The Role-Oriented Approaches Towards Wisdom

The Role-Oriented Approaches Towards Wisdom

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-168-3.ch001
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The purpose of this study is to answer the question what is wisdom? The answer will be sought not in its different abstractive models, but through its exemplifications in civilization practice. The civilization approach to seeking wisdom means that we will look at how social, reflectional, methodical, and individual’s wisdoms are understood and how wisdom triggers wise judgments, habits, and modes of action among great individuals in society. These elements reflect civilization components: human entities (e.g., society), culture (e.g., reflections, methods, and artists) and infrastructure (e.g., professional individuals). The model of this search is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

The architecture of civilization wisdom


In modern terms, wisdom is defined as the ability to make correct judgments and decisions. Some think it is an intangible quality gained through experience. Yet others think it is a quality that even a child, otherwise immature, may possess independent of experience or complete knowledge. Whether or not something is wise is often determined in a pragmatic sense by its popularity, how long it has been around, and its ability to predict against future events. Wisdom is often listed alongside other virtues such as insight, knowledge, and prudence. Some think of wisdom as foreseeing consequences and acting to maximize beneficial results (Wikipedia Encyclopedia; note there is no such entry in Encyclopedia Britannica).

However, in this study we are going to verify this broad definition of wisdom. Based on the findings, the future will lead to the development of a general model of universal or contingency-oriented wisdom in its totality and segmentation. This study is based on the qualitative approach and on the conventional wisdom of reviewing empirical examples of applied wisdom in major facets of civilization.


Social Wisdom

The Religion Approach

Initially, people believed in numerous pagan gods. Each of these gods represented a specific virtue. Later, their number dwindled to one God, who became a source of divine wisdom. If people cannot understand God’s teachings, then they have to believe in them based on faith. According to the Wikipedia Encyclopedia, the understanding of wisdom by major religions is as follows:

  • Traditional western culture associates wisdom with virtue. For example, in the Roman Catholic church, wisdom (prudence) stands with justice, fortitude, and moderation as one of the four cardinal virtues. They are outlined in the Book of Wisdom (8:7). These virtues are praised under other names in many passages of Scripture. In the Christian Bible, for example, there are three wise men sent by God to give the newly born Jesus three gifts1.

  • Holists believe that wise people sense, work with, and align themselves and others to life. In this view, wise people help others appreciate the fundamental interconnectedness of life.

  • Some religions hold that wisdom may be given as a gift from God.

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      The seventh verse of the first chapter of the Jewish book of Proverbs in the Old Testament states, “Fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7). The beginning of fear of God is hating evil, the ways of evil, arrogance, pride, and a duplicitous mouth (Proverbs).

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      Confucius stated that wisdom could be learned by three methods: reflection (the noblest), imitation (the easiest), and experience (the bitterest).

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      Buddha taught that a wise person is endowed with good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, and good mental conduct (AN3:2). Furthermore, a wise person engages in actions that are unpleasant to do but give good results. A wise person also does not participate in actions that are pleasant to do but give bad results (AN4: 115).

The religion approach perceives wisdom as prudence and as a set of virtues leading toward good actions. These virtues influence one’s awareness of the situation (problem) and should lead a person to goodness and salvation at the stage of the spiritual life.

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