Social Sciences

Start Free Trial
What is wisdom and what is its importance?

Recent eNotes discussions have shown me how, on a good day, online discussion forums can resemble Socratic dialogues. 

In that spirit, I thought we might take on one of the most ancient subjects in philosophy - wisdom. 

  • What does it mean to be wise?
  • What is wisdom and how does one achieve it?
  • Has the meaning or nature of wisdom changed over time?
  • Why is wisdom important?

To add a contemporary spin, we might ask where we can see wisdom at work today and, alas, in what areas we may see it lacking... 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Wisdom comes with experience.  I define it as not making the same mistake twice.  So therefore wisdom will vary with the person.  Each person grows wise in different ways, but a person who has wisdom is able to share it with others.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I'm not convinced there is anything like true wisdom.  The people we tend to think of as wise are often merely experienced.  You don't hear about many wise 12 year olds, do you?  But to a 12 year old, a 20 year old can seem wise.  I think the concept of wisdom is often simply a relative thing between people at different stages in their lives.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I love portd's definition and explanation of wisdom. I might add wisdom is recognizing and embracing the essential nature of life and living. While there is great disagreement about the nature of life and living as far as the supernatural, spirituality, life and death, consciousness and universal consciousness, and things on this order, there is significant agreement that doing harmful things opposes the nature of life and living as does doing maliciously cruel and destructive things as does willfully brutalizing things or persons, while doing things that demonstrate generosity, kindness, acceptance, learning, respect and things on this order accord with the nature of life and living. Wisdom recognizes the essential nature, recognizes the opposition and accordance and embraces that which accords.

Wisdom

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Most people acquire wisdom after they have done something dangerous or foolish which has had damaging effects upon their personal lives, whether involving their psyche, personal relationships, or finances.  This is why age in people is often associated with wisdom--most people do learn from experience.

This is not to say that the youthful individuals cannot be wise because those who possess common sense and the intelligence to use it are, indeed, wise.  Wisdom, then involves, thinking a problem through and weighing all the consequences; it is the antithesis of acting upon impulse.  Reading Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet provides a person with this concept.

http://www.enotes.com/romeo-and-juliet

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Like all abstract concepts, wisdom cannot be clearly defined as referring to some one thing, but instead must be seen as a word used in various ways in various different contexts. Historically, wisdom is often used as a translation of "phronesis", a type of knowledge about matters such as ethics which are not absolutely knowable but instead can only be understood in terms of probabilities or relative truths. Many practical matters or things experienced in our everyday lives are often not matters that can be proven by rigourous demonstration but instead a matter of applying general principles or knowledge of what is most often the case, and thus the domain of wisdom rather than knowledge.

 

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Being wise means being discerning as how to act after you digest the facts, data, information, and circumstances before you. An individual can have great intellect and be armed with a wealth of information and still make wrong decisions. Wisdom is synthesizing all this information into a proper and right decision.

One achieves wisdom through life experiences, through study, through seeking the advice of others who have proved to be wise in their lives, and through living a number of years and accumulating more wisdom as each year passes.

I don't believe the meaning or nature of wisdom has changed over the years. I believe the factors that influence wisdom have changed - cultures change, technology changes, ideologies change, and individual experiences are constantly in flux.

Wisdom is important because wise decisions often prevent heartache. They can prevent difficult situations from developing or getting worse. A decision not to take illegal drugs because of the data showing the destructive effects of so doing is a wise decision and prevents heartache for the decision maker and those of their circle of influence.

What is Wisdom?

Wisdom Defined

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is wisdom? Off the top of my head I'd say it is the ability to look at a problem and understand what is causing it, or understand how to find out what is causing it, and have a good idea of what steps to take to solve the problem.

Well, it's off the top of my head.

I would say that wisdom is sorely lacking in the overall populace. Unfortunately, this group comprises the electorate, which is why politicians don't have to behave responsibly or make any real sense at all. A wiser electorate would force candidates to deal with issues in a forthright manner.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team