Philosophical Dialogue: Toward the Development of Wisdom

by The Center for Practical Wisdom

The University of Chicago Center for Practical Wisdom in joint effort with the Center for Teaching hosted a visit by Guro Hansen Helskog, faculty of Humanities, Sports and Educational Sciences at the University College of Southeast Norway. As an associate professor of education, Helskog’s interests lie in developing methods for promoting the development of wisdom across the lifespan. Her main research interest is qualitative studies of the development of wisdom and human flourishing through philosophical dialogue. Her research introduces youth and young adults to the practice of philosophical dialogue in order to foster the concepts and skills essential for the development of emotional maturity, existential insight and the exercise of epistemic humility. She has utilized this Dialogos method across a wide variety of contexts including intercultural and interreligious upper secondary education, conflict management, teacher education, psychiatric health care, and prison work. She has conducted several qualitative empirical research projects aimed at simultaneously promoting and studying the development of wisdom.

During her visit, Helskog facilitated philosophical dialogues for students at the Center for Practical Wisdom and the Center for Teaching, as well as presenting her research on ‘Dialogos philosophical dialogues”, reflection, and perspective taking in young adults. Her workshops focused on teaching and education across the humanities and psychology, especially in relation to wisdom. In addition to being a method of teaching, Helskog also uses philosophical dialogue as a qualitative empirical research method within a broader reflective praxis- and action research approach.

The topic for the Center for Teaching workshop was self-awareness, while cultural perspective-taking was the focus of discussion during her visit to the undergraduate Understanding Wisdom course, led by Professors Anne Henly and W. Clark Gilpin.

The workshops led to new reflections on how cultural contexts shape conceptions of wisdom. Helskog believes that western academic culture of teaching “tends to foster certain aspects of wisdom, while other aspects, like emotional and personal-reflective aspects, seem to remain underdeveloped, due to the focus on cognitive dimensions of teaching and learning. The focus in academia lies in teaching to become researchers, as opposed to self-education or enhancing personal wisdom”. She believes different forms of philosophical practice, including the Dialogos approach to practical philosophy, can be a way forward.

Helskog’s visit formulates new questions to keep in mind: Should higher education aim to educate for wisdom, or is it enough to develop subject- and research/work related skills and knowledge? What are the possible cultural advantages and disadvantages of each approach? Could the approaches be combined in fruitful ways? And, if the answer to the first question is yes, how should this teaching for wisdom be done, and at what level; at undergraduate level, or also at graduate levels?

A selection of English publications authored by Guro Hansen Helskog

Bildung towards wisdom through philosophical dialogue in teacher education

The Gandhi Project – Dialogos philosophical dialogues and the ethics and politics of intercultural and interfaith friendship

Moving out of conflict into reconciliation

Promoting dialogical democracy

Enhancing relational spirituality

Dialogos: Practical philosophy in school

Still Parents


  • gbenda said:

    Ms. Helskog, we share a passion for philosophical dialogue.  I have been working to create a contemporary literary form of philosophical dialogue -- which I started writing in 1976.  After many attempts I have found a form I like.  The third in my series in now in pre-publication review.  I would like to invite you to review the manuscript.  If you are interested, please acknowledge and provide an email address -- mine is

    The first two books in the series are available in ebook on most outlets, Amazon, to be sure.  author: George Benda; Titles -- (1) The City, and (2) The Edge -- or I can mail you print copies.

    June 15, 2017 4:14 AM
  • jlmatelski said:

    I'll be sure to mark the comment for her so she doesn't miss it!

    June 15, 2017 11:00 AM
  • Ron Krumpos said:

    Teaching a foreign language at an early age has proven very effective. Why not teaching wisdom?

    I recently read an interesting article about Estonia. They start teaching computer programming at 7 years of age. All schools in Estonia were online by the late 1990s, the first decade that the Internet became widely available.

    June 30, 2017 5:19 PM
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