The thin line between knowledge and wisdom often stir confusion.
Hence we asked experts, what is the difference between knowledge and wisdom?
Their answers will clear the confusion once and for all.
See them below.
The difference between knowledge and wisdom is action and perspective
Sure it takes effort to acquire information, but you hardly break a sweat. Content has become a commodity.
Ten minutes with a half-decent internet connection can show you how to fix a faucet, a sandwich, or the 1919 World Series (if you were so inclined). The real effort comes from thoughtfully applying that information in a way that generates value for yourself and others.
When applying newly acquired knowledge the first challenge is ensuring competence.
Can you actually do what you set out to do? Assuming so, the next goal is to focus on efficiency. Sure I could immediately apply that YouTube video and fix my sink, but I’d likely spend four days and a hundred expletives.
The good news is that training and study is largely a process. Over time and with consistent deliberate practice (perfecting one element of a task before moving to the next), I could acquire the ability to skillfully, quickly apply that knowledge.
Still, it takes more to reach wisdom. For that, you need both experiences forged by action and the perspective to understand where your expertise truly resides.
Selecting the right content for the right purpose and the right time and being able to thoughtfully apply that information is a true mark of wisdom. Another is knowing when to outsource a task that is simply beyond your scope.
A former sensei put it this way: Knowledge is knowing how to fight. Wisdom is punching your weight.
Diana Gardner Robinson, Ph.D.
Knowledge relates to facts that you have learned; wisdom is the ability to put that knowledge to good use
Knowledge involves information that has come to us via our five senses. E.g. we know that the grass is green (or brown) because our eyes have shown us something, and our ears or eyes have told us that something that is that color is green (or brown). If we touch it, we may learn that green grass is usually soft to the touch, while brown grass is likely to be dry and hard, or crispy.
Wisdom, in this example, uses this knowledge to tell us that green grass may be comfortable to walk on barefoot, but brown grass may not be.
Knowledge may tell us, based on information received from our parents, from our own observations, or from elsewhere, that green grass may need cutting from time. Brown grass on the other probably will not grow and hence may not need cutting.
Knowledge may tell us, either from our own observation or from what we learn from our parents, that green grass may turn brown if it is left without water for a certain length of time.
Curiosity, which is often an aid to knowledge and to testing wisdom, may lead us to wonder whether the reverse is true so that we pour water over the brown grass.
When and if it turns greens, we will then have the knowledge, based on our own experimentation, that water is necessary for grass to remain green. Wisdom may then suggest that we apply water to the grass if we wish it to stay green.
Wisdom may also guide us to test facts that have been provided to us purporting to be facts.
Does research support the idea that these supposed facts are something that we know, i.e. the fact that we know them causes them to be knowledge?
Alternatively, if we have the wisdom to fact-check we may discover the fact that some sources do not provide knowledge, but try to make us believe that falsehood is knowledge.
True wisdom teaches us to double-check everything that comes to us as appearing to be knowledge. It also teaches us to use existing knowledge in order to be more accepting of some apparent sources of knowledge than others. The wisdom to know the difference between fact and fiction is one of the most important forms of awareness that there is.
Licensed Professional Counselor
Knowledge is knowing a bunch of information
Someone with a lot of knowledge probably does/did well in school. He/she may shine on the show jeopardy or might be great to have around for trivia night. A knowledgable person probably can recall a lot of facts about a wide variety of subjects.
Wisdom speaks to a deeper understanding of yourself, others, and the world around you.
Wisdom is not something you can learn in a book. Wisdom comes from openness and willingness to learn from your life experiences. Wisdom often comes from applying the knowledge you have to the real world and learning from how that plays out.
Wisdom isn’t just about being smart
Wise people pay attention to their surroundings, they are curious, they notice things. Wisdom is about understanding things not just on a cognitive level, but also from an emotional or experiential capacity.
If I had to come up with a metaphor to demonstrate the difference between knowledge and wisdom it would be: a knowledgeable person when asked about what love is, may provide you with a definition of the term or information about what happens in the mind or body when someone experiences love.
A wise person could speak to the direct felt experience of what it means to love. A wise person who’s experienced love, has lived it, was touched by it and learned from it.
Dr. C. Dexter Wise III
Pastor | Author | Teacher, Wise Works Online
Knowledge is information while wisdom is the application of information to maximize the positive and minimize the negative in any given situation.
The irony is that we live in the “Information Age” where knowledge has exploded. Not only do we seem to know more than ever, with the advent of the Internet and Google, but we can also know more than ever. Yet, the jury is still out as to whether we are any wiser.
