Wisdom or sapience is the ability to think and act using knowledge,
experience, understanding, common sense, and insight, especially in a
mature or utilitarian manner. There appears to be consensus that
wisdom is associated with attributes such as compassion, experiential
self-knowledge, non-attachment and virtues such as ethics and
Wisdom has been defined in many different ways, a variety of
measurement scales have been developed, and several subtypes of wisdom
have been proposed. Out of these, phronesis and sophia are
two key subtypes of wisdom. In the classical Greek tradition,
there is a distinction between sophia "wisdom" and phronesis
"prudence, practical intelligence".
2 Philosophical perspectives
3 Educational perspectives
4 Psychological perspectives
6 Religious perspectives
6.1 Ancient Near East
Hebrew Bible and Judaism
6.3 Hellenistic religion and Gnosticism
6.4 Christian theology
6.5 Indian religions
6.7 Chinese religion
7 See also
9 External links
Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary defines wisdom as "Capacity of judging
rightly in matters relating to life and conduct; soundness of
judgement in the choice of means and ends; sometimes, less strictly,
sound sense, esp. in practical affairs: opp. to folly;" also
Knowledge (esp. of a high or abstruse kind); enlightenment, learning,
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Charles Haddon Spurgeon defined wisdom as "the right
use of knowledge".
Robert I. Sutton
Robert I. Sutton and
Andrew Hargadon defined the
"attitude of wisdom" as "acting with knowledge while doubting what one
knows". In the psychological literature however the construct of
wisdom does not have a commonly accepted definition.
The ancient Greeks considered wisdom to be an important virtue,
personified as the goddesses Metis and Athena.
Athena is said to have
sprung from the head of Zeus. She was portrayed as strong, fair,
merciful, and chaste. To
Socrates and Plato, philosophy was
literally the love of
Wisdom (philo-sophia). This permeates Plato's
dialogues, especially The Republic, in which the leaders of his
proposed utopia are to be philosopher kings, rulers who understand the
Form of the Good
Form of the Good and possess the courage to act accordingly.
Aristotle, in his Metaphysics, defined wisdom as the understanding of
causes, i.e. knowing why things are a certain way, which is deeper
than merely knowing that things are a certain way. In fact, it was
Aristotle who first made a distinction between phronesis and sophia
aspects of wisdom.
The ancient Romans also valued wisdom. It was personified in Minerva,
or Pallas. She also represents skillful knowledge and the virtues,
especially chastity. Her symbol was the owl which is still a popular
representation of wisdom, because it can see in darkness. She was said
to be born from Jupiter's forehead.
Wisdom is also important within Christianity.
it. Paul the Apostle, in his first epistle to the Corinthians,
argued that there is both secular and divine wisdom, urging Christians
to pursue the latter. Prudence, which is intimately related to wisdom,
became one of the four cardinal virtues of Catholicism. The Christian
Thomas Aquinas considered wisdom to be the "father" (i.e.
the cause, measure, and form) of all virtues.
In Buddhist traditions, developing wisdom plays a central role where
comprehensive guidance on how to develop wisdom is provided. In
Inuit tradition, developing wisdom was one of the aims of
Inuit Elder said that a person became wise when they
could see what needed to be done and do it successfully without being
told what to do. In many cultures, the name for third molars, which
are the last teeth to grow, is etymologically linked with wisdom,
e.g., as in the English wisdom tooth.
Wisdom assist History in writing by Jacob de Wit, 1754
Public schools in the US have an approach to character education.
Eighteenth century philosophers such as Benjamin Franklin, referred to
this as training wisdom and virtue. Traditionally, schools share the
responsibility to build character and wisdom along with parents and
Nicholas Maxwell, a contemporary philosopher in the United Kingdom,
advocates that academia ought to alter its focus from the acquisition
of knowledge to seeking and promoting wisdom,  which he defines as
the capacity to realize what is of value in life, for oneself and
others. He teaches that new knowledge and technological know-how
increase our power to act which, without wisdom, may cause human
suffering and death as well as human benefit.
Wisdom is the
application of knowledge to attain a positive goal by receiving
instruction in governing oneself.
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 an expertise in dealing with difficult
questions of life and adaptation to the complex requirements."
Baltes et al. in 2002 through Wisdom: its structure and function in
regulating lifespan successful development defined "
Wisdom is the
ability to deal with the contradictions of a specific situation and to
assess the consequences of an action for themselves and for others. It
is achieved when in a concrete situation, a balance between
intrapersonal, inter- personal and institutional interests can be
Researchers in the field of positive psychology have defined wisdom as
the coordination of "knowledge and experience" and "its deliberate use
to improve well being." With this definition, wisdom is further
defined as a multidimensional construct with the following facets:
Problem Solving with self-knowledge and sustainable actions.
