Our Loss of Wisdom (TED Talks)

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1. «Practical wisdom,» Aristotle told us, «is the combination of moral will and moral skill.» – How do you understand this statement?

What is wisdom for you? Are you a wise person?


2. Can you think of any examples from real life to illustrate these observations:

A wise person knows when and how to make the exception to every rule.

(Have you ever felt that rules make no sense? Do you find it difficult to find the balance between rules and flexibility? Do you think we have the moral right to bend rules for the right cause?)

As we turn increasingly to rules, rules and incentives may make things better in the short run, but they create a downward spiral that makes them worse in the long run.

Any work that you do that involves interaction with other people is moral work.

Sometimes two reasons to do the same thing seem to compete with one another instead of complimenting, and they make people less likely to do it.


3. To what extent do you agree with the following statements:

It takes lots of experience to learn how to care for people.

The bad news is that without wisdom, brilliance isn’t enough.

Most important, children need to learn to respect learning. That’s the principle objective. If you do that, the rest is just pretty much a coast downhill.


4. Do you know any “ordinary heroes”? What makes them special?



to extricate somebody/something/yourself (from something) = to escape or enable someone to escape from a difficult situation

….»as we try to extricate ourselves from this current financial crisis»

to be out of place = if something or someone is out of place, they are not right or suitable for the situation they are in

«Virtue is an old-fashioned word. It seems a little out of place in a cutting-edge environment like this one»

admonition = a warning to someone about their behavior

«And Charlene told them about how she ignored her supervisor’s admonition and didn’t vacuum the visitor’s lounge because there were some family members who were there all day, every day who, at this moment, happened to be taking a nap.»

to keep a vigil

vigil = a period of time when people stay awake, especially at night, in order to watch a sick person, say prayers, protest, etc.

«And then there was Luke,who washed the floor in a comatose young man’s room twice because the man’s father, who had been keeping a vigil for six months, didn’t see Luke do it the first time, and his father was angry.»

rampant = existing or spreading everywhere in a way that cannot be controlled

«At TED, brilliance is rampant. It’s scary.»

to ascertain = to find out the true or correct information about something

«The emergency room ascertained that the kid had no alcohol in his blood.»

lax = (disapproving) not strict, severe, or careful enough about work, rules, or standards of behavior

«And, to be fair, rules are often imposed because previous officials have been lax and they let a child go back to an abusive household.»

to subvert (something) = to try to destroy the authority of a political, religious, etc. system by attacking it secretly or indirectly; corrupt morality

«Any incentive system can be subverted by bad will.»

to keep sb on the payroll

to boggle = if something boggles the mind or the mind boggles at it, it is so unusual that people find it hard to imagine or accept

«I’m boggled at how much he and his associates needed to know in order to plot this out.»

to coast = to move, especially down a hill, without using any power

«Most important, they need to learn to respect learning. That’s the principle objective. If you do that, the rest is just pretty much a coast downhill.»


Vocabulary Exercise:

  1. To William he had written a letter full of stern ____________, urging him to think carefully about what he was committing himself to.
  2. I _____________ that the driver was not badly hurt.
  3. The vastness of space really ____________ the mind.
  4. Unemployment is now ______________ in most of the Midwest
  5. The car ____________ along until it stopped.
  6. He had managed to _____________ himself from most of his official duties.
  7. She did not believe that his errors ____________ the values of his work.
  8. His parents kept a round-the-clock ___________ at his bedside.