Knowledge and Wisdom Summary & Exercise [English-12]

‘Knowledge and Wisdom’ is written by British essayist Bertrand Arthur William Russell. In this essay, Russell differentiates between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge and wisdom are different things.

Summary of Knowledge & Wisdom

The Essay ‘Knowledge and Wisdom’ highlights the intertwined relations of knowledge and wisdom in human life. Russell differentiates between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge and wisdom are different things. According to him, knowledge is defined as the acquisition of data and information, while wisdom is defined as the practical application and use of knowledge to create value. Wisdom is gained through learning and practical experience, not just memorization.

Russell makes a distinction between wisdom and knowledge in this essay. Wisdom and knowledge are two distinct concepts. He claims that whereas wisdom is defined as the actual application and use of knowledge to produce value, knowledge is defined as the accumulation of data and information. Wisdom comes from knowledge and experience, not simply memorization.

Knowledge, in Russell’s definition, is the gathering of data and knowledge. Comparable to a generating theory while wisdom is the use of knowledge to add value in a practical manner. Wisdom comes from knowledge and experience, not simply memorization. Wisdom requires a sense of proportion in every way.

A scientist may lower the infant mortality rate by creating a new drug. It seems to result in population growth and food scarcity. The quality of life declines. Atomic knowledge has the potential to be utilized destructively by humans to create nuclear weapons. Knowledge and wisdom are related in the same way that theory and practice are.In this essay, the essayist talks about several factors that contribute to wisdom. According to him, the factors that contribute to wisdom are:

  1. a sense of proportion,
  2. aware comprehensiveness and feeling
  3. emancipation from personal prejudices
  4. impartiality and
  5. intellectual element

Only Knowledge or Wisdom can’t be sufficient. Both are equally important. 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 the 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. In this essay, Russell defines what wisdom is in the first part and in the second part he talks about how it can be attained.

Without knowledge, wisdom cannot go forward. He says that wisdom and knowledge must go ahead simultaneously. Thus, knowledge and wisdom are remarkable gifts of the clear exposition of Russel. It shows Russel as a great master of lucid style. His intellect is brilliant and his vision is comprehensive.

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About the Author of Knowledge and Wisdom

Bertrand Arthur William Russell (1872–1970) was a British philosopher, logician, essayist and social critic best known for his work in mathematical logic and analytic philosophy. His most influential contributions include his championing of logicism (the view that mathematics is in some important sense reducible to logic), his refining of Gottlob Frege’s predicate calculus (which still forms the basis of most contemporary systems of logic), his defence of neutral monism (the view that the world consists of just one type of substance which is neither exclusively mental nor exclusively physical), and his theories of definite descriptions, logical atomism and logical types. In this essay, 

Exercise of Knowledge & Wisdom

Understanding the Text

What are the factors that contribute to wisdom?

Answer: In the essay “Knowledge and Wisdom”, Bertrand Russell talks about several factors that contribute to wisdom. According to him, the factors that contribute to wisdom are: 

  1. a sense of proportion, 
  2. aware comprehensiveness and feeling
  3. emancipation from personal prejudices
  4. impartiality and 
  5. intellectual element

What message does the writer try to convey with the examples of technicians?

Answer: The writer tries to convey the message related to harm with the examples of technicians. According to him, technical knowledge can be harmful to humankind if that knowledge is applied without wisdom. For example, the technicians become happy in lowering the infant death rate in the world but it results in a lack of food supply and lowers the standard of life. Similarly, the knowledge of atomic theory can be misused in making atom bombs that destroy the human race. 

Which leaders does Russell say we’re able to mix knowledge and wisdom soundly?

Answer: According to Russell, the leaders like Queen Elizabeth I in England, Henry IV in France and Abraham Lincoln can mix knowledge and wisdom soundly. Queen Elizabeth I and Henry IV remained free from the errors of their time and both, by remaining free were beneficent and certainly not ineffective. Similarly, Abraham Lincoln conducted a great war without ever departing from wisdom. 

Why is wisdom needed not only in public ways but in private life equally? 

Answer: Wisdom is not only needed in public ways but also used in private life equally. It is needed in the choice of ends to be pursued and in emancipation from personal prejudice. In a lack of wisdom, we may fail in choosing the target of our life and getting success in life. 

What, according to Russell, is the true aim of education?

Answer: The true aim of education, according to Russell, is installing wisdom in people. It is wisdom that makes us utilize our knowledge in practical life purposefully without making any harm to humankind. Along with knowledge, people must have the wisdom to be good citizens. 

Can wisdom be taught? If so, how?

Answer: Yes, wisdom can be taught. The teaching of wisdom should have a larger intellectual element than moral instruction. The disastrous results of hatred and narrow-mindedness to those who feel them can be pointed out incidentally in the course of giving knowledge. For example, while teaching the composition of an atom, the disastrous results of it must be taught to eliminate its misuse such as making an atomic bomb. 

Why does the world need more wisdom in the future?

Answer: When we observe the growth of knowledge in various sectors in the present time, it is obvious that there will be even more development of knowledge in the future. In the absence of wisdom, most people are misusing knowledge bringing several negative impacts and this reality will continue in the future too if knowledge is not mixed with wisdom. It is only wisdom, that makes people use the acquired knowledge wisely. For a better future, more wisdom is needed. 

Reference to the Context of Knowledge and Wisdom

According to Russell, “The Pursuit of Knowledge may become harmful unless it is combined with wisdom.” Justify this statement.

Answer: Humans are curious creatures and they always want to learn new things. Most people have spent their whole lives in pursuit of knowledge. Some pieces of knowledge are noble and beneficial for humans whereas sine pieces of knowledge are harmful to us. The knowledge which is combined with wisdom is useful for us because it addresses the total needs of mankind. The knowledge of atomic composition has become harmful to mankind because it is used in making bombs. 

Similarly, Hegal, though he had great knowledge about history, made the Germans believe that they were a master race. It led to the great disastrous wars. So, it is necessary to combine knowledge with the feeling of humanity. We need an event to decide the aim of our life. It makes us free of personal prejudices. Even noble things are applied unwisely in the lack of wisdom. 

What, according to Russell, is the essence of wisdom? And how can one acquire the very essence?

Answer: According to Russell, the essence of wisdom is emancipation from the tyranny of partiality. It makes our thoughts and feeling less personal and less concerned with our physical states. It is wisdom that makes us care for and love the entire human race, it takes us into the higher stage of spirituality. It makes us able to make the right decision and install a broad vision and unbiasedness in our minds.

We can acquire the very essence by breaking the chain of the egoism of our senses, understanding the ends of human life, applying our knowledge wisely for the benefit of humans, finding noble and attainable goals of our life, controlling our sensory perceptions, being impartial gradually and loving others.