Wisdom is a confusing concept even to Socrates, one of the wisest men who lived on earth in classical Greece. We have heard many saying that wisdom is preferred over knowledge for better action and living. Finally what is wisdom all about? Can it be attained by being a diligent hard working student in school or university?
The following incident is taken from Plato’s Apology, which reports that Socrates and his friend went to an oracle at Delphi, one of the modern towns in Greece. The friend asked the oracle if there is anyone who is wiser than Socrates; the oracle replied negative saying that Socrates is the wisest human being of all.
Socrates was surprised at the answer as he thought many of his fellow countrymen claim themselves to be wise and have the knowledge and skills to justify their claim, whereas he never thought of himself as a wise man. So he did a kind of investigation on this oracle’s decision to finally find out that the people who claim to be wise are exaggerating their knowledge and potential to make the claim.
Or in other words, they don’t have the knowledge that they claim to have or have a falsified knowledge, which made them unwise in the views of the oracle. On the other hand, Socrates had the humility to say that his knowledge is lesser compared to others and hence he is not wise, even though he had all sorts of skills to make him wise.
Thus, as he had the humility to say that he is not wise and he remain grounded by not flaunting his analytic and decision making skills, the oracle would have declared him as the wisest man. This investigation on wisdom by Socrates is termed as ‘Wisdom as Epistemic Humility’ and is one among his various other investigations relating wisdom to many other virtues and thus, making wisdom a complex phenomenon.
This incident when viewed askew may suggest that Socrates is not the wisest man because he himself believes that he is the wisest man and so he takes the oracle seriously and proceed with the further investigation. Thus the humility that made him wise is just a falsified behavior. Isn’t it? With this rebuttal, there could be lot of other questions that may surface up about wisdom.
For instance, by being humble and not equipped with the necessary skills, can someone become wise could be a possible investigation! As the context of this article is not to explore the investigations, the above incident was discussed just to corroborate the statement made at the beginning of this article that wisdom is a confusing concept, even to Socrates.
Thus wisdom is not a very tangible quality that can be measured with the level of intelligence or knowledge a person possesses. For instance, as mentioned earlier, the above quoted incident is one of the investigations on wisdom relating t to humility; in addition there are more investigations relating it to knowledge, rationalism, accuracy etc.
Thus wisdom is a manipulation and application of all your skills and knowledge attained through various experiences to take a common stand in any problems by keeping yourself humble and accurate and by making rational choices. It is more of a simple state of mind with a complex process! But wisdom has become a more complex phenomenon by the complexity of the things that it has to deal with making it a less reliable virtue to find a panacea for all the disorders around us.
If wisdom was such an abstruse ideology at the times of Socrates when life was so simple, it is easy to elucidate how inexplicable it must have become in today’s scenario. Using wisdom to establish justice has become tougher as there are more complex entities and intricacies involved in any process, making the utility of wisdom a more complex phenomenon to make a rational decision without compromising any of the inherent qualities of wisdom.
In other words, any one of the many virtues of wisdom mainly humbleness and accuracy needs to be compromised in taking a firm stand, making wisdom a less effective and reliable skill, because of our lives becoming increasingly complex. Simply put, as we travel faster towards complexity, wisdom will become obsolete faster.
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