Quora answer: How do we create wisdom?

Feb 26 2012

Wisdom is an emergent step above Knowledge.

The series may be something like . . . Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom, Insight, Realization

Now the interesting thing about knowledge is its permanence. Knowledge is the most permanent thing in our experience.

Try forgetting something you know. We also know what we have told others, and what they know. So we don’t keep telling people the same thing if they already know it, except in special circumstances, like to kids who are not listening.

So information has to have a surprise value. Knowledge of what people already know helps us keep the surprise high enough to remain relevant or at least interesting.

So information exists as the new things that we are telling others, and knowledge is the reservoir of what is known that prevents us from telling the same people the same thing over and over.

Wisdom is normally thought of as something you get when you mix experience and knowledge. Wisdom is when you know what is going to happen so you avoid negative consequences based on prior experience.

Wisdom is the highest of the four virtues mentioned by Plato which are courage, temperance, justice and wisdom.

Many of the Platonic dialogues explore the nature of these human virtues.

Apollo orders us to “know thyself” and “nothing to excess.”

All of the virtues contribute to self knowledge but nothing to excess specifically points toward temperance.

Plato says the soul has three parts Human, Lion and Hydra. The Hydra is all the desires of the self that causes one to forsake temperance. And opposite this is the Lion representing courage, justified anger helps to keep the self under control.

So Courage and Temperance go together. The other part of the soul is the human which can appear if courage and temperance are balanced.

So the human part of the soul can strive toward the higher virtues of Justice and Wisdom. Justice is applying temperance not to oneself but within the social sphere. So temperance is inward justice with oneself, while justice is social temperance in one’s decisions and judgements.

That leaves Wisdom to be like Courage. Courage is the ability to control oneself in a fearful situation and do ones duty to the very end if the cause is just, for instance in defending the city in time of war.

So we can think of Wisdom by analogy which is to offer council to the people of our community which will give them courage to make the right decision and stick by it in difficult times, but not to be fool hardy. Thus just like there is being as Achilles hanging back now doing enough or going berzerk and acting inhuman that are the extremes of courage being too little or too much, then wisdom has to do with making non-nihilistic distinctions within the community and advising or leading it into prosperity and avoiding defeat and destruction to the extent that is possible given the nature of human affairs.

So  information has to do with surprise, knowledge prevents our telling people things they already know, and it has to do with not forgetting what is known. Wisdom mixes knowledge and experience in a way that one is able to give one’s community good advice or lead them w ell with justice balancing power. Wisdom guides action based on experience and knowledge which is distilled into the ability to make non-nihilistic distinctions. Ultimate wisdom is prajna, i.e. wisdom concerning nonduality.

Now that we have realized that ultimate wisdom is the ability to make non[nihilistic distinctions then we would like to use that to move deeper and deeper into the world view though the levels of


It takes courage to make non-nihilistic distinctions in the face of nihilism everywhere. It is a matter of temperance inwardly and justice outwardly. And wisdom is the ability to offer advice or leadership which steers between the nihilistic alternatives and brings the ship of the community to port safely, yet also with booty or profitable wares in the cargo hold.

But these non-nihilistic distinctions happen at different depths.

There is the ordered word and action, which is spoken or done at the correct time and place, and in the correct context in the correct form

There is the right word and action, which is spoken or done which upholds some fundamental principle that we hold dear against those who would do wrong to themselves or others.

There is the good word and action, which is spoken or done which invites in the guest, the friend, the neighbor and even the stranger (as they are protected by the gods), which gives the gift, the reward, or the inkind payment of more than was expected.

There is the fated word and action, which is spoken or done like the beot boast, or the swearing revenge where one determines ones own fate and those of others by ones word that one will do something, or not do it no matter what.

There is the source word and action, which is spoken or done which allows the source forms (as plato calls them) to shine though as non-representable intelligibles or are actions that have virtue.

There is the root word and action, which is spoken or done which rooted in the primal scene of the wells and the tree that is the root of the world view. In old engilsh it is ‘AE’ which is the aeternal.

We are measured by our virtues, and our non-nihilistic distinctions we make, and the depth that we can go into the core nonduals of our worldview.

The worldview is the measure of the man, it is not man who is the measure of things, but rather man is measured by his words and actions against the nondual structure of the worldview and his ability to follow the dharma within that worldview.


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