Thursday, August 04, 2005

Wisdom is Power?

Question: What is the nature of wisdom?
Answer: This is going to take more than one sentence!

In a recent post I noted my disdain of the phrase "knowledge is power." I feel that it is an incomplete notion that accomplishes little other than helping someone push a hidden agenda. My posted thoughts about the phrase were complete but that post garnered some comments about the nature of knowledge and wisdom that I think deserve some additional thinking.

Posts on the nature of wisdom are not new to the Flaming Duck. In fact, I started a previous discussion with a post called Today's Teaser and expanded on it with one called Intelligence v. Wisdom Redux.

I find that most people tend to tie the notion of "wisdom" to the personal characteristics of "knowledge," "experience" and "intelligence." This notion is so pervasive that it's almost as if you could write a mathematical expression with it. Simply writing,
Knowledge + Experience + Intelligence = Wisdom

and the notion would be complete.

While I realize that reducing a complex personality trait to some kind of mathematical expression has it's one problems, I have been associated with enough "wise" people to begin to feel that wisdom is NOT the sum of these other traits. It is, instead, some kind of ability, separate and alone, that uses all the other traits to increase itself. You might say that Wisdom BENEFITS from Intelligence and Experience and Knowledge but it is NOT based solely on these traits and it certainly is not the simple sum of these traits.

In my wanderings around the blogosphere (which are small compared to others), I have only stumbled upon one other blog that I can use to help refine my notion of wisdom. Mark over at Zenpundit has written a couple of posts discussing horizontal and vertical thinking. He describes the notion of horizontal thinking thusly:
"Horizontal thinking can get the expert out of that mental cul-de-sac by setting aside analysis in favor of synthesis, intuitive pattern recognition, suspension of judgment, reversing/challenging premises, counterfactual thought experiments and brainstorming alternatives."

I would say that the personal trait that would allow an individual to practice and be successful in “horizontal thinking” could rightly be called "wisdom."

So what do you say? Is wisdom the sum of our life experiences? Or am I correct in my assertion that it is an inborn trait, something that could be learned to an extent, but definitely a talent that stands beyond knowledge.