For, knowledge without wisdom is like a fool with a million dollars.
He will soon be broke. Knowledge without wisdom is like a computer without software. It turns on, but you can’t do anything with it. Knowledge without wisdom is like having flour, eggs, butter, milk, and sugar, but not knowing how to put it together to make a cake.
Knowledge without wisdom is like having the juice of pubescent hormones, but lacking the judgment of emotional and mental maturity.
Now, on the other hand, wisdom without knowledge is like having a brand new Mercedes, but nowhere to go.
It is like having great bandwidth, but nothing to stream. It is like being a master pianist without a piano. You will never play music.
The bottom line is that in life we need both knowledge and wisdom. Perhaps, arguably the wisest person of all put it best, though, when he said:
“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” – Proverbs 4: 7
Director of Experiential Learning, Delaware Valley University
Knowledge is something that can be gained by reading or hearing about a topic, but wisdom is generally gained through experience.
People might gain knowledge in the classroom, but it is through actually engaging with the subject they are learning about in real-world settings that they gain wisdom.
Students should work to gain both knowledge and wisdom from their college experiences. Students who want to gain wisdom should seek out opportunities to apply what they are learning through activities such as jobs, internships, community service projects, leadership positions on campus, hands-on research projects, and study abroad experiences.
Seeking out mentors can also be helpful for students who want to gain wisdom. Getting to hear from people who have worked in the field or, who are currently working in the field can be beneficial for students. They should ask professionals about their career paths. Hearing about both successes and failures can be a useful way to gain wisdom from others.
Author | Educator | Speaker | Talk Show Host
The various levels of intellectualism
There are three levels of intellectualism: knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.
Knowledge is known as the lowest level of intellectualism, this is the ability to know, recognize, and recall things as in names, numbers, days of the week, colors, words, etc. Children and people who possess limited intelligence have some knowledge.
Wisdom is known as the middle level of intellectualism but is considered the most important for living life skillfully and successfully. This form of intellectualism involves the application of knowledge or the ability to apply what you know/learn.
Examples of wisdom: adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing numbers; forming sentences with words; and implementing instructions/following directions.
Understanding is at the top tier of intellectualism. At this level an individual can articulate and impart his/her knowledge, wisdom, and comprehension to others by analyzing, reconfiguring, and assessing information.
- Analyzation– the separating of a whole into parts and the breaking down of concepts so people can understand.
- Reconfiguration– the reorganization and rearrangement of parts into a new whole. With this process, you take preexisting information, place your spin on it, and create something new.
- Assessment– the objective evaluating, critiquing, and judging of things accurately.
Content Provider | Editor, E-Counseling
In brief, the difference between knowledge and wisdom is that knowledge is fact-based, an accumulation of ideas and data about how this or that works and why.
We gather information from experience, observation, and research. Wisdom is about knowing which facts are relevant to you or to someone else, and why.
Wisdom is an enduring level of insight about when to use that knowledge, pacing yourself until the optimal time to share/use that knowledge, or about when to refrain from using it altogether.
Nobody likes a know-it-all. Spouting off factoids or telling people what they should know or should do are not socially appropriate behaviors. People tend to dislike that absence of good manners.
Sometimes it is wise to hold back on how much you know. Sharing that knowledge only with people who would be receptive to it fosters happiness and satisfaction. Realizing that it’s not wise to share the factoids in some awkward circumstances prevents resentment/hostility, or the outright rejection of information.
Wisdom is predicated on free will, a deep, mystical topic with moral and ethical implications and effects.
Perhaps we can explore that another time. Meanwhile, it is wise not to leave anyone feeling embarrassed that you know more than they do or unhappy that you spoke up before they did. People enjoy demonstrating their mental competence.
Speaking too much, too soon, or at the wrong times is unfriendly behavior in social and employment settings. When you feel uncertain about whether or not to share information, mention a kindhearted or amusing thought that leaves your listener(s) feeling safe and on the same intellectual level as yours,
As I work with the C-suite staff of my well-known clients, I see a difference in those with knowledge, and those with wisdom. The distinction comes to mind when I work with some highly talented, highly educated people who are unable to execute because they lack the discretion, timing, and context to put their knowledge to work for the greater good.
On the other hand, I work with many who bless me with their wisdom. How are they different? What is the difference in knowledge and wisdom? This is what I draw from them.
Knowledge is the tool; wisdom is the experience to use the tool
Knowledge exists as data possessed, processes understood, facts known. Knowledge is a brute force instrument, a blunt object that is applied to whatever is the problem of the day.
