A Few Words About…The Distinction Between Wisdom and Knowledge


I was thinking recently about the distinction between knowledge and wisdom. Some people confuse the two, which is a huge mistake. As always, I begin with some relevant quotes, and there are a few more quotes than usual, so stick with me here.

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land and Other Poems

“Human knowledge had become too great for the human mind. All that remained was the scientific specialist, who know “more and more about less and less,” and the philosophical speculator, who knew less and less about more and more. The specialist put on blinders in order to shut out from his vision all the world but one little spot, to which he glued his nose. Perspective was lost. “Facts” replaced understanding; and knowledge, split into a thousand isolated fragments, no longer generated wisdom.” Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy

“To wisdom belongs the intellectual apprehension of eternal things; to knowledge, the rational knowledge of temporal things.” St. Augustine

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” St. Augustine

“To know what we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, this is true knowledge.” Nicolaus Copernicus

“To know, is to know you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.” Socrates

“It is not lawful or proper for you to know everything.” Lucian

“It is much better to know something about everything than to know everything about one thing.” Blaise Pascal

“Useful knowledge is great support for intuition.” Charles B. Rogers

“When a man’s knowledge is not in order, the more of it he has the greater will be his confusion.” Herbert Spencer

“There is a thing called knowledge of the world which people do not have until they are middle aged. It is something that cannot be taught to younger people because it is not logical and does not obey laws which are constant. It has no rules.” Theodore H. White

“A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.” Sir Francis Bacon

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.” Calvin Coolidge

“Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more. William Cowper

“Science gives us knowledge, but only philosophy can give us wisdom.” Will Durant

“Wisdom is knowing when to speak your mind and when to mind your speech.” Evangel

“Knowledge without wisdom is double folly.” Baltasar Gracian

“Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, be fortified by it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.” Herman Hesse

“It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

“The wisdom of the wise is an uncommon degree of common sense.” William Ralph Inge

“Knowledge without wisdom is a load of books on the back of an ass.” Japanese proverb

The above quotes make clear beyond cavil that there is a large difference between wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge seems easier to define, while wisdom is a little more difficult to pin down. What exactly is wisdom? Is it like the famous judicial definition of pornography, i.e., you know it when you see it? That’s not really a satisfactory answer.

Clearly, the quotes above demonstrate that it’s possible to have knowledge without wisdom. Is the converse also true, i.e., it’s possible to have wisdom without knowledge? I believe that it is. Is this true because knowledge can be easily imparted from one to another, while wisdom as such can’t be?

We can load computers with knowledge, but can we teach them to be wise? I’m not sure, but I doubt it, although the world of artificial intelligence is certainly challenging my conclusion. While I do believe that computers can be taught to think critically, I just don’t think that they can be imbued with wisdom. There seems to be an experiential aspect of wisdom. Yet some very wise decisions are made daily without much experience, so that’s not a wholly satisfactory answer either.

Is Will Durant correct that in our meta-complex world of dizzying data, knowledge no longer produces wisdom? Is there a hierarchy here, i.e., is it a pyramid of sorts? If so, it begins at the bottom with data, which can range from gobbledygook to actual information, which is the second lowest level in the pyramid. In grad school, we used to say if you torture the data long enough, it will confess to whatever you want it to say. You know, garbage in garbage out.

Information requires analysis and organization of data in order to draw conclusions or to make inferences about the data. Information takes data and provides some context or explanation of it.

Now, armed with information, how is wisdom generated? We have come back full circle: what exactly is wisdom? To start, some people are armed with lots of knowledge but little wisdom. As Baltasar Gracian so eloquently and concisely stated above, knowledge without wisdom is double folly. As did the Japanese proverb quoted above.

Is Theodore H. White correct that wisdom requires life experiences? I concur in part and dissent in part. In my opinion, some people’s experience just doesn’t generate wisdom. Therefore, while there may be an experiential component to wisdom, it is not linear, and, in fact, for some it may be nonexistent. However, I will concede that life experiences may play a role in wisdom, although it may be possible to learn some lessons from those who have failed in the past.

Many of us, particularly those who endured law school, are familiar with the often maddening, hide the ball nature of the Socratic Method, where one seeks truth by asking a series of pointed and piercing questions. Is Socrates correct in that to know means that you know that you know nothing?

