Published on October 26, 2007
Practical Wisdom at the Personal and Group Levels The items in this table may evolve into a measurement scale: A score of +15 points would be very wise indeed, and a –15 would be very foolish indeed. At first, it might seem that this is a discussion of intelligence vs. stupidity, but in fact many intelligent people make these mistakes, so what is also at stake are issues of maturity, refinement of judgment, learning from broad experience, of a cultivated and less egoic consciousness. But it is also a matter of what a culture prescribes, and what its habitual ways of thought will allow, and often will call to be created. That is, the (sub)cultures of groups, organizations, societies, and whole civilizations can also be wise and foolish, just as individuals can. It’s amazing: No one has named them before, but now they seem obvious Characteristics of Wisdom Corresponding Follies The first test of Wisdom: Is this a Wise The first test of Folly: Is this a Foolish Person or Group and/or a Wise Person, Group and/or Process? Process? Can it deliver Wise Assets? Will it lose Wise Assets? ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
Characteristics of Wisdom Corresponding Follies The first test of Wisdom: Is this a The first test of Folly: Is this a Wise Person or Group and/or a Foolish Person, Group and/or Wise Process? Can it deliver Wise Process? Assets? Will it lose Wise Assets? 1. Using the big picture: Using the small picture: a) Long term, Tightly focused, specialized and b) Larger context, short term view of problems: This c) Whole system (all parts of a prevents an understanding of the system), larger, longer term, whole system d) Whole process (all process or whole process context stages of maturation, stories, It is also often immature growth, production, or creation). Primary assets: Foresight and Incapacities: Poor foresight and superior strategy for new strategy, even if tactics work opportunities. It avoids losses due short term: to fundamental changes and crises It misses new opportunities, and in the world. It finds ways both to creates high risk exposure to loss win and be right, not either/orw ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
2. Using many ways of knowing, in all Using just one or two primary ways of modalities: objective, factual, analytical, knowing, e.g., finance, engineering, scientific-technical, and logic, plus bodily, marketing, employee relations—often heart, intuition, spiritual, and sensory. All habitual, or an ideology not grounded in put to the service of the larger good of a facts, serving narrow, anti-humane larger whole. More able to deal with interests, at the expense of a larger whole. unprecedented crises Unable to deal with unprecedented crises Primary assets: More channels of Incapacities: Too few channels of information input, superior creativity, better information input, poor creativity, damage quality of service, good branding and to service, brand, reputation, and credibility credibility capital ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
3. Acting in the service of larger Acting in the service of narrow, selfish or purposes, loyalty to the Whole, and to power hungry purposes, or in the name of Life in the large, planetary sense. Has narrow tribal, sectarian, national loyalties, outgrown narrow tribal, sectarian, national ideologies or –isms, lacking a larger sense loyalties, ideologies or –isms. Works to of the whole, or the planet as a whole. harmonize conflicts, and is capable of Works to heighten conflicts, often for intervening as a peacemaker. personal gain. Primary assets: Seen as credible, moral and Incapacities: Low credibility, loss of allies wise. Good support from people of good will. and support with its first misstep. Strong influence on policy processes and Often viewed with deep suspicion on policy outcomes processes and outcomes ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
4. Very socially responsible, balancing Socially irresponsible, immature, self-interest with the needs of the careless, selfish, greedy, criminal, and whole. This is often taking the mature damaging to the wider community. position of the wise elder rather than Fails to take wide, long term consequences immature positions of those who damage seriously, and winds up harming people, others carelessly or for gain. Takes seriously property or environment, either accidentally a responsibility not to do harm. or intentionally. ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
5. Insightful: Cuts through to the heart of Lacks Insight: Failing to go to the heart of a matter, to the underlying causes, and sees the matter, or see underlying causes, being into the depths of what is going on with superficial about persons, or situations, not persons, or situations, usefully expresses able to express what is seen in useful ways. those insights. Seeks the deepest possible Understanding is not a goal so much as understanding of a phenomenon: structure, seeking success, with or without assumptions, meanings understanding ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
6. Perceptive and subtle observers: Closed-minded on what to pay attention to; Inclusive, open-minded and nuanced about ignores, excludes or suppresses information what to pay attention to; Notice what others that doesn’t fit a preset picture of what they ignore, exclude, or suppress; They use suppose is true of many situations, people, discrimination in perception and reasoning or events; lacks discrimination about people, events ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
