Philosophy - How wisdom leads us towards truth


This article discusses the philosophical question of how wisdom can help us get to the truth or the essence behind every object. The common fallacy of equating wisdom and knowledge has been sought to be corrected while discussing the concept of truth. The objective of writing this article is simply to know the significance of wisdom. Read on to know more.

It is a common fallacy to equate knowledge and wisdom. There is a fundamental difference between the two concepts. Someone had once rightly said, "Knowledge is proud that it knows so much; wisdom is humble that it only knows so much." This saying puts wisdom at a much higher level, almost at a saintly or at a god-like level. But let us be dispassionate and try to delineate the features of wisdom so that we can try and define it.

Wisdom is distinct from merely possessing a plethora of facts and information on various topics. Wisdom is the recognition of the unity of all things, the holistic nature of parts. A wise man will never try to divide disciplines into compartments like science and humanities (as I have already indicated about important myths that you should never believe). All disciplines point us to some aspects of the truth.

Moreover, a wise person recognizes the limits of knowledge. Each and everything cannot be known. A wise person doesn't seek a finality of knowledge. He is not like the religious preceptors who invent stories to explain the whence and whereabouts of the universe and thus claim to possess all knowledge.

Lastly, a wise person recognizes that there can be numerous interpretations of the truth. Each of us is ultimately an ordinary mortal in this boundless ocean of life. We are so insignificant that when we try to grasp at the reality we can only grasp at a part of it, never the entire whole. We are just like the group of blind men who grasped at various parts of an elephant and ended up thinking an elephant to be shaped like a fan, a rope or a pillar, depending on the part of the body there were holding on to. A wise man recognizes this and thus respects the various interpretations of truth.

But then what is the truth?

So far we have discussed the characteristics of wisdom. It was an important preliminary discussion. One frequent word that has been coming up has been 'truth'. We are supposed to find out the truth underlying our existence. What does this truth consist of? For this article, the word truth shall have no boundaries of meaning. We shall think of truth in the same light in which the wise saints of yesteryear thought of. Why did we come into existence? What is our role? What should be the ultimate purpose of our life? What does greatness consist of? Or truth might even consist of the truth behind the more humble affairs of day to day life.

These questions might seem boring and disconnected from real life, but getting to the truth behind these questions can save us from a lot of trouble. Think about all the dark spots of the past and the present – murderers, robbers and political despots. These evils would probably never have arisen had we sincerely looked for the answer to these questions. And all the present-day problems – depression, lack of job satisfaction, academic failures, and inability to find satisfaction in our relationships – most of these might have been solved if we had looked for the 'truth'.

Therefore we must look for the truth. We must look for the truth which is indestructible, that is unique for each of us as well as all-encompassing. We should strip everything off their physical qualities and look at the essence underneath. This truth is extremely hard to arrive at, but as we shall soon see, wisdom can lead us towards it.

Wisdom and the pursuit of truth

In his book 'Republic', Plato discusses the notion of a just state. As the discussions continue on and on, at one point, the main characters begin to discuss art. Soon it was said that an artist cannot express the truth, as he only looks at the subject from one angle whereas the truth is multifaceted. In other words, the truth has multiple interpretations, no one being perfectly right or wrong.

Just read the last line of the previous paragraph and then re-read the description of a wise man that we have been discussing in the first section. A wise man must have the ability to recognize multiple interpretations of truth. He should be able to recognize that each aspect offers some part of the truth. He should be able to combine the various aspects to form a holistic combination. This pursuit of truth, in other words, trying to find our role and purpose in life or even trying to find out the essence of anything in general, is not easy. In this pursuit, we are liable to make mistakes. A wise man can admit his mistakes. In this process, he ends up much closer to the truth.

Conclusion

There have been many wise men in the history of the world. Among the ones in the recent past, particularly from our part of the world, Gandhi figures prominently. He was as much a saint as a political leader. He could tolerate views different from his own and sometimes even partially accept those views (as in the case of the Congress Socialists). He could admit his mistakes whenever he found he had committed one. But was he able to find the ultimate truth the ultimate essence of humanity's existence?

There are doubts regarding this and many may consider Gandhi's injunction of "Renounce and Enjoy" to be impractical. Yet as a man possessing tremendous wisdom he must have moved closer to the truth than any of us ever have. Herein lies the power of wisdom. A wise man is always closer to the truth than an unwise one. Maybe with the aid of wisdom humanity will one day be able to achieve truth and thus secure complete happiness.


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Comments

Author: Umesh10 Oct 2019 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 7

A nice article by the author bringing out the value and importance of wisdom which is sometimes confused as knowledge by a few of us. Whatever knowledge we gain in life and whatever experience we gain while utilising that knowledge in our day to day and other specific projects ultimately culminates in making us wise. Wisdom is a life long earned thing by a person and it can be found out from the available lot as who is wiser than others. Unfortunately, wisdom is not distributed uniformly in the humans as it is not bestowed but is to be earned. Many people get wiser with age though there are some unfortunate ones who remain dull and unwise till their death.

Wise people are respected in the society and people take their advice for many problem situations. They give very useful and practical suggestions backed by their life long experiences in various worldly matters. Wise people are the grace of our society. They show extraordinary patience and politeness in their behaviour. They are always very clear in their thinking and not biased. In case of any confusion and doubts, we must consult the wise people as they will find the truth and tell us to act accordingly.

Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao08 Dec 2019 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 4

A very nice article explaining the difference between wisdom and knowledge. An educated man should become wise using his experience. Many of the human beings will become wise by studying the situations in different ways and coming to a conclusion which is very near to the truth. A wise man will always try to understand the point in the argument of authors and never feel or say that whatever he knows as the ultimate. He always tries to know more and more and never feel that he learned everything. So we can't say an educated man is a wise man.

A king, while going in his vehicle, saw an old man trying to plant a mango tree. He stopped the vehicle and asked the old man why he was planting a tree at this age because it would take years to give crop. The old man said that his grandfather planted a tree and he enjoyed the fruits of that tree and that his grandchildren would enjoy the fruits of the tree he planted. The king may be more educated than the old man but the old man is wise.



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