AskDefine | Define wisdom

The Collaborative Dictionary

Wisdom \Wis"dom\ (-d[u^]m), n. [AS. w[imac]sd[=o]m. See Wise, a., and -dom.] [1913 Webster]
The quality of being wise; knowledge, and the capacity to make due use of it; knowledge of the best ends and the best means; discernment and judgment; discretion; sagacity; skill; dexterity. [1913 Webster] We speak also not in wise words of man's wisdom, but in the doctrine of the spirit. --Wyclif (1 Cor. ii. 13). [1913 Webster] Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding. --Job xxviii.
[1913 Webster] It is hoped that our rulers will act with dignity and wisdom that they will yield everything to reason, and refuse everything to force. --Ames. [1913 Webster] Common sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom. --Coleridge. [1913 Webster]
The results of wise judgments; scientific or practical truth; acquired knowledge; erudition. [1913 Webster] Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. --Acts vii.
[1913 Webster] Syn: Prudence; knowledge. Usage: Wisdom, Prudence, Knowledge. Wisdom has been defined to be "the use of the best means for attaining the best ends." "We conceive," says Whewell, " prudence as the virtue by which we select right means for given ends, while wisdom implies the selection of right ends as well as of right means." Hence, wisdom implies the union of high mental and moral excellence. Prudence (that is, providence, or forecast) is of a more negative character; it rather consists in avoiding danger than in taking decisive measures for the accomplishment of an object. Sir Robert Walpole was in many respects a prudent statesman, but he was far from being a wise one. Burke has said that prudence, when carried too far, degenerates into a "reptile virtue," which is the more dangerous for its plausible appearance. Knowledge, a more comprehensive term, signifies the simple apprehension of facts or relations. "In strictness of language," says Paley, " there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom; wisdom always supposing action, and action directed by it." [1913 Webster] Knowledge and wisdom, far from being one, Have ofttimes no connection. Knowledge dwells In heads replete with thoughts of other men; Wisdom, in minds attentive to their own. Knowledge, a rude, unprofitable mass, The mere materials with which wisdom builds, Till smoothed, and squared, and fitted to its place, Does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; Wisdom is humble that he knows no more. --Cowper. [1913 Webster] Wisdom tooth, the last, or back, tooth of the full set on each half of each jaw in man; -- familiarly so called, because appearing comparatively late, after the person may be supposed to have arrived at the age of wisdom. See the Note under Tooth,
[1913 Webster]

Word Net

wisdom

Noun

1 accumulated knowledge or erudition or enlightenment
2 the trait of utilizing knowledge and experience with common sense and insight [syn: wiseness] [ant: folly]
3 ability to apply knowledge or experience or understanding or common sense and insight [syn: sapience]
4 the quality of being prudent and sensible [syn: wiseness, soundness]
5 an Apocryphal book consisting mainly of a meditation on wisdom; although ascribed to Solomon it was probably written in the first century BC [syn: Wisdom of Solomon]
see Wisdom

English

Pronunciation

  • /ˈwɪzdəm/

Etymology

From wise + noun of state suffix -dom, equivalent to -ness, -head, and -hood

Noun

  1. An element of personal character that enables one to distinguish the wise from the unwise.
  2. A piece of wise advice.
  3. The discretionary use of knowledge for the greatest good.
  4. The ability to apply relevant knowledge in an insightful way, especially to different situations from that in which the knowledge was gained.
  5. The ability to make a decision based on the combination of knowledge, experience, and intuitive understanding.
  6. The ability to know and apply spiritual truths.

