I was not sure if the distinction/emergence of wisdom from knowledge gives it any additional or different reasons for being one or the other.

So I suppose more specifically, if it helps: if wisdom is based upon knowledge, does that give it any more or different reasons than knowledge in regards to being a priori or posteriori?

  • Wisdom may not be acquired entirely from posteriori experiences, but the study of the intricate relation between a priori and posteriori certainly may enhance one's wisdom. Depending on one's certain a priori assumption about statistical sampling, according to Doomsday argument (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doomsday_argument), one may have totally different conclusions about whether human race are doomed in the near future up to 8 million years from now or not... May 11, 2021 at 3:32
  • Is wisdom based on knowledge? One can be wise without knowing much. Arguably, it is the other way around, one needs to have at least some wisdom to gain any knowledge, it is an ability, a skill of good judgment that enables learning, among other things. And if knowledge can have both aspects, a priori and a posteriori, why should wisdom be any different?
    – Conifold
    May 13, 2021 at 11:40

2 Answers 2


I don't think I would use a priori or a posteriori here; I generally hold that wisdom is based on understanding, not on knowledge.

For a somewhat trite analogy, consider that we can gain a tremendous amount of 'knowledge' about how a baseball is thrown by studying bones, muscles, and neurons. But all of that knowledge is tangential to the act of picking up a baseball and throwing it. When we pick up a baseball and throw it, we 'understand' the act in a way that doesn't rely on formal knowledge at all. We're obviously not born with the ability to throw a baseball, but we also don't 'learn' it in our high school physics classes.

Wisdom as it's typically understood operates in much the same way. But rather than being an organic biophysical understanding, it's an organic moral or sociological understanding. We come to understand what to do as we develop our innate humanness; we don't have to work it out in some intellectual fashion.

  • Why wouldn't you apply a priori and a posteriori to understanding? Kant's a priori concepts are pure concepts of the understanding. It is understanding that frames and shapes knowledge on his account. And what you seem to be saying, in contrast, is that understanding and wisdom are a posteriori.
    – Conifold
    May 13, 2021 at 11:33
  • @conifold: I see 'wisdom' and 'knowledge' as being as being separate cognitive capacities that develop along different paths. One of the problems with modern theories of mind (IMO) is that they tend to think in terms of a monolithic 'intelligence' which generally reduces to formal reasoning. In that context, wisdom either exists as an innate (a priori) 'intelligence' or an advanced (a posteriori) 'intelligence'. But if 'understanding' developed in parallel to 'reasoned intellect', so that one might have one or the other or both to varying degrees, how can wisdom be a priori? May 13, 2021 at 14:38

Wisdom is like beauty: it's in the eye of the beholder. There are no objective criteria for judging either. You question is moot.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .