What’s wisdom? Psychologists, social scientists, philosophers and life coaches talk about wisdom quite a lot. So do experts on aging. Some see wisdom as a natural outcome of maturity, though not a prerequisite. Plenty of people see the cultivation of wisdom and the sharing of wisdom as a central developmental task of humans as we grow old. Wisdom is often conflated with particular beliefs or values. Some see it as a personality trait. Some see it as a spiritual path.
I’m (obviously) not qualified in any relevant academic discipline. And if I were a life coach, I wouldn’t dare claim to help others to achieve wisdom. But something about the idea of wisdom being analysed in this way niggles at me, so I’m raising it for your consideration.
Wisdom requires life experience
Here are a couple of definitions. Do they chime with what you think?
- Wisdom is the ability to use your experience and knowledge in order to make sensible decisions or judgments ~ Collins dictionary
- Wisdom, sapience, or sagacity is the ability to contemplate and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight. Wisdom is associated with attributes such as unbiased judgment, compassion, experiential self-knowledge, self-transcendence and non-attachment, and virtues such as ethics and benevolence ~ Wikipedia
The science of wisdom is a thing now
Institutions, think tanks and conferences are considering how to deconstruct and reconstruct and bottle wisdom as an objective, measurable quality or even a personality factor. If you would like to explore this idea as something more substantial than my bumper-sticker level of understanding, the links below will give you a starting point. There’s fun here too: it’s an interesting new field to explore if you stop asking yourself what the point is. At the very least, you may stop and ask yourself what you mean when you use the word wisdom — and surprise yourself.
- The University of Chicago Center for Practical Wisdom
- Abstract: The Emerging Empirical Science of Wisdom — Harvard Review of Psychiatry
- Top 5 talks on the science of wisdom
Facts, opinions, prejudices, history, mythology, speculation, and advice proliferate around the old concept of wisdom. They’re lurking in the background of my poem, The wisdom of folly.Follow Write Into Life