I disagree with Socrates here, and I believe that as long as the person is humble about the limits of his or knowledge and understands that no one can know everything, that suffices. I do agree with Socrates and with Sir Francis Bacon that the ability to ask good questions is inextricably intertwined with wisdom. I also agree with Oliver Wendell Holmes that wise people possess above average listening skills.

Does wisdom involve mere common sense, as William Ralph Inge posits? I don’t have any data to support this, but in my experience, wise people usually exhibit a significant amount of common sense. Therefore, I posit that there is a common sense component of wisdom. But I submit that wisdom is more than mere common sense. In my experience, wise people also possess high Emotional Quotients (also known as EQ, as opposed to mere IQ).

Clearly, the world would greatly benefit if the level of human wisdom increased. Therefore, can wisdom be taught? Or are Theodore H. White and Herman Hesse correct that wisdom cannot be taught? I wouldn’t go that far and believe that we can shorten the wisdom accumulation curve through education and close observation, but I do think that there is some ethereal component of wisdom that cannot be taught.

What else can be said about wisdom? Is there a perspective aspect of wisdom. Clearly, there is a time and a place to release one’s wisdom. I agree with Evangel that wise people pick the right time, place and context to impart their wisdom. Sometimes, people aren’t ready to hear your wisdom at a particular time. A wise person perceptibly knows this and demurs. Does one have to study philosophy in order to be wise, as Will Durant contends? I don’t think so, but I concede that the study of philosophy can shorten the length of time prior to attaining wisdom.

Finally, we can’t be wise about everything, as Lucian concludes.

Therefore, we can say that knowledge aids wisdom, but the two are not the same. Wisdom is acquired by thinking about the state of the knowledge of some subject in order to draw inferences and deductions about organized data.

In conclusion, while we strive for knowledge, we should yearn for wisdom.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Few Words About…Healthcare Insurance


A year after his election, President Trump still hasn’t gotten through his campaign promise of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

Healthcare finance is a complex subject, and I’m not qualified to pontificate on it. However, I wonder if the holdup is the insurance aspect. I understand the benefits of having health insurance. However, I maintain a high deductible healthcare plan and a health savings account instead of expecting my healthcare insurance to pay for everything.

Are we addicted to healthcare insurance? Do we expect too much out of healthcare insurance? Healthcare insurance hasn’t been around that long, but there was a time when there was no healthcare insurance. Healthcare providers simply financed a patient’s bill for them. What if we eliminated healthcare insurance altogether?

Let’s face it: the insurance aspect of this problem lies at its heart. Insurance is, like it or not, legalized gambling. Insureds want as much covered as possible, while insurers maximize profits by taking in premiums and denying or delaying the payment of claims and payments to healthcare providers. I maintain that the interposition of healthcare insurance is what really causes healthcare costs to soar.

It seems to me that the debate over issues such as single payer and preexisting conditions begs the real question, which is whether we even need healthcare insurance at all. Politically, healthcare insurance companies are strong and are assisted by powerful lobbyists, so I doubt that you see much change there. However, I predict that more doctors will get off of the healthcare insurance hamster wheel.

 

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A Few Words About the NFL National Anthem Flap


I was bored on my flight back to Detroit, so I figured that it was time to blog.

I’ll start with the NFL and the National anthem flap. I deeply respect the players’ right to protest. However, I deeply disagree with the decision to disrespect our country by protesting during our national anthem, which is or should be one of the things that unify us. And protest on your own time and not at your game. It may surprise some to learn that there’s no free speech right in a business context.

This is all governed by the player’s contract and the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players’ union. The league could have and should have stopped this foolishness, but they were scared of the players. However, I predict that when the owners calculate the cost of their cowardice,I bet that things change. I’m simply serving as a change agent as I discuss in the next paragraph.

To me,this transgression, which was a breach of trust, warranted serious punishment. After careful and prayerful consideration, I determined that the death penalty was appropriate. Therefore, I’m boycotting the NFL.

That’ll do it for now, but like our meely mouthed congressmen, I reserve the right to revise and extend my remarks, as well as the remainder of my time.