Contextual, sincerity to the circumstances with knowledge of its
negative and positive aspects (or constraints).
Value based consistent actions with knowledge of diversity in ethical
Tolerance towards uncertainty in life with unconditional acceptance.
Empathy with oneself to understand one's own emotions (or to be
emotionally oriented), morals...etc. and others feelings including the
ability to see oneself as part of a larger whole.
Wisdom leads a person to overcome feelings of helplessness,
powerlessness, anger or aggression by non-understanding of external
elements and internal acknowledgement. It leads to a change from the
experience of meaninglessness to meaningful goals, prospects for
coping with critical life events and to engage constructively with
complex life problems. John Vervaeke has argued through cognitive
science of wisdom that, when basic relevance realization processes
that underlie cognition is fed back onto themselves and made
self-referential/differentiated reflection with the problems facing
and its dimensions, leads to enhanced insight abilities associated
with wisdom. Robert Sternberg has segregated the capacity for
judgement from the general qualifiers for intelligence, which is
closer to cognizant aptitude than to wisdom. Displaying sound
judgement in a complex, dynamic environment is a hallmark of wisdom.
Dr. B. Legesse et al., a neuropsychiatrist at McLean Hospital/Harvard
Medical School, offers "a theoretical definition that takes into
account many cultural, religious, and philosophical themes is that
wisdom represents a demonstrated superior ability to understand the
nature and behavior of things, people, or events." He states "this
results in an increased ability to predict behavior or events which
then may be used to benefit self or others." He furthermore adds
"there is more often a desire to share the accrued benefits with a
larger group for the purpose of promoting survival, cohesion, or
well-being of that group. The benefits do not result from malicious or
antisocial intents or inequitable behavior. Environmental factors,
such as family, education, socioeconomic status, culture, and
religion, are involved in generating the milieu in which the personal
value system develops. Many of these same factors also influence how a
given community decides whether wisdom is present or not. This model
of wisdom relies on the individual's ability to generate a mental
representation of the self (cognitive, emotional, and physical), the
external world, and the dynamic relationship of the self with the
external world." Dr. Legesse proposes that "the neural (brain) systems
critical to enable these functions are distributed but heavily
dependent on those that support memory, learning, understanding other
people's mental states (Theory of Mind), and assigning relative value
to information." The neuroanatomy of wisdom he says depends on "the
three frontosubcortical neural networks, the limbic system, and the
mirror neuron system" which "are of particular importance for
supporting these activities." However, the need to distinguish two
very different “levels of analyses” has been proposed as being
important especially when one attempts to describe wisdom using neural
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,
supported by a recent study showing that regardless of their
education, IQ or gender, older adults possess better reasoning about
societal and interpersonal conflicts.
"Sapience" redirects here. It is not to be confused with Sentience.
Further information: artificial intelligence, sentience,
self-awareness, and consciousness
Sapience is closely related to the term "sophia" often defined as
"transcendent wisdom", "ultimate reality", or the ultimate truth of
things. Sapiential perspective of wisdom is said to lie in
the heart of every religion, where it is often acquired through
intuitive knowing. This type of wisdom is described as going
beyond mere practical wisdom and includes self-knowledge,
interconnectedness, conditioned origination of mind-states and other
deeper understandings of subjective experience. This type of
wisdom can also lead to the ability of an individual to act with
appropriate judgement, a broad understanding of situations and greater
appreciation/compassion towards other living beings.
The word sapience is derived from the
Latin sapientia, meaning
"wisdom". The corresponding verb sapere has the original meaning
of "to taste", hence "to perceive, to discern" and "to know"; its
present participle sapiens was chosen by
Carl Linnaeus for the Latin
binomial for the human species, Homo sapiens.
Further information: Sophia (wisdom)
Ancient Near East
In Mesopotamian religion and mythology, Enki, also known as Ea, was
God of wisdom and intelligence.
Wisdom was achieved by restoring
Sia represents the personification or god of wisdom in the traditional
mythology adhered to in Ancient Egypt.
Hebrew Bible and Judaism
The word wisdom (חכם) is mentioned 222 times in the Hebrew Bible.
It was regarded as one of the highest virtues among the Israelites
along with kindness (חסד) and justice (צדק). Both the books of
Psalms urge readers to obtain and to increase in wisdom.
