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On Wisdom...


Wisdom. Now there’s a creative goal. Or perhaps its that deep knowledge that lets you know what is a good idea and what is not. Whatever it is and however much you have, it seems sensible to make judicious use of it in your idea-making sessions.

See also: being, children, common sense*, foolishness, illumination, intuition, judgement*, love, perception, wonder

‘If anyone amongst you thinks he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he become wise.’

— I Corinthians 3:18

‘More than any time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly.’

Woody Allen

‘True wisdom is less presuming than folly. The wise man doubts often, and changes his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubts not; he knows all things but his own ignorance.’


‘The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.’

Isaac Asimov

‘Patience is the companion of wisdom.’


‘A prudent question is one half of wisdom.’

Francis Bacon

‘A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.’

Francis Bacon

Learning sleeps and snores in libraries, but wisdom is everywhere, wide awake, on tiptoe.’

Josh Billings

‘The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom; for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough.’

William Blake

‘If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.’

William Blake

‘Be humble, if thou would'st attain to wisdom. Be humbler still, when wisdom thou hast mastered.’

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

‘Men are wise in proportion, not to their experience, but to their capacity for experience.’

James Boswell

‘I believe that all wisdom consists in caring immensely for a few right things, and not caring a straw about the rest.’

John Buchan

‘Carpenters bend wood, fletchers bend arrows, wise men fashion themselves.’

Gautama Buddha

‘The only infallible criterion of wisdom to vulgar minds -- success.’

Edmund Burke

‘The wisest man I ever knew taught me something I never forgot. And although I never forgot it, I never quite memorized it either. So what I’m left with is the memory of having learned something very wise that I can’t quite remember.’

George Carlin

Time ripens all things; no man is born wise.’

Miguel de Cervantes

‘It should be noted that the seeds of wisdom that are to bear fruit in the intellect are sown less by critical studies and learned monographs than by insights, broad impressions, and flashes of intuition.’

Carl Von Clausewitz

‘The extreme limit of wisdom--that is what the public calls madness.’

Jean Cocteau

‘Only the wise possess ideas; the greater part of mankind are possessed by them.’

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘Common-sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom.’

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘To know that one knows what one knows, and to know that one doesn't know what one doesn't know, there lies true wisdom.’


‘By three methods we may learn wisdom:
First, by reflection which is noblest;
second, by imitation, which is the easiest;
and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.’


Knowledge and wisdom, far from being one,
Have oft-times no connection. Knowledge dwells
In heads replete with thoughts of other men;
Wisdom in minds attentive to their own.’

William Cowper

‘Wisdom is the daughter of experience.’

Leonardo Da Vinci

‘A loving heart is the truest wisdom.’

Charles Dickens

‘The fool wonders, the wise man asks.’

Benjamin Disraeli

‘All human wisdom is summed up in two words - wait and hope.’

Alexandre Dumas

Knowledge is power but only wisdom is liberty.’

Will Durant

To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull facilities can comprehend only in the most primitive forms--this knowledge, this feeling, is at the centre of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the ranks of the devoutly religious men.’

Albert Einstein

‘The attempt to combine wisdom and power has only rarely been successful and then only for a short while.’

Albert Einstein

‘Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the life-long attempt to acquire it.’

Albert Einstein

‘Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?’

T. S. Eliot

‘The wise through excess of wisdom is made a fool.’

Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘The foolish man wonders at the unusual; the wise man at the usual.’

Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘We judge of man's wisdom by his hope.’

Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘The years teach much which the days never knew.’

Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘He who is in love is wise and is becoming wiser, sees newly every time he looks at the object beloved, drawing from it with his eyes and his mind those virtues which it possesses.’

Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the life-long attempt to acquire it.’

Albert Einstein

‘Where is the wisdom that we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?’

T. S. Elliot

‘Cleverness is not wisdom.’


‘Along with success comes a reputation for wisdom.’


‘To the fool, he who speaks wisdom will sound foolish.’


‘The doors of wisdom are never shut.’

Benjamin Franklin

‘He's a fool who cannot conceal his wisdom.’

Benjamin Franklin

‘The heart of a fool is in his mouth, but the mouth of the wise man is in his heart.’

Benjamin Franklin

‘Keep me away from the wisdom that does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children.’

Kahlil Gibran

‘Wisdom stands at the turn in the road and calls upon us publicly, but we consider it false and despise its adherents.’

Kahlil Gibran

‘All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.’

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

‘Without courage, wisdom bears no fruit.’

Baltasar Gracian

‘Men who love wisdom should acquaint themselves with a great many particulars.’


‘Of all whose words I have heard, no one attains to this, to know that wisdom is apart from all.’


Knowledge can be communicated, but wisdom cannot.’

Hermann Hesse

‘It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.’

Oliver Wendell Holmes

‘Wise living consists perhaps less in acquiring good habits than in acquiring as few habits as possible.’

Eric Hoffer

‘The wise learn from the experience of others, and the creative know how to make a crumb of experience go a long way.’

