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Monday, May 11, 2015

Can Adversity Make Us Good?

By Eranda Jayawickreme
Big Ideas at Slate.com

Here is an excerpt:

Nevertheless, we know that adversity can help answer the question, “Why be good?” Psychologist Johanna Ray Vollhardt at Clark University has claimed that traumatic life events may in fact enhance the motivation to help other disadvantaged members of society, including people outside the groups with which you identify. One possible explanation for this “altruism born of suffering” is that trauma often forces people to recognize how limited their time on Earth is, which in turn clarifies their values and promotes moral behavior. Blackie found this to be the case in a study she published in Psychological Science, where experimentally manipulating thoughts about death—in this case, asking participants to imagine dying in an apartment fire—predicted increased charitable giving behavior (in this case, the intention to donate blood).

In other words, as the philosopher Valerie Tiberius at the University of Minnesota has argued, we want to be good because we care about having good lives, and adversity can help provide the necessary knowledge and perspective. I would call this knowledge and perspective wisdom.

The entire article is here.