Wisdom, Virtues, and Well-Being:

An Empirical Test of Aristotle’s Theory of Flourishing

Abstract: According to Aristotle, wisdom orchestrates all other virtues and therefore leads to eudaimonia, which can be translated as flourishing or psychological well-being. Wisdom guides people to take the morally right course of action in concrete situations to benefit themselves and others. If Aristotle’s theory is correct, then wisdom should be related to different moral virtues and wisdom, rather than individual virtues, should predict eudaimonic well-being, establishing wisdom as the driving force behind human flourishing. Survey data were collected from 230 undergraduate students (M = 21 years, median age = 20 years) attending five different classes in the social sciences at a university in the Southeast of the United States at the beginning and end of the fall semester in 2016. Bivariate correlations, regression analyses, and a structural equation model were utilized to analyze the data. Three-dimensional wisdom (3D-WS) at the beginning of the semester (T1), consisting of the average of cognitive, reflective, and compassionate personality qualities, was significantly positively related to gratitude, forgiveness, morality/fairness, modesty, greed avoidance, and sincerity at T1. Wisdom at T1 predicted flourishing at the end of the semester (T2), assessed by self-acceptance, mastery, purpose in life, and orientation toward personal growth. Among the virtues, only gratitude at T1 significantly predicted flourishing at T2. It appears that Aristotle was correct! Wisdom, at least as measured by the 3D-WS, seems to orchestrate moral virtues and result in human flourishing. This implies that cultivating the development of wisdom will lead to a better and more flourishing life.

Click on the citation to read the article:

Ardelt, M., & Kingsbury, J. (2024). Wisdom, Virtues, and Well-Being: An Empirical Test of Aristotle’s Theory of Flourishing. Topoi, 1-15.