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A Few Words About… the Confederate Monuments Crisis


Like many of you, I’ve been deeply troubled by the vociferous and unprecedented onslaught of Antifa, in league with their surrogates in the liberal main stream media, against a sitting president of the United States. However, I was equally appalled and saddened by the senseless murderous act in Charlottesville VA.

I worry deeply about where we’re headed and pray that another civil war doesn’t break out. I also think it absolutely wrong to attempt to judge old historical figures by today’s mores because they never had a chance to live under those mores.

We’re all a product of our past experiences. I’m a product of the deep south and was born in 1960. My home state, Louisiana, was under Reconstruction for 12 long and difficult years, the longest of any Confederate state. Like it or not, Reconstruction was unnecessarily harsh (it decimated New Orleans) on the south and created a lot of ill will that I heard about as a child. The level of corruption and misappropriation by those in control during Reconstruction was breathtaking. We had some Confederate money when I was a child. I lived through desegregation and the civil rights struggle.

Despite my southern upbringing, my ancestors fought on both sides of the Civil War. One ascendant, who was in one of the Tennessee militias, spent three years in a Union prison camp. Another ascendant fought for one of the Michigan militias. Therefore, I’m torn between the two sides.

I’m glad that an extraordinary leader, Abraham Lincoln, took up the struggle and acted to save the Union. Slavery is wrong, no matter how you slice it, and I’m glad that it ended. However, as a constitutional conservative who believes in states rights and limited government, I don’t like at all how the U.S. Supreme Court has eroded the Tenth Amendment to something just short of a suggestion. I believe that this erosion has resulted in a considerable loss of personal liberty, which is anathema to me.

Which brings me to the Confederate monuments. It might interest you to know a few facts about Robert E. Lee. At the time that the Civil War broke out, Lee was the best general we had. Had Virginia not seceded, General Lee would have been in charge of the Union army. However, back then (remember, the country wasn’t even 100 years old, and most of the states hadn’t even been part of the country for 50 years), one’s loyalty was to one’s state, so when Virginia seceded, General Lee went with the commonwealth.

Did General Lee have any feelings about slavery? Yes, he did. General Lee opposed slavery and, in fact, had freed his slaves ten years before the Civil War began. However, because General Lee was such a good and fair man, not a single slave left his plantation until after the war ended. In fact, General Lee even provided for one former slave in his will.

After the war, General Lee assumed the presidency of Washington College (now Washington & Lee), but only lived for five years after the Civil War ended. Did General Lee have any feelings about erecting monuments to Confederate heroes or flying any of the several Confederate flags? Yes, he did. Importantly, General Lee was against them because he felt that they would retard the healing that was necessary.

This issue is a very complex one. My initial reaction to the proposal to remove the Confederate monuments in New Orleans was to summarily oppose it. This immediate visceral reaction was no doubt influenced by the fact that New Orleans’ mayor, the sorry Mitch Landrieu (who is spending all his time running for the 2020 Democrat presidential nomination instead of governing a deteriorating city), was proposing the removal.

My first question was why now? These monuments have been up for a long time, some since the 1870’s. I lived in the greater New Orleans area for about 20 years, and I don’t recall a single public complaint about these monuments until last year. Did the monuments suddenly become repugnant and offensive? If so, how did that happen?

However, if you get past the peculiar and very interesting timing issue, the question of whether the Confederate monuments should come down becomes a fair one. People are claiming that these monuments negatively affect them. However, I must first express a deep reservation about this issue.

I am deeply concerned by what seems to be a now public effort to rewrite our history. Students have been subjected to years of intentional rewrites of history in public schools, which are run by the teachers’ unions. Nevertheless, the rewrite effort is now public through the removal of historical monuments and the changing of names or streets, parks and buildings. I believe that history has much to teach us, that we’ll lose if we obliterate the truth and replace it with a liberal narrative.

If anyone could demonstrate to me that he or she is physically or psychologically affected by the Confederate monuments, then I’d be in favor of their removal. However, I’m not inclined to favor removal because this appears to be but a part of an overarching political plan to resist a sitting president. In my opinion, their resistance is bordering on treason, if it hasn’t already crossed that line. We all have choices. If a monument offends you, just don’t look at it. Problem solved.