Eric Hoffer

‘Mingle some brief folly with your wisdom.’


‘Force without wisdom falls of its own weight.’


‘Wisdom consists not so much in knowing what to do in the ultimate as in knowing what to do next.’

Herbert Clark Hoover

‘Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.’

Elbert Hubbard

‘A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.’

David Hume

Doubt is the beginning, not the end, of wisdom.’

George Iles

‘The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.’

William James

Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom.’

Thomas Jefferson

Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.’

Immanuel Kant

‘Where fear is present, wisdom cannot be.’


‘It’s bad taste to be wise all the time, like being at a perpetual funeral.’

D. H. Lawrence

‘The wise man doesn't give the right answers, he poses the right questions.’

Claude Levi-Strauss

‘It requires wisdom to understand wisdom; the music is nothing if the audience is deaf.’

Walter J. Lippman

Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control.’

Martin Luther King

‘Only the most foolish of mice would hide in a cat’s ear. But only the wisest of cats would think of looking there.’

Scott Love

‘Wisdom consists in being able to distinguish among dangers and make a choice of the least harmful.’

Niccolo Machiavelli

‘We are apt to think that our ideas are the creation of our own wisdom but the truth is that they are the result of the experience through outside contact.’

Konosuke Matsushita

‘The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.’

H. L. Mencken

‘We can be knowledgeable with other men's knowledge, but we cannot be wise with other men's wisdom.’

Michel de Montaigne

‘Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.’

Reinhold Niebuhr

‘You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.’

Mahfouz Naguib

‘A man should never be ashamed to own he has been wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.’

Alexander Pope

‘That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in the next.’

John Stuart Mill

‘We do not receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.’

Marcel Proust

‘Be wisely worldly, be not worldly wise.’

Francis Quarles

‘It is not wise to be wiser than is necessary.’

Philippe Quinault

‘Those who wish to appear wise among fools, among the wise seem foolish.’


‘Perhaps the only thing that saves science from invalid conventional wisdom that becomes effectively permanent is the presence of mavericks in every `generation—people who keep challenging convention and thinking up new ideas for the sheer hell of it or from an innate contrariness.’

D. M. Raup

‘It is easier to be wise for others than for ourselves.’

François de La Rochefoucauld

‘Nine-tenths of wisdom consists of being wise in time.’

Theodore Roosevelt

‘To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.’

Bertrand Russell

‘The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.’

Bertrand Russell

‘More wisdom is latent in things as they are than in all the words men use.’

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

‘It is wise to learn; it is God-like to create.’

John Saxe

Luck never made a man wise.’

Lucius Seneca

‘Wisdom comes by disillusionment.’

George Santayana

‘The wisest mind has something yet to learn.’

George Santayana

‘Modest doubt is call’d the beacon of the wise.’

William Shakespeare

‘The fool doth think himself wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.’

William Shakespeare

‘Men are wise in proportion not to their experience, but to their capacity for experience.’

George Bernard Shaw

‘Wisdom begins in wonder.’


‘The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.’


‘Wisdom outweighs any wealth.’


‘Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness.’


‘I have learned throughout my life as a composer chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions, not by my exposure to founts of wisdom and knowledge.’

Igor Stravinsky

‘Observation, not old age, brings wisdom.’

Publilius Syrus

‘Some people take more care to hide their wisdom than their folly.’

Jonathan Swift

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.’

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

‘A grain of gold will gild a great surface, but not so much as a grain of wisdom.’

Henry David Thoreau

‘A man is wise with the wisdom of his time only, and ignorant with its ignorance. Observe how the greatest minds yield in some degree to the superstitions of their age.’

Henry David Thoreau

‘We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it - and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again - and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.’

Mark Twain

‘Pessimism is only the name that men of weak nerve give to wisdom.’

Mark Twain

‘A man never reaches that dizzy height of wisdom when he can no longer be led by the nose.’

Mark Twain

‘He who knows others is wise; He who knows himself is enlightened.’

Lao Tzu

‘We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it—and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit on a hot stove lid again—and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.’

Mark Twain

Science says: "We must live," and seeks the means of prolonging, increasing, facilitating and amplifying life, of making it tolerable and acceptable. Wisdom says: "We must die," and seeks how to make us die well.’

Miguel de Unamuno

‘To act with common sense according to the moment, is the best wisdom I know.’

Horace Walpole

Misfortunes leave wounds which bleed drop by drop even in sleep; thus little by little they train man by force and dispose him to wisdom in spite of himself. Man must learn to think of himself as a limited and dependent being; and only suffering teaches him this.’

Simone Weil

‘Wisdom doesn't necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up by itself.’

Woodrow Wilson

‘Wisdom is oft-times nearer when we stoop
Than when we soar.’

William Wordsworth

‘In a sense, knowledge shrinks as wisdom grows: for details are swallowed up in principles.’

Alfred North Whitehead

‘Turn your wounds into wisdom.’

Oprah Winfrey



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