Age and Wisdom
Research suggests that after the age of 25 (to the age of 75) wisdom does not seem to increase with age (Baltes). Further, our ability to remember facts and recall them seems to quickly declined sharply over those years. IQ may indeed by stable over a lifetime because knowledge increased as speed of recall decreased – thus leaving a well balanced IQ test largely stable over time. Must it not be true, then for the Wisdom test, in which memory is a factor, if it decreases, that some other aspect of wisdom increases? Perhaps there is some deeper value to this other aspect of wisdom, i.e. something that we can learn from this increasing old-age associated aspect of wisdom (a balance, a patience, a perspective) in a way that we cannot learn from younger wise men (who have the quality of quick memories, which is of limited usefulness, perhaps). Perhaps, though wisdom remains invariant to age, there are types of wisdom (which are not differentiated in the meta-term “wisdom”) that we value more and types we value less. Or rather, types we learn from more, and types we learn from less. Or perhaps different problems necessitate different types of wisdom. It seems disturbing to think that one’s wisdom does not increase much with age (which is one interpretation of the data as presented, though the data is insufficient to do more than suggest this).
What makes a life good? The researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – M.C. – (“Flow”) linked a dedicated life to a happy, meaningful one. I would prefer a more substantive definition of a life with meaning. Misplaced meaning (being dedicated to a bad cause) seems insufficient for any kind of full life except from a purely structural perspective.
Aristotle and “the Examined Life” both discussed the idea of Wisdom. In Aristotle, a differentiation between practical wisdom and non-practical, theoretical wisdom was proposed. In the examined life an understanding of wisdom as a deeper perspective of the world (though a synthesis with the Value and Meaning Chapter and the Importance and Weight chapter, one might doubt whether one objective deepest understanding is possible.). Wisdom is seem as one of life’s outcomes. Similarly, it is seem as one of the most important attributes that people can have. The question becomes, can you seek it? Can you maximize the amount of it you can get? In the Examined Life, the answer is yes. This is what philosophers, to an extent, attempt to do. The value of wisdom is deeply related to ones understanding of reality. I would emphasize that it is a very personal understanding that is finely tuned to what experiences one has had and what paths one has pursued. Thus one’s life can be seen mapped onto reality through what wisdom one has (those parts of reality (i.e. what wisdom you have)) is the part that develop on the “photo-paper” of truth, those other areas in which one is ignorant are never exposed. Thus an incomplete, but meaningful final picture results that is intimately connected to the shape of your life. Like a negative and a photograph, it is a matter of what light has been exposed. In this way individuality can be maintained in the face of objective standards and absolute truth.
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