Wisdom and Intelligence

There is a large difference between wisdom and intelligence, yet they are also related.

The first difficult task is understanding what intelligence is. It is poorly defined. People generally have different specific definitions or a general definition that is next to useless.

For example, Intelligence can be specifically defined as General Intelligence Quotient, which seems to be an amalgamation of various fields of capability, all designed to test the speed response in a breadth of knowledge. It is easy to game with culture, education and some rehearsal and dry runs. This definition is often countered with multiple intelligences, where intelligence is made up of several different fields of capability, allowing for a more histogram approach to intelligence. Rather stating that this one number is your intelligence, you get more of a graphical representation about what kind of intelligence you have, which is supposed to be self referential instead of across peoples.

Another generalised version of intelligence is what you know and how quickly you can solve problems. I have met some people who know nothing, but once they have the rules of a game understood they can create ingenious solutions that win, while other people knew much about many things, yet could not solve basic problems that they had not studied. Is intelligence knowing things or solving problems? Or a combination of both?

Contrast this to wisdom. Wisdom is often thought to be solving social problems or knowing when to act.

You know those times when you pour your heart out to someone and they say that thing that makes it all so clear? Is that wisdom?

Perhaps wisdom is more about knowing when to and when not to act? I could burn the house down for heat but should I? I could see this woman behind my partners back, but should I? It is the separation of “can” and “will”. I can do many things, but I won’t do them. There is a separation of “right and wrong” versus “considering and doing”. This definition of wisdom is not as simple as defining an action as right or wrong, or the outcome as right or wrong, but rather looking at the actions and outcomes and deciding whether or not to do it regardless of right and wrong.

Of course it could also be argued that without intelligence you can no understand the meaning of right or wrong, or be able to predict the potential outcomes.

This brings us into a third version of wisdom. Instead of being concerned with external measures, you become more concerned with internal measures. Who am I being while I do this thing? If I am being true to myself, then then my actions are pure and I realise that the outcome is beyond my control. Yet if I can predict that my being true to myself will have horrid consequences on others, should I not seriously consider not being true to myself in order to save a majority of people?

Perhaps wisdom is more about balancing dilemmas than it is about knowing right, wrong and your true self. Yet without a level of intelligent insight, being wise is not really possible. Surely it is not possible to “know” the best course of action if you can not understand the best course of action? This leaves people who are fortuitously or instinctively “doing” the best course of action not actually “choosing” to do the best course of action. If you do not choose, does it count?

I believe that you can be intelligent without being at all wise, but you cannot be wise without being at all intelligent.