Cultivating Practical Wisdom

Dissertation, University of Minnesota (2013)
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Abstract

Practical wisdom (hereafter simply “wisdom”) is the intellectual virtue that enables a person to make reliably good decisions about how, all-things-considered, to live and conduct herself. Because wisdom is such an important and high-level achievement, we should wonder: what is the nature of wisdom? What kinds of skills, habits and capacities does it involve? Can real people actually develop it? If so, how? I argue that we can answer these questions by modeling wisdom on expert decision-making skill in complex areas like firefighting. I develop this expert skill model of wisdom using philosophical argument informed by relevant empirical research. I begin in Chapter 1 by examining the historical roots of analogies between wisdom and practical skills in order to motivate the expert skill model. In Chapter 2, I provide the core argument for the expert skill model. I then use the remaining chapters to pull out the implications of the expert skill model. In Chapter 3, I show that the expert skill model yields practical guidance about how to develop wisdom. In Chapter 4, I address the objection, due to Daniel Jacobson, that wisdom is not a skill that humans could actually develop, since skill development requires a kind of feedback in practice that is not available for all-things-considered decisions about how to live. Finally, in Chapter 5, I apply the expert skill model to the question, much discussed by virtue ethicists, of whether a wise person deliberates using a comprehensive and systematic conception of the good life.

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Author's Profile

Jason Swartwood
Saint Paul College

References found in this work

Thinking, Fast and Slow.Daniel Kahneman - 2011 - New York: New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse & Glen Pettigrove - 2022 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
On Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse - 1999 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
A virtue epistemology.Ernest Sosa - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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