Wednesday, January 09, 2013

More Wisdom About Wisdom from Frederick Turner's Book Epic

Turner, in Epic, again makes clear why I classify the arts, religion, and philosophy together in the wisdom tradition:
One good way of defining the purpose of epic is that it is to imbue wisdom. It is a wisdom that comes from an intuitive and symbolic knowledge of how we became human in the first place. [...]

It may seem that this definition of the purpose of epic begs the question, what is wisdom? The point here is that wisdom is what epic imbues. Our earliest conceptions of wisdom derive from narratives; it is no coincidence that Greek philosophers, Plato especially, referred to Homer when trying to explain some virtue of concept, that Vedic wisdom literature illustrates its ideas by means of the Mahabharata, and that Biblical wisdom theory emerges from the epic stories of Genesis and Exodus. It is a little beside the point to try to define the precise mixture of cognitive, moral, emotional, psychological, and experiential elements in wisdom, since those concepts themselves came along after the story-based category of wisdom itself, and partly sprang from it. (276)
Indeed, consider the fact that what we would consider the more "religious" elements of the Bible only come after the epic portion, in Genesis and Exodus. And the fact that both Jewish and Christian philosophy only emerge after the religious order developed.

Stories are pure wisdom, look at the big picture, see how things are interrelated and integrated. This is what makes it part of wisdom. But they create their wisdom through the particulars of the given story. We move to ever-greater abstraction with the move from stories to religion to philosophy.

What we try to do through the wisdom tradition -- both the pure and the practical (social sciences, governance, philanthropy) -- is try to understand and interact with(in) those emergent processes that are more complex than ourselves. What we try to do through the knowledge tradition (markets and science) is understand and interact with(in) those processes that are less complex than ourselves. By understanding it this way, we can understand why I place the social sciences not in the sciences, but in the wisdom tradition.
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