7. Aware of limits and uncertainty of Excessively certain about what’s known, is knowledge and particular perspectives, dogmatic or ideological, clings to narrow so is open to perspectives of others, not perspectives, e.g. shareholder value, only dogmatic or ideological, steps outside of using market solutions, fundamentalisms; conflict positions to a higher, wider is caught in conflicts, or exacerbates them perspective on them ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
8. Authentic and Trustworthy, with a Inauthentic, fake, misleading, concealing love of the Truth, having Integrity (has key information rather than telling the integrated one’s own self), demonstrating truth, corrupt, lacking personal integrity, the truth with one’s own transparency. Part often in the service of personal power or of trustworthiness is that personal power or gain, or in the service of narrow interests gain is has been put into service of the and ideologies at the expense of the whole whole ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
9. Grounded in realities of a variety of Ignorant or ungrounded about realities of situations (physical, ecological, social, various situations (physical, ecological, psychological and spiritual), and also of social, psychological and spiritual), and of one’s own life. Has concepts, reasoning, one’s own life. Lacking concepts, reasoning, emotions and perceptions appropriate to emotions and perceptions appropriate to such realities such realities, so can’t apply them and applies them strategically strategically ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
10. Discriminating, fair and appropriate Unfair, inequitable, exclusionary, immoral, judgments that are equitable, just, inhumane judgments, often for hierarchy inclusive, moral, humane. Has concepts, and privilege. Misuses concepts, reasoning, reasoning, emotions and perceptions emotions and perceptions to defend weak necessary to good judgment, and uses them judgment, and serve narrow interests to serve the whole ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
11. Socially skilled and knowledgeable: Clumsy and ignorant outside a restricted has a mature and nuanced insight into how set of social situations, with immature or social life and relationships actually work or inept insight, assumptions and strategies, not, often across cultural and social class especially ones that cross cultural or social lines. Works to reduce cross-cultural class lines. May worsen cross-cultural misunderstandings, and to build new misunderstandings, reducing possibilities. possibilities. ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
Wise Person and Process+Inner Riches Foolish Person and Process+Inner 12. Is familiar with higher levels of Poverty Knows only the states of consciousness, but doesn’t shame those consciousness of asleep or awake, drunk or who are not. Uses ‘altered states’ for greater sober. ‘Altered states’ used for gratification insight and inner development. Their or self-justification. Little inner development of skill and capability is often development of skill or capability, so little the basis for the above capacities and ability to correct the above follies, or to insights. take on wiser perceptions. ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
13. Having a wise group process that Believing there’s only one wise leader, elicits leadership from the entire group. and that He can do it all. This leaves little This is distributed leadership that arises as room for other leadership to arise, and has needed, for wider most wiser elements very limited capacities. above. ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
14. Letting be, and letting go, trusting Tries always to stay in control, the universe, allowing new possibilities mistrustful of the universe, and to come in the natural process of nervous about what new developments things, where that is understood to include may bring, graspingly, jealously guarding conflict as well as harmony, and learning positions and possessions, avoiding conflicts that is uncomfortable and unasked for, and if they can’t be dominated, belief that living with ease and generosity. power means not having to learn. ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
15. Having a very large and varied Narrow, restrictive and selfish about repertoire of values, benefiting more values, blunt, lacking discrimination, rigid, people, across more life situations, with ignorant, or barbarous in application to life more criteria and distinctions about situations. Often exclusionary about values/morals, from a more inclusive place application of values/morals. ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
