A Process Theory of Wisdom

A Process Theory of Wisdom

29 Friday
Fri, 29/03/2024

9:00 am

  • ECNU, Shanghai


This dissertation seeks to offer an account of wisdom, drawing particularly on contemporary Anglophone epistemological literature. Given wisdom’s complexity, the aim is not to cover every aspect but rather to highlight one interesting phenomenon: the epistemic normativity of the wisdom concept. Specifically, it delves into the expectation that “wise/wisdom” will consistently pick out the same feature across different contexts, such as in the contrasting examples of a hermit’s reclusive wisdom versus a social leader’s worldly wisdom. This particularly prompts epistemological discussions, as the focus is on how the wisdom concept “ought to” be recognized and applied, especially in epistemic activities such as understanding and evaluating one’s achievement of wisdom, which is also significantly influenced by the agent’s epistemic state.

The exploration of a plausible interpretation of wisdom, considering its epistemic normativity, commences with an examination of epistemic relativism, which purportedly addresses the underlying concern of reconciling conflicting wisdom concepts. The examination reveals an implicit, second-order inclination beneath the tangible first-order epistemological debates, favoring theories that help preserve successful epistemic practice. This inclination hints at setting aside incompatible theories like epistemic relativism and viewing epistemic linguistic practice as a facilitator within our broader epistemic process. This process understanding implies both a proposal to theorize epistemic notions based on mainstream epistemic discourse, and a defense against criticisms of the proposal’s reliance on past experience. In this light, the dissertation develops a process theory of wisdom based on a refined understanding of the received pursuit of truth in epistemology, positioning wisdom as the ultimate goal of epistemic process. It advocates interpreting the use of “wise/wisdom” as primarily denoting ideal epistemic outcomes from first-person perspectives. With supplementary specification, this approach effectively addresses the issue of conflicting wisdom conceptions and other considerations about wisdom. Compared to other theories, this process theory of wisdom provides a clearer insight into the normative force of the wisdom concept by situating its theorization within the epistemic linguistic practice that contributes to our broader epistemic process.


Mr Jipeng HE from IHRIM laboratory, under the supervision of Mr Jean-Michel ROY and Mr Zhenhua YU