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Intelligence vs. Wisdom

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Dr. Rob, Dec 10, 2009.

  1. Dr. Rob

    Dr. Rob
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    I see a lot of people in my practice (and personal life) who are incredibly intelligent, yet seem to miss the boat on what I call "real living." They have an incredible knowledge base, yet don't know how to apply it to achieve the goal of real happiness. I write about a few of these people (as you'll see, they are pretty bright) here:

    http://shrinktalk.net/?p=500

    My theory is that intelligence can only take you so far; instead, wisdom is the key to real happiness.

    Focus: Do you see a difference between intelligence and wisdom? Do either of them relate to happiness? How?
     
  2. Blue Dog

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    I have always thought that higher intelligence is something that is not present in everyone, and comes mostly from a person's ability to comprehend certain basic (and advanced) ideas and information, as well as the ability to communicate their interpretation of those things to others (whew, that sentence made me dizzy).

    Wisdom, on the other hand, while also not present in everyone, is knowledge that can be gained through experience, and therefore is accessible by all people.

    The example I would use would be akin to something you would hear in "Good Will Hunting". You can read everything there is to know and become an expert of a certain field (such as Matt Damon's knowledge of the works of Michelangelo), but can you really have an appreciation and true understanding of the subject without experiencing it for yourself?

    That's why I believe that wisdom leads to greater happiness than intelligence. I'd rather experience life than be an expert at it.
     
  3. Dcc001

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    I'd like to think that "wisdom" also implies some level of common sense.

    I see it everyday at work - people with a great deal of "intelligence," and yet no practical, common knowledge to implement any of their ideas (our customers, not our staff. Our staff are great). I agree with Blue Dog that widom is based on life experience and that the ability to be book smart doesn't in any way imply that you'll have your head out of your ass in the real world.

    We do design work in this office. My boss swears that he has better luck hiring a non-traditionally educated person with solid building materials experience as opposed to an engineering graduate, because the "layman" is far more likely to learn the software and codes quickly, as well as see the implications of their design choices in the real world.
     
  4. falconjets

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    Blue Dog pretty much said it.
    In school teachers/professors very commonly are mistakenly assumed to be the most intelligent person in the room. This is not always true.
    People say that we are more intelligent today than we were 200 years ago because they did not know about things such as the theory of relativity, but all that does it make Einstein more intelligent than his predecessors. If you gave me 12 calculators and 16 years there is no way in hell I was coming up with all of Newton's Laws, but when you put them in a textbook I can learn them pretty quickly. That makes me just as wise as Newton, but in no way more intelligent than him. I may be more intelligent than the person next to me who can't understand them even when taught though.
    This can also be shown by taking two people who will be assumed to have no knowledge of the Pythagorean Theorem.
    You would then draw a right triangle on the board and provide them with two side lengths and tell them to figure out the third side length. If one is able to understand the relationships between the sides and figures it out on his own then he is more intelligent than the other person. But, once he explains to the other person how to solve the problem, they both have the same level of wisdom.

    Intelligence - ability to acquire knowledge or figure out the unknown.
    Wisdom - the sum of your accumulated knowledge throughout the years

    If you wanted a formula for it i would say Intelligence X time spent learning = wisdom. (that would be spent learning not trying to learn, there's a difference)
     
  5. FoamyBologna

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    I think wisdom is the kind of thing that comes with a combination of age, experience, and intelligence. People that are considered "wise" have developed it often through trying things and failing, or through honest hard work. I had an older gentlemen tell me that new college graduates can be intelligent, but not very wise. I think that makes sense.
     
  6. McDermott

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    I would normally stay out of this kind of thread because I'm 22, and what the fuck do I know? That was my disclaimer.

