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Inspirational words of wisdom definition

Updated on January 28, 2011

What is wisdom?

Wisdom is generalised as a deep understanding and realisation of people, things, events or situations. Some sources define wisdom as a type of knowledge. This is incorrect. In reality; wisdom is comprised of two definitions. That is; if you want to try to label it so bluntly.

1. Logically utilizing knowledge and experience
2. Being prudent and sensible; acting rationally and with common sense.

Two professors in the department of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego and researchers at the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging; agree that wisdom can be fully characterised as thus:
  • It is uniquely human.
  • It is a form of advanced cognitive and emotional development that is experience-driven.
  • It is a personal quality, albeit rare.
  • It can be learned, increases with age and can be measured.
  • It is probably not enhanced by taking medication.
(They did conduct a study of course)

The wise old man may once have been a wise young man

If wisdom were a type of knowledge; then it would be reasonable to suggest true wisdom requires age. Of course, this is not true. I for one, know many young people, even adolescents who are undeniably wise.

So its unreasonable to define wisdom as a type of knowledge, but wisdom does utilise knowledge and experience. This suggests that wisdom comes with age. Of course it can; and it should too. Be warned though; the ideas that all old people are wise and/or that you must be old to be wise, are misconceptions.

Wisdom does not require age, nor does age signify wisdom.

I will use logic to ground this point. You must remember, that age is relative. No more than 500 years ago, the average life expectancy for both male and female humans was significantly less than what it is now. Where is the line drawn that would say you are now wise? No that would be silly. As stated above, wisdom is actually measurable. It is a measure of common sense, common sense which is built on a mixed foundation of rationality, reason and experience.

What I am trying to convey is (in a nutshell) that anyone of any age can be considered wise, but as they grow older and more experienced they become wiser. It is similar to comparing two scientists with the same hypothesis, where only one has conducted experiments to base their findings upon. The first scientist bases their hypothesis upon minimal observation and therefore, what seems reasonable as a result. The second Scientist bases their hypothesis on a great deal of experience and experimentation to find the only logical answer; proving their hypothesis. They are both right in the end, one has just proven it while the other thinks it makes sense.

If you don't learn from your experiences, you are no wiser than the first scientist, and on top of that; you could be wrong as well. The first scientist (representing a young mind) may also be wrong. But they are also inexperienced.

This all means that an older person has a higher likelihood of being particularly wise. It does not mean they must be wise, nor does it mean a young person cant be.

Is wisdom a matter of logic? Or is it one of spirituality?

Keeping in mind that I have a bias against religion (in that it lacks all sense of logic and reason; but this is an argument which does not belong here), it is rather clear that wisdom requires both logic and a certain level of spirituality to function.

Logic is of course, the founding father of common sense. Wisdom is very much common sense. Unfortunately, we humans are somewhat......complicated. The simple fact that spirituality exists is enough to argue that it has an effect on wisdom. Humans also often act illogically upon emotions and impulses. To be logical about a situation, one must understand the irrational factors that influence it.

Here is an example: (It may not be the best, but work with me)

Harry is Sally’s best friend. Harry embarrassed himself by putting his shit on inside-out before going to work.

Sally told Harry afterwards that she once did the same thing. Harry then states “well that makes me feel better”.

Purely logically, an observer would expect Harry to feel sad for Sally because he cares about her. He can be empathetical because he has now been in the same situation.

When a wise observer analyses this situation, they understand that it is just as logical for Harry to feel good about Sally’s misfortune. This is because Harry doesn’t feel singled out, or abnormally careless. it boosts his self esteem at a time where he is thinking inwardly.

Anything is logical within the given parameters. This is what helps to debunk my bias against religion. Spiritual people base their understanding of things upon what they honestly believe to be fact, the same as less spiritual people base their findings on tangible evidence and primary sources.

If you agree with me now; it is now both wise and logical to conclude the following.

Wisdom can be:

1. Purely based upon common sense, reason and logic
2. Based upon a mix of the above with spirituality, or a particular belief.
3. Not based purely upon spirituality or a particular belief; for it requires common sense to function and common sense is not based upon faith.

What will help me to become wiser?

The Egyptian novelist Mahfouz Naguib once stated:

‘You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.’

If you see an apple fall from a tree, don’t just acknowledge that “apples sometimes fall from trees”. Ask why they fall.

Do not simply believe what you are told to be true. Ask yourself whether it seems reasonable. Seek out how it can possibly be reasonable.

Buddha hits this nail on the head:

No matter where you read it
or who has said it,
not even if I have said it,
UNLESS it agrees with your own

As an end note I will leave you with this final piece of advice:

By amending our mistakes, we gain wisdom.
By defending our faults, we betray an unsound mind.

-The Sutra of Hui Neng.

All three of these examples of wisdom come from spiritual men. But their reasoning is soundly lodged withing the foundations of logical thinking. What is wisdom? Wisdom is an open mind.


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