Barry Schwartz compares a wise person to a jazz musician – “using the notes on the page, but dancing around them, inventing combinations that are appropriate for the situation and the people at hand”. What he emphasizes is that a wise person is made, not born, wisdom comes with the experience. You actually don’t need to be brilliant to be wise, but without wisdom brilliance is not enough.
When something goes wrong we have a strong tendency to reach for rules and incentives – without intending it, but turning to rules and inventives we often stage a war on wisdom. An example illustrating this hypothesis is provided by strict curricula in schools, leaving no place for creativity and adaptation, guaranteeing mediocrity instead. Barry Schwartz quotes Barack Obama, who said “We must ask, not just is it profitable, but is it right” – people tend to forget this second question.
One of solutions to the problem suggested by Barry Schwartz is very simple – we need to celebrate moral exemplares, and it doesn’t have to mean superheroes, ordinary heroes, such as teachers, as equally or even more important. What is underlined in this speech is importance of practical wisdom – according to Barry Schwartz, “it’s what allows other virtues – honesty, kindness, courage and so on – to be displayed at the right time and in the right way”.