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Knowledge versus Wisdom

  1. Mar 30, 2003 #1
    Knowledge is the form (external). Wisdom is the essence (internal).

    What point is knowledge? if it doesn't exist to serve wisdom?

    Which is more important? The (external) facts? Or, the (internal) experience which leads to the facts?

    Is it only knowledge that we seek? (physical evidence). Or, do we seek "context" (and the essence within).

    Can life be sustained outside of context? outside of a form designed to suit it? which has not been corrupted or breeched?

    What point is a dead corpse? without a spirit or essence to move it?

    What point is a dead (physical) universe? without a Divine Essence to set it in motion?

    What is an (external) effect without a (internal) cause?

    What point is knowledge? if it doesn't exist to serve wisdom? ...
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 30, 2003 #2
    When I say, "I feel fine." It is not external knowledge. Knowledge can be external and internal. Nor is wisdom necessarilly just an internal affair either. At times wisdom can seem to involve our minds and bodies in inseperable harmony. A musician who does not play spontaneously involving mind, body, and "soul" equally looses the wisdom of their art.

    As for which is more important, it is like asking which is more important, "up" or "down"? Without knowledge there can be no wisdom and vice versa. They are two aspects of a single whole which is greater than the sum of its parts.

    There is no point, no point at all. That is precisely why knowledge and wisdom are inseperable. Existence itself provides the ultimate context that contains all others.
  4. Mar 30, 2003 #3


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    this logic rhymes perfectly with my belief

    i think the two balance one another out - knowledge and wisdom that is...
  5. Mar 30, 2003 #4
    Yet when you speak of how you feel, you're speaking of an "internal experience" (motive?) which, in part, determines how you're going to react "physically" to your external surroundings (i.e., if you "go" with the feeling).

    Whereas people are less likely going to understand how you feel, as opposed to the "physical evidence" of your actions.
  6. Mar 30, 2003 #5


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    I agree with J Oswald Sanders:

    "Wisdom is more than knowledge, which is the accumulation of facts... it is the right application of knowledge in moral and spritual matters."
  7. Mar 30, 2003 #6
    No, when I say, "I feel fine" it is more than just an expression of my internal feelings, it is an expression of the continuum of my experience, or "context", which includes my emotional state, my physical state, etc. The temptation is to think of ourselves as ending at the surface of our skin, but without air to breath, water to drink, people to socialize with, etc. we would literally die.

    The soviet union once ran an experiment in an orphanage for infants. In an attempt to be more efficient the heads of the orphanage told the workers to never comfort or play with or even pick up a baby unless absolutely necessary, just deal with their physical needs of food, cleanliness, etc. The babies died by the thousands as a result until they realized the problem.

    B. F. Skinner made this same mistake. He placed his own daughter inside a soundproof glass box with rubber gloves mounted in the side. Unlike the Soviet experiment, he would play with her using the gloves and what not. His rationale was that he did not wish to contaminate her with his own behavioral problems (GIGO, garbage in, garbage out) as the original behavorism asserted was how humans function. As a result, she spent years in therapy despite having loving and attentive parents.

    Deception is something people are particularly good at. In the case of these examples of dying and psychologically injured babies, obviously people had deceived themselves into forgetting or denying the importance of the context or continuum of their own human experience as well as that of the babies. Abstractions are truly wonderful things, but only within the proper context. When they become habitual we deceive ourselves and loose touch with the reality of our entire experience, the end of wisdom.

    I use these particular examples to show just how stupid people can be in this regard no matter how intelligent they might otherwise be. The fact that babies need to be held, hugged, cuddled, and loved is something virtually everyone in the world could have told them. It is a wisdom we all possess even if we never experienced that much of such things ourselves.
  8. Mar 30, 2003 #7
    Except that nobody else is going to understand "who" is experiencing "what" unless "you" (in the physical sense) are sending off "strong vibes." It's still a part of our own personal experience, which others may or may not be able to perceive (from the outside).
  9. Mar 30, 2003 #8

    Without taking a step outdoors
    You know the whole world;
    Without taking a peep out the window
    You know the color of the sky.
    The more you abstract your experiences,
    The less you know.
    The sage wanders without abstractions,
    Sees without having to look,
    Accomplishes without acting.

