Wisdom Essay

Topics: Knowledge, Wisdom, Virtue Pages: 14 (4896 words) Published: June 8, 2013
Project Paper: Philosophy & Wisdom


Data is not information,
Information is not knowledge,
Knowledge is not understanding,
Understanding is not wisdom.

- Clifford Stoll -

So what exactly is wisdom?
Wisdom comes from the word ‘wise’, which means having or showing experience, knowledge, and good judgment . Did you know that the human race is also called homo sapien – which originated from Latin, meaning ‘wise’ or ‘knowing man’? This is simply due to the fact that humans need to be equipped with wisdom in order to survive. According to Crawford (2011), wisdom can be viewed as the ability to exercise good judgment in the face of imperfect knowledge - which is to do the right thing personally, ethically, and socially. We believe that this is one of the most important goals in achieving wisdom – to guide mankind lead a meaningful life through wise decision-making. It helps us to think about our actions, the consequences, and solutions to our problems. Confucius once stated that decision-making lies in the heart of wisdom where one combines intellectual, emotional and social gifts. This philosophical point-of-view will be further elaborated in the following section:

 1.1 Philosophical View of Wisdom

“Wisdom is the love of wisdom and the wisdom of love”. There are many types of wisdom: for example the human wisdom (wisdom in using human knowledge), the divine wisdom (the wisdom of love), and the practical wisdom (wisdom that is used to solve problems). Socrates defined the aspects of wisdom as recognizing the limits of one’s own knowledge, the importance of persistent critical thinking and discernment, and the importance of identifying and pursuing goodness. It is a physical and intellectual undertaking which involves a journey towards a change of a better perspective in life. It is interesting to note that Socrates viewed wisdom as both a blessing and a burden. Humans are blessed with the freedom (and free will) to think and make decisions for themselves; and at the same time, wisdom ‘weighs us down’ as we are burdened by the responsibility of our actions and its consequences. From a social point of view, Confucius believes that in order to reduce the vast human misery, society needs to change. We need wisdom to reorganize our priorities in order to seek the benefit of many rather than the comfort of the few. However, a change in society begins with one individual at a time. It is also part of our obligation to share the wisdom that we have gained for the betterment of our society and mankind.

1.2 Psychological View of Wisdom

To remain calm in the midst of crisis, to be a humble person, being aware of limitations, able to weigh things and then make decisions on what is right, and know what to reflect on are some characteristics of being wise from the psychological view. Erikson (1963) viewed wisdom as the culmination of a lifelong process of emotional maturation. He also said that wisdom could be acquired through a step-by-step, lifelong process of self-realization. Dr. Vivian Clayton, a renowned clinical psychologist, says that wisdom is always associated with knowledge, frequently applied to human social situations, involved judgment and reflection and always has compassion. Clayton’s concept has three general areas central to wisdom: the cognitive, reflective and affective. In the cognitive aspect, it is the ability to understand human nature, to perceive a situation clearly and to make decisions despite ambiguity and uncertainty. The reflective aspect of wisdom relates to a person’s ability to examine an event from multiple perspectives, whereas the emotional component of wisdom relates to having the ability to remain positive and minimizing negative feelings and emotions. Paul B. Baltes in his book Wisdom as Orchestration of Mind and Virtue wrote that “…wisdom, though very difficult to achieve, is easily recognized when present.” Although there are multiple...
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