Knowledge and Wisdom Summary
Knowledge and Wisdom Summary defines the various ways of achieving Wisdom. He laments that though vast knowledge has been acquired; there has been no corresponding increase in wisdom. Russell defines wisdom by telling us about things that contribute to wisdom. The first is a sense of proportion. It is the capacity to consider all important factors in a problem carefully.
Specialization makes it difficult. For example, scientists discover new medicines but they do not know what impact these medicines will have on the life of people. The medicines may reduce the infant death rate. But it may lead to an increased population. In poor countries, it may lead to a shortage of food. If there are more people, it may lower the standard of living. The knowledge of the composition of the atom could be misused by a lunatic to destroy the world.
Knowledge without wisdom can be harmful. It should be combined with the total needs of mankind. Even complete knowledge is not enough. It should be related to a certain knowledge of the purpose of life. The study of history can illustrate it. 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.
Men who have the knowledge and have no feelings lack wisdom. We need wisdom both in public and private life. We need the wisdom to decide the goal of our life. We need it to free ourselves from personal prejudices. We may pursue even a novel thing unwisely if it is too big to achieve. People have wasted their lives in search of the ‘philosopher’s stone or the ‘elixir for life. They were not pragmatic. They were looking for simple solutions to the complex problems of mankind. A man may attempt to achieve the impossible, he may do harm to himself in the process.
In personal life, says Russell, wisdom is needed to avoid dislike for one another. Two persons may remain enemies because of their prejudice. One may dislike the other for imaginary faults. Russell believes in thought and reasonable persuasion. We can avoid hatred if we are wise. Wisdom lies in freeing ourselves from the control of our sense organs. Our ego develops through our senses.
Summary in Short
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. It is difficult to completely get rid of selfishness, but we can think of things beyond our immediate surroundings. Wisdom comes when we start loving others.
Russell feels that wisdom can be taught as a goal of education. The message in the parable of the Good Samaritan is that we should love our neighbour whether friend or foe. Many a time we miss the message in this parable because we fail to love those who cause harm to society. The only way out is through understanding and not hatred. In brief, Russell tells us not to hate anybody. The author draws out examples from the history of Queen Elizabeth I, Henry IV and Abraham Lincoln, who were free from the errors committed by other eminent people in the past.
The danger of hatred and narrow-mindedness can be pointed out in the course of giving knowledge. Russell feels knowledge and wisdom can be combined in the scheme of education. People should be educated to see things in relation to other things of the world. They should be encouraged to think of themselves as world citizens.
About the Author Of Knowledge and Wisdom
Bertrand Arthur William Russell: (1872-1970)
Bertrand Arthur William Russell was born at Trelleck on 18th May 1872. He was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. He was born in Monmouth shire, into one of the most prominent aristocratic families in Britain. His parents were Viscount Amberley and Katherine, daughter of 2nd Baron Stanley of Alderley. Instead of being sent to school, he was taught at home by governesses and tutors, and thus he acquired a good knowledge of French and German.
In 1890 he got enrolled at Trinity College, Cambridge. After obtaining a First Class with distinction in philosophy, he was elected a Fellow of his college in 1895. In 1903 he wrote his first important book, The Principles of Mathematics, and with his friend, Dr Alfred Whitehead proceeded to develop and extend the mathematical logic of Peano and Frege. In 1910 he was appointed lecturer at Trinity College.
Russell was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1908 and re-elected a fellow of Trinity College in 1944. He was awarded the Sylvester medal of the Royal Society, 1934, the de Morgan medal of the London Mathematical Society in the same year, the Nobel Prize for Litterature, 1950.