    You under estimate what you can know. Sometimes I find myself having to tell people the same thing over and over again using simple plain words that speak directly to the point. I jump up and down for emphasis, run in circles screaming and shouting, and they still don't get it. Knowing is not so much the issue as unlearning how to ignore what is as plain as the nose on your face. That's why they call it wisdom and not "the system".
  10. Mar 30, 2003 #9
    That sounds like a panic attack to me! Isn't that the first thing they tell you not to do when you can't see the forest from the trees?

    Actually I tend to rely on antics myself when I find myself explaining things over and over again. And you're right, they still don't get it.
  11. Mar 30, 2003 #10
    I agree entirely with the premise, that knowledge and wisdom are seperate, and that knowledge needs wisdom. However, I only say this because wisdom is applied knowledge, and knowledge does you no good if you don't apply it.

    Here's a helpful illustration - in understanding the relationship between knowledge, understanding, and wisdom:

    A man is on a rail-road track. There is a train heading in his direction, fast approaching.

    Knowledge tells him: The train is on the track; I am on the track; the train is headed towards me. And that is the extent of knowledge.

    Understanding tells him: The train will eventually hit me (this being based on what "knowledge" told him). And that is the extent of understanding.

    Wisdom tells him: I have to get off of the rail-road track, in order to avoid getting hit (thus applying the knowledge/understanding, that he has aquired).
  12. Mar 30, 2003 #11
    Then my pet mouse and the paranoid must be the wisest of us all.

    Naaahhhh. Wisdom as most people recognize it does have certain hallmarks though, creativity being one of them. I prefer Lao Tzu's description of the wise and enlightened:


    The enlightened possess understanding
    So profound they can not be comprehended.
    Because they cannot be comprehended
    I can only describe their appearance:
    Hesitant as one crossing thin ice,
    Undecided as one surrounded by hazards,
    Modest as one who is a guest,
    Unbounded as melting ice,
    Authentic as unshaped wood,
    Empty as a valley,
    Ambiguous as muddy water.
    Who stills the water that the mud may settle,
    Who stops in order to continue traveling,
    Who desires to be empty,
    In order to be reborn and live anew.

  13. Mar 30, 2003 #12
    If your ego doesn't allow you to accept that your mouse may be wiser than you, so be it. To apply knowledge = wisdom.
  14. Mar 30, 2003 #13
    Ahhhhh, then my computer is the wisest of us all!

    Naaahhh, if wisdom were merely applied knowledge it would not be so difficult to cultivate and people wouldn't debate its meaning so much. As it is, there are incredibly knowledgable people out there who apply it towards destructive purposes, even in the case of Ted Kazinsky against applied knowledge.
  15. Mar 30, 2003 #14
    Are you sure this is not the "uncertainty principle?" It kind of sounds like me, as I'm a bit tentative and shy in my "worldly dealings" with people. I find it difficult to explain things to people and will often refrain from doing so. While I rarely speak about those things which touch me the most. And about all I can sense is "No comprender!"
  16. Apr 1, 2003 #15
    "He who is least amongst you is the greatest" ...

    Doesn't this sounds like the cat with three names? The first being the name his master calls him, for example lets say "Ralph"; the second being his scientific name, i.e., Felis catus?; and the third being the name that nobody knows but the cat himself? Or, would this just be another name for the "cat's meow?"

    It also brings to mind the three legs of a triangle, where the first represents the fall (from knowledge), the second represents the base or foundation (our earthly existence), and the third represents that which is truly transcendent, and thereby completing the form; which, by the way, is portayed by the Greek letter delta and means the fourth.

