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Saturday, April 11, 2020

Wisdom is Expressed in the Practical

Alice C. Linsley

It is said that Philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom. I taught Philosophy for 14 years I doubt that my students took the courses because they were motivated to pursue wisdom.

Wisdom is not valued in our time because it is perceived as impractical. Fortunately, some educators and employers have begun to see Philosophy's value in the sharpening of the intellect.

Aristotle recognized that wisdom is born of experience. In Nicomachean Ethics he wrote:

While young men do indeed become good geometers and mathematicians and attain theoretical wisdom in such matters, they do not attain practical wisdom. The reason is that practical wisdom is concerned with particulars as well as with universals, and knowledge of particulars comes from experience.

Therefore we ought to pay as much attention to the sayings and opinions, undemonstrated though they are, of wise and experienced older men as we do to demonstrated truths. For experience has  given such men an eye with which they can see correctly. 

For the ancients, wisdom was not intellectual, but practical. It meant reading the stars to predict seasonal changes that affect agriculture. It involved understanding tensile strengths of metals and different rocks. Wisdom built the pyramids using geometry. Wisdom excavated mines. Wisdom enlarged herds through animal husbandry. Wisdom conquered the Nile and the seas through the development of sailing. Wisdom pioneered medicine.

The rabbis taught that study of the Torah leads to Wisdom. However, wisdom came before Torah. It was gained through observation and experimentation. The ancients were motivated to gain wisdom in order to solve problems and make improvements in their lives.

In the ancient world, philosophy found expression in science and technology. Before the academies of Greece, there were mines to be excavated and ships to be built. Before Plato, there were priests keeping records of remedies for thousands of ailments and diseases.

Philosophy has value. The value is not in ego aggrandizement through winning an argument. The value is expressed in the practical ways wisdom serves humanity.