Knowledge can be gained methodically and measured easily with tests and interrogations. Knowledge is noted with diplomas, graduate robes, and initials after one’s name. Wisdom is a more subtle beast.
While knowledge is a tool; wisdom is the experience to wield the tool.
Knowledge has an unwavering and definitive path; wisdom connects dots and minds, redirecting continually to success, never too tied to a stance. Knowledge stands alone; wisdom stands with others.
Knowledge has clear, sharp edges; wisdom has a gentle, yielding border. Knowledge is proud; wisdom is humble. Knowledge has answers; wisdom has questions.
The path from knowledge to wisdom is a series of jukes and jives through failure, through success, through yearning ears tuned to the knowledge and wisdom of others.
While knowledge hotly debates its today’s worth, wisdom accepts gladly that hard-won knowledge is rendered useless by progress. Wisdom celebrates that loss and the new opportunity that is created by it.
What I see in my world is that the best teams have both the knowledgeable and the wise. The knowledgeable typically outnumber the wise, but in productive environments do not outrank them.
I believe Leo Tolstoy said it best.
“Knowledge is being aware that fire can burn, wisdom is remembering the blister.” – Leo Tolstoy
While it may not be necessary to actually have personally experienced something in order to truly understand it in detail I do believe it gives one credential. There is no real substitute for having lived through or witnessed acts and their consequences.
Case in point everyone has heard about someone who has had their heart broken, been cheated on, or suffered the loss of a parent or sibling. However until it actually happens to you the gravity of the situation remains hypothetical or analytical without any emotional connection.
This is not to say people who have not walked in your shoes are unable to provide direction. Priests often give couples marital advice!
Nevertheless, there is something unique and special about sitting with someone who has the battle scars of life on their soul giving one sage advice. There is an immediate increase of respect attached to their words because they have gone through what you have and managed to come out on the other side.
This explains why people often seek out mentors or read biographies of those who have achieved what they would like to achieve.
It is nearly impossible to surpass the knowledge gained by anyone with a PhD from The University of Life. Wisdom is having the unbeatable combination of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.
Certified Mindful Lifestyle | Stress Management Coach, The Quiet Zone Coaching
Knowledge is the accumulation of data points.
We can go on the internet, search for a topic of interest, and be provided with pages and pages of information. We can spend all day reading about a particular topic, remember this data, and claim to have “knowledge.”
Wisdom, on the other hand, is the effective application of this knowledge.
For example, we can go onto our state’s DMV page and read every law regarding the rules of the road. We can claim to be the most knowledgeable person about traffic law. But we can’t claim to have “wisdom” about those laws unless we effectively apply them when driving.
Wisdom also infers the ability to know WHEN to apply knowledge – which is where the “effective” application of knowledge comes in.
Using our traffic law example, we are “know” that we have the right of way when someone is trying to merge onto a highway. Wisdom is acknowledging that the other person may not understand that we have the right of way and crash into us as a result – so allowing them access, even though we don’t have to, displays wisdom.
Knowledge is the accumulation of information; wisdom is understanding the reality of situations, managing expectations (realistic or not), and applying the knowledge in a way that benefits the greatest number of people at a particular moment in time.
Performance Coach and Mentor, Wisdom Ridge Ranch
Wisdom emanates from the ability to use all of our sensory capabilities, mind, and body.
With the advancement of technology, we’ve created an over-reliance on the spoken and the written word (knowledge) which has led us away from emotion, instinct and intuition thus zapping our creativity and leading us to delay decisions because we depend on “data.”
Essentially ignoring the vast amounts of genius residing in social and emotional intelligence. We’ve been conned to believe that screens are making us smarter, but, they are actually limiting our potential for true Wisdom.
Ninety-eight percent of our brain does not use language, or logic, or belief, or strategy. And, our heart is a sensory organ, acting as a sophisticated information encoding and processing center – it learns, it remembers, it makes independent functional decisions. Scientists have found that there are more neural cells in the gut than the entire spinal column.
Wisdom is directly associated with the extent to which you are connected to the world around you, including the ability to use all intelligence centers, the brain, the heart, the gut – and the emotions you feel, to make decisions.
We have been conditioned to distrust emotion and instinct even to go so far as to fear our own feelings. Which means that we ignore the vast amount of intelligence available to us.
Most of us rely only on only the linear 2% – knowledge – to navigate the world around us. And, yet, we find ourselves reflecting…”I should have listened to my gut” or “I knew in my heart” or “it just didn’t feel right.”
The ability to use all sources of intelligence, at the moment, is Wisdom.
Rafael E. Salazar II, MHS, OTR/L
CEO and President, Rehab U Practice Solutions
There is a very clear difference between knowledge and wisdom.
