Synopses & Reviews
A compelling investigation into one of our most coveted and cherished ideals, and the efforts of modern science to penetrate the mysterious nature of this timeless virtue.
We all recognize wisdom, but defining it is more elusive. In this fascinating journey from philosophy to science, Stephen S. Hall gives us a dramatic history of wisdom, from its sudden emergence in four different locations (Greece, China, Israel, and India) in the fifth century B.C. to its modern manifestations in education, politics, and the workplace. We learn how wisdom became the provenance of philosophy and religion through its embodiment in individuals such as Buddha, Confucius, and Jesus; how it has consistently been a catalyst for social change; and how revelatory work in the last fifty years by psychologists, economists, and neuroscientists has begun to shed light on the biology of cognitive traits long associated with wisdom — and, in doing so, begun to suggest how we might cultivate it.
Hall explores the neural mechanisms for wise decision making; the conflict between the emotional and cognitive parts of the brain; the development of compassion, humility, and empathy; the effect of adversity and the impact of early-life stress on the development of wisdom; and how we can learn to optimize our future choices and future selves.
Hall's bracing exploration of the science of wisdom allows us to see this ancient virtue with fresh eyes, yet also makes clear that despite modern science's most powerful efforts, wisdom continues to elude easy understanding.
"Steve Hall has done it again. He masterfully explains how 'wisdom' comes out of the brain without oversimplifying this enormously complex topic." Joseph LeDoux
"A steady stream of insights into the psychology and neurological mechanisms of wise decision-making and the researchers uncovering them." Kirkus Reviews
"Definitions of wisdom abound in Hall's exploration of the concept.... He suggests it is to be sought in family life and interpersonal relationships — a practical proposition on which his readers can reflect." Booklist
A compelling investigation into one of the most coveted and cherished ideals, Wisdom also chronicles the efforts of modern science to penetrate the mysterious nature of this timeless virtue.
About the Author
For twenty-five years, Stephen S. Hall has written about the intersection of science and society in books, magazine articles, and essays. He is the author, most recently, of Size Matters: How Height Affects the Health, Happiness, and Success of Boys and the Men They Become. He has received numerous awards, including the Science in Society Award in 2004 from the National Association of Science Writers. Hall lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Table of Contents
PART ONE: WISDOM DEFINED (SORT OF)
What Is Wisdom?
The Wisest Man in the World: The Philosophical Roots of Wisdom
Heart and Mind: The Psychological Roots of Wisdom
PART TWO: EIGHT NEURAL PILLARS OF WISDOM
Emotional Regulation: The Art of Coping
Knowing What’s Important: The Neural Mechanism of Establishing Value and Making a Judgment
Moral Reasoning: The Biology of Judging Right from Wrong
Compassion: The Biology of Loving-Kindness and Empathy
Humility: The Gift of Perspective
Altruism: Social Justice, Fairness, and the Wisdom of Punishment
Patience: Temptation, Delayed Gratification, and the Biology of Learning to Wait for Larger Rewards
Dealing with Uncertainty: Change, “Meta-Wisdom,” and the Vulcanization of the Human Brain
PART THREE: BECOMING WISE
Youth, Adversity, and Resilience: The Seeds of Wisdom
Older and Wiser: The Wisdom of Aging
Classroom, Boardroom, Bedroom, Back Room: Everyday Wisdom in Our Everyday World
Dare to Be Wise: Does Wisdom Have a Future?
Acknowledgments: Confucius Says . . .