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Philosophy: Wisdom (Part 2)

Updated on April 2, 2013


According to the Random House Dictionary, wisdom is:

  1. The quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.
  2. Scholarly knowledge or learning: the wisdom of the schools.
  3. Wise sayings or teachings; precepts.
  4. a wise act or saying.

My personal definition is:

  • The knowledge of how to use the knowledge you have.

Below are several quotations from many individuals across various time periods and locations around the world. As you read them, ponder the wisdom in them.

Though these historical and modern figures are often noted as wise, beware - Many of these quotations will contradict other wise words in this Hub. This is for the purpose of exemplifying that wisdom is not universal.


[c. 582-500 B.C.]

Don't eat your heart.

From Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, VIII, 17

Reason is immortal, all else mortal.

From Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, VIII, 30


[fl. c. 550 B.C.]

Appearances often are deceiving.

The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.

The Milkmaid and Her Pail

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

The Lion and the Mouse

Self-conceit may lead to self-destruction.

The Frog and the Ox

People often grudge others what they cannot enjoy themselves

The Dog in the Manger

I will have nought to do with a man who can blow hot and cold with the same breath.

The Man and the Satyr

Union gives strength.

The Bundle of Sticks


[fl. c. 545 B.C.]

One finds many companions for food and drink, but in a serious business a man's companions are very few.

Elegies, 115

Adopt the character of the twisting octopus, which takes on the appearance the nearby rock. Now follow in this direction, now turn a different hue.

Elegies, 215

No man takes with him to Hades all his exceeding wealth.

Elegies, 725

Bright youth passes swiftly as a thought.

Elegies, 985


[c. 570-475 B.C.]

It takes a wise man to recognize a wise man.

From Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, IX


[c. 556-468 B.C.]

It is hard to be truly excellent, four-square in hand and foot and mind, formed without blemish.

Fragment 4

The city is the teacher of the man.

Fragment 53

Painting is silent poetry, and poetry painting that speaks.

From Plutarch, De Gloria Antheniensium, III, 346


[551-479 B.C.]

Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue.

The Confucian Analects, 1:3

A youth, when at home, should be filial, and, abroad, respectful to his elders.

The Confucian Analects, 1:6

Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.

The Confucian Analects, 1:8, ii

Have no friends not equal to yourself.

The Confucian Analects, 1:8, iii

[The superior man] acts before he speaks, and afterward speaks according to his actions.

The Confucian Analects, 2:13

The cautious seldom err.

The Confucian Analects, 4:23

Is virtue a thing remote? I wish to be virtuous, and lo! virtue is at hand.

The Confucian Analects, 7:29

To go beyond is as wrong as to fall short.

The Confucian Analects, 11:15, iii

He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.

The Confucian Analects, 14:21

What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.

The Confucian Analects, 15:23

Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know men.

The Confucian Analects, 20:3, iii


[c. 540-480 B.C.]

All is flux, nothing stays still.

From Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, IX, 8

Nature is wont to hide herself.

On the Universe, 10

God is day and night, inder and summer, war and peace, surfeit and hunger.

On the Universe, 36

The road up and the road down are one and the same.

On the Universe, 69

Man, like a light in the night, is kindled and put out.

On the Universe, 77

It is better to hide ignorance, but it is hard to do this when we relax over wine.

On the Universe, 108

A man's character is his fate.

On the Universe, 121


[c. 518-c. 438 B.C.]

Do not peer too far.

Olympian Odes, I, 184

I will not steep my speech in lies; the test of any man lies in action.

Olympian Odes, IV, 27

The issue is in God's hands.

Olympian Odes, XIII, 147

Words have a longer life than deeds.

Nemean Odes, IV, 10

Unsung, the noblest deed will die.

Fragment 120

What is God? Everything.

Fragment 140d


[c. 500-428 B.C.]

The descent to Hades is the same from every place.

From Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Anaxagoras, 2

The Pali Canon

[c. 500-c. 250 B.C.]

All that is comes from the mind; it is based on the mind, it is fashioned by the mind.

Suttapitaka. Dhammapada, 1:1

Avoid what is evil; do what is good; purify the mind - this is the teaching of the Awakened One [Buddha].

Suttapitaka. Dhammapada, 14:183

Be lamps unto yourselves. Be a refuge unto yourselves. Do not turn to any external refuge. Hold fast to the teaching as a lamp.

Suttapitaka. Mahaparinibbana-sutta, 2:33

This noble eightfold path ... right views, right aspirations, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right contemplation.

Suttapitaka. Dhammacakkappavattanasutta, verse 4


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