ADF Dedicant Path: Nine Virtues (Wisdom)
Wisdom is defined in Our Own Druidry as,
Good judgement, the ability to perceive people and situations correctly, deliberate about and decide on the correct response.
Merriam-Webster defines wisdom as,
- accumulated philosophic or scientific learning (knowledge)
- ability to discern inner qualities and relationships (insight)
- good sense (judgement)
- generally accepted belief
2. wise attitude, belief, or course of action
3. the teachings of the ancient wise men
or, more simply as,
:knowledge that is gained by having many experiences in life
:the natural ability to understand things that most people cannot understand
:knowledge of what is proper or reasonable: good sense or judgement
All three of these definitions fall short of what I would consider to be both useful and comprehensive. ADF’s definition embodies the ultimate outcome of possessing wisdom, but it does not specify how to get there. If I am to refer to the definition of a virtue as a guide to living, I need to know the how as much as the what.
Merriam-Webster’s full and simple definitions include the “how” of wisdom, but they are curiously incompatible with each other. “Ability to discern” in the full definition becomes a “natural ability” in the simple one. The “knowledge” of the full definition is academic in nature, while in the simple definition, it is experiential. However, merely removing “natural” from the simple definition, or adding “knowledge gained by experience” to ADFs, would yield a usable definition.
Wisdom is not a natural ability, it is a state of becoming. I view wisdom very much in the same way as the Romantic poets viewed philosophy. Friedrich Schlegel said of philosophers,
“One can only become a philosopher, not be one. As soon as one
thinks one is a philosopher, one stops becoming one.”
Similarly, one can only become wise, not be wise. Although some amount of wisdom seems to come naturally to some people (especially to those whom we call “old souls”), life experiences (which can include acquisition of academic knowledge) continue to provide us with opportunities for more. To shun these opportunities under the pretext of having already become wise is to become unwise.
n.b. I have modified this essay from the original in order to reflect my current understanding of the virtue.