I asked this question on the psychology stack exchange, but was told this would be a better stack exchange for it. I subscribe to the theory that there are multiple types of intelligence. Is wisdom one type of intelligence? Or is wisdom something that is distinct from intelligence? I think it depends on the definition of intelligence and wisdom. Also, has there been any academic literature on the topic of wisdom and intelligence and the relationship between the two?

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    I like a quip by Russian philologist and literary critic Likhachev:"Wisdom is intelligence combined with kindness. Intelligence without kindness is cunning. Cunning gradually withers away and sooner or later turns against the cunning one himself. This is why cunning is forced to hide itself. Wisdom, on the other hand, is open and reliable." For philosophical interpretations of wisdom as knowledgeability, practical wherewithal, rationality, humility and combinations thereof see SEP, Wisdom.
    – Conifold
    Aug 22 at 19:53
  • I argue wisdom is the skill of solving dilemmas, & attaining it involves self-knowledge & an active practice of reconciling contradictory drives impulses & timeframes. See this answer: 'Wisdom and John Vervaeke's awakening from the meaning crises?' philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/82325/…
    – CriglCragl
    Aug 22 at 20:48

1 Answer 1


As far as uses of the words "wisdom" and "intelligence" go, there is usually something more fluid and specifics-minded about the former, with the latter having pragmatic connotations of mechanical generality (there is still a sensitivity to particulars, but unlike wisdom's patient responsiveness to whatever given situation, intelligence seeks to control situations in part by using more general information/knowledge). Since those distinctions (fluid/rigid, particularity-emphasizing/generalization-emphasizing) are more or less real in any event, then we can subsume them under some even higher term (c.f. the many and varied Greek family-resemblant terms episteme, noesis, gnosis, phronesis (that one has a touch of "wisdom" in Kant's senseK), and of course then sophia).

But then, abstracting over the two distinctions given above, we would be minded to come up with a name for a fluid-and-generalizing cognitive dynamic, as well as a rigid-and-particularizing one. Do we have other words ripe for application to these alternations? So one might cast about for, say, "contemplation" (fluid generality?) or "concentration" (rigid particularity?); or one might adapt "wisdom" to both fluidic categories and reserve "intelligence" for both of the "rigid" ones; etc.

Additionally, one can pair (wisdom, intelligence) somehow with (knowledge, understanding) such that if knowledge and understanding are different categories on some same level, then so too are wisdom and intelligence different categories on some same level; the other immediate option is to subsume knowledge under understanding, or understanding under knowledge, and then have wisdom over intelligence or intelligence over wisdom. There's a specter of faculty psychology in this kind of talk, though (c.f. distinguishing psyche from nous or pneuma, even), and so it would be good to look for supplementary (or replacement) terminology in neurology and cognitive science, too. I assume that there are brain "modules"(?) that we could tether variously to words like "wisdom" and "intelligence" separately, or better, we might get a grip on that taxonomy by analyzing brain activity modulo some brain's self-conscious entertaining of the words/concepts "wisdom"/"understanding" and "intelligence"/"knowledge." To wit, and to use a (horribly) naive example, suppose the brain "lit up" in one region, while pondering the philosophical definition of "intelligence," and then the same region "lit up" but to an extent that was embedded in the light show for the other "faculty." (Wikipedia includes a none-too-informative entry on neuroepistemology, which yet might have some decent pointers in its citations.)

KHe says in the first Critique: "Virtue and wisdom in their perfect purity are ideas. But the wise man of the Stoics is an ideal, that is to say, a human being existing only in thought and in complete conformity with the idea of wisdom."

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