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A Few Words About Gratitude


I’ve not blogged in a while, in part because I’ve been weighed down lately by a personal health issue that, thankfully, has turned out to be nothing of concern. However, during the nine long days between the biopsy and receiving the results, which were interminable to me, my brain conjured up quite a parade of horribles that caused me some loss of sleep and quite a bit of consternation.

Yesterday, I received the good news that the abnormal growth on my right ear was not malignant. Whew! All that worry for naught. Now what?

I must confess that I’ve not written a gratitude list in quite a while, even though I know well how therapeutic writing a list of things for which we are grateful can be because I’ve written many over the years to get through some rough patches. Given my good news, I thought that I’d share a partial list of that for which I am grateful.

I begin with a couple of quotes about gratitude:

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that thankfulness is indeed a virtue. William John Bennett.

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others. Cicero

He is a man of sense who does not grieve for what he has not, but rejoices in what he has. Epictetus

You can’t be hateful if you’re grateful. Shorty

I’m grateful for:

Being alive today, during the greatest period in which to live.

My good health.

Living in the greatest country in the world, one where I am free to pursue my passions.

My faith in God, which, though occasionally tested, always carries me through.

My loving parents, Paul and Marilyn, who gave me a great life.

My brothers, Doug and Keith, who I love dearly, even though I don’t see them very often.

My loving wife, Carol, who came into my life at a low ebb and who patiently and gently loved me back to life.

My wonderful sons, Paul and Evan, who have made me a very proud papa.

My ex-wife, Lynn, for giving me two wonderful sons and for keeping me humble.

My wonderful job, and the people with whom I work.

All of my friends, of which God has blessed me with many.

My abilities and talents, of which God blessed me with many.

A warm and wonderful home in which we live.

Plenty of food to eat, in which I regularly overindulge (and it shows).

The wonderful game of baseball.

Hot running water.

Amazing technology, which permits me to do so many things, including writing this blog.

Our amazing cat, Callie-Cat, who I love dearly.

My family on both sides, including my aunts and cousins.

My in-laws, who accepted me into their family.

My love of music and my music collection.

My love of books, and my personal library.

I could go on and on, but, hopefully, you get the point. And, more importantly, that I understand that I’ve been extremely blessed. I truly am fortunate to have what I have, and I’m grateful for it. I really do try to focus on what I’ve got and not on what I don’t have.

It is therapeutic to go through a gratitude list exercise, and, if you’ve never done one, or it’s been a while since you have, you really should consider taking this path because it truly makes you feel good.

I choose to live in gratitude. It’s truly a great place to live.

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Baseball: It’s back!!! But It’s Different This Year


Those of you who know me at all know of my unquenchable love of all things about The Game: baseball. All of the teams are working out now either in the Grapefruit League (Florida) or the Cactus League (Arizona), and spring training games begin on Wednesday, February 22. I’m so excited!!! For me, the off-season is such a downer; I refer to it as The Void. The Hot Stove League (trades, rumors, free agent signings, etc.) heats up from time to time, but there isn’t that healthy daily dose of Vitamin B (baseball) that I crave and need.

I’ve been enthralled with The Game since I was first introduced to it as a small child. One of the greatest days of my life was when my parents gave me a small portable transistor radio at around age 9, which became my connection to My Team: the Houston Astros. I listened to every game, vicariously going through all of the ups and downs of a season with the team just as though I was a part of it.

During the games, I paced all around our neighborhood with the radio tucked up at my ear, listening to the wonderful calls of then Astros play-by-play announcers Gene Elston and Loell Passe. It was magical. I celebrated good things, was crushed when bad things happened, and I sometimes questioned a managerial move out loud. While I love watching games on television, there’s just something about baseball on the radio that I love. The current Astros radio broadcast team of Robert Ford and Steve Sparks are awesome at their craft.

I remember one night when the Astros were playing the Dodgers on the west coast, and the game started after my 8:00 p.m. bedtime. However, not to worry. I just got under the sheet, turned the radio down real low and listened anyway. One night I listened until 4:00 a.m. because the game went well into extra innings, which I love and view as free baseball.  I say a silent prayer that each game that I watch (that doesn’t involve my Astros) goes into extra innings! Of course, I want the Astros to win convincingly every game in  regulation nine innings!

