Wisdom in the News

Investigating wisdom (pt 2):

Nancy Snow on phronesis and whole trait theory

Dr. Nancy E. Snow, a Philosophy Professor and Director of the Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing at the University of Oklahoma, was a contributor for the newly published book titled Practical Wisdom: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives, edited by Maria Silvia Vaccarezza and Mario De Caro.

As the title suggests, the book assembles professionals from these fields to give their own perspectives on the nature of wisdom. Snow’s chapter titled Phronesis and Whole Trait Theory: An Integration, was co-authored by Dr. Jennifer Cole Wright and Dr. Michael T. Warren.

The three writers recently co-authored a book together on virtue measurement titled Understanding Virtue: Theory and Measurement. Snow’s involvement with Practical Wisdom began when Vaccarezza learned about the authors’ work.

Although she has done research related to wisdom, Dr. Snow admits that her knowledge on practical wisdom itself was somewhat limited to philosophical perspectives. Nonetheless, she was interested in the topic, especially due to its relation to her work on virtue (watch the 2016 Conversations on Wisdom with Dr. Snow on the Wisdom Research YouTube channel here).

“I have studied practical wisdom from a neo-Aristotelian perspective but am by no means an expert. The fact that many philosophical traditions regard practical wisdom as necessary for virtue interests me, as well as the multiple roles it can play in a virtuous life,” said Snow.

In addition to simply being interested, the three co-authors saw this as an opportunity to expand on their previous work in Understanding Virtue. This chapter dives deeper into their interpretation of practical wisdom, which was only briefly mentioned in their book. The authors integrate Aristotelian practical wisdom with Fleeson and Jayawickreme’s (2015) Whole Trait Theory, an integrative approach for personality development.

“Our work consists in part of integrating neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics with Whole Trait Theory in psychology...it afforded us the opportunity to more deeply explore practical wisdom in the context of our framework,” said Snow. “The most challenging part was effecting an adequate integration.”

Snow hopes that their chapter will be of use to other philosophers and psychologists who work with virtue ethics and measurement. Additionally, she believes, “anyone interested in the development of ideas about practical wisdom and/or virtue that lies at the intersection of these two fields will find the book rewarding.”

As for her ongoing work at The Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing and its interplay with wisdom, the institute will be hosting an online conference in mid-October for contributors to Practical Wisdom, a volume edited by Jennifer Frey within The Virtues series published by Oxford Press. The Virtues is an interdisciplinary series on virtues for which Snow is its series editor. According to Snow, the conference will feature contributions on practical wisdom from a number of different disciplines and philosophical traditions.

About Nancy E. Snow:

Dr. Snow is a Philosophy Professor and Director of the Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing at the University of Oklahoma. She has written more than 45 papers on ethics and virtue, and is currently the Principal Investigator of The Self, Virtue, and Public Life Project. She is a co-editor with Maria Silvia Vaccarezza of Virtues, Democracy, and Online Media, a volume currently in press. Snow is an affiliate of The University of Chicago’s Center for Practical Wisdom and has attended a number of their conferences. 

References

  • De Caro, M., & Vaccarezza, M. S. (Eds.). (2021). Practical wisdom: Philosophical and psychological perspectives. Routledge.
  • Fleeson, W., & Jayawickreme, E. (2015). Whole trait theory. Journal of Research in Personality56, 82-92.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2014.10.009.
  • Wright, J. C., Warren, M. T., & Snow, N. E. (2020). Understanding virtue: Theory and measurement. Oxford University Press.

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