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What Is Wisdom - Why Is Wisdom Hard to Define?

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Introduction: What is Wisdom?

When the question, "What is Wisdom?" is asked, philosopher's always have a view from the question. Each philosopher has their own interpretation of what wisdom is. But, what does wisdom really mean? Is it knowledge, science, or just common sense? I believe it is a mixture of all these things and more. There are many books written on the subject; from the dictionary, which defines it, to the Bible and Socrates. Webster's New World Dictionary defines the word wisdom as "the quality of being wise; power of judging rightly and following the soundest course of action, based on knowledge, experience, understanding, etc.; good judgment; sagacity (penetrating intelligence and sound judgment)". In this paper, I will present my interpretation of one instance of how wisdom is obtained and hopefully passed on.

Problem: Why is wisdom hard to define?

I perceive wisdom as the ability to make the best decision or to select the best course of action according to the current situation with respect to prior similar situations and their outcomes. Wisdom is what I like to call acquired knowledge over time and experience. Wisdom is often associated with formal education. On the other hand, you may not be formally educated, but still considered wise. Daniel Kolak, the author of Lovers and Wisdom and a philosopher, has defined wisdom, as knowing the extent of your knowledge, and able to apply it as rationally and morally. Kolak has suggested that the interpretation from the definition is that the more you know the more wise you become as a person. Wisdom might mean having a wise attitude and good sense but how someone's response to a different situation might not reflect wisdom. Not every person responds to every situation the same so is that to say that one has wisdom and the other does not. I think you know you are on the right path to gaining wisdom when you learn from your past experiences. No matter what path we choose to go down we are constantly learning from it and slowing gaining wisdom in different areas of life.

Philosopher's Solution: Socrates

The longing to understand something often turns into a quest for knowledge and wisdom that leads one to different sources with various questions in hopes that our craving to understanding will be fulfilled. However, (in Plato's The Trial and Death of Socrates) the reader finds Socrates asking questions not to gain knowledge or wisdom, but to take apart wisdom (Kolak 4) Through his constant questioning and challenging of thoughts and responses Socrates is attempting to reveal to the subject of his questions that they are not truly as wise as they believe themselves to be. Socrates argued that there were, in fact, real and Ð''objective' values, and that reason could be used not only to win arguments but to discover the most important truths about human life. (Solomon 34) Socrates' point was not just to destroy other people's claims and arguments, even though he rarely gave the answers to his own questions. His point was to strengthen others to seek the answers themselves, and Socrates, unlike some of the Sophists, seemed confident that there was an answer to the basic questions about life. Truth be told, Socrates was not contrasting to the Sophists; even though he was the first to admit from his own ignorance, he tended to believe in something. Socrates believed that virtue is the most important from all possessions, that truth lies beyond the shadows from our everyday experience, and that the proper business of the philosopher is to show us how little we really know. "But like the clever logicians of ancient

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