Four Ways to Conceive of Wisdom: Wisdom as a Function of Person, Situation, Person/Situation Interaction, or Action
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Mahatma Gandhi was wise; Adolf Hitler was not. When one sees examples of wise versus unwise people, one generally can distinguish them without too much trouble and reach some sort of agreement as to their wisdom among many people. But what exactly is it that distinguishes wise from unwise people? On that issue, there is much more disagreement.
Part of the disagreement in identifying wise people is in distinguishing the attributes that separate wise from unwise people, and even in deciding whether wisdom is a property of an individual, a situation, a person-situation interaction, an action, or some combination. I shall review these different views here, drawing on a selection of essays in a symposium in this journal on wisdom and adversity.
Wisdom as a Property of the Person
The most common view of wisdom, by far, is of wisdom as a function of a person. Roughly speaking, there are three models meaning (Smith & Medin, 1981), which can be applied to wisdom in a person—a defining features...
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