My recently finished, co-authored book Practical Wisdom (Penguin/Riverhead 2010) argues that character and practical wisdom (Aristotle’s phronesis) are critical to doing well in today’s core social practices such as friendship, parenting, doctoring, lawyering, teaching, and banking. But institutional structures often corrode the practical wisdom and character upon which these practices depend. The overuse of rules and incentives, for example, short circuits the kind of experiences—the mentoring, the modeling, the learning through trial and error, the reflection—through which practical wisdom is learned. This project now aims to change the public and professional agenda regarding character and practical wisdom by showing what can be done. I want to convince practitioners that they can re-design their institutions to strengthen the character and moral skills of practitioners. I will focus on components of practical wisdom that enable practitioners to make ethical choices in their daily interactions with clients, students, patients and others in the public whom they serve. These include the motivation to achieve the aims of the practice, the ability to discern context, the will and skill to exercise empathy and to balance this with detachment, the ability to frame and to interpret the frames of others, the ability to tell and understand stories and narratives, and the will and skill to recognize and reflect on mistakes allowing us to learn through experience. Five concrete cases (medical schools, police departments, hospitals, law schools, and universities) will show that institutional re-design can work to encourage character and practical wisdom. The interconnected research, publications and curricula materials produced will provide the basis for developing a larger project that will issue in another book.
Templeton.org is in English. Only a few pages are translated into other languages.