science and philosophy. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin.
Reker, G. T., & Wong, P. T. P. (2012). Personal meaning in life and psychosocial adaptation in the later years. In P. T. P. Wong (Ed.), The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (2nd ed., pp. 433-456). New York, NY: Routledge.
Ryff, C. D. (2012). Existential well-being and health. In P. T. P. Wong (Ed.), The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (2nd ed., pp. 233-248). New York, NY: Routledge.
Schneider, K. J. (2013). The polarized mind: Why it’s killing us and what we can do about it. Colorado Springs, CO: University Professors Press.
Wong, P. T. P. (2009). The depth positive psychology of Carl Jung. In S. J. Lopez (Ed.), Encyclopedia of positive psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 545-546). Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
Wong, P. T. P. (2011). Positive psychology 2.0: Towards a balanced interactive model of the good life. Canadian Psychology, 52(2), 69-81.
Wong, P. T. P. (2012). What is the meaning mindset? International Journal of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy, 4(1), 1-3.
Wong, P. T. P. (2014a). From attunement to a meaning-centred good life: Book review of Daniel Haybron’s Happiness: A very short introduction. International Journal of Wellbeing, 4(2), 100-105.
Wong, P. T. P. (2014b). Viktor Frankl’s meaning seeking model and positive psychology. In A. Batthyany & P. Russo-Netzer (Eds.), Meaning in existential and positive psychology (pp. 149-184). New York, NY: Springer.
Wong, P. T. P. (2016, July). PP2.0 Summit explores the new vistas of second wave positive psychology: How to embrace the dark side to make life better. Positive Living Newsletter. Retrieved from http://www.drpaulwong.com/inpm-presidents-report-july-2016/
Wong, P. T. P., Reker, G. T., & Gesser, G. (1994). Death Attitude Profile – Revised: A multidimensional measure of attitudes toward death (DAP-R). In R. A. Neimeyer (Ed.), Death anxiety handbook: Research, instrumentation, and application (pp. 121-148). Washington, DC: Taylor & Francis.
Paul Wong is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Trent University and a Scholar with Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.
The Center for Practical Wisdom at the University of Chicago aims to deepen scientific understanding of wisdom and its role in choices of everyday life. Research at the center is geared towards individual development of wisdom and the circumstances in which people are most likely to make wiser decisions. Core research projects at the center include a range of topics including epistemic humility, stress resilience, individual differences in wisdom, and impact of language.
The center connects scientists, scholars, educators, and students internationally who are interested in studying wisdom. Through the wisdom research network and annual wisdom research forums, the center provides guidance for dissemination of current wisdom studies as well as initiates new research in wisdom. The Center for Practical Wisdom website provides a space for networking, a database of the latest wisdom-related articles, publications, and news items, wisdom based research tools and measures, and forums for online discussions.
The John Templeton Foundation provided seed funding for the Center while collaborative efforts are supported by a variety of sources including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and federal agencies. Affiliated organizations to the Center for Practical Wisdom include The Institute for Human Flourishing led by Nancy Snow at the University of Oklahoma and the Wisdom and Culture Lab led by Igor Grossmann at the University of Waterloo, among others.
Jean L. Ngoc Matelski-Boulware is Assistant Director of Communications & Research at the Center for Practical Wisdom.