Knowledge and Wisdom

An ever persistent question that we have been asked is, what is the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Indeed, the difference is quite obvious in the sense that a knowledgeable person may not be wise in many ways. I would say that knowledge is more of an intellectual thing as in IQ, and wisdom is more of an exercise of judgement based on an emotional response tempered by years of real life experience. If knowledge indeed is the omnipotent source of power, a stand alone component that by itself guarantees success in all walks of life, then how is it that we have seen people and aquaintances around us with impressive academic credentials but failing in other aspects of life like parenting, relationships, investment choices and other miscalculated decisions when taking a step at the crossroads of life.

So, what exactly is knowledge. I will try to explain it in a non-philosophical manner. In any case, philosophy is not my major and I am not qualified to venture into that arena. But knowledge, the way I see it, offers us an objective perspective of things around us. That the moon is 300,000 kilometers away from Earth is not a matter that is subjective. Armed with knowledge, we can put forth a logical assessment of events that is devoid of emotional and subjective influences. Science and technology would falter should we base our evalutions on subjective responses. Human knowledge has come to where it is today because over the generations, we weed out the emotional aspects of judgement and focus instead on hard facts. It is perhaps correct to say that knowledge is one that is based on hard facts, and that is indisputable. Consider Wikipedia. How would you feel if after reading a lengthy passage from Wikipedia only to find that the information you have read is totally subjective based on the authors'own assessment. For any information to be granted a place in the major encyclopedias, it has to be vetted for accuracy, and by accuracy, we mean to remove any portions of it deem to be subjective to the author's own experience.

What about wisdom. People who are wise I believe, may not necessarily be academically inclined. Someone who has a double degree in the most prestigious university may lose his entire fortune in investments that only squander his wealth. I have personally known of people who are highly educated and knowledgeable in their own fields of expertise making poor judgements in other aspects of their lives. Bringing up children, relationship with a spouse, financial investments and you name it. Indeed knowledge is power, but to say that knowledge is all encompassing and omnipotent and that we can survive on a diet of pure knowledge would be misleading. Experience has shown, time and again, that wisdom is paramount to one's ultimate success in life. 

I would like to put it this way. Wisdom is the underlying software that powers knowledge. Without wisdom, we are like a computer installed with the highest powered processors and RAM but at the same time incapacitated because we lack the emotional component to move us forward in the right direction. Knowledge can be acquired in a short duration by purely memorizing factual information, but wisdom can only be obtained through real life experiences. 

In conclusion, one should not be concerned about whether knowledge or wisdom is the paramount aspect of our mental faculty. Both are important and one without the other would stifle our progress.

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Danny Ding

Freelance Writer
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