No Wisdom in Materialism

From Mind Matters: “Why Wisdom Is Not and Cannot Be a “Science””

My words in bold.

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A curiosity of our age is the effort to “naturalize” traditional values, to treat them as an outcome of evolution. Evolution we are told, took us in a slightly different direction from that of the apes but it did not put us in contact with a wisdom beyond this world. There is no such thing.

That conflicts with traditional accounts of wisdom. Wisdom has been seen as different from “knowledge,” “intelligence” or “street smarts.” They are all very useful, of course. But wisdom is a view of the world from a great distance, which enables clarity about the big issues. For example, from Boethius, about 1500 years ago:

Indeed, the condition of human nature is just this; man towers above the rest of creation so long as he realizes his own nature, and when he forgets it, he sinks lower than the beasts. For other living things to be ignorant of themselves, is natural; but for man it is a defect.

The Consolation of Philosophy

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Of course, naturalism has no interest in seeing things from above our world. The only things that matter is what is in our world: power, pleasure, wealth, comfort, and the approval of Our Betters.

Everything else is hot air.

Or, so Our Betters say.

You know: the people with the power of the State to back them up, who can legalize their pleasures on a whim, enjoys both the comforts of wealth and of the echo-chamber, and enjoys the very best social status in our society.

However, it is politically expedience to deconstruct wisdom into just another tool to gain power, pleasure, wealth, comfort, and approval from Our Betters – “Nothing above the Sate, nothing outside the State!” – so…

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…we are informed by Igor Grossmann, associate professor of psychology and director of the Wisdom and Culture Lab at the University of Waterloo in Canada, that “Psychological science can now measure and nurture wisdom, superseding the speculations of philosophy and religion.”

As he says, Grossmann wants to “deconstruct wisdom.” And how is that working out? He organized the Toronto Wisdom Task Force, which resulted in a typical academic thinkfest. For example, we are warned against the pitfalls of our traditional views of wisdom:

➤ “The first was seeing the quality of wisdom as an all-or-none category, primarily inherited or bestowed by nature, a concept known as psychological essentialism.” Actually, most human beings think that wisdom comes from suffering through our mistakes. How many children are born wise? Where on Earth could such a misconception really arise, except at a thinkfest?

➤ “The second pitfall that many behavioural scientists frequently stumble into is the ecological fallacy, in which they equate the individual differences between people or by situation to more general differences across whole groups or over a lifetime.” Yes. That’s generally known as prejudice. But what big contribution is “science” supposed to make to the general awareness that prejudice is a bad thing that harms people?

➤ “The third pitfall concerns re-imagining a desirable characteristic in one’s own image, using one’s personal intuitions, introspections or behaviour as a standard for the trait.” Many of us would call that egotism. But no one thinks that egotism is a path to wisdom.

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Our Betters

  • have no interest in suffering, or in failing to satisfy their appetite, for any reason.
  • have a great interest in the ecological fallacy… when it involved dealing with the Wrong Sort.
  • and are way too focused on that idol in the mirror.

I would not expect anything from such ‘seekers of wisdom’.

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But what does the Task Force contribute to our general, unexamined recognition of these facts? Well, nothing really, except when it stumbles spectacularly:

Because wisdom is desirable, measuring its moral or meta-cognitive features presents unique challenges. Self-views of such meta-cognitive features as intellectual humility must be taken with a grain of salt. After all, telling someone that you’re humbler than others would be antithetical to the notion of humility.

Igor Grossmann, “The Science of Wisdom” at Aeon

Okay, but then what about Jesus? He famously said, “I am humble and gentle of heart” and billions of people have believed him for thousands of years. Now that’s an empirical test, of the sort that Grossmann is looking for. And it points in the opposite direction of his claims. Why? Maybe believers think that Jesus points beyond this world, a no-no for naturalists but a claim worth examining otherwise, irrespective of your religion.

—<Quote ends>—

The wrong sort of empirical proof is automatically ruled out of bounds by Our Betters.

“Dinosaur blood, lasting 65 million years? Are you kidding?”

Forbidden question is forbidden.

—<Quote begins>—

Old people die every day and we scan the obits and go to work. But a woman who sees her own mother die needs a week off work. Most of us do not need a “scientific” explanation of her reaction. And why should we? Only a clod would protest her bereavement leave anyway.

But the Wisdom team plods undaunted into the sunset:

As the sun set over Toronto, the first Wisdom Task Force meeting was coming to an end. We made a strong start, finding a unified voice about wisdom’s psychological pillars, establishing a common language, and identifying best practices for assessment. Given the brevity of the meeting, many questions remained unanswered. Can there be artificial wisdom (and how would it be distinct from artificial intelligence)? Are the psychological pillars of wisdom always desirable? How exactly can insights about wisdom be applied during times of uncertainty and civic unrest? In the months that followed, the task force members began working on a report from the meeting, as the whole world started getting closer to midnight on the atomic clock. The first half of the year 2020 has brought us bushfires in Australia, a worldwide pandemic, societal unrest, global economic fallout and counting. In such times, wisdom appears more needed than ever before. By deconstructing it, scientists can now turn an eye toward nurturing and sustaining wisdom in challenging times.

Igor Grossmann, “The Science of Wisdom” at Aeon

Here’s a theme for a conference that most certainly won’t be funded by the same sources: Why does naturalism trivialize everything it touches?

The problem with naturalizing wisdom is that wisdom isn’t natural. It necessarily comes from a perspective beyond our own troubles in our own time. Naturalists (nature is all there is) have literally nothing to contribute to the pursuit of wisdom, which points to a deep flaw in their system. And when we contribute to their system, we are deepening the flaw.

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It isn’t a flaw. It’s a feature.

All things should be trivialized, except whatever arbitrary, power-n-control nonsense has infatuated Our Betters at this moment.

Trivializing everything helps to strip power, authority, and influence from the Wrong Sort, and recenter it into the hands of the Right Sort.

A goal all materialists can support.

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