Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wisdom and Experience and Backwards in High Heels

What is wisdom? I'm referring of course to Judge Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comment.

But what makes for wisdom? Is the person with the wider variety of experiences more likely to be wise than the bureaucrat who sticks to the same cubicle for all his life? I suspect most of us would say: "yes". One of the common themes of fiction and drama is: "seize the day"--search out the new and different. Mostly the logic is it's the road to a richer and fuller life, self-realization and all that. But some of the time the corollary is that varied experiences is wiser, and leads to wisdom. (The journey of self-discovery, as in Harry Potter's journey.)

So maybe I'm a wise old man--wise because old, not particularly because of diverse work experiences. Or maybe not--maybe I've just keep relearning the same thing over and over. I'd tentatively agree that, all things being equal, living longer and more widely leads to wisdom And, therefore, Sotomayor has a better opportunity to be wise than her close counterpart, Justice Alito, simply because a woman in a man's world has more varied experience than a man in a man's world.

Seems to me there is another issue than the basis of wisdom: does wisdom always lead to the same answer--Justice O'Connor's original statement seemed to say it did: a wise man and a wise woman would reach the same decision. But I don't think so--there are many decisions where only history will say whether they're wise, and many others where even history doesn't say.

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