Here are the basic distinctions in sentence form: First: Wisdom always uses a wider, longer-term context than everyday mind, and folly is a narrower, more short-term context. We can distinguish wise and appropriate foresight from foolish failures, because wisdom reduces risk and losses, vs. creating exposure to risk and loss. Second: Wisdom uses more ways of knowing, which is superior to fewer, while folly tends to elevate just one or two ways, or depends on pure ideology. To use more ways of knowing allows cross checking of approaches, more error correcting, and opportunities for different approaches to offer creative ideas. Wisdom will stay on course with fewer ways of going wrong, while folly has more of chances for error. Wisdom puts multiple ways of knowing to service of the larger good, whereas folly is likely to choose fewer ways because it uses selfish justifications. Third: Wisdom uses a more encompassing sense of “whose good is served?” which tends to the common good, and is thus superior to narrower loyalties. In the long run wisdom has more credibility and less conflict, vs. folly has less credibility, more conflict. Fourth: Wisdom seeks social responsibility, balancing individual and group needs in a mature way, avoiding harm and building trust. Folly’s social irresponsibility shows up as carelessness, greedy criminality and damage to the wider community. It’s avoiding messes vs. making them. Fifth: Wisdom makes fewer mistakes, and promotes more good outcomes by going deep, rather than remaining shallow and immature. The foolish and shallow are not just ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
immature, stupid or ignorant: they use too little energy for insight and thought, so naturally reality bites back. Sixth: Open, subtle, nuanced perceptions are wiser than being closed-minded and ignoring, excluding or suppressing perceptions. Wisdom allows flexibility and adaptive behavior, including an ability to notice both more opportunities and more dangers, while folly is rigid, defending a viewpoint, and misses a lot of good chances, and falls into bad problems. Seventh: Wisdom is aware of the limits and uncertainty of particular forms of knowledge and perspectives. Thus it is able to avoid dogmatism, ideology, errors and conflicts, while the excessive certainty we associate with folly falls into avoidable errors and makes many messes. Eighth: Authenticity, trustworthiness, loving the truth, and having integrity even when it may not be convenient, all exemplify wisdom and the ability to gain the trust of others, while their shifty opposites exemplify folly and engender distrust. These wisdom characteristics are more developed with maturity and having a good inner moral compass. Ninth: Wisdom is grounded in the realities of a wide variety of situations, and has learned from a varied base of experience, with appropriate situational diagnoses, and strategies to match. Folly is often ignorant of the variety of human situations and experiences. It adapts poorly to obvious contingencies of life, and is less likely to come up with appropriate diagnoses and strategies. Tenth: Wisdom is discriminating, fair and appropriate in judgments, and often judicious, using that in service of the whole. Unfairness, inequity, exclusion, immorality and ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
inhumanity lead both to folly, and to the production of evil, usually based on weak judgment and selfishness. Eleventh: Wisdom is often socially skilled and knowledgeable, with mature, nuanced insight into social life and relationships across many different settings. It uses that to reduce conflict and aids possible new developments for a positive future. Folly and immaturity are clumsy, ignorant and inept outside a narrow context, both worsening conflict and reducing possibilities for the future. Twelfth: Higher levels of consciousness are inner riches that build ever more wisdom and capacity as well as skill at solving problems. But knowing only ‘asleep or awake, plus drunk or sober’ has neither skill nor capacity for growth, much less the ability to correct folly. Thirteenth: Wise group processes can elicit leadership from the entire group, allowing wise contributions to come from anywhere in the group, while the hero leader model is very limited. Wise group processes are not only more adaptive, but serve the needs of more group members in more humane ways, and are better for the long run than the authoritarian models. Fourteenth: Deep wisdom is letting be, and letting go, trusting the universe, allowing new possibilities to come in the natural process of things, where that is understood to include conflict as well as harmony, and learning that is uncomfortable and unasked for. Folly is wanting to stay in control all the time, mistrustful of the universe, and nervous about what new developments may bring, jealously guarding positions and possessions, avoiding conflicts if they can’t be dominated, and employing the foolish belief that power means not having to learn. ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
Fifteenth: Wisdom takes more kinds of values into account, benefiting more people, across a wider variety of life situations, operating with generosity and altruism, whereas folly is selfish, narrow and restrictive on all of these. Wisdom has a wider, more inclusive sense of whose good is to be promoted, and a larger variety of values, and indicators of value, than folly does. Wisdom also has more criteria and distinctions about what values are, how they work, and their application to morals and ethics, across a wider variety of social and personal situations. Folly is blunt and lacking in discrimination, either rigidly trying to apply too small a set of morals to diverse situations, or it is ignorant and barbarous, lacking in application of values and morals. ©Paul H. Ray, Integral Partnerships, LLC 2007
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