    It seems that the most highly intelligent people I know are also the most miserable. That Dr. Rob article describes my parents almost perfectly. You will never meet two people more emotionally neglectful than my parents, and yet they're both masters of industry, extremely intelligent, capable and have nearly unlimited funds at their disposal. They're also both miserable as fuck, and hate eachother (and most other people). When they see me playing video games, eating fast food or leaving work until the last second their brains implode; they can't conceive of spending time in a wasteful manner.

    To drive this point home, I introduced Mad Men to my father. His comments on the show were as follows:

    "It's about a man that has sex with women and makes advertisements. He is also very quiet. His wife takes care of his children and he smokes and drinks a lot."

    That's what he's like about life. Life is a series of facts stacked back to back. Now I know it's naive to extrapolate that to all intelligent people but that seems to be the trend. Emotional intelligence and straight up intelligence seem to be inversely proportional; maybe intelligence and happiness are similarly correlated as well.
     
  7. Crown Royal

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    I will take wisdom over intelligence, because the big difference is that when they talk, an intelligent person almost always sounds like a much bigger asshole than a wise person.

    Intelligence is book smarts. Wisdom is street smarts. Who would YOU rather hang out with?
     
  8. The Village Idiot

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    Whenever these discussions spring up, I find it helpful to first find out exactly what the terms being discussed are defined as, or in this case, intelligence and wisdom.

    From Dictionary.com

    Based on their definitions, they're pretty close. The also share the antonym 'stupid.'

    I think it's important to note that especially in our current society, the popular view of 'intelligence' has taken on shades of 'book smarts.' I disagree with this assessment. Wisdom usually has shades of some old guy or gal with down home folksy wisdom, dispensing it to whomever will listen. But if we look at the first definition of wisdom, it uses itself as a definition. That's usually a red flag to indicate that it's a moving target. Look at definition 2 of wisdom, i.e. 'book smarts.'

    To me, intelligence and wisdom are the same thing. Usually, I see people confuse these terms in the following way: intelligence is knowing the choices, but wisdom is choosing the correct one.

    Incorrect. Under either definition, knowing the choices and the potential consequences of those choices, and then making the choice based on those consequences is either intelligence or wisdom. Being able to discern and determine what is the best choice.

    These two words have taken on the connotations, as noted above of 'book smart' and 'experience' and those definitions are just not doing justice to either concept.

    Intelligence is far more encompassing than book smarts. Mechanics have intelligence. Artists have intelligence, frankly, everybody who knows what they are doing in some way, shape or form has intelligence, or 'wisdom' if you prefer, in regards to that field or pursuit. However, as a society we deem 'intelligence' as formal learning, when in fact, wisdom has the same definition (see Number 2 definition, above).

    For example: An intelligent man knows that if he cheats, he may get caught and suffer consequences. A wise man would choose not to cheat. And to that I say ' bullshit.'

    An intelligent man wouldn't cheat either, if he wants his relationship to continue happily. If he gets caught, people will say he was stupid, the antonym of either intelligence or wisdom. In short, it's not a 'smart' move.
     
  9. nooneuknow

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    DISCLAIMER: I'm also probably too young for this discussion but it's something I've thought a lot about throughout my short life.

    I tend to agree with parts of what everyone else has said so far, but I especially agree with The Village Idiot. I think we colloquially define intelligence and wisdom differently, but that they're actually very closely linked. I believe this arises from the fact that people generally consider someone intelligent based on an incomplete set of characteristics. For example, calling someone booksmart because they can memorize a text book and regurgitate it on command, does not mean that such a person can correctly apply the information they learned or reason it's necessity (beyond the scope of getting a good grade). Not only is this type of person unintelligent, they've also completely missed the point of education. I define intelligence (or booksmarts) as using what you have learned (through experience or education) to reason about the world and solve problems.

    There's definitely something to be said about the difference between what someone called emotional intelligence and booksmarts. I refer to emotional intelligence or street-smarts as social intelligence. People who read others well and use their understanding of the human psyche to solve problems are socially intelligent. These types of people are not necessarily adept at solving a math problem, for example. That doesn't mean that one type is more intelligent than the other.

