The nature of wisdom: People's connection to nature reflects a deep understanding of life

T. Andringa*, N. Angyal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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This paper shows that wise young adults formulate phenomenological intuitions about their relationship to nature that contain many references to advanced modern conceptions of life and ‘core cognition’. Enactive cognition – summarized as “being by doing”, focuses on a living agent’s ability to remain alive through the selection of proper ‘behaviors’ from the set of coping and co-creating behaviors. Co-creating agents satisfy their immediate needs while improving the quality of the environment on which their need satisfaction depends. They contribute to a thriving environment in which long-term need satisfaction is greatly facilitated. We refer to this skill as ‘agent adequacy’ that we associate with wisdom. Inadequate agents continually cope with need satisfaction. They might end up in a ‘coping trap’ where their coping strategies gradually degrade the habitat on which their long-term viability depends. In doing so, they lock themselves in an endless cycle of marginal need satisfaction. We propose concise and precise formulations of three fundamental concepts of the agent-environment relation: adequacy (the ability to satisfy needs in the short and long term), connectedness (referring to a personal bond with other agents or nature as a whole that is experienced as mutual), and beauty (that derives from the environment’s ability to produce fragile perfection that is a measure of environmental quality). Analysis of our interviews showed that our (rather wise) group of respondents addressed all three fundamental concepts. We conclude that our theoretically derived agent-environment framework is exemplified by the human-nature relation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-126
Number of pages19
JournalPsychology, Journal of the Higher School of Economics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Agent adequacy
  • Beauty
  • Connectedness
  • Core cognition
  • Enactive cognition
  • Life
  • Nature
  • Need satisfaction
  • Peak experiences
  • Phenomenology
  • Self-actualization
  • Wisdom

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