Knowledge is merely “knowing”, learning, or understanding facts as they pertain to certain situations. Wisdom, on the other hand, is the ability to apply that knowledge to given situations.
Here’s an example: One can read all the books, take all the courses, and even graduate with some business degree. That person can have all the book knowledge, be able to recall it on demand, and have a firm grasp on the subject matter. But that knowledge had never been tested.
That person has never had to make difficult choices to make payroll or have to bounce back from business mistakes. Once he or she goes through that process, they will come out of it with some experience on those very topics. How they translate that for future use is what we call wisdom.
Aristotle coined a phrase called “practical wisdom”, which at its core refers to the application of knowledge, experience, and common sense to given situations.
This is the ultimate goal of knowledge and learning in general: to develop an understanding of the facts and then be able to apply that knowledge in a variety of situations, relying on knowledge, experience, and common sense.
Author | Musician
Knowledge is like a deck of cards. It can be used and arranged any number of ways, some of which make sense and some which don’t. You can have a deck of cards, but it doesn’t make you a card player.
Wisdom is the five-hundredth card game.
There are some wise people in the world who don’t have a lot of knowledge. So how can they be wise? Because they know what to do with the knowledge they have.
Meanwhile, there are hundreds of millions of people who have access to nearly all the knowledge in the world. They think that any knowledge they have is as good as anybody else’s, and they consider themselves wise. In fact, you can’t tell them that they aren’t, because a fool believes themselves wise and a wise person knows their own foolishness.
They make terrible decisions. They are easily led by tricksters that play to their egos and their insecurities. And all the while they have to defend their mistakes so that they don’t appear foolish, which they do with their knowledge…what they know…
That’s all knowledge is: what you currently know. What cards you have, even if they aren’t actually part of the deck, like an 11 of clubs. You’d need to be wise to know better.
Bryan M. Waring
While looking at the two dictionary definitions of “knowledge” and “wisdom,” it is obvious that they are similar. Hence, the fact that they are thesaurus suggestions for each other. However, these two do have different usages and connotations in Northern America society.
To the first state: “wisdom” is by far the stronger word of the two to convey the image of intelligence, understanding, and professionalism.
When looking at the word “knowledge,” people pick up on the word “know-“ meaning that you know of this topic or skill. However, “know” is a pretty soft word for conveying understanding. You may know of someone, but not be a close friend. Similarly, may know how to fish, but can’t do it.
There is a lot of arbitration as to if the person is indeed a professional, understanding the topic/skill, or is just familiar with it.
“Wisdom” on the other hand, has more of a certainty that this person has a complete understanding of a matter. Maybe because “wisdom” has the same sounding “wiz-“ prefix as “wizard,” but it is clear that “wisdom” has stronger connotations to intelligence.
So, when giving a compliment to another person, try offering the phrase “this person has a lot of wisdom about-“ to give your sentence extra strength.
Knowledge is book smarts: education and practical things one hopes one would acquire along life’s journey.
Wisdom is not learned from school. It is life’s lessons and instinctual learning from age and life’s experiences.
One can have, for example, knowledge of facts, but no wisdom. But one cannot have wisdom without faltering at times and hopefully learning from those mistakes.
Partner and Webmaster, Drillers
Literal meanings aside, we’re at a pivotal point in history, where knowledge is abundant and doesn’t need to be worked for by most people.
We have more information in our pockets that presidents had sat around any table in history due to smartphones. Memorizing knowledge is unimportant due to Google. Due to big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other technologies, knowing anything that we want to can happen easily.
At the same time, it seems that humanity has made slow progress in wisdom.
Wisdom is a measure of what we do with knowledge, and it has moral and ethical undertones. Knowledge gives us more ways to solve problems or destroy ourselves, wisdom is a measure of which we choose.
Knowledge is often described as skills learned through experience, and education and other means. While wisdom often comes both from personal experiences as well as using knowledge gained from above to solve problems and to navigate one’s life.
For example, serving 20 years in the Air Force I gained such experiences as leadership, problem-solving, follow thru, time management etc. Through the years these skills were transferrable to my 20 years spent in higher education administration.
Daily, I was required to use my knowledge to manage the day to day operations of my departments. For example, my time management skills ensured that tasks like employee timesheets, quarterly reports were processed when due.
My ability to anticipate problems and find solutions were always graded highly on my annual employee evaluations as was my follow thru to completion of tasks. Once I was transacting the logistics for a conference. After asking a number of questions about payment, product delivery, with a vendor. The guy I was speaking with asked if I had ever served in the military. As he had also served, he recognized and respected these skills.
