Wisdom, Integrity, and Life Satisfaction in Very Old Age

Authored by: Monika Ardelt , Steve Jacobs

Handbook of Research on Adult Learning and Development

Print publication date:  November  2008
Online publication date:  November  2008

Print ISBN: 9780805858198
eBook ISBN: 9780203887882
Adobe ISBN: 9781135597405


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What is wisdom? Although wisdom is an ancient and time-honored concept and there has been a renewed interest in the role of wisdom with respect to human development and aging during the past 25 years, contemporary researchers have been unable to reach consensus on a single, all-encompassing definition of wisdom (Dittmann-Kohli & Baltes, 1990; Kramer, 2000). The multifaceted nature of wisdom tends to evoke different connotations depending on the philosophical and theoretical orientation of a particular researcher (e.g., Achenbaum & Orwoll, 1991; Ardelt, 2003, 2004b; Arlin, 1990; Assmann, 1994; Baltes & Staudinger, 2000; Labouvie-Vief, 1990; Meacham, 1990; Sternberg, 1998; Sternberg & Jordan, 2005). According to Birren and Svensson (2005), the earliest “wisdom literature” was written more than 5000 years ago by the ancient Sumerians and consisted of practical advice for daily living, whereas the wisdom texts of the ancient Egyptians (circa 3000 b.c.) focused on good and proper behavior. The ancient Greeks were known as the “lovers of wisdom” and a thorough analysis of the concept can be found in the Platonic dialogues (Robinson, 1990). Yet, even today it remains difficult to define and conceptualize the elusive concept of wisdom.

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