Knowledge vs. Wisdom

A new semester has started, which, though stressful, always gives me fodder for introspection and thought.

Yesterday, my writing professor expressed his belief that our society today is more focused on knowledge than it is wisdom. By wisdom, he meant, essentially, “knowledge with feeling.” He believes that wisdom is knowledge plus some unlocking of the human myster.

In thinking this over, I realize that, on the whole,  I must disagree.

I value knowledge, I do. As a member of the skeptical community and a huge fan of science, I hold it in high regard. But I can’t think of many people in that community who don’t appreciate the passion of knowledge, the art of gaining it, or the imperative to advance it. There is a deep desire to understand the human mystery, the complex workings of the human psyche that drives much of the quest for knowledge.

My professor is right that there is little to be gained emotionally from a stream of facts, useful or otherwise. But the people who truly value knowledge and understanding, at least those that I see advancing the cause today, have deep feeling for its necessity in society. It is not a push for knowledge, just for the sake of having more knowledge. It is a need to have more knowledge that will tell us about the human past and the human future. It is about bettering the experience of living through medicine and music and all branches of science and art.

On the other hand, I must disagree that there is genuinely an emphasis on knowledge nowadays. That is why my community of skeptics are so passionate about passing it on. People rely too heavily on feeling, which does not equate to wisdom or knowledge. Society seems to be shunning strong, good, evidenced knowledge for errant feeling. This is a great source of woo-mongerers today. They push bad information, calling it knowledge, based solely on feelings that are contradictory to all evidence.

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