Knowledge versus Wisdom

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  • #26
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Originally posted by Mentat
Well, I didn't make up the definition of wisdom, that I was using before. It was told to me by a person that I considered not only very wise, but very enlightened.
It's what you do with knowledge that determines whether you're wise, or foolish. So in this respect I would suggest wisdom falls in more along the lines of enlightenment (as both of are deemed "spiritual qualities"). And besides being defined as "the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships," as well as "insight," the dictionary defines wisdom as "good judgment."

So this may be the problem, in that you can have "good judgment" and "bad judgment," and people will mistake judgment for wisdom.

While here it's possible for someone to claim they have "judged wisely," when in fact it's a big cover up to disguise the fact that they didn't. In which case we only have wisdom (hopefully) to discern its "inner quality."
 
  • #27
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So this may be the problem, in that you can have "good judgment" and "bad judgment," and people will mistake judgment for wisdom.
Exactly, two people can have the exact same knowledge and come to completely different conclusions and applications for that knowledge. The opposite end of spectrum for wisdom is foolishness. Yet sometimes the most apparently foolish and ignorant among us can be the wisest. From an asian and shamanistic viewpoint, an accepting attitude is what makes the difference.
 
  • #28
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Originally posted by wuliheron

From an asian and shamanistic viewpoint, an accepting attitude is what makes the difference.
Except how do you do this without becoming gullible, or "contrived." This is pretty much my predicament, except I am to some degree (slowly but surely) becoming more accepting towards people. Whereas I think as you get older it doesn't matter so much.

Originally posted by wuliheron

Yet sometimes the most apparently foolish and ignorant among us can be the wisest.
"Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth."
 
  • #29
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Originally posted by wuliheron
From an asian and shamanistic viewpoint, an accepting attitude is what makes the difference.
That's another thing, if you're brought up in a culture where the door has never been "slammed shut," chances are you're not going to have any experience of what that means.

On the other hand, if you were brought up in the west, where you're apt to experience "barriers" all around you, chances are you're going to experience a sense of what Alan Watts has put so succinctly, "alienation."
 
  • #30
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From an asian and shamanistic viewpoint, an accepting attitude is what makes the difference.
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Except how do you do this without becoming gullible, or "contrived." This is pretty much my predicament, except I am to some degree (slowly but surely) becoming more accepting towards people. Whereas I think as you get older it doesn't matter so much.
You could say the same thing about behavior, how do you choose behaviors that won't make you a patsy. You can go round and round with such arguments ad infinitum. The simple truth is people come up with all kinds of negative speculations about everything imaginable that they have never tried or experienced in their life. My six year old son is the pickiest eater imaginable, for example, and its difficult to get him to even taste anything.

Most Asians meditate as a way to cultivate inner peace, balance, and acceptance. One asian compared it once to falling asleep. Westerners often try to discipline their behavior and make themselves fall asleep. Asians try to just allow themselves to fall asleep. That's what meditation is about, just clearing all those preprogramed behaviors and perspectives out of our mind so we ourselves can take charge instead of compulsively relying on habitual thoughts and behaviors. Especially suspicious and negative thoughts and behaviors that can become counterproductive.

That's another thing, if you're brought up in a culture where the door has never been "slammed shut," chances are you're not going to have any experience of what that means.

On the other hand, if you were brought up in the west, where you're apt to experience "barriers" all around you, chances are you're going to experience a sense of what Alan Watts has put so succinctly, "alienation."
Yeah, the culture doesn't support an accepting attitude in many respects. Asians are known for being inscrutable in part just because they often prefer to avoid getting involved with angry and irrational people fired up about what they consider to be silly and pointless arguments unless they see a possible productive way to do so.

An american karate champion was once in Japan for a tornament and happened to be riding the bullet train. A drunk and beligerent man was slowing making his way towards him, harassing people as he came. The karate champ decided he would put a stop to this guy's nonsense when he came up to his seat. Instead, an old man in the seat in front of him offered the drunk another drink and he sat down with him.

After a while the old man looked at the drunk and asked him what was bothering him. Breaking down in tears the man said his wife and children had just been killed that morning in a car wreak. With that revelation the karate champ realized he had not learned the number lesson of the Dojo, how to avoid fighting and just how important it is to avoid fighting.

Even in western cultures, such wisdom as the old man displayed is valued. You don't need to read a lot of books about asian and shamanistic cultures or go to any lecture seminars or anything like that in order to cultivate wisdom. All you need do is cultivate an accepting attitude, but that includes acceptance of who you are as an individual first and foremost and accepting the society you live in as well. Most people who make this attempt seem to take about three years to fully make the adjustment and find their own unique center.
 
  • #31
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Wu Li, I've just realized that the incompatibility of our definitions of wisdom results from the fact that you seem to think there is such a thing as "evil". You seem to think that one form of action is definitely "wrong", and another form is "right". While I think so as well, that doesn't mean that it's true, and so this concept doesn't show up in my definition of wisdom. IMO, wisdom should exist even in societies that know nothing of "right" and "wrong".
 
  • #32
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Right and wrong are only "relative" to the situation. This indeed is where "wisdom" applies. In which case you can take something in the literal sense (as many Christians take the Bible) or, you can inquire within, and observe its "inner-quality."
 