    While it may be possible to be intelligent and not wise, I find it impossible to accept that a wise person is unintelligent. An intelligent person can be very self-serving and only care about solving the problem at hand. Thus, when an intelligent person makes a decision (whether it's "correct" or not), they're not worrying about what this could mean for the future. However, I consider wisdom to be understanding the consequences of those decisions. The wise have a clear view of the bigger picture.

    Some may argue that you can be wise and not intelligent. I argue that a person can do or say something that others consider wise, but that doesn't mean they are wise themselves. Take for example children. It's not uncommon for kids to say things that adults consider wise. But is it really wisdom if the "wise" is completely unaware? A child doesn't understand the implications of the things they say. The wisdom is in those who can identify an action as wise.

    *I don't know where all that came from...
     
  10. lust4life

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    "Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens."

    I think you can have intelligence without wisdom, but not wisdom without intelligence. Wisdom comes from personal experience, but if you don't have the intellect to understand and appreciate it for what it truly is, is it wisdom?
     
  11. Beefy Phil

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    And you can be old, but not very wise. I reject the idea that age begets wisdom. It's a contributing factor, certainly, but the mere fact that someone has lived to 60 without dying doesn't mean they've spent six decades worth of time meaningfully. Certain lessons in life are practically unavoidable, but there are enough ways to dodge self-reflection and the expansion of one's mind that simply punching the clock day in and day out shouldn't earn one the benefit of the doubt. Age means nothing if you lack the broad perspective needed to attain real wisdom.
     
  12. LessTalk MoreStab

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    Someone once said to me "Don't tell me what to do I’ve 10 years experience!" I said “No, you’ve had 1 years experience 10 times”.

    Intelligence is the size of your bucket, wisdom is how full it is.
     
  13. Allord

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    Alright, let me just put a disclaimer here right at the top of my post because, even before writing it, I know this will probably be a long one. The disclaimer is that I've just finished reading "The Mismeasure of Man" by Stephen Jay Gould, a fascinatingly informative look at the measurement, or mismeasurement as it were, of human mental capacity from craniology and phrenology to IQ and intelligence. In essence my current perspective will heavily reflect this.

    The thing we have to realize right away is that when we are speaking about both wisdom and intelligence what we are really talking about is knowledge. By this I don't mean that either wisdom or intelligence is merely the sum total of all the things you know, instead what I'm saying is that intelligence and wisdom are learned behaviors, in other words you have to obtain the knowledge of how to obtain knowledge to be efficient at obtaining knowledge. This may not seem apparent, but that is because this kind of knowledge forms over our entire lives from birth to death and is therefore as imperceptible and subconscious as water is to a fish.

    A comparable example is the idea of logic. Logic was defined and laid out by Aristotle as basically consisting of four types of statements. A statement could either talk about everything or about something, and in either case the statement could be either true or false. This is so intrinsically integrated into our lives through just about every interaction and concept we learn that we take it totally for granted and don't even realize that we are using a systemized process of thought to make decisions until it is pointed out to us. The example historical situation being the city of Bologna in the 11th century rediscovering the concept of logic from the conquest and acquisition of Muslim, and formerly Roman, and formerly Greek knowledge. The idea of logic was a godsend and allowed them to solve disputes, set up systems of laws, set up their university etc etc etc. The point is that logic is not intrinsic and must be learned but it is subconscious in the minds of people from our society due to ubiquity. Intelligence knowledge and wisdom knowledge is the same, and is evidenced by the fact that studies show that people can be trained to increase their perceived intelligence.

