The House We Live In - Virtue, Wisdom, and Pluralism - Seth Zuihō Segall

The House We Live In - Virtue, Wisdom, and Pluralism - Seth Zuihō Segall

On Wisdom

The House We Live In - Virtue, Wisdom, and Pluralism - Seth Zuihō Segall

Seth Zuihō Segall [+-]
Independent Scholar
Seth Zuihō Segall completed a PhD in clinical psychology from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale in 1977 and was ordained as a Zen Buddhist priest in 2016. He served on the faculties of Southeast Missouri State University (1978), Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (1979-1980), the Yale University School of Medicine (1981-2009), and SUNY Purchase (2012-2017) and is a former Director of Psychology at Waterbury Hospital (1998-2004) and a former President of the New England Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (1998-2000). He is currently a contributing editor for Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, a review editor for The Humanistic Psychologist, the science writer for the Mindfulness Research Monthly, and a teacher at the New York Insight Meditation Society.

His publications include Encountering Buddhism: Western Psychology and Buddhist Teachings (2003, SUNY Press), Buddhism and Human Flourishing: A Modern Western Perspective (Palgrave MacMillan, 2020), and Living Zen: A Practical Guide to Balanced Existence (Rockridge, 2020) as well as articles for the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, The Humanistic Psychologist, H-Net, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, and other periodicals.

Author’s page: His blog, The Existential Buddhist (, publishes essays on Buddhist philosophy, meditation, art, politics, and literature.


In addition to the moral virtues, Aristotle, the Buddha, and Confucius stressed the role of wisdom in human flourishing. Wisdom has three aspects. First, wisdom is a cultures’ fund of advice about how to live. Every culture has its unique treasure house of ethical resources passed down through the generations in its religious and philosophical texts, poetry, literature, myths, legends, folk tales, fables, and adages. Second, wisdom is a faculty of mind—a set of intellectual abilities that enable one to make good ethical judgments. Aristotle thought phronesis, or practical wisdom, was the intellectual virtue that made all the moral virtues possible—the ability to “hit the mark” and discern the appropriate thing to do in any situation. Practical wisdom is a “knowing how to” rather than a “knowing that.” The chapter explores nine dimensions of practical wisdom: 1) self-and social-awareness, 2) practical relationship know-how, 3) rules of inquiry and inference, and the abilities to 4) weigh multiple factors simultaneously, 5) think abstractly, 6) see things from other perspectives, 6) attend to the wisdom of the body, 7) observe one’s own mental processes, and 8) maintain an attitude of open inquiry. All of these contribute to the ability to make proper ethical judgments. Beyond phronesis or practical wisdom, there is also what Aristotle called sophia, or philosophical wisdom. Even when the great philosophers disagree, studying their contributions widens our perspectives, deepens our sense of awe and mystery about life, and makes us humble about what we think we know. They help us to cultivate a “philosophical attitude” which allows us to step back from our immediate experience, investigate it with curiosity, and bear untoward events with equanimity.

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Segall, Seth Zuihō. On Wisdom. The House We Live In - Virtue, Wisdom, and Pluralism. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 67-79 Aug 2023. ISBN 9781800503465. Date accessed: 21 Jul 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.44124. Aug 2023

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