In the Hebrew Bible, wisdom is represented by Solomon, who asks God
for wisdom in 2 Chronicles 1:10. Much of the Book of Proverbs, a book
of wise sayings, is attributed to Solomon. In Proverbs 9:10, the fear
YHWH is called the beginning of wisdom. In Proverbs 1:20, there is
also reference to wisdom personified in female form, "
aloud in the streets, she raises her voice in the marketplaces." In
Proverbs 8:22–31, this personified wisdom is described as being
God before creation began and even taking part in
Talmud teaches that a wise person is a person who can foresee the
future. Nolad is the Hebrew word for "future," but also the Hebrew
word for birth, so one rabbinic interpretation of the teaching is that
a wise person is one who can foresee the consequences of his/her
choices (i.e. can "see the future" that he/she "gives birth" to).
Hellenistic religion and Gnosticism
Sophia (wisdom) and Sophia (Gnosticism)
Main article: Holy Wisdom
Sophiology and Sophia (wisdom)
In Christian theology, "wisdom" (Hebrew: chokhmah, Greek: Sophia,
Latin: Sapientia) describes an aspect of God, or the theological
concept regarding the wisdom of God.
There is an oppositional element in Christian thought between secular
wisdom and Godly wisdom.
Paul the Apostle
Paul the Apostle states that worldly wisdom
thinks the claims of
Christ to be foolishness. However, to those who
are "on the path to salvation"
Christ represents the wisdom of God. (1
Corinthians 1:17–31) Also,
Wisdom is one of the seven gifts of the
Holy Spirit according to Anglican, Catholic, and Lutheran belief. 1
Corinthians 12:8–10 gives an alternate list of nine virtues, among
which wisdom is one.
The book of Proverbs in the Bible primarily focuses on wisdom, and was
primarily written by one of the wisest kings according to Jewish
history, King Solomon. Proverbs is found in the Old Testament section
of the Bible and is written in a sort of poetic way, giving direction
on how to handle various aspects of life; one's relationship with God,
marriage, dealing with finances, work, friendships and persevering in
difficult situations faced in life.
 According to King Solomon, wisdom is gained from God, "For the
Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding"
Proverbs 2:6. And through God's wise aide, one can have a better life:
"He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those
whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and
protects the way of his faithful ones" Proverbs 2:7-8. "Trust in the
LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in
all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight"
Solomon basically states that with the wisdom one
receives from God, one will be able to find success and happiness in
 There are various verses in Proverbs that contain parallels of
God loves, which is wise, and what
God does not love, which is
foolish. For example in the area of good and bad behaviour Proverbs
states, "The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, But He
loves him who pursues righteousness (Proverbs 15:9). In relation to
fairness and business it is stated that, "A false balance is an
abomination to the Lord, But a just weight is His delight" (Proverbs
11:1; cf. 20:10,23). On the truth it is said, "Lying lips are an
abomination to the Lord, But those who deal faithfully are His
delight" (12:22; cf. 6:17,19). These are a few examples of what,
according to Solomon, are good and wise in the eyes of God, or bad and
foolish, and in doing these good and wise things, one becomes closer
God by living in an honorable and kind manner.
Solomon continues his teachings of wisdom in the book of
Ecclesiastes, which is considered one of the most depressing books of
Solomon discusses his exploration of the meaning of life
and fulfillment, as he speaks of life's pleasures, work, and
materialism, yet concludes that it is all meaningless.
"‘Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher [Solomon]. ‘Utterly
meaningless! Everything is meaningless’…For with much wisdom comes
much sorrow, the more knowledge, the more grief" (Ecclesiastes 1:2,18)
Solomon concludes that all life's pleasures and riches, and even
wisdom, mean nothing if there is no relationship with God.
 The book of James, written by the apostle James, is said to be
the New Testament version of the book of Proverbs, in that it is
another book that discusses wisdom. It reiterates Proverbs message of
wisdom coming from
God by stating, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you
should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and
it will be given to you." James 1:5. James also explains how wisdom
helps one acquire other forms of virtue, "But the wisdom that comes
from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate,
submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere."
James 3:17. In addition, James focuses on using this God-given wisdom
to perform acts of service to the less fortunate.
A part from Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and James, other main books of
wisdom in the Bible are Job, Psalms, and 1 and 2 Corinthians, which
give lessons on gaining and using wisdom through difficult situations.
But wisdom is not limited to only these books in the Bible, no matter
the book, words of wisdom can be found. Through devotional time or
meditation through the reading and reflection of the Bible and other
readings that analyze the Bible, one can gain wisdom in order to help
Christians become more aware, insightful and happy in life.
Further information: Prajñā (Buddhism), Prajñā (Hinduism), and
Developing wisdom is of central importance in Buddhist traditions,
where the ultimate aim is often presented as “seeing things as they
are” or as gaining a “penetrative understanding of all
phenomena,” which in turn is described as ultimately leading to the
“complete freedom from suffering.” In Buddhism, developing
wisdom is accomplished through an understanding of what are known as
the Four Noble Truths and by following the Noble Eightfold
Path. This path lists mindfulness as one of eight required
components for cultivating wisdom.