    The other thing we have to realize is that "intelligence" as people often colloquially use the term is either in direct reference to, or an allusion to, IQ, which is the idea that there is a single measurable value to describe the potential of a person to acquire other forms of knowledge. In fact this is a mistake of humans tendency towards reification, trying to lump together and describe large series of concepts in all-encompassing terms that are ultimately meaningless. But even if you recognize that intelligence is not a centralized phenomenon within the brain and that it is spread into regions of hyperspecificity the idea of "intelligent" or "unintelligent" is still an averaging of what may be vastly disparately-abled functions, so the term is fundamentally fraught with this idea that we can lump and approximate which means it is an astoundingly inaccurate form of measurement.



    Instead this is what I would propose as more accurate terminology:

    Intelligence - the ability to learn (which Gould argues is in itself learned but for our purposes this is not really the discussion).
    Wisdom - the skill of effectively applying learned knowledge.

    Even these two definitions should not be taken as general values, and instead broken down into functional categories of knowledge and function. An example would be that someone who is musically intelligent is able to quickly understand and appreciate the intricacies of a piece of music, while a person who is musically wise would be able to either write, play, or critique music using their musical knowledge.

    Even just the term "knowledge" needs to be broken down to be accurate (in my own terms):

    Primary knowledge (Practical) - knowledge that directly translates into real life application.
    Secondary knowledge (Theoretical) - Knowledge of grand concepts and general patterns not directly applicable to life, but instead applicable to the interpretation and organization of other primary and secondary knowledge.

    And then the way this knowledge is obtained can be broken down, since neither of these two types of knowledge mandate a particular method of acquisition. My terms:

    Primary learning - Acquisition of knowledge through personal experience, personal experimentation, or personal interpretation of your own perceptions.
    Secondary learning - Acquisition of knowledge through someone else's experience, experimentation, or interpretation such as through a book, a movie, or a conversation.

    Intelligence and Wisdom are not perfect opposites, and a reference to either could be referring to any of the above listed categories. Even in this thread thus far people have been referring to intelligence without wisdom as being "lacking common sense" or "poor intuition". This is not quite correct since these arguments are using the wrong terminology, equating intelligence to secondary knowledge and equating wisdom to the wise applicaton of primary knowledge The arguments by some posts previous attributing those with "high intelligence, but low wisdom" are really talking about "A person who demonstrates vast primary and secondary knowledge in their field, but little primary knowledge of social or other application". A socially retarded sociology major would have a large store of secondary social knowledge with a virtually nonexistent store of primary social knowledge.

    Here is a demonstration scenario of how my categories would be used:

    A boy touches a hot pan, burns himself and realizes that he should not touch hot pans.

    The knowledge gained by the boy was primary knowledge gained through primary learning that was a result of his intelligence allowing him to connect the dots that "touching this hot pan burned my hand" and then his wisdom connected the dots from that new primary knowledge to the primary knowledge of "I should not touch this hot pan" and his wisdom further moved to the secondary knowledge "I should not touch hot pans".

    If the boy were to go to his friend and tell him this story the friend would obtain secondary knowledge through secondary learning about the friend's experience and if he was wise he would gain his own secondary knowledge that "I should not do what he did".

    I could therefore argue in theory that experience isn't necessary for wisdom, but if I had more than 30 minutes to edit my post I would also illustrate that secondary knowledge built upon secondary knowledge tends to drift further and further into nonapliccable and bizarre conclusions that become impractically abstract and meaningless, so primary learning is important to keep wisdom grounded in reality.

    I'm going to stop going into examples, there are too many I can think of to just list them all.

    Tl; dr: "Intelligence" and "Wisdom" are broad terms that mean different things in different colloquial contexts, and I believe the terms need to be broken down into simpler categories in order to make argument practical.

    [​IMG]

    Tl; dr of Tl; dr: Tiger Woods fucked up.
     
  14. Allord

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    Oh I can't resist, just one example of wisdom-isolated-from-experience going wild.

