Summary of Russell’s Essay, Knowledge and Wisdom
“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.”
– Sandra Carey
Knowledge and wisdom are different things. According to Russell, knowledge is defined as the acquisition of data and information, while wisdom is defined as the practical application and use of the knowledge to create value. Wisdom is gained through learning and practical experience, not just memorization.
A sense of proportion is very much necessary for wisdom. By inventing medicine, a scientist may reduce the infant death-rate. Apparently, it leads to population explosion and shortage of food. The standard of life comes down. If misused, knowledge of atom can lead human to destruction by manufacturing nuclear weapon.
Knowledge without wisdom can be harmful. Even complete knowledge is not enough. For example, Hegel wrote with great
knowledge about history, but made the Germans believe that they were a master race. It led to war. It is necessary, therefore to combine knowledge with feelings.
We need wisdom both in public and private life. We need wisdom to decide the goal of our life. We need it to free ourselves from personal prejudices. Wisdom is needed to avoid dislike for one another. Two persons may remain enemies because of their prejudice. If they can be told that we all have flaws then they may become friends.
So, ‘Hate Hatred’ should be our slogan. Wisdom lies in freeing ourselves from the control of our sense organs. Our ego develops through our senses. We cannot be free from the sense of sight, sound and touch. We know the world primarily through our senses. As we grow we discover that there are other things also. We start recognizing them. Thus we give up thinking of ourselves alone. We start thinking of other people and grow wiser. We give up on our ego. Wisdom comes when we start loving others.
Russell feels that wisdom can be taught as a goal of education. Even though we are born unwise which we cannot help, we can cultivate wisdom. Queen Elizabeth I, Henry IV and Abraham Lincoln, are some impressive personalities who fused vigour with wisdom and fought the evil.