L. N. Stolovich

Wisdom and Knowledge

1. What is the correlation between wisdom and knowledge? Intuition already tells us that they have something in common. Perhaps this is a rhetorical question: Can wisdom be without knowledge? But here is the question that is not rhetorical: Does any knowledge lead to wisdom?

2. The views of the ancient sages regarding the correlation between wisdom and knowledge can be summarized in the following statements:

1) A wise person is not always all-knowing. Socrates who was famous for his wisdom had the courage to say: I know that I know nothing.

2) On the other hand, a person who knows is not always wise. It is possible to know what is best, but to act otherwise by conceding to the power of pleasure or suffering. According to Plato, one can learn knowledge, but not wisdom, because wisdom is a virtue and not just knowledge.

3) Wisdom is part of the process of cognition to the extent that the latter determines practical activity of a person and, first of all, his or her moral behavior.

4) Ancient thinkers ascribed the property of wisdom to experiential knowledge and perceived wisdom in various kinds of art and trade, in state government. They also recognized a certain hierarchy in such wisdom according to the level and depth of understanding.

5) Ancients thinkers knew, of course, that human notions of wisdom are all relative.

3. According to Kant’s teaching, wisdom is the category of “practical reason” and has both practical-moral and theoretical aspects.

4. Philosophical term “Sophia” in late antiquity came to denote what in biblical texts is called the Wisdom of God. On the basis of theological-philosophical tradition of the interpretation of Sophia-Wisdom Vl. Solov’ev developed his concept of Sophia as unified Humanity—the supreme wisdom of the universe. And Wisdom as “human sagacity”, as virtue, according to Vl. Solov’ev, is “the ability to apply in the most expedient way one’s mental ability to the most worthy, i. e. value-oriented objects”.

5. Wisdom and knowledge are two sides of the antinomy. However, wisdom contains in itself, yet another dialectical contradiction—a contradiction between cognitive and axiological principles. Wisdom is the fruit of the knowledge; of life, but knowledge in its axiological aspect, experiential understanding of values in their vitality. Wise knowledge is not simply a possession of information, but knowledge—often intuitive—of the value of information. Wisdom is a valuable fusion of cognition and evaluation, information and value. Philosophy as love of wisdom—like wisdom itself—presupposes attention both to cognitive and to value-oriented human activity.

[Originally from Department of Logic, Moscow State University. Text retrieved from ghost web.]

Note: Vl. Solov’ev = Vladimir Solovyov. See also ‘sophiology’.


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