Wisdom & Morality

From: Peter Voss (peter@optimal.org)
Date: Sun Jun 16 2002 - 11:13:40 MDT

The last sentence contains my description of 'wisdom' (excerpted from my
unpublished book on Rational Morality & Rational Thinking):

"** Practical Thinking: Seeking Relevant Knowledge **

Knowledge comes and goes. New knowledge is constantly discovered, and old
knowledge routinely becomes obsolete. Furthermore, the relevance of
knowledge also changes dramatically - it depends on context: Knowing the
location of my fourth-grade mathematics class is of little utility to me
today; having the function-keys of my old incompatible word-processor at my
fingertips can be downright crippling. While specific information can be of
transient value, knowing how to select for relevance is eternally useful.

Potential knowledge represents an infinite pool of information. What tiny
subset of this vast information-space is relevant to me? Relevant for what
purpose? Ethics is concerned with choices that improve life. All knowledge
seeking, even the most aimless, serves some life-enhancing purpose: at the
very least, it exercises our cognitive skills. However, we can vastly
improve on this default option, we can direct our pursuit of knowledge
toward practical benefits in our lives. From solving puzzles for pure
pleasure, to concentrated research to prevent death - the degree of
beneficial impact lies on a continuum.

We may call this practical thinking - thinking aimed at obtaining knowledge
that achieves its intended purpose, successful living. This is no ivory
tower theorizing, divorced from real life, but practical, effective,
purposeful thought. Today, this includes knowledge of psychology, technology
and finances, but also the more traditional concept of "wisdom". Wisdom can
be described as seeking, possessing and using practical knowledge pertaining
to human life and, in particular, knowledge of human nature and
relationships. Wisdom also implies knowledgeable, considered, and objective
thought and advice."

As far as morality & 'what is right' go, two of my essays address those



Peter Voss

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-sl4@sysopmind.com On Behalf Of Gordon Worley

On Saturday, June 15, 2002, at 11:07 PM, James Rogers wrote:

> On 6/15/02 10:06 PM, "Michael Roy Ames" wrote:
>> The problem: How to arrange things so that an SI builds/obtains a high
level of wisdom.
> The problem: What is "wisdom", and how does one measure it objectively?

As has been mentioned, wisdom is a rather loose term. Here is some attempt,
though, at identifying what we ought to mean by wisdom.

Wisdom refers to an ability to make the right decision. If you are wise,
you almost always make the right decision.

So, now it's just a question of what's right. The issue of morals has been
throughly debated elsewhere with few useful conclusions, so I won't go into
it here.

Gordon Worley

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