"Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" —T.S. Eliot. Knowledge is gathered from learning and education, while most say that wisdom is gathered from day-to-day experiences and is a state of being wise. Knowledge is merely having clarity of facts and truths, while wisdom is the practical ability to make consistently good decisions in life.
|Meaning||Knowledge is information of which someone is aware. Knowledge is also used to mean the confident understanding of a subject, potentially with the ability to use it for a specific purpose.||Wisdom is the ability to make correct judgments and decisions. It is an intangible quality gained through our experiences in life.|
|Time||Allows for change in response to new information or analyses. Seeks to always improve.||Timeless. Wisdom is "Who we are" vs. "What we do" Wisdom governs choice, pursuit of knowledge, communication and relationships.|
|Source||Learning, education, science, reflection, reasoned and logical thought.||Self. Intuition. Our personal experience. Wisdom defines and refines our character. "Character is simply who we are and is the persona and identity of everything we do."|
- Knowing or understanding something, especially about a particular subject
- Having awareness of facts and/or truths
- Something that can be known, information
- The state of being wise
- The ability to use knowledge and/or experience intelligently
- Capable of determining what is wise vs. what is unwise
- A saying, philosophy, or other advice that is considered wise
Knowledge is gained through learning facts. Someone who knows a lot about a certain subject, such as science or history, can be considered knowledgeable. Information found online or in books can help someone expand her knowledge on a topic.
Wisdom comes from observing experiences and learning from them in a way that affects future decisions and behavior; it is the capacity to see the truth of a matter, in spite of any illusions or distractions. For example, someone might spend beyond his means and end up in unnecessary debt, but if he is wise this will only ever happen to him once, as he will have learned from his mistake; in the future, he will save his money before he spends it carelessly. An even wiser person might avoid such a mistake altogether by listening to the wisdom of others or by wisely choosing to seek information (knowledge) on how to properly manage finances.
Oftentimes, wisdom is passed down in cultures in the form of common sayings, philosophical phrases, and quotes, such as aphorisms and proverbs. (One popular English proverb, for example, is "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.") However, whether such wisdom is absorbed, believed, and applied depends on the individual.
How Time Affects Knowledge and Wisdom
Both knowledge and wisdom are said to increase over time, as in a person knows more at 20 than he did at 10, or is wiser at 50 than she was at 25. However, time has a more direct correlation with knowledge than with wisdom.
It is commonly accepted that a person who spends 20 years studying a topic knows more than someone who has spent only 5 years on the same subject matter. Experiences over time are also a key factor when it comes to wisdom, but the correlation is not so direct. In general, more time equals more knowledge, but more time doesn't guarantee wisdom; someone may very well make the same mistake at 60 that he did at 20. The reason for this is that knowledge is often a passive acquisition of data or facts, whereas wisdom requires the additional steps of applying judgment and drawing conclusions or changing behavior accordingly.
Time can also affect knowledge and wisdom in a negative way, as facts and data can change over time or be forgotten. Wisdom tends to be less negatively affected, though, for once a person is seen as "wise," they are generally regarded as such indefinitely. However, as wisdom is subjective and context-based, changing times can result in being "out of touch" with the times. For example, in the past, the wise solution to an unwanted pregnancy was a quick marriage, whereas in modern times, a wise solution may entail abortion, adoption, or embracing single parenthood.
Wisdom and knowledge are linked. Wisdom is enhanced by knowledge and the ability to acquire knowledge effectively. But wisdom is also the ability to use knowledge in a practical and productive manner. Knowledge is often considered to be "externally generated," meaning that it comes primarily from outside sources, such as books, classroom lectures, videos, etc. On the other hand, wisdom is deemed to come primarily from "internal sources," meaning one's own introspective thinking, analysis, and judgment. Wisdom cannot be acquired and applied without knowledge, but knowledge isn't necessarily guided or enhanced by wisdom.
Applying Knowledge and Wisdom
The application of knowledge is often a matter of finding or knowing the right facts, meaning that there is a distinct difference between the "right" and "wrong" facts. In contrast, wisdom often requires much more than facts to perceive and choose the "right" action or to avoid the "wrong" action. The factors involved may include speculation, feelings, and moral or ethical values. In this general sense, applying knowledge tends to be a much simpler process.
An example of applying knowledge can be found in the development of nuclear bombs, which were the end result of thousands or perhaps millions of steps. Following this development, the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is sometimes understood as being wise, under the notion that these acts shortened World War II and thus saved thousands or even millions of lives. In terms of knowledge, the end result (the atom bomb being made) is obvious, but in terms of whether applying that knowledge was wise or not is still unclear and subject to intense debate.