Buddhist scriptures teach that a wise person is endowed with good
bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, and good mental conduct.(AN 3:2)
A wise person does actions that are unpleasant to do but give good
results, and doesn’t do actions that are pleasant to do but give bad
results (AN 4:115).
Wisdom is the antidote to the self-chosen poison
of ignorance. The Buddha has much to say on the subject of wisdom
He who arbitrates a case by force does not thereby become just
(established in Dhamma). But the wise man is he who carefully
discriminates between right and wrong.
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.
To recover the original supreme wisdom of self-nature covered by the
self-imposed three dusty poisons (greed, anger, ignorance) Buddha
taught to his students the threefold training by turning greed into
generosity and discipline, anger into kindness and meditation,
ignorance into wisdom. As the Sixth Patriarch of Chán Buddhism,
Huineng, said in his Platform Sutra,"Mind without dispute is
self-nature discipline, mind without disturbance is self-nature
meditation, mind without ignorance is self-nature wisdom."
In Hinduism, wisdom is considered a state of mind and soul where a
person achieves liberation.
The god of wisdom is
Ganesha and the goddess of knowledge is
The Sanskrit verse to attain knowledge is:
असतो मा सद्गमय । Asatō mā sadgamaya
तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय । tamasō mā
मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय ।
mr̥tyōrmā amr̥taṁ gamaya
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः
॥ Om śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ
- Br̥hadāraṇyakopaniṣat 1.3.28
"O Lord Lead me from the unreal to the real.
Lead me from darkness to light.
Lead me from death to immortality.
May there be peace, peace, and perfect peace".
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28.
Hinduism is knowing oneself as the truth, basis for the
entire Creation, i.e., of Shristi.[clarification needed] In other
words, wisdom simply means a person with
Self-awareness as the one who
witnesses the entire creation in all its facets and forms. Further it
means realization that an individual through right conduct and right
living over an unspecified period comes to realize their true
relationship with the creation and the
Paramatma who rules
Main article: Hikmah
The Arabic term corresponding to Hebrew
Chokmah is حكمة ḥikma.
The term occurs a number of times in the Quran, notably in Sura 2:269:
"He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom
has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except
those of understanding." (Quran 2:269). and Sura 22:46: "Have
they not travelled in the land, and have they hearts wherewith to feel
and ears wherewith to hear? For indeed it is not the eyes that grow
blind, but it is the hearts, which are within the bosoms, that grow
blind."Quran 22:46 Sura 6: 151: "Say: "Come, I will rehearse what
Allah (God) hath (really) prohibited you from": Join not anything as
equal with Him; be good to your parents; kill not your children on a
plea of want;― We provide sustenance for you and for them;― come
not nigh to shameful deeds, whether open or secret; take not life,
which Allah hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus
doth He command you, that ye may learn wisdom" (Quran 6:151).
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The Buddhist term Prajñā was translated into Chinese as 智慧
(pinyin zhìhuì, characters 智 "knowledge" and 慧 "bright,
According to the Doctrine of the Mean,
"Love of learning is akin to wisdom. To practice with vigor is akin to
humanity. To know to be shameful is akin to courage (zhi, ren, yong..
three of Mengzi's sprouts of virtue)."
Compare this with the Confucian classic Great Learning, which begins
with: "The Way of learning to be great consists in manifesting the
clear character, loving the people, and abiding in the highest good."
One can clearly see the correlation with the Roman virtue prudence,
especially if one interprets "clear character" as "clear conscience".
(From Chan's Sources of Chinese Philosophy).
In Taoism, wisdom is construed as adherence to the Three Treasures
(Taoism): charity, simplicity, and humility. "He who
knows other men is discerning [智]; he who knows himself is
intelligent [明]." (知人者智，自知者明。Tao Te Ching
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,
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.
Bahá'í scripture, "The essence of wisdom is the fear of God, the
dread of His scourge and punishment, and the apprehension of His
justice and decree."
Wisdom is seen as a light, that casts away
darkness, and "its dictates must be observed under all
circumstances". One may obtain knowledge and wisdom through God,
his Word, and his Divine Manifestation and the source of all learning
is the knowledge of God.
Book of Wisdom
School of Hard Knocks
Wisdom of Crowds
Wisdom - Define
Wisdom at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.com.
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Wisdom at the Indiana
Philosophy Ontology Project
Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). "Wisdom". Stanford Encyclopedia of
Center for Practical
Wisdom at the Uni