    Hence is it possible that this is what the Greek letter delta and the number four portray? The essence which gives rise to the form? And also note that if you spelled it like "fourm" (i.e., four + m) it would still sound the same.
  17. Apr 1, 2003 #16
    That's exactly what it is, just the original prehistoric version written a bit more coherently by civilized scholars about 2,500 years ago. When the theory of Quantum Mechanics first made its way to Asia, scientists there quickly made significant fundamental contributions to the theory despite the fact their western counterparts had a head start on them. When asked how they did this they just said, "Well, this is obvious!" Like Quantum Mechanics and Relativity, their language and world view are holistic and contain many relationships more linear logical ones like english.

    This is actually how I first became interested in Asian thought. I had already studied western philosophy, but when I came across Asian philosophy it read like a cheap self-help book. "Yeah! Yeah! I get it now!" Then the moment you put the book down you can't remember what seemed so meaningful. Being as stubborn as I am, I couldn't let it just go at that.

    The real distinction between the two I would describe as attitudinal and that is why it is so difficult to grasp for many westerners who are used to logical behavorial focuses. This attitudinal focus also means that being really intelligent and knowledgable can be a serious handicap when attempting to comprehend Asian thought. What it requires more of is emotional acceptance. Thus, the more knowledgable and intelligent but unaccepting we are the more easy it is for us to deny things twelve ways to sunday. This particular text is from the Tao Te Ching which is designed to encourage the reader to argue with the book precisely for the purpose of finding such acceptance in ourselves.

    Wisdom from this point of view therefore requires acceptance.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2003
  18. Apr 1, 2003 #17
    There is something very contrived about western culture and I've spent the majority of my adult life trying to "buck the trend" (with modest success). While most people that don't know me (I have very few friends by the way) will say, "Oh he's not very friendly, he's too standoffish." But that's just it, people will attach labels to things--and to me--and then associate some kind of phony sentimentalism to it, and it bugs me, because it detracts from my ability to perceive and I can't see clearly.

    On the other hand I have had the opportuntiy to work with Asians and, while I'm not saying they're all like this, they do tend to come across as genuine, sincere, open and friendly. But this can be a problem too, in that I'm so used to bucking the trend (phony sentimentalism), that I feel rigid, inflexible and unmoving, and I still don't fit in. So in this way I feel like I'm stuck between two worlds?
  19. Apr 1, 2003 #18
    You get what you fear the most, you become what you hate the most. Again, the trick is to find acceptance.

    To paraphrase R. W. Emerson, "Virtue is its own reward, to have a friend you must first be a friend." Friends see each other for all of who and what they are. If my friend drinks too much, they remain my friend but I may keep encouraging them to at least cut down on their drinking.

    The opposite is true for enemies. Enemies tend to see only what they hate and dislike about each other. Even what they otherwise might admire in each other, they see in the worst light possible. Thus wars erupt over apparent trivialities.

    As I've often told people, I came to acceptance kicking and screaming, dragging my feet the entire way. My name, Wu Li, I got from a famous book called, "The Dancing Wu Li Masters". It's a book about modern physics and Asian thought. The physics was easy for me, but the philosophy drove me nuts.

    One thing I did get from the book is that in many ways we are all our own worst enemy. Nobody knows you like you do, and nobody can retard your growth as a human being like you can. Therefore you need to find ways of getting around this difficulty. What I did was offer to buy any book my friends wanted on the subject of self-help.

    One of the books I bought this way is "Giant Steps" put out by the Option Institute. They're an off the wall nuttier than a fruitcake New Age group in the US. Despite this, they managed to penetrate my carefully cultivated skepticism and drive home the overwhelming importance of attitude, not intellectually, but in the way that really counts. :0)
  20. Apr 1, 2003 #19
    Who says that wisdom is difficult to cultivate. I think that you are confusing "widom" with "enlightenment" (the latter of which is very difficult to cultivate, btw).

    SIDE NOTE: If a person applies knowledge in a desctructive manner, then it is "destructive widom". It seems very simple, and yet you seem to think that evil and wisdom are mutually exclusive.
  21. Apr 1, 2003 #20
    I actually don't have so much trouble accepting myself, and I'm actually quite happy to be alone, it's just that the whole thing seems to get contrasted between the two cultures.

    Oh, I thought wuliheron was some kind of "hairy bird?"
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