Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.
David Mitchell in Cloud Atlas
The philosopher John Hick stated that all religions express a transformation from self-centeredness to reality-centeredness. Hick was a pluralist and believed that many faiths lead to salvation and liberation. He argued for measuring religions by how reliably they produce people who transcend the self. This is a wonderfully empirical way of assessing a religion: look at its results.
In ancient Greek philosophy, there's this idea of a sage, a perfectly virtuous person. Socrates is one of the primary candidates for sagehood. Plotinus defined sages as having "knowledge of matters human and divine" - and many ancient Greeks thought Socrates possessed those. In Philosophy as a Way of Life, the scholar of ancient philosophy, Pierre Hadot, approvingly quotes Bernard Groethuysen:
The sage's consciousness of the world is something peculiar to him alone. Only the sage never ceases to have the whole constantly present to his mind. He never forgets the world, but thinks and acts with a view to the cosmos... The sage is part of the world; he is cosmic. He does not let himself be distracted from the world, or detached from the cosmic totality ... The figure of the sage forms, as it were, an indissoluble unity with man's representation of the world.
Part of knowledge and wisdom is seeing the totality of the world as a whole and understanding one's part in it. We see Seneca gesturing at this idea here:
As often as you wish to know what is to be avoided or what is to be sought, consider its relation to the Supreme Good, to the purpose of your whole life. For whatever we do ought to be in harmony with this. No man can set in order the details unless he has already set before himself the chief purpose of his life. ... The reason we make mistakes is because we all consider the parts of life, but never life as a whole.
In Surviving Death, Mark Johnston has the funny idea that we can survive death without an afterlife. Johnston starts with the question, what are we? Under what conditions am I identical to some future thing? Am I a body, a soul, or a personality? According to Johnston, we are a collection of desires, projects, and plans that support a practical outlook for decision making. This means that I survive whenever my desires, projects, and plans are present to a sufficient degree. Now, if one can bend their desires to be in line with the good and well-being of others, one can persist after death. In Johnston's own words, one needs the "disposition to absorb the legitimate interests of any present or future individual personality into one's present practical outlook, so that those interests count as much as one's own." By transforming one's sphere of concern beyond the ego and into the lives of others, one can persist after the death of your body. Because what you are is a particular collection of desires, projects, and plans supporting a practical outlook. Life after death is unlocked by metaphysics, not technology. Wherever the good is, so are you. This account of personal identity is speculative and technical. What's important here is what gets you beyond the grave: expanding your center of concern to cover others in a deep sense.
Each of these three ideas: sagehood, the recipe for life after death, and the purpose of religion as transcending the self are gesturing at reality-centeredness.
Reality-centeredness is the ability to look at the world as a whole while identifying with and being motivated to promote the good. Seeing the world through all the seers, not merely one's own vantage point.
King Solomon was known for being wise. After resolving a dispute between two women over who was the mother of a boy, Israelites "held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice." Though renowned for judgment over others' affairs, he wasn't in full command of his own. Eventually, a few of his seven hundred wives "turned his heart after other gods." He was the last king of the Kingdom of Israel.
Igor Grossman labels the ability to be wiser with others' affairs than our own, The Solomon Paradox.
In construal level theory, there's this idea of far vs. near perception. One of the core claims is that the distance from which ideas are considered impacts decision making. When you're making a decision, how "far way" it is makes a difference. Distance is greater (or less) on three dimensions: space, time, and personhood. Personhood refers to whether the event is happening to you, in which case it would be near, a family member, in which case it would be further, or a stranger, where it would be further still.
When considering decisions that will be made in the future, far, we tend to be more idealistic, abstract, and less risk-sensitive. When we consider decisions in the present, near, we're more concrete, practical, and more risk-sensitive. The problems of others can be easier to reason through than our own because they're further. Our foibles do not blind us. Hence, like Solomon we may be wiser.
Reality-centeredness is not looking at everything from a distance. Someone who is reality-centered should be able to move between the two perspectives: far and near. Both have their benefits. When viewing decisions from a distance, it is easier to see our values and make decisions that reflect them - ignoring risks we wish we weren't sensitive to. When we view the world up close, it's easier to catch small details and avoid fooling ourselves. Both have their disadvantages. If we view the world from far away, we risk becoming idealistic and unrealistic. Moreover, there's the risk that the ideals we express when viewing the world from a distance are not the ideals we live by. When we consider everything from a much closer frame, we risk overweighing immediate costs and benefits. That can look like indulging in self-gratification or cowardice. The sage never forgets the world (near), but "thinks and acts with a view to the cosmos" (far).
We're now in a position to put the virtue of reality-centeredness onto Aristotle's theory of the mean. For Aristotle, virtues fell between vices. As an example, courage is between recklessness and cowardice. Reality-centeredness falls between the vices of ego-centeredness and rootlessness. The ego-centered person is selfish, while the rootless person carries with them the vice of excessive psychological distance. They've become detached from the world and lost sight of what is essential. The two vices often look the same—rootless abstraction results in speech that sounds reality-centered and selfish actions.
The person who is reality-centered is unified. To become reality-centered, we must see the whole and understand our role in it, internalizing the idea that our lives are not our own.