• MAYAEL
    54
    As far as I understand, wisdom is the ability to take information which is knowledge of the past and apply it in the present in order to achieve a specific desired outcome in the future .
  • Manuel
    984


    Yeah I tend to agree. Which makes the whole thing problematic, if no wise person will ever say they are wise, then what are we even talking about?
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    Yes, it is a bit of a shame that wisdom is so hard to point to. When I was thinking about finding wisdom yesterday I was hoping that it would open up some interesting dialogue of ideas, like many other terms spoken of within philosophy. However, when I read through the various responses this morning I realised how vague the idea is and how difficult it is to really try to spell out the idea in any depth.

    But, I would imagine that it would be possible to name people who stood out in history, like Socrates, or the Buddha, but that is because they are in the distant past, and we know that they are such respected teachers. I also think that it would probably be possible to point to specific books as containing wisdom, because that makes it possible to see the teachings rather than focusing on a particular person.
  • Manuel
    984


    The case with Socrates is illuminating, he denied he was the wisest man in Athens, maintaining that all he knew was that he knew nothing.

    Obviously it's hard to accept the conclusion that Socrates knew nothing, but if he says he is not wise, then there's a problem with the concept. Perhaps we need to think about wisdom differently and instead of attributing to a person, we say that a person acted wisely or said something wise, while not saying that the person is wise.

    As for Buddha yes, he would fit what comes to mind when one things of wisdom, but I don't know what he would've said about the topic, as I know almost nothing on the topic. So whatever wisdom is, almost no one will say that they are wise, even if people attribute wisdom to them.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    If Socrates was not wise, perhaps there is not much hope for anyone really. But, I am quite happy to live with my own folly. I also believe that is much easier to speak about because it can include repeated mistakes and failure to learn from mistakes, excesses, sloth and so many vices. In fact, we could talk in so many depth about our foolishness. I am a bit tempted to update my title to include foolishness.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k
    I have been edited my title, having realised that it is so hard to talk about wisdom. So, I have expanded the topic to incorporate foolishness, because there may be more to say. Also, as the two ideas are a pair of opposites, the discussion of folly, may throw some light on the topic of wisdom. And I am probably a bit foolish in the way that I write threads and play around giving them new titles, and I am also a bit of a fool for inventing so many threads.
  • 180 Proof
    4k
    :up: Good move. Yes, in fact, since none are truly wise, we can only talk about degrees of foolishness (foolery) instead. This is my usual approach to the topic – foolosophy (pre-foolology) – which I've expressed on many threads. In sum:
    And in so far as 'wisdom' denotes mastery over folly & stupidity (i.e. misuses & abuses, respectively, of intelligence, knowledge, judgment, etc), I translate philosophy as the love of 'opposing folly & stupidity'.180 Proof
  • Manuel
    984


    :up:

    Or attempting to give structure to our stupidity= it's not that wisdom grows, it's that one's ignorance is more clearly seen the more you discover things. :cool:
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    I have a quote from William Blake:
    'The fool who persists in his folly will become wise.'

    That is a bit reassuring, giving the idea that we don't even have to even try and give up being foolish. I do often feel that I have learned more from stupid mistakes, and I make plenty of mistakes often...
  • 180 Proof
    4k
    :up: Recovering from foolery is like recovering from drug or alcohol addiction: an endless, life-long, reflective task (à la martial arts, or "spiritual exercise" as Hadot says) because 'born a fool, one is always a fool'. One can only strive to unlearn those maladaptive judgments & habits which increase one's misery and contributes to the miseries of others (like e.g. the Epicurean "Tetrapharmakos").
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    I think that the hardest part is about not beating yourself up about stupid, foolish mistakes. I know that when I have done or said things which I come to regret I spend so much time feeling so irritated with myself. Or, the other alternative is to blame others. But, it is all about unlearning behaviour patterns and reflection upon experience. I am sure that cognitive behavioral therapy helps. But, I think that, in general, we live in a culture which does not encourage that much reflection.
  • Fooloso4
    1.9k
    On the one hand, it seems unwise to measure wisdom without being in possession of what is being measured. On the other, it seems unwise to therefore abandon the idea of wisdom.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    I don't think that it is necessary to abandon the idea of wisdom, but just about recognizing how hard it is to achieve, and what it is exactly is difficult to define. But, in many ways, it is a rather abstract, and more of a goal, a bit like the idea of perfection. It could even be that trying for such ideals is a recipe for failure. But, I do think it is hard to know what to aim for in standards, and this can be too low or too high. I think that it is probably about being aware of our own limitations.
  • 180 Proof
    4k
    This is why Socrates (philosophy) was called a "gadfly" that stings (awakens with a fright!) those whom 'custom, prejudice, dogma-ideology' keeps sleepwalking (passive, reactive ... re: fat dumb & happy) through their lives. In this "gadfly" tradition, Deleuze says
    The use of philosophy is to sadden. A philosophy that saddens no one, that annoys no one, is not a philosophy. It is useful for harming stupidity, for turning stupidity into something shameful.
    Imagine Sisyphus happy indeed! :fire:
  • Fooloso4
    1.9k
    I think that it is probably about being aware of our own limitations.Jack Cummins

