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Wisdom vs. Armchair Philosophy

Updated on June 26, 2017
ValKaras profile image

Val is a life-long student of psycho-philosophy of living, and a devoted practitioner of many techniques enhancing personal evolution.

Forever Gone Times When Philosophers Were Also Healthy Athletes Pursuing Balance and Harmony
Forever Gone Times When Philosophers Were Also Healthy Athletes Pursuing Balance and Harmony

Too Smart to Learn

If your literary appetites insist on some more precise definitions of both philosophy and wisdom, feel free to look them up in a good dictionary, because there will be nothing of an academic glamor in the paragraphs that follow.

As usual, my views about man and life stay glued to simplicity, since I never believed that the human truth could only be expressed by fancy academic cosmetics. It immediately brings to mind the familiar anecdote involving a learned philosopher who visited a wise man to hear his teachings about life.

As the story goes, the wise dude offered him some tea; and after placing a cup in front of him he kept pouring and pouring until the tea overflowed. As the astonished philosopher asked him why he was doing it, the wise man said: "You see, your mind is like this cup, already full, and anything new will merely be an excess and a waste of words."

Such is usually the case of the most philosophers, especially those of an armchair variety. They form a "theory of everything" which they guard with a closed mind, oftentimes leaning towards dogmatic and inflexible stubbornness.

Something Disconnected About Armchair Philosophers
Something Disconnected About Armchair Philosophers

Philosophy Doesn't Breed Happiness

We could say that wisdom is insisting upon making us more spiritual, happy, loving, and peaceful humans, whereas philosophy is trying to make an objective sense of reality - whatever "reality" may mean to the garden variety of its different intellectual tastes.

Wisdom is about life as an experience, about consciousness and its potentiality to grow, whereas philosophy is trying to stay married to parameters of scientific principles where subjectivity doesn't have much value.

Thus, if you are familiar with the long line of philosophers throughout the history, you could be reminded that many of those brilliant minds belonged to some truly unhappy, if not downright miserable, closed, and unloving personalities.

With their often sterile views --- which almost looked at man and life as something cooked up in petri dishes of a god or nature --- contained nothing of wisdom which would be life-promoting in any conceivable way.

Actually, the classical components of philosophy being metaphysics, logic, religion, politics, ethics, and esthetics hardly represent a material that would hint at that warmth of humanness and at our inherent drive to grow beyond some imposed or self-imposed limitations.

Philosophizing seems to be a sort of intellectual self-gratification, as it is reshuffling philosophical concepts ad nauseam - somewhat like the United Nations' incessant outsmarting game of policies over issues that should have been resolved long time ago with a more pragmatic, or shall we say "wise" frame of mind.

World Is Too Huge a Place to Generalize About
World Is Too Huge a Place to Generalize About

Futility of Generalizing

Herein we are mainly talking about those armchair philosophers, that growing number of smart asses raising senseless questions like "what's happening with the mankind?", or "what's the role of a black person in a predominantly white society?", or trying to philosophize about our health by saying how "we are what we are eating".

Well, how many of you saw these concerns as legitimate? Let's see those questions separately. First, we can't tell "what is happening to this mankind" if we don't specify "which part of it". We all know that world is composed of some very happy, satisfied, successful, and fulfilled human specimens --- and those at the other side of the human scale.

So the answer would depend on whom we have in mind. This world, as it is right now this moment, is a wonderful adventure or a hell on earth, and we can't generalize about it.

Likewise, we can't generalize about black folks, and when the question is about their "role in the predominantly white society". we have to know whether we are talking about Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Serena Williams --- or any of those folks in ghettos.

As for our "being what we are eating", we could also say "we are what we are thinking", and in any case we would run into our biological or mental individuality which doesn't allow much generalization. Variations are almost countless, and playing smart asses about it just a waste of time.

Happiness Can't Be Learned in Books
Happiness Can't Be Learned in Books

Academic Mind Shamed by Simplicity

Unlike philosophy which is theoretical, wisdom is pragmatic. Many years ago, as one book was following another in an almost marathon fashion, my intuition kicked in with a warning that collecting all that information could not replace a sound plan for applying some of that material.