Related terms

Translations

element of personal character
  • Czech: moudrost
  • Danish: visdom
  • Finnish: viisaus
  • German: Weisheit
  • Greek: σοφία (sofía)
  • Hungarian: bölcsesség
  • Italian: saggezza
  • Japanese: 知恵 (chie)
  • Russian: мудрость (múdrost’)
piece of wise advice
  • Danish: visdom
  • Finnish: viisaus
  • German: Weisheit
  • Hungarian: bölcsesség
  • Japanese: 知恵 (chie)
  • Russian: мудрость (múdrost’)
discretionary use of knowledge for the greatest good
  • Danish: visdom
  • Finnish: viisaus
  • German: Weisheit
  • Hungarian: bölcsesség
  • Japanese: 知恵 (chie)
  • Russian: мудрость (múdrost’)
ability to apply relevant knowledge in an insightful way
  • Danish: visdom
  • Finnish: viisaus
  • German: Weisheit
  • Greek: σοφία (sofía)
  • Hungarian: bölcsesség
  • Japanese: 英知 (eichi), 知識 (chishiki)
  • Russian: мудрость (múdrost’)
ability to make a decision based on the combination of knowledge, experience, and intuitive understanding
  • Danish: visdom
  • Finnish: viisaus
  • German: Weisheit
  • Greek: σοφία (sofía)
  • Hungarian: bölcsesség
  • Japanese: 知識 (chishiki)
  • Russian: мудрость (múdrost’)
ability to know and apply spiritual truths
  • Danish: visdom
  • Finnish: viisaus
  • German: Weisheit
  • Hungarian: bölcsesség
  • Japanese: 英知 (eichi), 知識 (chishiki)
  • Russian: мудрость (múdrost’)

See also

Wisdom is having gained knowledge, understanding, experience, discretion, and intuitive understanding, along with a capacity to apply these qualities well. It is the judicious application of knowledge. To some extent the terms wisdom and intelligence have similar and overlapping meanings. The status of wisdom or prudence as a virtue is recognized in cultural, philosophical and religious sources.

Psychological perspectives

Psychologists have gathered data on commonly held beliefs or folk theories about wisdom. 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."

Erik Erikson

Personality theorist Erik Erikson related wisdom to the last stage of his eight-stage theory of psychosocial development. Erikson's theory spans the entire lifespan and frames each stage in the form of internally-generated questions or tensions. Erikson claimed that in the last stage of human development, from approximately 65 years to death, individuals must resolve a psychological conflict between integrity and despair. He proposed that attaining wisdom is a favorable resolution and product of this conflict.

Vivian Clayton

In the 1970s, Vivian Clayton pioneered the academic study of wisdom. Clayton "is generally recognized as the first psychologist to ask, in even faintly scientific terms, 'What does wisdom mean, and how does age affect it?'" Clayton's work caught the attention of Paul Baltes, who later founded the Berlin Wisdom Project at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany. Another wisdom researcher, sociologist Monika Ardelt, has developed a "Three-Dimensional Wisdom Scale", a test that individuals can take for a numerical assessment of their wisdom on a scale of one to five. The number of academic publications about wisdom increased significantly from 1984 to 2000. Nevertheless, according to Jacqui Smith, one of Baltes's collaborators, the subject is not completely accepted in academia.

Positive psychology

Researchers in positive psychology have defined wisdom (a.k.a. psychological perspective) as the coordination of "knowledge and experience" and "its deliberate use to improve well being." With this definition, wisdom can be measured using the following criteria.
Many, but not all, studies find that adults' self-ratings of perspective/wisdom do not depend on age. This stands in contrast to the popular notion that wisdom increases with age.
  • He who leads others by nonviolence, righteously and equitably, is indeed a guardian of justice, wise and righteous.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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. 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. 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.

Notes

Further reading

  • Miller, James, L., "Measures of Wisdom: The Cosmic Dance in Classical and Christian Antiquity", University of Toronto Press, 1986. ISBN 0802025536

See also

wisdom in Arabic: حكمة
wisdom in Catalan: Saviesa
wisdom in Czech: Moudrost
wisdom in Danish: Visdom
wisdom in German: Weisheit
wisdom in Modern Greek (1453-): Σοφία
wisdom in Esperanto: Saĝo
wisdom in Spanish: Sabiduría (filosofía)
wisdom in Fulah: Ndimaagu
wisdom in Finnish: Viisaus
wisdom in French: Sagesse
wisdom in Hebrew: חוכמה
wisdom in Italian: Saggezza
wisdom in Japanese: 知恵
wisdom in Latin: Sapientia
wisdom in Dutch: Wijsheid
wisdom in Polish: Mądrość
wisdom in Portuguese: Sabedoria
wisdom in Russian: Мудрость
wisdom in Simple English: Wisdom
wisdom in Serbian: Мудрост
wisdom in Swedish: Visdom
wisdom in Urdu: حکمت (دماغ)
wisdom in Yiddish: קלוגשאפט
wisdom in Chinese: 智慧
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