Wisdom From a Harvard Cognitive Psychologist

Courtesy of a brilliant man on Reddit in response to the question, “Do you find your understanding of the mind negatively affects your own happiness? I mean does your deterministic outlook sometimes make life seem arbitrary and pointless to you, and elation just some chemical reaction.”

Quite the opposite — I find a naturalistic understanding of human nature to be indispensable to leading a wise and mature life, and it is often exhilarating. Wisdom consists in appreciating the preciousness and finiteness of our own existence, and therefore not squandering it; of being cognizant of what makes people everywhere tick, and therefore enhancing happiness and minimizing suffering; of being alert to limitations and flaws in our own judgments and decisions and passions, and thereby doing our best to circumvent them. The exhilaration comes from understanding that we are a part of natural world; that deep mysteries can be explained; and that the world — including our own mental lives — can be intelligible, rather than a source of superstition and ignorance. Yes, mortality sucks, but given that it exists, I’d rather know that than be kept in a childlike state of delusion.

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