    What is often not appreciated is that Socrates' knowledge of his ignorance was not simply a matter of knowing that he was ignorant.
  • James Riley
    1.1k
    The question of potential silence and brevity is certainly worth thinking about. It also leads me to think that it may be that this thread will be extremely brief, because it may be that wisdom is extremely difficult to pinpoint, or even talk about.Jack Cummins

    Cross-thread points: https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/548771
  • Tom Storm
    1.3k
    And in so far as 'wisdom' denotes mastery over folly & stupidity (i.e. misuses & abuses, respectively, of intelligence, knowledge, judgment, etc), I translate philosophy as the love of 'opposing folly & stupidity'.180 Proof

    I agree. In your view would it be possible for a person to be wise without engaging with philosophy?
  • 180 Proof
    4k
    Oh yes. Not only do I think we philosophers are not wise ourselves – we're fools who explicitly seek to treat (reduce) our foolery – and therefore seek (love) the wisdom we don't have but also that genuinely 'wise folks' – I've met a few in my travels – don't need to bother with philosophy per se because, well, they are already wise. I can't say how wisdom is acquired – born talent? lived experience? religiosity? mysticism? libertinage? mad video game jones? – but if philosophy is how one can become wise, it's can't be the only way. That said, however, I'm confident that for most self-reflective fools, philosophy is the 'least irrational' way to recover from foolery, which for a long while has been good enough for me.
  • theUnexaminedMind
    12
    This was a super interesting thread and I had a thought as I was reading through. Could we run a simple equation to generically quantify wisdom as a thought experiment?

    For example, A (an individual) is generally more wise than B (another individual) if they rank higher on the checklist below, and vice versa with foolishness as the opposite.

    I invite everyone to help generate said checklist,

    Checklist:

    Learns from ones experiences/ doesn't repeat the same actions that lead to undesirable consequences more than once.

    When discussing something, displays both a knowledge base and experiential lessons.

    Through character/personality displays humility, patience, when discussing something with others but at the same time does not sacrifice explanation for brevity.

    Is always questioning?

    Runs 'new ideas/thoughts/concepts' through ones own personal philosophy of beliefs before commenting.

    Never complacent when it comes to learning.

    (These are just examples from some of the comments above, please feel free to add or modify, I'm curious what we could collectively come up with.)
    Glad to be part of the discussion.
  • Tom Storm
    1.3k
    That is a compelling and helpful answer, 180, thank you.
  • Tiberiusmoon
    127

    -Wisdom
    noun
    1. the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement; the quality of being wise.
    "listen to his words of wisdom"

    • the fact of being based on sensible or wise thinking.
      "some questioned the wisdom of building the dam so close to an active volcano"
    • the body of knowledge and experience that develops within a specified society or period.
      plural noun: wisdoms
      "Eastern wisdom"

    -Good
    noun
    1. that which is morally right; righteousness.
    "a mysterious balance of good and evil"

    2. benefit or advantage to someone or something.
    "he convinces his father to use his genius for the good of mankind"

    -Foolish
    adj
    lacking good sense or judgement; unwise.
    "he was foolish enough to confide in her"

    When fundamentally and unbiasedly approached the word "Good" is biased towards an observer, the act of something done towards an observer be it morally right, advantageous or a benefit.
    But the word has no consideration to the individual producing the act itself because it may not be "Good" or moral for them which can lead to fault ethically.

    So wisdom itself is biased in concept with no regard of anothers ethics or truth as the mentioned "knowledge" or "experience" can be prone to misinterpretation or false/assumed knowledge.

    Maybe it is better to measure a person's way of thought by how well they understand fault, like biases, assumptions, misinformation and fallacies.
  • TheMadFool
    10k
    When it comes to measuring, roping in mathematics, it's more about making a decision than getting it right. So, wisdom maybe as slippery as an eel but we can ignore the true meaning of wisdom and simply choose some quantifiable parameters that correlate with it. This rather simple method, though likely to be inaccurate can be useful (something is better than nothing, right?).

    Some parameters that correlate with "wisdom" that seem quantifiable. Taking a page out of the Delphic Oracle,

    1. Temes Nosce (Know Thyself): Is a person, say, aware of his own weaknesses and strenghts? That would be a start.

    2. Nothing to excess: Is the person mentally balanced? Does he take care of himself physically? Weight? Addictions? Illnesses (mental/physical)?

    3. Surety brings ruin: How certain is a person of his beliefs? This particular trait, uncertainty, is a trademark of sages I'm told. Easily measurable.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    Thanks for your reply. I think that the idea of listing qualities is a good one. However, I would be a bit wary of running it as checklist to apply to individuals, because that would seem a bit like a person specification in job applications. Also, it could end up being a bit judgemental because it may be that wisdom is within.

    However, I do agree that listing qualities related to wisdom itself is worthwhile. One quality which I believe is a non judgemental attitude towards others people.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    Thanks for your reply. Bearing in mind that I added discussion of the foolish to the title, I wlcome you as the VIP of the thread, as I think that you probably put thought into your username.

    What I think that your response draws attention to is the idea of balance and avoidance of excess. You also are pointing to health and wellbeing. I think that this is extremely important because if we are not well physically and mentally it is hard to function personally or for the greater good. It is not always that easy to keep healthy, especially if we have too much stress.

    Even with physical health, some people follow the healthiest regimes and still get sick. I admit that I don't spend much time in food preparation, but try to look for items which don't have too many bad ingredients in them. But, ideas about what we need to eat and drink change, and I maintain that I need my 5 a day cups of coffee, but some people tell me that is too much.
  • Benj96
    457


    Hi Jack I have some thoughts on wisdom. I guess I’m a little late to the party though haha.

    Some observations: though many people become wiser with age you can be just as naive at 80 as you were at 20 and also some young people tend to have a surprising level of wisdom early on as the adage “old head on young shoulders” would suggest.

    So it seems wisdom isn’t inherently restricted to experience. There must then be some form of logic , disposition or knowledge which if mastered correctly would enable one to be wise about issues and topics that have never affected them personally.

    My understanding of wisdom is that it is the acknowledgment of that portion of knowledge which stays consistent between seemingly unrelated topics/ subjects. That is to say can be applied correctly to any case based on the fact that it is somehow more intrinsic than the differing superficial knowledge of disciplines.
    Some examples:
    “Buy when people are afraid/ uncertain and sell when they are confident/certain” - a cardinal slice of economic wisdom about the psychology of the global market. No matter how specific and complex you get in the nitty- gritty those who are successful never forget this big picture.
    Others like “the more popular you become the more enemies you make” - because of jealousy, “if it seems to good to be true it is” - deceit. “Don’t count your eggs before they hatch” or “people will offer you an umbrella when the sun shines and demand it back when it rains”

    All of these are simple truth pertaining to human behaviour. And while simple they are true and therefore consistently applicable. That’s the difference between the wise and the naive, wise people constantly apply basic rules rather then bank on the hope that maybe this time/ I myself may be an exception (naivety).
  • 180 Proof
    4k
    :cool:

    :up: ... to which I'd add that cultivating (some) of the following from various traditions (paths): https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/501801 ... sub specie durationis (pace Spinoza).
  • theUnexaminedMind
    12
    Also, it could end up being a bit judgemental because it may be that wisdom is within.Jack Cummins

    Good catch, thank you for the input. Yes, I do think there are qualities that perhaps lead to/allow for growth of wisdom, but you're most likely right, wisdom could be subjective to the individual. Quantifying it would maybe be finding a general balance between the two.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    Thanks for your detailed reply. I think that the important question is to what extent is wisdom connected to ethics? I think that part of this relates to inner experience of the issues of morality and how this is related to the wider ones relating to the social dimensions. Part of seems to come down to mastery of self, but this is also connected to the others. We are individuals, but also social beings, so I believe that this is a difficult but interesting area. We can ask about personal wisdom, but we are in relationships with others, so it may be that we need to think about wisdom beyond the personal, as being bound up with social and cultural aspects of human life.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    Thanks for your reply, and I hope that you are not late to the party, and that it is not over, just yet. I see the main issue which you raise as being about social rules and convention. How do we see conformity and social rules. Generally, I am of the view that social rules and convention are a starting point and should not be overthrown without a clear reason.

    However, l do wonder if many people are thrown into dilemmas which make them question beyond the conventional norms. The Buddhist perspective speaks of the middle way, but even that, could become too concrete. My own view is that we probably need to keep standing on our toes, thinking, reflecting and evaluating, rather than looking for any easy recipes or solutions to the large debate about wisdom.
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