The Arete Initiative at The University of Chicago, led by social neuroscientist John Cacioppo, is announcing a $2 million research program on the nature and benefits of wisdom:

Once regarded as a subject worthy of the most rigorous inquiries in order to discern its nature and benefits, wisdom is currently overlooked as a topic for serious scholarly and scientific investigation in many fields. Yet it is difficult to imagine a subject more central to the human enterprise and whose exploration holds greater promise in shedding light and opening up creative possibilities for human flourishing.

I must admit that I’ve always been somewhat skeptical about the underlying motives of the John Templeton Foundation, which funds the initiative. But in this case I believe something very interesting could come out of it. The Defining Wisdom programme not only raises new and largely ignored dimensions of ethics in general, but also could help redefine bioethical research agendas.

For example it would be interesting to study to what extent current biotechnoscience and the biotech economy are compatible with eudaimonia and the classical understanding of wisdom.

In other words: current progress in biomedicine and biotech may result in better and personalised medical therapies, longer life-spans, better understanding of the structure and function of organisms and biological systems, entirely new consumer products, higher agricultural productivity, more optimal solutions to environmental problems, new and exciting ethical dilemmas, higher profits, and brand new social relations and governance strategies. But will it also increase individual flourishing and collective wisdom? And if so, how?

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