Well, i mean to ask, that is a clever person....a wise one naturally or not?

Is it necessary for a very wise person to be very clever also?


5 Answers 5


One of the primal figures of "cleverness" in the classical tradition is, of course, Ulysses, who concocts innumerable strategies, outsmarts the rival suitors, and employs wordplay to escape the brutish Polyphemus. Yet he is not at all a mythical "trickster" figure, and Homer calls him "the wisest" of the Greeks. Later, he makes a walk-on appearance in the role of "sadder-but-wiser" man at the end of Plato's Republic.

One might argue that "cleverness" becomes distinguished from "wisdom" or "sophia" by the sturdy "sophia-phile," Socrates, whose acrobatic dialectics struggle to separate lasting truths from the clever logic-play of the paid Sophists, whose aim, modeled on the law courts, was merely to persuade. Yet Socrates can only promote "wisdom" not by oracular pronouncements (well, there are a few) or positive propositions, but by clever, jujitsu displays of argumentation and a process of elimination, the "negation of negation," if you will.

So yes, cleverness here appears as a part of the classical drama of wisdom, but a part only. Its limit, perhaps, is the problem of self-reference. No conceptual scheme alone, as Russell and others have shown, can define or secure itself. Thus all such systems, however cleverly mastered or initially persuasive, fall short of Socrates' impossible-yet-necessary mandate to "know thyself."

I would suggest that wisdom, unlike any sort of cleverness, skill, or talent, is marked by this paradoxical, mortal "necessity of the impossible." A proposal that is obviously a bit too clever.

  • Concerning the question whether - according to Homer - Ulysses is a trickster one can refer to odyssey, book XIII, verse 291ff. Athena compliments Ulysses for his trickiness. Of course, trickiness presupposes cleverness to be successfull.
    – Jo Wehler
    Sep 2, 2015 at 19:32

(It is difficult to discuss the ideas of wisdom and cleverness without also including intelligence, so lets add that in.)

Cleverness is the ability to think on your feet and overcome obstacles in non-intuitive ways. Bypassing a locked door by picking the lock or finding an unlocked window would fall into this category.

Intelligence is a general ability to take in, process, filter, and recall useful information. Deciding to wait to break into this room until evening, when most employees have gone home and the security guard is on dinner break would fall into this category.

Wisdom is the ability to predict the general outcome of a particular action (or series of actions), especially when it comes to avoiding negative results and unintended consequences. Deciding to not break into that room, because nothing within is worth getting arrested would fall into this category.

In other words, they each represent the ability to determine the "best" course of action, within certain timeframes. Within a very short timeframe, repercussions are largely meaningless, so the "best" answer is whatever will get you into the room quickly and efficiently without alerting anyone (clever). Within a medium timeframe, the "best" answer is to take precautions to reduce the chances of being detected (intelligence). In the long term, the "best" answer is to not do things which will eventually get you put in prison (wisdom).

They're all related, and there is certainly some overlap. However, often those great at short timeframe problem-solving fail at anticipating negative outcomes of their actions.


My short answer: Cleverness is part of wisdom. The latter is clever reflection of one's own experience of life.


I think it may be fair to say that you are wise when you find yourself clever enough to no longer need to be clever in life.


According to Merriam Webster dictionary, being wise is "having or showing wisdom or knowledge usually from learning or experiencing many things" while a clever person is "intelligent and able to learn things quickly."

I associate wisdom with experience and age, and not only having lived through many experiences but also to have done so with an openness towards them and learning from them. It's not having great academic knowledge or having a high IQ, but having been there and done that, and observed and learned—to have lived consciously and graduated from from life's laboratory with flying colors.

It only logically follows that a wise person must have some basic level of intelligence and "cleverness", but beyond that, wisdom is not mainly about quickness of perception and judgment.

As an aside point, I prefer to use the word "intelligent" instead of "clever", as clever has other associations, such as with trickery and superficiality, as in, "a clever excuse for skipping school."

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