Wisdom as a Social Phenomenon: an Inquiry of Wise Acts and Wise Practices
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This phenomenological inquiry of wise acts and wise practices presents a perspective of wisdom as a social phenomenon. Wisdom is shown to emerge out of unique human interactions in particular contexts between wise-act-catalysts and receptive witnesses. This is a shift from the traditional perspective of wisdom as a person-centered internal manifestation. Rather, this study recognizes wisdom as externally manifested; co-created between individuals. An adapted six-step approach is employed for this research inquiry that pushes the boundaries of a typical phenomenological study. Data were collected through themed group discussion sessions. Eight Canadian wise individuals aged 62-93 years of age, nominated for their history of wise action, participated in six group discussion sessions that lasted 2-2.5 hours each session. These same participants were individually interviewed twice, pre- and post- the group discussion sessions, for approximately 90 minutes each interview. In total, each participant devoted approximately 20 hours of his or her time to this research process. The collected data include the in-depth and transcribed audio files from the interviews and themed group discussion sessions but also writing pieces and drawing exercises submitted by the wise nominees. As a result, the collected data are extensive allowing for a deep understanding of the participants’ lived experiences and perspectives regarding their wise acts, wise practices, and how these relate to wisdom. Patterns of “Self” and “Self-in-Relation-to-Other” emerged through the data analysis. Each pattern encompasses multiple themes that evolved from the recounted words of the participants. The voice of each participant is distinctly identifiable throughout the study and each participant’s voice powerfully contributes to the study’s view of wisdom’s social nature. The study closes with recommendations for future research, implications for practical ways these findings can be integrated into one’s everyday life, and poignant words from the study’s wise nominees.