Understanding Wisdom

Sources, Science, and Society

Edited by Warren S. Brown

The study of wisdom is challenging and thought provoking. This volume sheds light on the age-old question: What is wisdom and where does it come from?

Evidence of wisdom can be seen in both perception and performance, in sacred scriptures and in brain images. An eminent group of scholars from fields as diverse as theology, philosophy, medicine, biology, psychology, and linguistics were brought together to bring focus to this understudied area of scientific research.

Editor Warren Brown presents his research on brain functioning, drawn from observing individuals with damage to specific neural areas, to suggest the importance of integration between hemispheres of the brain to comprehend complex situations in a way that may be termed “wise.” Diana Van Lancker also looks at hemispheres of the brain and explores studies that show that left brain functioning is related to prayers, chants, and sayings often used in religious practice.

Wolfgang Mieder, recognized as the foremost scholar in the study of proverbs, explores the secular use of the biblical proverb of “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Matt. 12:25). R. E. Clements also looks to the book of Proverbs and focuses on its ultimate goal: virtue and wholeness.

Preface   ix

Introduction: A Hierarchical Framework for Understanding Wisdom   1
Nancey Murphy

Part I: The Sources of Wisdom

1. The Sources of Wisdom   15
R.E. Clements

2. Profundity with Panache: The Underappreciated Proverbial Wisdom of

Sub-Saharan Africa   35
Stan W. Nussbaum

3. “A House Divided”: From Biblical Proverb to Lincoln and Beyond   57
Wolfgang Mieder

4. Israel’s Wisdom Literature and the Intrinsic Integrity of Creation   103
Dianne Bergant

5. Wisdom on Death and Suffering   121
John Goldingay

6. It Takes Wisdom to Use Wisdom Wisely   135
Robert K. Johnston

Part II: The Science of Wisdom

7. Wisdom Traditions as Mechanisms for Organismal Integration: Evolutionary Perspectives on Homeostatic “Laws of Life”   153
Jeffrey P. Schloss

8. Wisdom and Human Neurocognitive Systems: Perceiving and Practicing the

Laws of Life   193
Warren S. Brown

9. A Neurolinguistic Perspective on Proverbs and the Laws of Life   215
Diana R. Van Lancker

10. On the Emergence of Wisdom: Expertise Development   245
John L. Horn and Hiromi Masunaga

11. The Science of Art: How the Brain Responds to Beauty   277
V.S. Ramachandran

12. A Scientific Study of Wisdom (Or Its Contributing Parts)   307
Warren S. Brown

Part III: The Learning of Wisdom

13. Wise Emotions   319
Nancy Sherman

14. Setting the Stage for the Development of Wisdom: Self-understanding and Moral Identity During Adolescence   339
William Damon

15. Lessons Learned: The Role of Religion in the Development of Wisdom in Adolescence   361
James L. Furrow and Linda Mans Wagener

16. Maxims to Live By: The Art and Science of Teaching Wise Sayings   393
Arthur J. Schwartz and F. Clark Power

17. Seeing Wisely – Learning to Become Wise   413
Lawrence M. Hinman

Contributors   425

Name and Subject Index   429

Scripture Index   443