Senior Sales Representative
I’ve always thought about this difference like this:
Knowledge is knowing about something, and Wisdom is knowing how to apply the knowledge or how to use it in context.
Like this old example that most of us have run into before says, knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is knowing not to use it in a fruit salad.
Without being able to properly layer our knowledge on top of the context or situation we are in, we’re no more helpful than a Google search or an encyclopedia. A truly wise person knows how to separate out what’s important about what they know and what doesn’t fit into the situation.
Author | Consultant, NYC School Secrets
I have this conversation with my son, constantly. I tell him no matter how smart he thinks he is or how many facts he thinks he knows, I will always have more life experience than him.
On the other hand, when he challenges that he doesn’t need to memorize facts, he can look up anything he wants on the internet at any time, I stress to him that, before you can look something up, you have to know it exists in order to be looked up! You can’t look up how many men were killed at the Battle of Gettysburg if you don’t know there ever was a Battle of Gettysburg!
Knowledge is just an accumulation of facts. Wisdom is knowing how to apply them.
Robert D. Sollars
Consultant, Workplace/School Violence Prevention
Speaking as a professional, without any college degree or other certifications, just old-fashioned book learning I have to say the difference between the two is:
Knowledge – the idea that you know about a subject and discuss it well, with a logical thought process, and utilize in the books you’ve been forced to read during your knowledge undertaking.
Wisdom – denotes the fact that if you have the knowledge, no matter how you have achieved it, putting it to use and knowing that nothing ever goes by the book and you have to tweak things for each and every circumstance you encounter.
Eileen Sollars RN, ADN
Knowledge is what you have learned and Wisdom is knowing when and how to use it.
As in nursing school, you learn the whys and what fors’ of caring for sick individuals. So, you have gained the knowledge. But in practicing nursing you are pair with a mentor to help you learn the wisdom in applying your knowledge to your patients.
Wisdom is taking your knowledge and tempering it with understanding to know the wisdom of how to use your knowledge to best serve your patients.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it possible to have knowledge without wisdom?
Yes, it is possible to have knowledge without wisdom. In fact, many people have great knowledge, but they lack the wisdom to apply it in a meaningful way. This can lead to a lack of perspective, poor decision-making, and an inability to navigate the complexities of life.
For example, someone may have memorized many scientific facts about climate change, but without the wisdom to understand the impact of climate change on future generations and take action to address it, this knowledge cannot be used in a way that benefits society or the planet.
On the other hand, it is also possible to have wisdom without having much formal knowledge. Wisdom can come from life experience, reflection, and a deep understanding of oneself and the world.
Can knowledge ever be an obstacle to wisdom?
Yes, in some cases, a lot of knowledge can actually be a hindrance to wisdom. For example, if you’re so fixated on your own knowledge and experience that you’re unwilling to consider other perspectives or ideas, you may not be able to make wise decisions.
Similarly, if you rely too much on past experiences and don’t adapt to new situations, your knowledge may even prevent you from making the best decision. In these cases, it’s essential to recognize the limits of your own knowledge and be open to learning from others.
How can I determine if someone is wise?
Determining if someone is wise can be difficult because wisdom is a complex and multifaceted concept that is difficult to quantify or measure. However, there are some signs that may indicate that someone is wise, such as:
– They have a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the world and its complexities and can see the big picture rather than getting bogged down in details.
– They are able to reflect on their own experiences and emotions and use this self-awareness to make better decisions and navigate difficult situations.
– They can recognize multiple perspectives and consider other points of view, even if they disagree with them.
– They can recognize and challenge their own biases and assumptions and are open to new ideas and ways of thinking.
– They can apply their knowledge and understanding in compassionate and thoughtful ways, and they are committed to helping others and making a positive impact on the world.
– They can maintain a sense of equanimity and balance in the face of adversity or challenge.
– They can learn from their mistakes and use them as opportunities for growth and development.
Whether someone is wise is a subjective and personal assessment that depends on individual values, experiences, and perspectives. It is also worth noting that wisdom is a lifelong journey, and people can develop and cultivate wisdom throughout their lives.
Can wisdom be lost or diminished over time?
While wisdom can be cultivated and developed throughout life, it is possible for it to be lost or diminish over time. Factors such as stress, illness, trauma, and social isolation can negatively impact the development and expression of wisdom.
In addition, as we age, we may experience cognitive decline or physical limitations that make it difficult for us to engage in the reflective practices associated with wisdom. However, with conscious effort and support from others, it is possible to maintain and even promote wisdom across the lifespan.
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