Practice for Wisdom: On the Neglected Role of Case-Based Critical Reflection

Topoi:1-13 (2024)
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Despite increased philosophical and psychological work on practical wisdom, contemporary interdisciplinary wisdom research provides few specifics about how to develop wisdom (Kristjánsson 2022). This lack of practically useful guidance is due in part to the difficulty of determining how to combine the tools of philosophy and psychology to develop a plausible account of wisdom as a prescriptive ideal. Modeling wisdom on more ordinary forms of expertise is promising, but skill models of wisdom (Annas 2011; De Caro et al. 2018; Swartwood 2013b; Tsai 2023) have been challenged on the grounds that there are important differences between wisdom and expert skills (Hacker-Wright 2015, p. 986; Kristjánsson 2015, pp. 98, 101; Stichter 2015, 2016, 2018). I’ll argue that we can both vindicate the promise of skill models of wisdom and begin to specify practically useful strategies for wisdom development by attending to a reflective process that I call Case-Based Critical Reflection. I begin by demonstrating the process as it arose in a notable example from everyday life, illustrating how the process can be usefully applied to a case study of interest to wisdom scientists, and explaining its philosophical pedigree. After isolating the key features that make it relevant to wisdom development, I argue that attending to the importance of Critical Reflection can defuse prominent objections to skill models of wisdom.

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Jason Swartwood
Saint Paul College


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