    I have seen that tree 1 has green leaves (Primary knowledge)
    I have seen that tree 2, 3, and 4 also have green leaves (Primary knowledge)
    I deduce that all trees have green leaves (Secondary knowledge)
    I have seen a green car (Primary knowledge)
    I deduce that a car is a type of leaf (Secondary knowledge)
    I deduce that since the car is a leaf, the rest of the tree must be somewhere (Secondary knowledge)
    I deduce that since I've never seen them they must be invisible (Secondary knowledge)

    I am now of the opinion that cars grow on invisible trees.
     
  15. thatone

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    Intelligence is (somewhat) measurable. IQ scores, examination results, class marks, honours, masters, PHDs. If I attend an institution of higher learning, excel and earn top marks, I'm smart. Boom, I shit on your prostitute mother with my mental muscles.


    Wisdom. You can't measure that shit. Wisdom only comes through learning hard lessons. It is the preserve of people who make big mistakes. Being wise is just a result of having been a fuck-up.
     
  16. 6PPC

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    I classify this into three categories:

    1. There is the book smart person, with a lot of knowledge but doesn't know how to apply the knowledge. I know several book smart people who seem to fail basic logic and are naive. I think of these people as intellectuals.

    2. Then there is the intelligent person with a good understanding of how to apply his/her knowledge and can user their logic and problem solving skills in life.

    3. And then we have wisdom: the understand of ones experiences or learning from other people's experience. A wise person is a #2 type person with experience and self awareness (i.e. self honesty, learning from mistakes, controlling the ego, etc).
     
  17. Temerarious

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    I have the feeling that schools are at the base of this issue, and maybe the reason why many possess little wisdom and only intelligence, why people who possess lots of intelligence still fail at life, and why so many young people lack wisdom.

    I tutor small groups of kids in a public high school. I help them with questions they have from their coursework, and we also have group discussions. The questions they ask for help with often come directly from their class material, and so those questions always focus on the "intelligence" side of things. When we have group discussions, our topics always come from the "intelligence" category, but the discussion frequently ends up veering off in the "wisdom" direction. (FYI: I am more of a moderator. The kids themselves lead the actual discussion, so I am not the one pushing things in any one direction).

    I don't think I even need to tell you that the discussion and group participation become much more lively and involved when we start to discuss "wisdom" topics. This would suggest that the kids are hungry to learn wisdom, and that they also seem to be jaded with just being spoon fed "intelligence."

    Are kids being taught too much "intelligence" and not enough "wisdom" in school?

    I might say yes. Intelligence is important, but wisdom will teach you what to do with it. The problem of people possessing mostly intelligence and little wisdom is probably being exacerbated by the way things are done. It also brings up the question: are we holding back the potential of the really intelligent kids by not teaching them wisdom? Is this why lots of already intelligent kids stop trying in school, because they are hungry for wisdom and don't receive it? I have the feeling that many of you might have been part of this group.

    To relate this all to the focus, I would say that there definitely is a difference between intelligence and wisdom, a difference that is usually easy to see. Both of them contribute to happiness, but maybe the reason why we're even having this discussion is that growing up we weren't taught wisdom the way we should have been.

    If wisdom is so important, the question then is: growing up, when we learn most of this stuff, should we learn more wisdom at the cost of learning less intelligence?
     
  18. Disgustipated

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    The way intelligence versus wisdom was explained to me many years ago, albeit simplistically, has always rung true.

    Intelligence is knowing that the drops of water falling from the sky is rain.
    Wisdom is knowing to get out of it before you get wet and cold.

    To me, happiness comes more from wisdom than intelligence. Everyone has a measure of both, but I find people with more wisdom (call it common sense, learned experience or what have you) are generally calmer and more at peace with the world around them.

    That being said, I think ignorance has a great effect on happiness too. It may be a false sense of security, but I find that some of the most ignorant people out there in society are also some of the happiest. Which, of course, is a complete travesty of justice but that is how life works.
     
  19. SaintBastard

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    Intelligence is required to do something smart. Wisdom is required to not do something stupid.