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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Wisdom Paradox

Goldberg, Elkhonon.  The Wisdom Paradox.

Elkhonon Goldberg, neuropsychologist, looks at the brain from a uniquely personal perspective after years of experience with patients and his own MRI.  He examines the way the brain develops and changes and explains that even with deterioration, the brain can still function in a marvelous manner as a result of acquisition and storage of knowledge.

On brain duality:  "The right hemisphere is the "novelty" hemisphere and the left hemisphere is the repository of well-developed patterns.  This means that as we age and accumulate more patterns, a gradual change in the hemispheric "balance of power" takes place:  The role of the right hemisphere diminishes and the role of the left hemisphere grows."

His discussion of  "late and luminous bloomers" (wonderful epithet) such as Goethe, Grandma Moses, Norbert Wiener (mathematician and philosopher), and Golda Meir is interesting.

In the section on memory, Goldberg explains generic memories ("memories for patterns") and "pattern expansion."  The capacity for pattern-recognition is one aspect of wisdom; patterns can enable quick solutions to wide-ranging problems, and these generic memories accumulate with age. :) Good to know!

He distinguishes between wisdom and genius, including the ability for empathy and "emotional intelligence" as necessary for wisdom, but not genius.

There is too much in this book (some very technical, some anecdotal) to cover quickly, but his conclusions that "growth of a neural structure appears to be stimulated by its use" is now pretty widely accepted and certainly worthy reason for keeping our brains as active as possible.

Lots of notes and documentation.

Nonfiction.  Neuropsychology.  2005.  321 pages including notes, documentation.


  1. I love your review of this book!

  2. bybee - Thanks! It was an interesting book, and I enjoyed reading and thinking about it. I'm back to the other "brain" book that is in progress, The Body Has a Mind of Its Own, and I'm finding it equally fascinating! Maybe more so...

  3. Love the distinction between wisdom and genius - one of those things you recognise instantly but have never articulated.

  4. Katherine - It is something you recognize instantly, isn't it? Wise people don't have to have any kind of super-intellect, but need lots of experience, empathy, and good judgment.