Siri Hustvedt on What Is Wisdom

From a feature in the Wall Street Journal Magazine headlined “The Columnists”—this is about wisdom, by Siri Hustvedt:

The standard definition of wisdom often includes the accumulation of personal experience and knowledge, which then creates an ability to make good judgments. Wisdom is more than that.

Wisdom really never develops in isolation but only in relation to other people, parents, teachers, family members and, of course, in relation to the broader culture that has hierarchies and values of its own. It’s fundamentally rooted in an openness to dialogue.

Martin Buber called it the ‘between,’ the area between people where something new is created. In our neoliberal culture where the ‘me’ is supreme, thinking about wisdom as something formed between people is really important. Truly wise people are always walking on some form of moral ground that recognizes the other person. That means having humility, both intellectual and moral.

Siri Hustvedt is a writer. Her most recent book is Mothers, Fathers and Others: Essays.

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