Practical Wisdom

If you have been with us since the beginning of the Wisdom, Courage and Compassion project we hope you are finding the content interesting and useful. If you are new to the WCC project – Welcome!

In addition to offering content from the MRG community, we are committed to sharing content from around the world that is aligned with our purpose of helping to build the practices of Wisdom, Courage and Compassion in individuals and organizations. In our first “from the world” post we would like to share this powerful and provocative TED talk titled “Our Loss of Wisdom”. In this talk psychologist Barry Schwartz invokes Aristotle’s definition of Practical Wisdom, the combination of moral will and moral skill, through four bold statements:

  • A wise person knows when and how to make an exception to every rule.
  • A wise person knows when and how to improvise.
  • A wise person knows how to use these moral skills in pursuit of the right aims.
  • A wise person is made and not born.

Dr. Schwartz challenges our thinking by stating that excessive reliance on rules chips away at our moral skill, and that our excessive reliance on incentives undermines our moral will by destroying our desire to do the right thing.

Offering compelling examples in a passionate presentation, Barry Schwartz makes a strong case that we are all engaged in moral work and that this moral work requires practical wisdom.

We hope you enjoy this TED talk and we invite you to offer your comments and suggestions for additional Wisdom, Courage and Compassion resources for all of us to explore in the comment section below.


About the author

As president of MRG, Tricia uses her penchant for bursting into song and bringing out the best in people in approximately equal measure.

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An adjunct of this theme is the glaring absence of respectful dialogue and dignity in the public forum, most notably in the the political arena. The zero sum mentality of the candidates – “I must win, so you must lose”-is unfortunately fueled from and enjoyed by a significant number of our citizens. Character and wisdom should absolutely be a more prevalent theme, if not an outright part of the curriculum in our schools. We are a better citizenry and country with it