Wisdom: Data or Process?

I vote for process. It’s given that gathering a knowledge database or prioritizing procedural execution depend upon experience (and therefore time). The chance of at least stumbling upon (in the worst case) an elegant solution still promotes a definite shift in favor of accelerated (and healthy) growth patterns. Exuberant data collection certainly improves sensory excellence, but it still may not entirely compensate so well for the (equally as likely, if not more so) chancing upon elegance. Laborious information collection may well easily be lapped by competent analysis.

I hope we might examine what are often perceived as (though not at all necessarily), conflicting aspects of knowledge and wisdom. Intelligence implies a gathering of information, while ascertaining wisdom more often demands the refining of process. Which do you find to be more important?

Nice topic!

While I think it’s obvious both are vital, your question was which is more important. Unfotunately, I think the answer to that is both. :slight_smile:

When past experience can be applied to the situation almost verbatim, then I think the data is more important. The more you have, the more likely it is that you’ll find a perfect or close match.

When it’s a unique situation, I think process is probably more important. You’re trying to use various snippets of data, weighing them according to how valid you think they fit a situation, and then trying to merge them together into a whole. I think it’s sort of a forecasting process.

I hope that made as much sense as it did to me (it is 4 AM here :)), and doesn’t come across as some new-age glurge.

Nice OP!

Feedback: The data-sorting process is itself modified by new data. The two are indivisible, as in any feedback system.

“He is a bookcase not a scholar.”

-Talmudic Proverb.

Critical thinking.

The ability to flexibly engage and to disengage in levels of abstraction such that every experience does not need to be learned anew and yet to avoid overgenralization.

To form and reference prototypes that allow us to organize our data and to organize our search for additional data. And to recognize that the prototype we’ve been using doesn’t fit anymore and to match or form a new one as needed.

To rotate, transform, and translate the shape of ideas into novel conceptual spaces and thus to create and imagine.

Such is the difference between an encyclopedia and a mind. Such is a requirement of wisdom.

Maybe it’s because I played AD&D as a kid, but I differentiate between intelligence and wisdom. I always saw intelligence as the ability to absorb information, or book smarts. Wisdom is how to apply the information you already have. Therefore, I agree with Zenster - process.

Process. More specifically, the ability to learn from your own mistakes (or successes).

Very rarely are we humans able to learn from the mistakes of others. We usually have to undergo the experience for ourselves in order to be convinced of the truth.

A truly wise man is one who can learn after his mistake the first time. Most of us are slow enough that we need repeated stumbles to make it sink in.

Personally, I’ve always felt that “wisdom” consists largely of the mental discipline required to postpone immediate gratification for a later, larger reward. e.g., investing money in a retirement account is a sign of wisdom.

Another example is keeping one’s temper against the immediate temtation to speak in anger: the immediate gratification (e.g. telling someone what a damn fool he is) might be outweighed by the long-term benefits (keeping a friend.)

I guess that these are more processes than data, so, re the op, that’s how I vote…


I personally don’t see the point of divorcing the two issues and giving one or the other more importance.

Take the concept of intelligence. A general dictionary definition suggests that it is the ability to gather and absorb information. Now, take wisdom. Wisdom is composed of insight and judgement based on the knowledge and experiences gathered. Are we in agreement so far?

Now, wisdom requires intelligence to exist. That is, you cannot say or do wise things unless you have a knowledge base to operate from. (Of course, there do exist cases of accidental wisdom, such as kids “saying the darndest things”, but these are excluded from my discussion.) So, I cannot make a wise choice unless I have a knowledge base provided by information A, B, and C, and an experience base provided by events X, Y, and Z.

Turn it the other way. I know lots and lots of things. I’ve read the Encyclopaedia Brittanica cover to cover and have managed to commit everything to memory; the knowledge and experiences of almost all of mankind are now resident in my brain. Unfortunately, I do not possess the ability to extrapolate. I am therefore a superb repository of information and not much more. No wisdom.

Wisdom cannot work without intelligence. Intelligence is not much good without wisdom. Both are, thus, very, very important.

It must be noted, however, that wisdom in our discussion so far seems to veer fairly close to common sense. If we define wisdom as something more ethereal, such as, for instance, the meaning of life that apocryphal “wise old men” go into the mountains to learn, then my vote for importance and relevance goes to intelligence.

Whichever it is, your Wisdom modifier is a straight add to your Will Saving Throw, so make sure you have enough of it.

Oops, I didn’t see this post:

Hmmm … “how to apply the information you already have” doesn’t really seem to be how the Wisdom score works in D&D/AD&D. In the game, Wisdom seems to be more a measure of the character’s willpower – and, as a side benefit, his ability to cajole his deity into giving him more spells to cast, if he’s a cleric.