I've been watching John Vervaeke's awakening from the meaning crises ( I haven't seen the whole lecture series). And while I am finding it intriguing I think to myself is this really wisdom? I mean in first world countries we are obsessing with what is meaning while there is a genocide in Israel.

All this reminds me of a Buddhist parable which went like this: two monks saw an injured deer with an arrow in it's belly. They start debating when will the soul exit the deer's body. Soon they see Shakyamuni approaching and ask him about their dilemma. Shakyamuni ignores their question pulls out the arrow and leaves. The deer survives.

I feel a kind of deja-vu. It is far too ironic that people in the pursuit of wisdom were debating about wisdom rather than enacting it.

Are my fears legitimate? (I haven't engaged with the entire depth of his material so my worries might be for naught). P.S: I'd be willing to be redirected to some philosopher who does deal with my worries if not him.


Modern philosophy has largely abandoned any interest in wisdom, Vervaeke is part of a movement to reclaim it. It seems ironic to quote a Buddhist story, in defence of a disinterest in wisdom, when it is a tradition that puts a high priority on wisdom - one of the 'perennialist' wisdom traditions. The similar parable of the arrow, a key story in how Buddhism defines itself, is exactly an example of wisdom, but yes I admit of a practical applied, rather than theory-focused kind - what James C Scott calls metis, maybe.

One of the ways of describing wisdom is that it is about avoiding bullshit: pursuasion without regard to truth; which can include correcting for or avoiding appeals to cognitive biases, identifying rhetoric like types of fallacy.

Solomon is an exemplar of wisdom for his judicial judgements reconciling apparently impossible dilemmas. Jesus reconciled an impossible dilemma when he said 'render unto Caesar what is Caesar's'. Socrates did the same, when he took the Oracle At Delphi's answer and used it to illustrate wisdom as praxis.

There has been a lot of cultural variation on what comprises important character tests, and choice of exemplars in cultural narratives. Bravery. Cleverness. Submission to higher powers. Dilemmas are a particularly interesting one. They are a framing device, which brings a narrative to a culminating decision, a feature of or type of narrative, especially important for courts of law. Creativity that transcends an apparent binary or lose-lose decision has been highly valued, in history and stories, usually requiring a clearer, deeper view of the situation - wisdom.

Precedent in interpreting accepted primary law in specific situations, is a formal illustration of how decision making can develop in scope and intelligence, building on a record. If you frame a primary or the primary quality of people, as the judging of them for their decision making, then of course you will see dilemmas. If bravery is prioritised, a person would see tests for that everywhere, and judge others by their record when facing those. But whereas the latter system cannot truly progress, an approach valuing dilemmas and preserving the narratives of them, and preserving what is transferable about them, can progress in intelligence. Like a judicial system can (should..). It develops practices to support good decision making, and to challenge whether and what kind of decision has to be made on appeals, etc. A good or wise decision, is a pursuasive one.

Science, our leading culture of intelligence, does not prioritise dilemmas, but the distinguishing of hypotheses that best account for evidence. It prioritises having the best model of systems - over decision making. This I would sat is why wisdom is a rarely used term now I'd say.

We generally assume the best model, will lead to the best decision to make being obvious. There are dilemmas in science, between different risks, help vs harm, ethics, which having the best model cannot solve. But they are rarely discussed in science teaching, to our detriment. Climate change, nuclear de-escalation, epidemic & pandemic responses, show having a good model of consequences of choices is nit enough. We need to reclaim the value of being good at facing dilemmas, and providing pursuasive answers to them. We need to value, wisdom.

I love Vervaeke's take on the Greeks, on Romanticism, his terms 'salience landscape' and 'cognitive grip'. I felt the series trailed off a bit somewhere around episode 20. And Vervaeke talks with people I wouldn't, like some people with frothing-at-the-mouth enthusiasm for Jordan Peterson - who deserves zero credibility now, less even. But I think Vervaeke's aim to reclaim wisdom is good, and his narration of Western philosophy excellent - way better than say Bertrand Russell's, imho.

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