Socrates’ teachings on wisdom are enormously
valuable regardless if one agrees with them or not. Because Socrates’ ideas
were very specific, they left room for intelligent discussions that can expand upon
his definitions. Socrates’ ideas primarily aligned with two of the five theories:
wisdom as epistemic humility and wisdom as epistemic accuracy. In Plato’s The
Apology (20e-23c), Socrates was described as the wisest individual and he
denied this portrayal as he was aware of too many wise individuals within the
community. He proceeded to talk with the other wise individuals, which led him
to realize those with immense wisdom are not often claiming they are one of the
wise. This revelation led Socrates to believe that wisdom is directly
associated with humility. While I do agree with Socrates’ definitions, my opinion
on the topic tends to relate to the hybrid theory the most. Because the hybrid
theory includes factual and theoretical knowledge, knowing how to live well, success
at life and living well, and limiting one’s amount of unjustified beliefs, I
feel as though it expands on Socrates’ ideas as if they were basic foundations
for wisdom. I believe not one person is all-knowing and wise. Everyone will
have faults; it is identifying, embracing, and potentially overcoming these
faults by using their knowledge that truly gives a person wisdom. However, it
is the knowledge one possesses and implements in order to overcome any issues
that dissipates the recipe to a good life. One must have the capability to think
for themselves without the direct guidance of a mentor, as this allows the individual
the knowledge necessary to live well on their own (excluding physical/mental disabilities
and the social status they were born into). Finally, having few unjustified beliefs
is important as it portrays an overall comprehension on numerous aspects necessary
to form an opinion and come to a conclusion. Given the immense change of culture
and beliefs, I feel as though Socrates would mostly agree with the reasonings as
to why I define wisdom the way that I do.

Different Views of

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My definition of wisdom has changed slightly
from the start of this philosophy class until now. I began taking philosophy
classes in elementary school which ultimately helped me form my assessment on
what wisdom is. Prior to beginning this class, my definition of wisdom was quite
simple; everyone has their own version of wisdom, meaning some individuals are
more gifted at particular specialties than others, and that it cannot be
justified as being solely based on knowledge. After reading pieces of
literature to include Plato’s Phaedo and The Apology, I feel as though my prior
understanding was still pertinent as the class’ teachings only expanded upon it.
My newly-shaped definition of wisdom would be an innate characteristic that
harmoniously utilizes knowledge and experience in order to work for the greater
good and ultimately benefit others. Many of Socrates’ teachings expand upon
this idea by presenting theories of what wisdom is and what wisdom is not. For instance,
Socrates was well-known as being a wise individual, yet he was quick to deny
the label he was given. He truly believed others were in the wrong because he
knew of wise men, and did not feel as though he was comparable. By definition,
this is the theory of humility. In addition, Socrates believed every individual
is only as wise as their awareness of their ignorance. Similar to Socrates, I find
that individuals that claim they have immense knowledge are often boisterous about
their reputation, which likely influences the people around them to believe
they know what they are teaching.

How I Define Wisdom

Philosophy has often been defined as the love
of knowledge or the pursuit of wisdom. Merriam-Webster provides several
definitions for wisdom: having the ability to discern inner qualities and
relationships, or having insight; having a good sense, specifically of
judgment; a generally accepted belief, challenges what has become accepted
wisdom among many historians; accumulated philosophical or scientific learning,
or knowledge; a wise attitude, belief, or course of action; and the teachings
of the ancient wise men (Merriam-Webster, 2018). While the dictionary provides
several definitions for wisdom, there are innumerous ways in which they can be
expanded upon, thus creating copious definitions for wisdom. There are several
major ideas within the Western philosophical tradition that focus on different
approaches to understanding wisdom. Individuals with backgrounds in philosophy,
such as spiritual leaders, poets, novelists, philosophers, and psychologists,
generally agree with the following collections: wisdom as epistemic humility,
wisdom as epistemic accuracy, wisdom as knowledge, hybrid theory, and wisdom as
rationality (Ryan, 2013). The various theories of wisdom are all plausible even
though they are different from one another. The humility theory, for instance,
expresses wisdom is often found in individuals that are not aware of their own,
personal wisdom. They may believe there are others that are more capable than
they are, and may be surprised to learn they are often portrayed as being
comparable to their mentors. The theory of accuracy details wisdom as not
necessarily constantly being correct, but knowing when oneself is either
correct or incorrect. In other words, according to this theory, an individual
is aware of their knowledge and does not pretend to know more than he actually
does. The theory of knowledge is comparable to how wisdom might be defined by
most people today; wise people are very smart, intelligent individuals. This
theory requires intelligence as a necessary condition, while the previous two
theories did not. The hybrid theory combines all of the aforementioned
theories; one must portray various aspects, including pure knowledge, success,
few unjustified beliefs, and living well. The last aspect has created criticism
because every individual has the potential to be wise, regardless of their life
conditions. Wisdom could arguably be compared to the concept of beauty; every
individual has an opinion on the necessary foundations. For instance, while one
person may define wisdom as having the ability to strategically balance
intellect with problem-solving skills, another person may define wisdom as pure
knowledge one possesses and what they do with it. The combinations are
virtually endless.

What is Wisdom?


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