Was it after I read that confessing story of the great thinking man Aldous Huxley, who told how at his visit to a beach resort in a third world country he had a unique, eye-opening experience. Namely, as he was taking a morning walk, a local young woman was walking in his direction carrying something heavy on her head.

But, what caused him to feel a shock of deep embarrassment was her happy glowing face that stayed with him forever as a mocking reminder how little he knew about happiness despite all his fancy theorizing. Also, being at the time in his later years of life, he humbly admitted to himself that he could never duplicate that joy and something divine emanating from that face.

That story added to my resolve to make my learning about life as pragmatic as possible, and not to fall for anybody's apparent "knowledge" if they are not displaying it with their example. And boy, did I ever have a lot of that discarding to do on my path! Smart asses of all kinds have been telling me what was "good for me" to believe, what to eat, how to look at the world...and what not --- while not having anything to show for all that philosophizing.

What would Be the Beauty With No One to Notice It
What would Be the Beauty With No One to Notice It

Wisdom Places Us at the Source

My own path of wisdom started at a point where I realized that the objective aspect of reality was merely a raw material waiting for me to give it some significance. Remove all my five senses and the world doesn't even exist for me. And, if it doesn't exist for me in some perceivable and conceivable way, then it doesn't exist at all.

Much later in my life I came across quantum physics and its theorizing about the co-relation between consciousness and waves of energy collapsing into particles of the matter, depending on the contents of consciousness.

Then I also got incredibly inspired by so called "biocentrism", which is an extremely deep way of seeing life and consciousness at the source of everything in existence. With no intentions to expand on these views, I just want to mention how my own sense of wisdom about life is not necessarily of the kind proposed by those cave meditators of Himalaya --- even though much of it is in a surprising agreement with quantum theorizing. Just try this one: "Nothing is out there --- it's all in here" (meaning our consciousness).

Love Ultimately Makes the Whole Difference in Our Ways of Being "Smart"
Love Ultimately Makes the Whole Difference in Our Ways of Being "Smart"

Love --- the Difference Between Wisdom and Armchair Philosophy

To me wisdom always meant something to refine and advance my model of psycho-physical functioning, while philosophy only meant something when hyphened as psycho-philosophy. I never cared much for that armchair kind of philosophers kicking the shallow crap that could never really benefit anyone including themselves.

Many of those that I have met on my path were of the cynical variety, not really seeing anything good about humankind. I may be caught going satirical about people's refusal to wake up and their self-inflicted suffering, but at the bottom of it is my genuine love for people.

I don't feel threatened by them, I don't blame anyone for my own mistakes, and I am trying in my own modest way to share those thoughts that have proved beneficial in my own life. While the quest for spirituality is my soul's reason for existing and its spontaneous outlet, wisdom is its intellectual echo ---humble and ever eager to outgrow the model of the last year with a new detail or two.

Out from that also came the inspiration to share with you some ideas in this article that tried to make clear the distinction between armchair philosophizing and wisdom --- at least as I see it.


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    • ValKaras profile image

      Vladimir Karas 13 months ago from Canada

      Gilbert - I am glad you think so.

    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 13 months ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      Interesting thoughts, Val.

    • ValKaras profile image

      Vladimir Karas 13 months ago from Canada

      Audrey - It's always a great pleasure seeing you among my commenters; and even more of a pleasure comes from your finding something inspirational in my hubs. Be well, my friend - Val

    • ValKaras profile image

      Vladimir Karas 13 months ago from Canada

      Larry - The hub was not about "knowledge" but armchair philosophizing pregnant with information; and wisdom goes much deeper than avoiding destructive behavior. But, as long as you found something of interest in it, it's fine, regardless of how you interpreted it for yourself. Thanks for your comment.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 13 months ago from Oklahoma

      Wisdom and knowledge are two different things. The way it was explained to me: knowledge is knowing how to make a nuclear bomb. Wisdom is never doing it.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 13 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      The distinction between philosophy and wisdom becomes clear to me as I concentrate on your definition between the two. This is a helpful lesson for me Val. "Wisdom places us at the source." I get that now. Thanks for another valuable hub.