The Older-and-Wiser Hypothesis

Stephen S. Hall in the New York Times Magazine:

06wisdom190_1As an ancient concept and esteemed human value, wisdom has historically been studied in the realms of philosophy and religion. The idea has been around at least since the Sumerians first etched bits of practical advice — “We are doomed to die; let us spend” — on clay tablets more than 5,000 years ago. But as a trait that might be captured by quantitative measures, it has been more like the woolly mammoth of ideas — big, shaggy and elusive. It is only in the last three decades that wisdom has received even glancing attention from social scientists. Erikson’s observations left the door open for the formal study of wisdom, and a few brave psychologists rushed in where others feared to tread.

In some respects, they have not moved far beyond the very first question about wisdom: What is it? And it won’t give anything away to reveal that 30 years after embarking on the empirical study of wisdom, psychologists still don’t agree on an answer. But it is also true that the journey in many ways may be as enlightening as the destination.

More here, including a questionnaire to test your own wisdom.