  • #33
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Wu Li, I've just realized that the incompatibility of our definitions of wisdom results from the fact that you seem to think there is such a thing as "evil". You seem to think that one form of action is definitely "wrong", and another form is "right". While I think so as well, that doesn't mean that it's true, and so this concept doesn't show up in my definition of wisdom. IMO, wisdom should exist even in societies that know nothing of "right" and "wrong".
Sorry, but you're wrong. I don't believe in anything like "evil". For me, evil refers to something absolute, innate or irredemable. I do believe there are serial killers and whatnot and to some extent they may even be predisposed to such behavior, but that doesn't make what they do "evil", just extremely bad. No doubt with the right environment and perhaps even medical attention such people could be helped.

Actually, I'm an amoral Philosophical Taoist. To a great extent concepts like good and bad are relativistic for me as Iaccus points out. However, I must point out they are relative to how we each see them as individuals, not in some abstract theoretical way. For the vast majority of humanity the idea of someone blowing up the entire world is bad, so sometimes I'll refer to such things in straightforward ways. Most people with moralities and ideas about normalcy don't understand such a viewpoint, so I don't go into the details much and just put it out that its merely my opinion.

This same relativism applies to everything for me. Free will vs determinism, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, and even the irrational and rational. That's just the way paradoxes are, they lend themselves to whatever interpretation we care to make.

Additionally, there really are no societies that don't know right from wrong. Many like the !Kung have no words for certain concepts like guilt, but they understand the concepts nonetheless. They just don't need the word and may even find its use counterproductive. Sometimes implicite rules are better than explicite ones for achieving goals.
 
  • #34
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Originally posted by wuliheron
Sorry, but you're wrong. I don't believe in anything like "evil". For me, evil refers to something absolute, innate or irredemable. I do believe there are serial killers and whatnot and to some extent they may even be predisposed to such behavior, but that doesn't make what they do "evil", just extremely bad. No doubt with the right environment and perhaps even medical attention such people could be helped.

Actually, I'm an amoral Philosophical Taoist. To a great extent concepts like good and bad are relativistic for me as Iaccus points out. However, I must point out they are relative to how we each see them as individuals, not in some abstract theoretical way. For the vast majority of humanity the idea of someone blowing up the entire world is bad, so sometimes I'll refer to such things in straightforward ways. Most people with moralities and ideas about normalcy don't understand such a viewpoint, so I don't go into the details much and just put it out that its merely my opinion.

This same relativism applies to everything for me. Free will vs determinism, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, and even the irrational and rational. That's just the way paradoxes are, they lend themselves to whatever interpretation we care to make.

Additionally, there really are no societies that don't know right from wrong. Many like the !Kung have no words for certain concepts like guilt, but they understand the concepts nonetheless. They just don't need the word and may even find its use counterproductive. Sometimes implicite rules are better than explicite ones for achieving goals.
While you may say that you don't believe in the distinction between good and evil, the opposite is evident in your perception of wisdom. You see, I was saying that wisdom is the application of knowledge and understanding. You disagreed, and said...

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.
... thus showing that you didn't think him to be wise, because he was destructive. Why can wisdom not be involved in things that are destructive, unless - of course - there is something *wrong* with being destructive.:wink:
 
  • #35
FZ+
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Interjection: Wuli is refering that he is against the absolutist idea of right or wrong. That something is always wrong, independent of who is judging. So while being destructive is wrong to him, he does not claim that it is simply inherently a wrong act. At least, that's how I read it.

Hmm... so maybe wisdom itself is relative to who is judging it? You may find someone unwise, but someone else may disagree?
 
  • #36
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Yeah, FZ, that's about what it breaks down to. Even absolute and relative can be conceived of as relative terms. The real question then may not be whether wisdom is relative or absolute, but whether it is accepting. Reality is whatever it is, whatever That may be, so wisdom may well depend upon how we accept the situation as it presents itself and act accordingly. When we insist reality is a certain way, we reject all other possibilities and limit ourselves.
 
  • #37
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Originally posted by FZ+
Interjection: Wuli is refering that he is against the absolutist idea of right or wrong. That something is always wrong, independent of who is judging. So while being destructive is wrong to him, he does not claim that it is simply inherently a wrong act. At least, that's how I read it.
But, if he/she thinks that something is wrong, how can he/she not claim that it is "simply inherently a wrong act"?

Hmm... so maybe wisdom itself is relative to who is judging it? You may find someone unwise, but someone else may disagree?
Well, not according to my previous definition of wisdom (in which all applied knowledge/understanding is "wisdom", at least at some level). But yours is a good idea. Wisdom could be relative, in a slightly different conception of what it is - than mine.
 
  • #38
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But, if he/she thinks that something is wrong, how can he/she not claim that it is "simply inherently a wrong act"?
No. He/she/it thinks that something is wrong to THEM. But the same something is not always wrong, and is not wrong for everyone. To the person doing it, it is undoubtly "right". That's why he did it.
 
  • #39
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Yeah, its called relative ethics and avoids a great deal of the problems with absolute ethics. For example, I would normally consider murder wrong, but if I had a chance to murder Adolf Hitler before he attempted genocide I wouldn't think it wrong. Relative ethics also can have some the strongest philosophical foundations possible while most absolute ethics trace their foundations to some sort of religious decree by a God.
 

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