An Appeal for Practical Wisdom

Aristotle said that practical wisdom is the combination of “moral will and moral skill.”  In this TED lecture, psychologist Barry Schwartz makes an engaging appeal for practical wisdom as an antidote to a society gone mad with bureaucracy (“a society at war with wisdom”). He argues powerfully that rules often fail us, incentives often backfire, and practical, everyday wisdom will help rebuild our world. Roughly 20 minutes long and well worth the time.



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4 responses to “An Appeal for Practical Wisdom

  1. This is a “no-brainer” for sure! I worked for Sears for almost a year and it was one of the saddest experiences of my life. My boss informed me that the company had “crunched the numbers” and decided that they could make more money if they sold bad product and made it difficult for customers to get service rather than take care of customers who got bad product. The expense of quality control at the level of manufacture, shipping and receiving and front line customer service was more than what could be made up in customer loyalty. People don’t have loyalty anymore, they will always shop for the lowest price – even if they have to travel or shop at an unknown seller to get it. So customer service was – literally FORBIDDEN! I was NOT ALLOWED to make a service appointment for a senior citizen because it was too confusing for them to get through and hard to hear the automated phone system on their own.

    I couldn’t stand working there. Demoralizing is exactly what it was.

  2. John Huey

    This is a very profound talk. It is a very profound idea. Sadly, we can find many many more examples of where this wisdom is suppressed than it is implemented. The use of Zero-Tolerance policies in schools has, I suspect, done more harm to students and the educational process than can be calculated. There are any number of lawsuits (and many, many more incidents) of parents trying to get the schools to apply simple common sense (which is neither simple or common) but the teachers and the administrators do not have the leeway to do the right thing.

  3. Pingback: An Appeal for Practical Wisdom from Neuronarrative « Wisdom Beat

  4. You might be interested in checking out Defining Wisdom initiative (, which consists of over 20 different interdisciplinary grant projects that aim at defining the notion of wisdom from various perspectives.
    Specifically, you might be interested in the academic discussions of the meaning of wisdom:

    – Ksenia

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