Practical wisdom

I have just watched an amazing talk by Barry Schwartz. Not only is it a fine example of good public speaking, he talks a lot of sense on his subject, practical wisdom. you can see his talk below, and what I got out of it after that. I would love to know what you think of his talk…


The things I most noticed in his talk were:

“Moral skill is chipped away by an over reliance on rules”

“Moral will is worn away by incessant appeal to incentives which then destroy our desire to do the right thing”

Schwartz says that by apprealling to rules and incentives we are waging war on wisdom. Now he acknowledges that we need rules, but over dependence on them is sucking the life out of us, while incentives draw us from asking “what is my responsibility” to asking “what’s in this for me?”

It leaves me wondering what incentive based youth programmes are doing to our young people.

I will have to apologise to my young people, this may mean no more doughnuts at Christian Union for a while…

Schwartz’s talk reminds me of what the Bible has to say about wisdom: Proverbs talks about how wisdom keeps us safe, and Hebrews 4 explains how God’s Spirit penetrates our deepest motives, and calls us to place every effort in going Gods way.

I guess the challenge for all of us is to throw off apathy and a reliance on rules and incentives to keep us on course, and go the more difficult path of practical wisdom, actively submitting ourselves to Gods work in our lives.


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