Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 W - Wisdom


Wisdom: The exercise of right judgment, where the latter may be provisionally characterized as being rational and reasonable; being more probably true than not, if not true outright; and tending to the decrease of especially human suffering where appropriate.

Etymologically, philosophy is the love of wisdom. As defined here, wisdom consists in exercising one's capacity for right judgment, and these terms are chosen to indicate that wisdom (and its lack) has at least two dimensions: A factual dimension and an evaluative dimension. In a factual sense, a judgment to be wise must be adequate, or probably so, and in an evaluative sense a judgment to be wise must be ethical, in furthering or upholding ethical ends.

The basic problem, of course, is: What are the standards of judgment? Someone who is wise in one society, group or civilization may not seem so in another society, group or civilization; someone may have little knowledge and yet use his lack of knowledge wisely (mostly by recognizing and admitting his ignorance); and what is ethical or moral may vary from one group to another, and usually does to some extent, in that different groups define themselves by different ends, and use these ends to measure what are good and bad, for the members of the group.

In the above definition, two general tendencies of what judgments that may be styled wise have been selected: That such judgments at least tend to be probably true - which includes many true answers of the form 'We don't truly know but guess...' - and that such judgments tend to help decrease suffering, especially human suffering, since we are talking about human judgments to human beings.


See also: Philosophy


Lin Yutang

 Original: Jun 11, 2005                                                Last edited: 4 Oct 2011.   Top