It is clear from Big Internet Search Engine that not all knowledge is considered wisdom but, can some knowledge be foolish?

"Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else ... Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom." -Hermann Hesse, German novelist, poet, and painter

Other fields outside of philosophy have something to say on wisdom but, what does philosophy say about knowledge being foolish?

"Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom." ~ Charles H. Spurgeon

  • Since my answer did not, it seems, answer your direct question, I have deleted it.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Apr 11 '18 at 13:26
  • @GeoffreyThomas Oh, I am sure that wasn't necessary. I certainly found it informative and worth reading. I would just have appreciated one additional paragraph to address knowledge -> foolishness.
    – Willtech
    Apr 11 '18 at 21:42
  • 1
    Thank you for your courteous reply. It's just that 'move into the direct territory of the posed question' appeared to suggest that I had not answered the question at all. I realise now that you meant I had not addressed the full question since I had omitted to comment on foolishness. And it's true, I hadn't. I'll restore the question and see what I might be able to say about foolishness. Apologies : GT
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Apr 11 '18 at 22:18
  • Philosophy is not an entity. It doesn't say anything.
    – Wildcard
    Apr 25 '18 at 23:13

It says a great deal. Take for instance Platos criticism of writing in the Phaedrus:

If men learn this it will implant forgetfulness in the soul because they will rely on that which is written calling things to remembrence that which no longer lies within themselves, but by means of external marks.

This goes even more so today when the Net & social media is prevalent. Vargas Lhosa has also written about this in his book, Notes on Culture. It's also satirised in EM Forsters short story, The Machine Stops.

Knowledge is not knowledge until it is implanted within the soul and able to be called forth for right action at the right time.

  • Nice answer. I wonder if it's correct to say that knowledge is an object while wisdom is a skill.
    – user20253
    Apr 2 '18 at 12:55
  • @PeterJ: Interesting distinction; I was going to make a further point how Plato points out in The Statesman, that the key skill of the statesman is wisdom. It's the techne that allows every other techne to flourish; but the effort of explaining this defeated me on a Monday morning. Apr 2 '18 at 13:06
  • I take from the quote that once again English is insufficient at giving sufficient flavour of words. To "know", to be, for knowledge to be borne within to cause action, compared to; to "know", to learn parrot fashion without having to know (from the first know) it. And, that Platos is concerned that knowledge will no longer need to be known. I hear that in Greek there are ten different words English subscribes simply to love.
    – Willtech
    Apr 3 '18 at 10:43

'Not all knowledge is wisdom'


By this I mean that, as I understand 'wisdom' and as I think it is generally understood, wisdom is a synthesis or combination of intelligence and sound judgement. There is no direct link with knowledge. I'd accept that sound judgement depends to some extent on knowledge; you can hardly make a sound judgement except accidentally about something of which you have no or only superficial knowledge. But this suggests a kind of causal dependence; knowledge is among the necessary conditions for sound judgement. But that doesn't make for a conceptual link between them. It doesn't make wisdom a variety of knowledge or knowledge a variety of wisdom. Knowledge and wisdom are different kinds of thing, hence my description of them as categorically different.


If knowledge is causally necessary for sound judgement, which is a part of wisdom, it is certainly not sufficient. No matter how many justified, true beliefs one has about a subject, or however one defines propositional knowledge, no amount of such knowledge will of itself yield sound judgement. I may have world-class knowledge about the international banking and investment scene and yet have no reliable sense of what stock to buy or which pension scheme to invest in.


If I have medical degree or a master's in particle physics, I will be counted as knowledgeable about the relevant matters 'from China to Peru' (to purloin Dr Johnson's phrase). Wisdom by contrast is dependent, or more dependent, on social framework or context. What counts as, and is, sound judgement in political manoeuvring is not the same in Russia as in India or in India as in the USA.


Just as sound judgement is not identical with knowledge, though it causally depends on knowledge, so intelligence, the other component of wisdom, is not identical with knowledge. If I have an IQ of 120 or 140, does either figure tell you what or how much I know ? IQ tests aside, there are 'incredibly bright' people who not only do not have sound judgement but also do not know much either. Take an intensely intelligent slum-child in Victorian England : high intelligence, but no education, illiterate and with virtually no knowledge.

  • I believe that you are on the right track with your answer. Can you please extend it a bit more to move into the direct territory of the posed question?
    – Willtech
    Apr 11 '18 at 11:33

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