My late mother, who honestly couldn’t care a less about baseball, and I had a ritual that we went through every spring from 1969 on until her death last October. Before the season started, Mom would ask me who would win the pennant, and my response was always the same: the Houston Astros. Never mind that I’ve only been right one time since 1969 (2005). It was a ritual, and it is one that I will sorely miss this season.

I miss Mom terribly. But I want to be clear about this: my Houston Astros will win the pennant this year! That’s for you, Mom!!!

Play ball!!!

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A Few Words on Jury Duty…


Recently, I was summoned for state jury duty. I always see jury duty for what it is: an important public service, a civic duty. Millions of good people have died for my right to a trial by jury, so I figure the least I can do is not to bitch about it or try to get out of it and just show up on the appointed day, which I did, armed with a book in hand, since the wheels of justice often are very slow to move (in which case was true).

As luck would have it, there was only one case that needed a jury that day, and it was a civil case, which, here in Ohio, only requires eight jurors and two alternates. I went through voir dire and admitted that I knew the lawyers, yet I wasn’t excused at that point. However, ultimately, I was not selected to be on the jury for that week-long trial, for which I was grateful since I had plenty of important things to do at work.

My history with jury duty goes back to my days as a judge’s law clerk back into the mid-1980’s. I have to confess that, prior to that job, I hadn’t given jury duty a second’s thought. Back then, as the judge’s law clerk, I was besieged with requests from people wanting me to help them get out of jury duty. I became somewhat callous and incredulous at these numerous requests, and I used to counter back with this question:” What if we let everyone out of jury duty who wanted to get out of it?”

I would then explain the whole civic duty thing and tell them that juries wouldn’t be either good or fair if the only people who served on juries were those who wanted to serve. Suppose that you or a loved one was facing a serious charge, and you really wanted a fair jury. Would you like your chances with only those who want to be on juries to exercise a little power, or would you want a cross-section of your community peers to be there?

I told them that I would want the latter, right about the time that I would tell them that their request to get out of jury duty was denied. I told them that the odds of getting picked to be on an actual jury were very small because most cases settle on the courthouse steps before trial, so that, at most, it would be a slight inconvenience. While I’m certain that I didn’t make any friends doing this, I hoped that the people would come around to my way of thinking.

As a practicing lawyer, I actually served on two criminal juries and was foreman on one of those juries. We reached a unanimous guilty verdict in an I-12 drug trafficking case. While the other jury was impaneled, the DA and the defendant reached a plea bargain agreement, thereby obviating the continued need for the jury, so we were excused. That one would have been an interesting trial because it involved a defendant who’d robbed a convenience store armed with a squirt gun, which the DA was trying to treat as a real gun for purposes of the aggravated robbery charge.

The jury that I was on that reached a verdict was a very educated jury for a cross-section of the public-at-large. I wasn’t the only lawyer on the jury of 12; there was a plaintiff personal injury lawyer also on that jury, as well as a Ph.D. and two others with master’s degrees. Nevertheless, I was astonished at what some of the jurors during deliberation thought was important during the trial. We had to hash through quite a bit of irrelevant nonsense, which wasted a lot of time, before we were able to discuss the facts actually adduced at trial. It really opened my eyes as an office lawyer who spent very little time in a courtroom.

However, I used to employ my jury experience often in my estate planning and tax practice. I used to tell my wealthy clients who were contemplating intra-family litigation about my jury service and experience, and that it was my opinion that they should redouble their efforts to avoid litigation at all costs. I explained that they had no true peers of equal or greater wealth down at the courthouse, and that there was a great likelihood that they’d be painted as spoiled rich kids who were complaining about nothing, wasting the court’s precious time.

I told these desirous wanna-be litigants that these courthouse people, including judges, may well dislike them so much that they could go out of their way to make sure that they lost their case. I told them that the chances were far better if they just continued trying to work things out.

This tack didn’t usually endear me to these often self-righteous souls who wanted to spend lots o’ principal over principle. However, my sworn duty as a counselor at law, which I took very seriously, required that I impart that advice. Thankfully, in just about all of those situations, cooler heads prevailed, and they avoided litigation.

Jury service is an important civic duty that we all must take seriously and agree to serve when asked. There aren’t many places on this planet where a trial by jury is a right. It’s a precious right that must be buttressed by a public willing to serve as jurors.

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