Wisdom: A Very Valuable Virtue That Cannot Be Bought
by Jason A. Merchey
Values of the Wise

"Wisdom has the capacity to be our greatest strength, individually and collectively."

An immense and insightful treatise on the virtues of wisdom, Merchey's nearly 400-page study is a grand undertaking rooted in philosophical inquiry, examining the unparalleled value that wisdom brings to the human experience. Noting that he draws from a diverse selection of writers' insights on the subject—ancient and modern alike—the author "feathers in" a number of his own perceptions and prescriptions, resulting in an impressive and focused examination on the singular notion of wisdom (in its many forms and contexts) and related phenomena. Divided neatly into fifteen chapters, Merchey covers abundant terrain on the following: qualities wise people value (such as altruism), emotional intelligence, insight and intuition, empathetic compassion, intellectual humility and modesty, issues of applied wisdom, self-awareness and discipline, the nuanced dynamic of wisdom, toleration of uncertainty and patience, open-mindedness ("mental flexibility"), and living a life of flourishing fulfillment. The final two chapters include thoughts on developing greater wisdom and the notion that "we must begin to love wisdom," in that in our complex and troubled world today, the "ability to think through the consequences of our values and our choices—and to improve them" becomes quite necessary.

Merchey achieves considerable success in making a strong case that wisdom, much like creativity, self-discipline, courage, intuition, love, and other allied traits, can and should be continuously developed as a psychological strength, or "inner knowing," and that doing so will lead the practitioner to success, joy, and fulfillment. The author offers an enormous overflow of insights regarding the subject of wisdom, both in the form of quotes from others as well as in his own often lengthy observations. Merchey has produced an impassioned and entirely well-developed argument for life-affirming attainment of wisdom as a key to human growth and potential. The sheer quality and quantity of Merchey's deep analysis and astute composition on the matter suggest that his impressive work of comprehensive intellectual and philosophical nonfiction could very well fit the bill in serving as the modern seminal work on the subject of human wisdom. It is simply that momentous of an undertaking. Merchey has more than "done his homework" on the matter, and the years the author spent researching the literature on the subject and creating this master-class volume yields intellectual and literary dividends for any reader of general interest who is moderate in political orientation and enjoys philosophical analyses written in engaging and accessible prose.

Much of the strength for writing such a work seems to have been forged in the author's life. Born in southern California in the mid-1970s, Merchey, "half-Jewish" and "headstrong," has described his nature as "precocious and talkative." The son of a physician and L.A. Sheriff's Department (Reserve) Captain and an artistic mother involved in advocacy and philanthropy, the author is open about his family having "come apart at the seams" when he was around the age of thirteen. At this crucial juncture in his life, an onset of emotional and psychological issues arose. By age eighteen, the author writes, he experienced a desperate need to understand "himself, his problems, and the world." Having discovered philosophy at the local junior college, Merchey later earned his bachelor's in psychology and social behavior from the University of California, Irvine, and a master's in clinical psychology from California State University, Fullerton. The author's background of soul searching and intense study gives his already impressive text an added layer of authority.

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