What Is Wisdom?
Wisdom can have several different meanings. Aristotle in his practical philosophy distinguishes three Greek words that reflect “knowledge”: (1) episteme, (2) techne, and (3) phronesis.
Episteme refers to the sort of knowledge of facts that we often call knowledge in English.
Techne refers to what we sometimes call “technical skill.” It reflects the ability to accomplish something and produce a product. The classic example is a skilled blacksmith or carpenter.
Phronesis is often translated as “practical wisdom” and it reflects the skill in making wise choices. For Aristotle, it’s a necessary foundation for all of the other virtues.
I wouldn’t say Aristotle’s distinction is perfect, but there’s something to be said for pointing out the difference between being say an excellent forester and the world’s leading tree botanist with the former being “wiser” and the latter being more “knowledgeable”.
You go to school, study hard, get a degree, and you’re pleased with yourself. But are you wiser?
You get a job, achieve things at the job, gain responsibility, get paid more, move to a better company, gain even more responsibility, get paid even more, buy a home, stop doing your own yard work, and you buy one of those $9 coffees with your name misspelled on the cup. But are you happier?
As you do these things day after day and year after year, are you wiser? Has life gotten easier or better? Maybe more convoluted with less time for small things? What does the concept of wisdom have to do with any of this? Well I think we have come to misunderstand the concept of wisdom. Yes its knowledge. Yes it’s the application of that knowledge but wisdom goes far beyond those simple constructs.
Wisdom is also understanding the complexities of the human intertwined with emotional aspects of daily life. Its understanding that the same action does not always produce the same result and being able to navigate that moment where logic and emotion collide. This is why it is said that wisdom is “gained” and cannot be taught.
So I bring this up today because we each must spend our time in the trenches and riding the high notes of life. It is where we gain wisdom and become more understanding. If I had to point you to the fastest most concise method fir understanding and gaining wisdom it is this – What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens.
Peace and Love, Jim