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Can Moral Exemplars Promote Wisdom?

  • Megan Mischinski
  • Eranda JayawickremeEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

Can moral exemplars provide insight into the nature and promotion of wisdom? Wisdom can be defined as the traits and skills characteristic of generative behavior and reflective knowledge (Jayawickreme & Blackie, in Exploring the psychological benefits of hardship: A critical reassessment of posttraumatic growth. Springer, Switzerland, 2016). Such traits and skills are vital for the development of healthy societies (Sternberg, in Research in Human Development, 2018). However, are the skills of wisdom a critical feature of individuals who live their lives in a morally exceptional manner? Can such exemplars form the basis of interventions to promote wisdom? In the present chapter, we present a brief overview of current models of wisdom in psychological research and evaluate the life history of Confucius, a historical focus frequently identified as a moral exemplar who also manifested wisdom in appropriate contexts. We subsequently discuss the implications of this exemplar’s life for current conceptualizations of wisdom, the utility of moral exemplar narratives for the promotion of wisdom, and the relevance of wisdom for current life.

Keywords

Wisdom Moral exemplars Personality Character Morality 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This publication was made possible through the support of grant #87 from the Templeton Religion Trust to Eranda Jayawickreme & Laura E.R. Blackie (University of Nottingham). Sections of this chapter have been adapted from Jayawickreme and Blackie (2016, chapter 5). The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Templeton Religion Trust.

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWake Forest UniversityWinston-SalemUSA

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