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The present investigation was based on the analysis of twenty respondents, ten men and ten women, all retired. The written texts were obtained from the archives of one of the authors who gathered autobiographies using a guided method of assigned topics of life. The main objective for this analysis was to find those central life goals and dominant activities around which the projects of life were formed. Sorting of life projects was done according to the constant comparison method described by Glaser and Strauss in their Grounded Theory model. Five types of life projects were identified in the narratives: living is achieving, living is being social, living is loving, living is family life, living is struggling. Considerable gender differences appeared in the findings with women showing a broader participation and interpretation of life where family life, community work and job careers were important. The men tended to be more monothematic focusing either on a personal achievement or a career development in a more social context. The rhetoric in the discourse of life themes was quite different between the sexes reflecting the sex role scripts of the cohort studied. Only in some of the types was the class dimension clearly visible where the type living is achieving and to a certain extent even living is being social reflected upper middle class and upper class occupations while living is loving reflected middle class occupations. The positive narrative tone and the telling of well-managed life projects and success stories in most of the accounts were considered as American features in comparison to some Finnish life stories that contained more of the telling of hardships. The most gender bound accounts such as the masculine living is achieving and the feminine living is loving life projects showed the greatest resemblances between these two western cultures revealing comparable master scripts.
The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the present volume and to begin to explore and integrate the use and concept of the term wisdom. In reviewing the preceding chapters, I find it refreshing to see a collection of analyses about wisdom. The long neglect by psychologists of the subject matter of wisdom is a curious fact that itself warrants attention, and it is here that we will begin.
The present authors reviewed histories of psychology, handbooks, overviews of psychology as a science, major textbooks, and selected works (e.g., Kantor, 1959; Koch, 1959) and determined that, indeed, the topic of wisdom was long neglected in psychology. For example, the massive handbook of general psychology edited by Wolman (1973) does not index the subject of wisdom: There is no mention of wisdom in the 45 chapters and over a thousand pages of text that describe the content of psychology. On the other hand, one of the elements of wisdom, reasoning, is well represented in selections of materials on experimental psychology (e.g., Stevens, 1951;Woodworth, 1938).
Among the factors that are likely to have contributed to psychology's neglect of the study of wisdom was the association of the subject to philosophy. This association placed it off limits to the 19th- and early 20th-century empirically minded psychologists. Behaviorism, which dominated the mid-20th century of psychological investigation, abhorred the “mentalistic” connotations inherent in the study of wisdom.
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