The New Book

Wisdom: From Philosophy to Neuroscience, by award-winning science writer Stephen S. Hall, examines ancient concepts of wisdom through the lens of modern brain science.

In a section called “Eight Neural Pillars of Wisdom,” Hall takes a fresh look at human qualities long associated with wisdom–including compassion, emotional regulation, the ability to discern what’s important, and the skill of coping with uncertainty–and suggests that modern neuroscience is providing radical new insights about how these timeless virtues evolved.

Based in part on a 2007 article in The New York Times Magazine, Wisdom is also a meditation on the seeds of wisdom, aspects of wisdom in everyday life, and the future of wisdom in our complex society.

In anticipation of the scheduled March 2010 publication by Knopf, check this space for an upcoming website and blog about wisdom in its many manifestations.Advance praise for Wisdom:

“Astonishingly wise, incredibly well written, and most importantly wonderfully synthetic. One can disagree with some of the parts, but few will disagree with the whole. Wisdom is still with us.”

–Michael S. Gazzaniga
Director, Sage Center for the Study of the Mind
University of California–Santa Barbara

“With erudition and literary skill, Stephen Hall brings us a powerful and perceptive synthesis of the contributions made by philosophers, theologians, and 21st century scientists to humankind’s ages-old search for the sources of wisdom. As a work of insight and art, this is indeed a wise book.”

–Sherwin Nuland, author, How We Die

“Steve Hall has done it again. He masterfully explains how ‘wisdom’ comes out of the brain without oversimplifying this enormously complex topic.”

–Joseph LeDoux, University Professor, Center for Neural Science,
New York University

“Wisdom is a golden-ticket tour of the human mind, in all its dimensions, led by one of the most insightful and trustworthy science journalists we’ve ever had. The book is a feast, not a snack. Get ready to digest more smart brain science than you ever thought possible.”

–David Shenk, author of The Forgetting and The Genius in All of Us

“Compelling…smart…always engaging and entertaining…just plain great writing…Wisdom may or may not impart wisdom to the reader; and it may or may not add to the wisdom in this world. What it will do is engage readers; it will keep you reading and thinking at the same time; focusing on the book, but also on your own life… Every sentence here has a place within the book, but they also have places in your life. Reading Wisdom, you can’t help but try to make a connection.”

–Rick Kleffel, KUSP (NPR, Santa Cruz) and “The Agony Column,”

“Wisdom is a fascinating attempt to understand one of our most cherished–but least well-understood–aspirations: to lead a just, good life.”


“When we think of the developing mind, we invariably think about children learning how to make their way in the world. But psychologists and neuroscientists are documenting a fundamental truth that great philosophers have long known: the wisdom of older people must develop over time as well. In Wisdom, Stephen Hall has created a fascinating synthesis of knowledge about what it means to be wise, weaving together Confucius and CT-scans, Plato and the prefrontal cortex.”

–Carl Zimmer, author of The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution and Soul Made Flesh: The Discovery of the Brain and How It Changed the World

Available from any of these online booksellers: