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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Personification of wisdom (in Greek, "Σοφία" or "Sophia") at the Celsus Library in Ephesus, Turkey.

Wisdom is a deep understanding of people, things, events or situations, empowering the ability to choose or act to consistently produce the optimum results with a minimum of time and energy. Wisdom is the ability to optimally (effectively and efficiently) apply perceptions and knowledge and so produce the desired results. Wisdom is comprehension of what is true or right coupled with optimum judgment as to action. Synonyms include: sagacity, discernment, or insight. Wisdom often requires control of one's emotional reactions (the "passions") so that one's principles, reason and knowledge prevail to determine one's actions.


Philosophical perspectives

Robert Reid, Wisdom (1896). Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.

A standard philosophical definition says that wisdom consists of making the best use of available knowledge. As with any decision, a wise decision may be made with incomplete information[citation needed]. The technical philosophical term for the opposite of wisdom is folly.[citation needed]

In his Metaphysics, Aristotle defines wisdom as knowledge of causes: why things exist in a particular fashion.

In addition to experience there are a variety of other avenues to gaining wisdom. For example, Freethinkers and others believe that wisdom may come from pure reason and perhaps experience, while others believe that it comes from intuition or spirituality.[1]

Beginning with the ancient Greeks, European culture associates wisdom with virtue. Metis and Athene are associated with wisdom from earliest times. For example, many philosophers talk about the virtue of wisdom in relation to courage and moderation, and in the Roman Catholic church, wisdom (Prudence) stands with justice, fortitude and moderation as one of the four cardinal virtues. Plato's dialogues mention the virtue of wisdom, as knowledge about the Good and the courage to act accordingly. The Good would be about the right relations between all that exists. The Good, as a Platonic Form, would involve the perfect ideas of good government, love, friendship, community, and a right relation to the Divine. Perhaps the search or love of wisdom is more important than any proven claim. Socrates only claimed to know that he did not know, but this he was very certain of, and he showed the many contradictions in the claims of his fellow citizens.[2]

In the Inuit tradition, developing wisdom was the aim of teaching. An Inuit Elder said that a person became wise when they could see what needed to be done and do it successfully without being told what to do.[3]

Holists believe that wise people sense, work with and align themselves and others to life. In this view, wise people help others appreciate the fundamental interconnectedness of life[citation needed].

Nicholas Maxwell, a modern philosopher, argued that the basic aim of academic inquiry ought to be to seek and promote wisdom — wisdom being construed to be the capacity to realize what is of value in life for oneself and others, wisdom thus including knowledge and technological know-how, but much else besides.[4]

[5] Wisdom is an ideal that has been celebrated since antiquity as the application of knowledge needed to live a good and virtuous life[citation needed]. Beyond simply knowing/understanding what options are available, "Wisdom" provides the ability to differentiate between them and choose the one that is best. What this means exactly depends on the various wisdom schools and traditions claiming to help foster it. In general, these schools have emphasized various combinations of the following: knowledge, understanding, experience, discipline, discretion, and intuitive understanding, along with a capacity to apply these qualities well towards finding solutions to problems. In many traditions, the terms wisdom and intelligence have somewhat overlapping meanings; in others they are arranged hierarchically, with intelligence being necessary but not sufficient for wisdom.

Neo-Platonists like Cusanus, endorsed a 'docta ignorantia' in which the greatest wisdom was to recognize one's own ignorance of the divine[citation needed].

According to Rice (1958)[citation needed] two wisdom traditions can be identified in the Renaissance: Contemplative and prudential. Contemplative traditions, such as monastic traditions, emphasized meditation on one's own experience as a pathway to the divine: Augustine of Hippo was an early and influential figure in the Christian lineage of this tradition. The status of wisdom or prudence as a virtue is recognized in cultural, philosophical and religious sources as the judicious and purposeful application of knowledge that is valued in society. Charron (1601)[citation needed] was an influential Renaissance proponent of this wisdom tradition.

Psychological perspectives

Psychologists have gathered data on commonly held beliefs or folk theories about wisdom.[6] These analyses indicate that although "there is an overlap of the implicit theory of wisdom with intelligence, perceptiveness, spirituality and shrewdness, it is evident that wisdom is a distinct term and not a composite of other terms."[7]Many, but not all, studies find that adults' self-ratings of perspective/wisdom do not depend on age.[8][9] This stands in contrast to the popular notion that wisdom increases with age.[9] In many cultures the name for third molars, which are the last teeth to grow, is etymologically linked with wisdom, e.g. as in the English wisdom tooth. In 2009, a study reviewed which brain components were related to wisdom.[10]

Researchers in the field of positive psychology have defined wisdom as the coordination of "knowledge and experience" and "its deliberate use to improve well being."[11] With this definition, wisdom can supposedly be measured using the following criteria.[8]

  • A wise person has self-knowledge.
  • A wise person seems sincere and direct with others.
  • Others ask wise people for advice.
  • A wise person's actions are consistent with his/her ethical beliefs.

Measurement instruments that use these criteria have acceptable to good internal consistency and low test-retest reliability (r in the range of 0.35 to 0.67).[8]

Religious perspectives

Some religions have specific teachings relating to wisdom.

Ancient Egypt

Saa represents the personification of wisdom or the God of wisdom in Ancient Egyptian Mythology.

Old Testament

In the Christian Bible and Jewish scripture, wisdom is represented by the sense of justice of the lawful and wise king Solomon, who asks God for wisdom in 1 Kings 3. Much of the Book of Proverbs, a book of wise sayings, is attributed to Solomon. In Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10, the fear of the Lord is called the beginning or foundation of wisdom while Proverbs 8:13 declares "To fear the Lord is to hate evil". In Proverbs 1:20, there is also reference to wisdom personified in female form, "Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares."

It was an ancient belief among the Jews and Samaritans that both the wisest and most aged among them would grow caprine horns, which were known euphemistically as "rays of light" (נקודת אור), hence the following ancient Hebrew dictums[12]:

From Wisdom's horn/Authority is born.

His Wisdom shone (qaran) unto them like a horn (qeren) of light.

New Testament

Furthermore, there is an oppositional element in Christian thought between secular wisdom and Godly wisdom. The apostle Paul states that worldly wisdom thinks the claims of Christ to be foolishness. However, to those who are being saved Christ represents the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:17-31) Also, Wisdom is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit according to Anglican, Catholic, and Lutheran belief. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 gives an alternate list of nine virtues, among which wisdom is one.


In Islam, according to the Qur'an, Wisdom is of the greatest gifts humankind can enjoy, as it can be seen in many verses such as: " He gives wisdom unto whom He will, and he unto whom wisdom is given, he truly has received abundant good. But none remember except men of understanding." [2:269]* (This is the translation of the interpretation of the meaning from the original Arabic text)

And in Surah "Chapter" 31 is named "Luqman" after a wise man that God has bestowed Wisdom upon him. The man example is made in response to other kind of people that is mentioned in the beginning of the Surah "Chapter" who speak without knowledge and mislead people through corrupted discourse. In many verses in the Quran, many Prophets described as wise or be given Wisdom as a grace from God. For example, in Surah 3 "Aal-Imran" (the Family of Imran) it is mentioned that Christ Jesus the son of Mary will be taught the Book and the Wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel (verse 48)

Eastern religions and philosophy

Confucius stated that wisdom can be learned by three methods: Reflection (the noblest), imitation (the easiest) and experience (the bitterest). Wisdom is not told by self but unless asked for by another. This means a wise man never tells his wisdom unless asked person to person. According to "Doctrine of the Mean," Confucius also said, "Love of learning is akin to wisdom. To practice with vigor is akin to humanity. To know to be shameful is akin to courage (zhi,ren,yi..three of Mengzi's sprouts of virtue)." Compare this with the beginning of the Confucian classic "Great Learning" which begins with "The Way of learning to be great consists in manifesting the clear character, loving the people, and abiding in the highest good" one can clearly see the correlation with the Roman virtue "prudence," especially if one transliterates clear character as clear conscience. (Quotes from Chan's Sources of Chinese Philosophy).

Buddhist scriptures teach that a wise person is endowed with good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct & good mental conduct (AN 3:2) and a wise person does actions that are unpleasant to do but give good results and doesn’t do actions that are pleasant to do but give bad results (AN 4:115). The Buddha has much to say on the subject of wisdom including:

  • He who arbitrates a case by force does not thereby become just (established in Dhamma). But the wise man is he who carefully discriminates between right and wrong.[13]
  • He who leads others by nonviolence, righteously and equitably, is indeed a guardian of justice, wise and righteous.[14]
  • One is not wise merely because he talks much. But he who is calm, free from hatred and fear, is verily called a wise man.[15]
  • By quietude alone one does not become a sage (muni) if he is foolish and ignorant. But he who, as if holding a pair of scales, takes the good and shuns the evil, is a wise man; he is indeed a muni by that very reason. He who understands both good and evil as they really are, is called a true sage.[16]

In Taoism Practical Wisdom may be described as knowing what to say and when to say it.

Other religions

In Mesopotamian religion and mythology, Enki, also known as Ea, was the God of wisdom and intelligence. Wisdom was achieved by restoring balance.

In Norse mythology, the god Odin is especially known for his wisdom, often acquired through various hardships and ordeals involving pain and self-sacrifice. In one instance he plucked out an eye and offered it to Mímir, guardian of the well of knowledge and wisdom, in return for a drink from the well.[17] In another famous account, Odin hanged himself for nine nights from Yggdrasil, the World Tree that unites all the realms of existence, suffering from hunger and thirst and finally wounding himself with a spear until he gained the knowledge of runes for use in casting powerful magic.[18] He was also able to acquire the mead of poetry from the giants, a drink of which could grant the power of a scholar or poet, for the benefit of gods and mortals alike.[17]


  1. ^ James 1:5
  2. ^ Plato. "Apology." The Republic and other Works New York: Anchor, 1989. p. 450. ISBN 0-385-09497-3
  3. ^ Johnny Morgan, Inuit Elder: Silatunirmut, 1991
  4. ^ MAXWELL, Nicholas.
  5. ^ Webster's definition of Wisdom (relevant sense 1)
  6. ^ Sternberg, R. J. (1985). Implicit theories of intelligence, creativity, and wisdom. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 607–62.
  7. ^ Brown, S. C., & Greene, J. A. (2006).i personally think widom is bad.The Wisdom Development Scale: Translating the conceptual to the concrete. Journal of College Student Development, 47, 1–19.
  8. ^ a b c Harter, Andrew C. (2004). "8". in Peterson, Christopher and Seligman, Martin E. P.. Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification.. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 181–196. ISBN 0-19-516701-5. 
  9. ^ a b Orwoll, L.; Perlmutter, M. (1990). R. J. Sternberg. ed. Wisdom: Its nature, origins, and development. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 160–177. ISBN 0521367182. 
  10. ^ Neurobiology of Wisdom: A Literature Overview.
  11. ^ Peterson, Christopher; Seligman, Martin E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification.. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 106. ISBN 0-19-516701-5. 
  12. ^ Mathers, Samuel Liddell MacGregor; Rosenroth, Christian Knorr von (Freiherr). Kabbala denudata, the Kabbalah unveiled, containing the following books of Zohar. New York: The Theosophical Publishing Company, 1912. p. 107.
  13. ^ Dhammapada v.256
  14. ^ Dhammapada v.257
  15. ^ Dhammapada v.258
  16. ^ Dhammapada v.268-9
  17. ^ a b Faulkes, Anthony (transl. and ed.) (1987). Edda (Snorri Sturluson). Everyman. ISBN 0-460-87616-3
  18. ^ Larrington, Carolyne (transl. and ed.) (1996). Poetic Edda. Oxford World's Classics. ISBN 0-19-283946-2

Freduci Philomathis, "What is this thing called wisdom?", Journal Behind the State of the Art, Maybell, Colorado, 2006, p. 1.


<references/ Wisdom is increasingly important to the permanence of mankind as reflected by E.F. Schumacher: man is far too clever to be able to survive without wisdom. From "Small is Beautiful", Harper and Row, New York, New York, 1989, p33.

Further reading

  • Allen, James Sloan, Worldly Wisdom: Great Books and the Meanings of Life, Frederic C. Beil, 2008. ISBN 978-1-929490-35-6
  • Miller, James, L., "Measures of Wisdom: The Cosmic Dance in Classical and Christian Antiquity", University of Toronto Press, 1986. ISBN 0-8020-2553-6
  • Velasquez, Susan McNeal, "Beyond Intellect: Journey Into the Wisdom of Your Intuitive Mind", Row Your Boat Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9796410-0-8

See also

Religious Concepts of Metaphysics


External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote



  • The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. ~ The Bible: Proverbs 9:10.
  • Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established: And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.
  • Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.
  • Wisdom begins in wonder. ~ Socrates
    • Variant: Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.
  • Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness. ~ Sophocles.
  • Much wisdom often goes with brevity of speech. ~ Sophocles (497–406/5 BC), Greek tragedian. Fragments, l. 89 (Aletes)
  • By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest. ~ Confucius
  • Better be wise by the misfortunes of others than by your own. ~ Aesop
  • It is a profitable thing, if one is wise, to seem foolish. ~ Aeschylus
  • Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. ~ Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:16)
  • Men who love wisdom should acquaint themselves with a great many particulars. ~ Heraclitus
  • The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man. ~ Euripides
  • To the fool, he who speaks wisdom will sound foolish. ~ Euripides
  • There are many who know many things, yet are lacking in wisdom. ~ Democritus
  • Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong. ~ Lao Zi (Lao-Tzu)
  • Wise men hear and see as little children do. ~ Lao-Tzu.
  • Wise men profit more from fools than fools from wise men; for the wise men shun the mistakes of fools, but fools do not imitate the successes of the wise. ~ Cato
  • And in knowing, that you know nothing, makes you the smartest of all. ~ Socrates
  • In the wisdom of his heart a wise man ought to adorn himself with wise precepts. ~ Anglo-Saxon Proverb
  • Better Weight
    than wisdom
    a traveller cannot carry.
    The poor man's strength
    in a strange place,
    worth more than wealth. ~ Hávamál, The Sayings of the Vikings.


  • In seeking wisdom, the first step is silence; the second, listening; the third, remembering; the fourth, practicing; the fifth, teaching others. ~ Ibn Gabirol
  • A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds. ~ Francis Bacon
  • There is no great concurrence between learning and wisdom. ~ Francis Bacon
  • It should be noted that the seeds of wisdom that are to bear fruit in the intellect are sown less by critical studies and learned monographs than by insights, broad impressions, and flashes of intuition. ~ Carl von Clausewitz
  • A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence. ~ David Hume
  • A wise man will desire no more than what he may get justly, use soberly, distribute cheerfully, and leave contentedly. ~ Benjamin Franklin
  • Honesty is the first chapter in the Book of wisdom. Let it be our endeavor to merit the character of a just nation. ~ Thomas Jefferson
  • All human wisdom is summed up in two words - wait and hope. ~ Alexandre Dumas
  • The wisdom of the wise, and the experience of ages, may be preserved by quotations. ~ Isaac D'Israeli
  • To keep your secret is wisdom; to expect others to keep it is folly. ~ Samuel Johnson
  • Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish. ~ Anne Bradstreet
  • Wisdom, properly so called, is nothing else but this: the perfect knowledge of the truth in all matters whatsoever. ~ Thomas Hobbes (1579–1688), British philosopher. From the dedication, in De Cive (1642)
  • Wisdom hath her excesses, and no less need of moderation than folly. ~ Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592), French essayist and aphorist. Upon Some Verses of Virgil, Bk. 3, Ch. 5, Essays, translated by John Florio (1588)
  • Wisdom denotes the pursuing of the best ends by the best means. ~ Francis Hutcheson, Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, I. v.

Later 18th and 19th century

  • Be humble, if thou would'st attain to Wisdom. Be humbler still, when Wisdom thou hast mastered. ~ Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
  • To hold the same views at forty as we held at twenty is to have been stupefied for a score of years, and take rank, not as a prophet, but as an unteachable brat, well birched and none the wiser. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
  • It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • In our age... men seem more than ever prone to confuse wisdom with knowledge, and knowledge with information, and to try to solve problems of life in terms of engineering. ~ T.S. Eliot
  • The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom; for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough. ~ William Blake
  • Re-examine all you have been told . . . Dismiss what insults your Soul. ~ Walt Whitman
  • Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life. ~ Immanuel Kant
  • We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it— and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again— and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore. ~ Mark Twain
  • With wisdom we shall learn liberality. ~ Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), American author. Walden (1854)
  • The wise through excess of wisdom is made a fool. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), American essayist, poet, aphorist. “Experience”, Essays, Second Series (1844)
  • The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, Ch. 8 (1836)
  • The hunger for facile wisdom is the root of all false philosophy. ~ George Santayana (1863-1952), American philosopher, essayist. Reason in Religion, Ch. 2 (1945)

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • Be wise to-day; 'tis madness to defer.
  • What is it to be wise?
    Tis but to know how little can be known,
    To see all other's faults, and feel our own.
  • For knowledge to become wisdom, and for the soul to grow, the soul must be rooted in God: and it is through prayer that there comes to us that which is the strength of our strength, and the virtue of our virtue, the Holy Spirit.
  • The question is, whether, like the Divine Child in the Temple, we are turning knowledge into wisdom, and whether, understanding more of the mysteries of life, we are feeling more of its sacred law; and whether, having left behind the priests and the scribes and the doctors and the fathers, we are about our Father's business, and becoming wise to God.
  • Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.
  • The wise man is but a clever infant, spelling letters from a hieroglyphical prophetic book, the lexicon of which lies in eternity.
  • What in me is dark, Illumine, what is low, raise and support.

Modern era (20th/21st centuries)

  • A man doesn't begin to attain wisdom until he recognizes that he is no longer indispensable. ~ Admiral Richard E. Byrd
  • A man never reaches that dizzy height of wisdom when he can no longer be led by the nose. ~ Mark Twain
  • A man with wisdom is better off than a stupid man with any amount of charms and superstition. ~ Feras Yaghmour
  • A poet begins in delight and ends in wisdom. ~ Robert Frost
  • A wise person is the result of Godly training, but foolish person an outcome of pride. Stanley Matthew Mayalil
  • A word to the wise ain't necessary. It's the stupid ones who need the advice. ~ Bill Cosby
  • As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world— that is the myth of the atomic age— as in being able to remake ourselves. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
  • Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials. Lin Yutang
  • I think that wisdom is the ability to cope. ~ Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury
  • If Wisdom was before all, and through wisdom all things are ordered, then Wisdom is the true verdict of morality in view of eternity. For that which was before time, by nature, transcends all things temporal. And that which is above, exposes those things that are below, as vapors rising fleetingly before the Sun. ~ Elika S. Kohen
  • Information isn't wisdom. Information isn't learning. If information were learning, you could be educated by memorizing the world almanac. If you did that, you wouldn't be educated. You'd be weird ~ David McCullough
  • Life is to be lived, not to be understood. ~ Feras Yaghmour
  • It requires wisdom to understand wisdom: the music is nothing if the audience is deaf. ~ Walter Lippman
  • It takes humility to seek feedback. It takes wisdom to understand it, analyze it, and appropriately act on it. ~ Stephen Covey
  • Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner. ~ General Omar Bradley
  • Philosophy is harmonized knowledge making a harmonious life; it is the self-discipline which lifts us to serenity and freedom. Knowledge is power, but only wisdom is liberty. ~ Will Durant
  • The most basic inherent constraint is that neither time nor wisdom are free goods available in unlimited quantity. This means that in social processes, as in economic processes, it is not only impossible to attain perfection but irrational to seek perfection— or even to seek the "best possible" result in each separate instance. ~ Thomas Sowell
  • The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom. ~ H. L. Mencken
  • The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. ~ Isaac Asimov, Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations, 1988
  • The wisdom of others remains dull till it is writ over with our own blood. ~ Eric Hoffer (1902–1983), American philosopher. The Passionate State of Mind (1955)
  • The wise man doesn't give the right answers, he poses the right questions. ~ Claude Levi-Strauss
  • To act with common sense according to the moment, is the best wisdom I know and the best philosophy is to do one's duties, take the world as it comes submit respectfully to one's lot; bless the goodness that has given us so much happiness with it, whatever it is; and despise affectation. ~ Horace Walpole
  • When you understand what you see, you will no longer be children. You will know that life is pain, that each of us hangs always upon the cross of himself. And when you know that this is true of every man, woman and child on earth, you will be wise. ~ Whittaker Chambers
  • Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences. ~ Norman Cousins, Saturday Review magazine, 15th April 1978
  • Wisdom is an inheritance which a wastrel cannot exhaust. ~ Karl Kraus (1874–1936), Austrian satirist ansd aphorist. Sprüche und Widersprüche, Ch. 4 (1909)
  • Wisdom is founded on memory; happiness on forgetfulness. ~ Mason Cooley (1927-2002), U.S. aphorist. City Aphorisms, Sixth Selection (1989)
  • Wisdom is meaningless until our own experience has given it meaning...and there is wisdom in the selection of wisdom. ~ Bergen Evans
  • Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the life-long attempt to acquire it. ~ Albert Einstein
  • Wisdom is the constant questioning of where you are. And when you stop wanting to know, you're dead. ~ Billy Connolly, Daily Express, 29th October 2008
  • Wisdom is the meeting point of doubt and certainty. ~ Leonid S. Sukhorukov, All About Everything, 2005
  • Wisdom lies neither in fixity nor in change, but in the dialectic between the two. ~ Octavio Paz (b. 1914), Mexican poet. The Times (UK) newspaper, 8th June 1989


  • Before you can be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid
  • A counsellor who understands proverbs soon sets matters right. ~ Anonymous
  • A man may be born to wealth, but wisdom comes only with length of days. ~ Anonymous
  • Age doesn't always bring wisdom. Sometimes age comes alone. ~ Unknown
  • Don't fix it if it ain't broken. ~ Anonymous American saying
  • Know thyself better than he who speaks of thee. ~ Anonymous
  • Knowledge cuts up the world. Wisdom makes it whole. ~ Brazilian proverb
  • Not to know is bad, not to wish to know is worse. ~ Anonymous
  • Humility and knowledge breed wisdom. ~ Anonymous
  • There is wisdom in knowing what you need to know, and being wise enough to keep it to yourself. ~ Anonymous
  • A wise man speaks because he has something to say; a fool because he has to say something. ~ Frequently attributed to Plato, but not apparently found in his work


  • Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials. ~ Lin Yutang
  • Even stupid things should be done wisely. ~ Jacek Bukowski
  • Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit. ~ Elbert Hubbard
  • For as it is the chief concern of wise men to retrench the evils of life by the reasonings of philosophy; it is the employment of fools to multiply them by the sentiments of superstition. ~ Joseph Addison
  • Humility is the only true wisdom by which we prepare our minds for all the possible changes of life. ~ George Arliss
  • In that the wisdom of the few becomes available to the many, there is progress in human affairs; without it, the static routine of tradition continues. ~ Jospeh Jastrow
  • It is astonishing with how little wisdom mankind can be governed, when that little wisdom is its own. ~ W. R. Inge
  • It is for the wise people who delight in humanity, praise justice, despise their flatterers, and respect the truth. ~ Jeanne-Marie Roland
  • It is no longer enough to be smart— all the technological tools in the world add meaning and value only if they enhance our core values, the deepest part of our heart. Acquiring knowledge is no guarantee of practical, useful application. Wisdom implies a mature integration of appropriate knowledge, a seasoned ability to filter the inessential from the essential. ~ Doc Childre and Bruce Cryer in Chaos to Coherence
  • It's not what you've been given, it's what you do with what you've got. ~ Eddi Reader
  • Make men wise, and by that very operation you make them free. Civil liberty follows as a consequence of this; no usurped power can stand against the artillery of opinion. ~ William Godwin
  • Men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all the other alternatives. ~ Abba Eban
  • Men are wise in proportion, not to their experience, but to their capacity for experience. ~ James Boswell
  • Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living, the other helps you make a life. ~ Sandra Carey
  • One's first step in wisdom is to question everything— and one's last is to come to terms with everything. ~ Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
  • Preconcieved notions are the locks on the door to wisdom. ~ Merry Browne
  • Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy. ~Howard W. Newton
  • The biggest difficulty with mankind today is that our knowledge has increased so much faster than our wisdom ~ Frank Whitmore
  • The plainest sign of wisdom is a continual cheerfulness: her state is like that of things in the regions above the moon, always clear and serene. ~ Michel de Montaigne
    • Variant: The highest of wisdom is continual cheerfulness: such a state, like the region above the moon, is always clear and serene.
  • You can be so wise it's a surprise you're so poor. ~ Swami Raj
  • The wise learn from the experience of others, and the creative know how to make a crumb of experience go a long way. ~ Eric Hoffer
  • Truth never plays false roles of any kind, which is why people are so surprised when meeting it. Everyone must decide whether he wants the uncompromising truth or a counterfeit version of truth. Real wisdom consists of recommending the truth to yourself at every opportunity. ~ Vernon Howard
  • We tend to scoff at the beliefs of the ancients. But we can't scoff at them personally, to their faces, and this is what annoys me. ~ Jack Handy
  • Wisdom: acting on what knowledge you have. ~ Zach Zeisler
  • Wisdom and goodness are twin-born, one heart Must hold both sisters, never seen apart. ~ William Cowper
  • Wisdom is knowing what to do next, skill is knowing how to do it, and virtue is doing it. ~ David Starr Jordan
  • Wise anger is like fire from a flint: there is great ado to get it out; and when it does come, it is out again immediately. ~ Matthew Henry
  • Wise living consists perhaps less in acquiring good habits than in acquiring as few habits as possible. ~ Eric Hoffer
  • Knowledge is knowing that the street is one way, wisdom is looking both directions anyways. ~ Anonymous
  • For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. ~ Solomon
  • Wise men say nothing in dangerous times. ~ Aesop
  • When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years. ~ Mark Twain
  • I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be. ~ Thomas Jefferson
  • It requires wisdom to understand wisdom: the music is nothing if the audience is deaf. ~ Walter Lippmann
  • All I know is that I know nothing. ~ Socrates
  • Above all else, the greatest gift and the most wondrous blessing hath ever been and will continue to be Wisdom. ~ Bahá'u'lláh
  • It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things. ~ Thoreau
  • Lack of tact merely underlies the absence of wisdom. ~ Cyril Alvarez Adriaansen
  • I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. ~ Thomas Carlyle
  • He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom. ~ Gandalf, from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, in The fellowship of the Rings, Bk. II, Ch 2
  • The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook. ~ William James (1842-1910)

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Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

Over the ages, our ancestors have had to think and rethink of the meaning of life. In this search, some came to have some insights about some concepts of life. Though it may be found in some ancient writings, the definition of wisdom has never been mentioned. Rather, only the effects and how to search it will be listed.

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

This is a disambiguation page, which lists works which share the same title. If an article link referred you here, please consider editing it to point directly to the intended page.

Wisdom may refer to:

  • Wisdom, a poem by Sara Teasdale.
  • Wisdom (1917), a poem by Siegfried Sassoon.
  • Wisdom, a hymn (poem) by Christopher Smart


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also wisdom


Wikipedia-logo.png Wisdom on Wikipedia.Wikipedia
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Wiktionary has an Appendix listing books of the Bible

Proper noun




  1. (Biblical) The Wisdom of Solomon,a book of the Old Testament and the Hebrew Tanakh.

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Practical intelligence; the mental grasp which observes and penetrates into the nature of things, and also the ability skilfully to perform difficult tasks. The former faculty is intuitive, the latter creative. Hence the word connotes both deep understanding and artistic skill. Wisdom is at once a human and a divine property.


Wisdom in the Bible.

All human wisdom and skill come from God. The spirit of God made Joseph discreet and wise (Gen. xli. 38-39), inspired and prepared Bezaleel and other artists for the work of the Tabernacle (Ex. xxxi. 3-6), and was also the source of the wisdom of Joshua (Deut. xxxiv. 9) and Solomon (I Kings iii. 12, 28). "The Lord giveth wisdom" (Prov. ii. 6; comp. Job xxxviii. 36; Ps. li. 8 [A. V. 6]; Dan. ii. 21), and He annuls the wisdom of the wise (Isa. xxix. 14). Great blame, therefore, attaches to those who disregard the divine source of their wisdom and become conceited and sinful (Isa. v. 21, xxix. 14; Jer. iv. 22, viii. 8-9, ix. 22). Wisdom is acquired, moreover, by the observation of nature (Prov. vi. 6; Job xxxv. 11) and of history (Deut. xxxii. 29; Hos. xiv. 10 [A. V. 9]; Prov. viii. 33, xix. 20), as well as by study and by association with the wise (Prov. ix. 9, xiii. 20; Job xxxii. 7).

The wise were sought out for their counsel (Deut. i. 13, 15; II Sam. xiv. 20, xvi. 23; Prov. xii. 18, xiii. 14), so that, like the priest with his Torah and the prophet with his revealed word of God, they formed a special class (Jer. xviii. 18). In more primitive times "wise women" were consulted (II Sam. xiv. 2; xx. 16, 22), and at a later period females who were skilled in the art of music and song were called "wise women" (Jer. ix. 17).

The Ḥokmah Literature.

As contrasted with the Law and the Prophets, which were intended for the people of Israel exclusively, wisdom was less restricted. "The children of the east country," as well as of Egypt and the south, were regarded as the possessors of wisdom from of old (comp. I Kings v. 10-11 [A. V. iv. 30-31]; Jer. xlix. 7), and Daniel was considered a representative of them (Ezek. xxviii. 3). This spirit of universal wisdom was also typified by King Solomon (I Kings v. 9-14 [A. V. iv. 29-34], x. 1-24; Eccl. i. 13, 16); and to him, accordingly, was ascribed the entire Wisdom-literature preserved in the form of proverbs, secular songs (Song of Solomon), philosophic thought (Ecclesiastes), and, later, the Wisdom of Solomon. As soon as monotheism was firmly established as a result of the labors of the Prophets, the wisdom of the East could be consulted by Israel's sages, and questions concerning the origin of all things could be answered, in both poetry and prose, far more intelligently than had been possible for the ancient Babylonians. This was done occasionally by the Deutero-Isaiah (xl. and elsewhere), by the interpolator of Amos iv. 13 and v. 8, by the authors of Proverbs (viii. 22-31), of Job (xxviii. and elsewhere), and of Ps. civ., and, most authoritatively of all, by the composers of Gen. i.-x. Wisdom, which dwelt, according to the Babylonian cosmology, in the depths of the sea with Ea, the creative deity, became in Biblical literature the all-encompassing intelligence of God, the helper of the Creator, the foundation of the world (comp. Jeremias, "Das Alte Testament im Lichte des Alten Orients," 1904, pp. 29, 80). In exact proportion as Israel's God was believed to be the God of the universe, wisdom was regarded as the cosmic power, God's master workman (Prov. viii. 30), the first of His works (ib. viii. 22), and His designer (ib. iii. 19; Ps. civ. 24), while at the same time wisdom became the law of life and the divine guide and ruler of man. Virtue, or the fear of God which is the avoidance of evil, was developed into the dominant teaching of the Proverbs and Job. The ceremonial laws are scarcely mentioned, and only the ethical side of religion is considered. At times the ethics assumes too worldly an aspect and becomes commonplace morality (Prov. vi. 34, xiv. 22, xxiv. 17-18, xxix. 3), although other passages point to high ideals (Job xxix. 15-16, xxxi.; Prov. x. 12).

The Book of Ecclesiastes, written by some Sadducean pessimist under the influence of Greek Epicureanism and skepticism, reflects the impressions made by a worldly wisdom no longer permeated by the spirit of the Torah, so that the Solomonic wisdom, which had lost sight of the ethical ideal, was mocked and shown to be a failure.

Wisdom in the Apocrypha.

In the main, wisdom was greatly valued and eagerly sought during the Second Temple, and the wise became the teachers of the young and the models of the old. An extensive Wisdom-literature, of which large portions may have been lost, sprang up in continuation of the Proverbs of Solomon. Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) proves, on analysis, to be a compilation of writings which belong in part to an older generation; and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, which recent research has reclaimed for Jewish literature, may also be classed among these Wisdom-books. Concerning the Book of Wisdom see Wisdom, Book of. The table-talk of the wise men of Jerusalem at the court of King Ptolemy of Egypt in the Letterof Aristeas, §§ 187-300, as well as the answer of Zerubbabel, the page of King Darius (I Esdras ii.-iii.), indicates the Jewish longing to appear as wise men like Daniel and Joseph before the kings of the world.

In all these books wisdom is extolled and invested with divine attributes (Ecclus. [Sirach] i. 1-26, iv. 11-29, li. 13-30, and especially xxiv. 1-29, where it is identified with the law of Moses; Test. Patr., Levi, 13; Enoch, xlii. 1-2). The book on astronomy and cosmography in the writings of Enoch is described as celestial wisdom (Enoch, xxxvii. 2, xlix. 1-3, lxxxii. 2-3; comp. Book of Jubilees, iv. 17, xxi. 10), and Noah's book on healing (Book of Jubilees, x. 13) belongs to the same class.

Traces in Post-Biblical Literature.

Under the influence of Greek philosophy wisdom became a divine agency of a personal character (Wisdom vii. 22-30), so that Philo terms it the daughter of God, "the mother of the creative Word" ("De Profugis," §§ 9, 20), while as the creative principle of the world, wisdom occurs in Targ. Yer. to Gen. i. 1 (comp. Ḥag. 11b; Gen. R. i., where the Torah takes the place of wisdom; see also the midrash on Prov. iii. 19 in Jellinek, "B. H." ii. 23-39, v. 63-69). In Christian and Gentile Gnosticism, wisdom became the center of speculation (see Gnosticism). The so-called Fourth Book of Maccabees, a philosophical sermon on self-control with reference to the seven martyred sons of the Maccabean heroine, is another contribution to the Hellenistic Wisdom-literature.

"The wise man" was the title of the early master of the Law (Ab. i. 4, ii. 15), but at a later period the masters bore the epithet of "rabbi," and only those who had died retained the name of "the wise," while the learned were called "disciples of the wise" (see Levy, "Neuhebr. Wörterb." s.v. (image) ). In general, "wisdom" ("ḥokmah") connotes universal or worldly wisdom, and is thus contrasted with the Torah (Ḳid. 49b; Niddah 69b Sanh. 104b; Yer. Mak. ii. 31d). There are records of disputations between Jewish masters and Gentile sages, such as the one between R. Joshua b. Hananiah and the men of Athens (Bek. 8-9; Lam. R. i. 4 et seq. [comp. Athenians]; Tamid 32a, b). In Pes. 94b (comp. R. H. 12a) the opinion of the wise men of the Gentiles is preferred to that of the Jewish sages. At the sight of Gentile sages one should recite the benediction: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who hast imparted of Thy wisdom to flesh and blood" (Ber. 58b). "Ten measures of wisdom came down from heaven, and nine of them fell to the lot of the Holy Land" (Ḳid. 49b). "Since the destruction of the Temple the wise have taken the place of the Prophets" (B. B. 12a). "Who is wise? He who learneth from every one" (Ab. iv. 1). "The Shekinah rests only upon the wise, the strong, the rich, and the tall" (Shab. 92b); but the members of the Sanhedrin must possess universal wisdom (Sanh. 17a). Among the masters of the Mishnah, R. Johanan b. Zakkai and R. Akiba were considered the paragons of universal wisdom (Soṭah ix. 15, 49b). "Greek wisdom" was fostered in the house of Gamaliel, but was forbidden elsewhere after the Hasmonean war (B. Ḳ. 82b-83a; Soṭah 49b). The sciences of music (R. H. 29b) and astronomy (Shab. 75a) are called "wisdom," and the midwife is termed the "wise woman" (Shab. xviii. 3), while the fourth benediction in the "Shemoneh 'Esreh" is called the "Benediction of Wisdom" (Ber. 33a).

In rabbinical and philosophical literature the various sciences are termed "ḥokmot"; and as the seven sciences of the medieval university ("trivia" and "quadrivia") were based on Prov. ix. 1, "Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars," so Jewish writers allude to the seven branches of wisdom (see Joseph Ḳimḥi on Prov. ix. 1; Steinschneider, "Jüdische Literatur," in Ersch and Gruber, "Encyc." section ii., part 27, pp. 424, 434-435, where the various "ḥokmot" are enumerated).

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
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Simple English

File:Wither - Emblem
The words of this old print read, in modern English: 'He over all the stars does reign That unto wisdom can attain', in other words: 'Whoever can become wise will rule over everything.

Wisdom is knowing things that help a person to live sensibly and make good decisions. Wisdom is defined differently by many cultures. Some say that wisdom is something a person learns as they grow older. Other cultures expect people to complete certain rituals in order to get wisdom.

If someone has wisdom we say he is wise.

Most cultures from the past have had special people who were supposed to be wise. People asked them for advice when they had problems because they knew things that ordinary people did not know or could not know. They were often called "sages".

There are many stories in Western culture in which the owl is supposed to be a wise bird.

People who were thought to have been wise

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