My blog post on intelligence got me to thinking about wisdom, what it is and how it works. Once again, turning to Merriam-Webster, wisdom is “the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships.” I think of it as the aptitude for arriving at conclusions that are both sensible and well-reasoned. Its opposite is foolishness.
We often associate wisdom with age. My sense is that as people grow older and accumulate more and more experience, they come to appreciate subtler causal relationships not obvious to younger, shallower people. They see that any result might have not just one but multiple causes. They understand that actions have not just one but many interrelated outcomes, sometimes of mixed desirability.
Wisdom, in short, addresses life’s manifold complexity. The best-known wise man in history was Solomon. The Bible depicts his reign as an era of unprecedented prosperity due to his wisdom, a quality bestowed upon him by God. He is credited with having written the Proverbs also known as the Wisdom of Solomon. This book of the Bible goes by both names because of the sage advice found therein.
Hence wisdom. One can work to attain wisdom by education and study, but in the end, only living and experience will create it. It is one of the few benefits of getting old.