352 pages, 9.5 × 6.5 × 1.22 in
March 9, 2010
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 0307269108
ISBN - 13: 9780307269102
About the Book
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.
Read from the Book
PART ONEWisdom Defined (Sort Of)You, my friend . . . are you not ashamed . . . to care so little about wisdom and truth and the greatest improvement of the soul, which you never regard or heed at all?—Socrates, defending himself at his trialCHAPTER ONEWHAT IS WISDOM?The days of our life are seventy years,or perhaps eighty if we are strong;even then their span is only toil and trouble;they are soon gone, and we fly away . . .So teach us to count our daysthat we may gain a wise heart.—Psalm 90That man is best who sees the truth himself,Good too is he who listens to wise counsel.But who is neither wise himself nor willingTo ponder wisdom is not worth a straw.—HesiodON A BEAUTIFUL FALL MORNING nearly a decade ago, like hundreds of mornings before and since, I dropped off one of my children at school. Micaela, then five years old, had just started first grade, and the playground chatter among both the children and their parents reflected that mix of nervous unfamiliarity and comforting reconnection that marks the beginning of the school year. I lingered in the schoolyard until Micaela lined up with her teacher and classmates. She wore a pretty purple dress that my mother had just sent her, white socks, and pink-and-white-checkered sneakers. A hair band exposed her hopeful, eager, beautiful face. I sneaked in a last hug, as impulsive dads are wont to do, before she disappeared into the building. The time was about 8:40 a.m.As I left the schoolyard and began to head toward the subwa
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 . . .
From the Publisher
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.
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, primarily in The New York Times Magazine. He is the author of five previous critically acclaimed books, including Invisible Frontiers and Merchants of Immortality. He has received numerous awards, including in 2004 the Science in Society Journalism Award for book writing from the National Association of Science Writers and, in 1998, the William B. Coley Award from the Cancer Research Institute. In addition to science, Hall has written extensively about travel, baseball, and Italy. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and two children.
"Wisdom is a golden-ticket tour of the human mind, in all its dimensions, led by one of the most insightful and trustworthy science journalists we've ever had. This book is a feast, not a snack. Get ready to digest more smart brain science than you ever thought possible." -David Shenk, author of The Forgetting and The Genius in All of Us. "Astonishingly wise, incredibly well written and most importantly wonderfully synthetic. One can disagree with some of the parts but few will disagree with the whole. Wisdom is still with us." —Michael Gazzaniga "Steve Hall has done it again. He masterfully explains how 'wisdom' comes out of the brain without oversimplifying this enormously complex topic." —Joseph LeDoux“An attractively fluent, ebullient style…he has tackled a highly interesting but difficult topic with gusto.” –Barnes and Noble review “Compelling…Hall knows how to hook a reader, set up his subject, and most importantly, follow through in a smart, entertaining manner. Wisdom is straightforward, but always engaging and entertaining...Hall manages this quite neatly, intertwining science reporting, philosophy, and just plain great writing to make readers feel, if not wise themselves, then at least as if they understand what wisdom might be.” –bookotron.com “A fascinating attempt to understand one of our most cherished—but least well-understood-aspirations.” –Seed Magazine “A sharply honed work of ‘biographical journalism’ unique in its multiplicity of perspectives, con