Knowledge and Wisdom
Bertrand Russel is an outstanding British Philosopher of the 20th, century. He believed in the power of rationality. Which he expressed with great zeal. He differentiated between personal, and impersonal desires. He was governed by three simple and strong passions. One was the longing for love, the second, the search for knowledge, and the third, an unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.
In this essay, Russel defines wisdom, and enumerates various ways of achieving it. He laments that though vast knowledge has been acquired, there has bee of no corresponding increase in wisdom.
Russel defines wisdom by telling us about things which contribute to wisdom. The first is a sense of proportion. It is the capacity to consider all important factors in a problem carefully. Specialization makes it difficult. For example scientists discover new medicines but they do not know what impact these medicines will have on the life of the people . The medicines may reduce the infant death rate .But it may lead to increased population. In poor counties it may lead to shortage of food. If there are more people , it may lower the standard of life. The knowledge of the composition of the atom could be misused by a lunatic to destroy the world. Knowledge without wisdom can be harmful. It should be combined with the total needs of mankind. Even complete knowledge is not enough . It should be related with a certain knowledge of the purpose of life. The study of history can illustrate it. For example hegel wrote with great knowledge about history , but he made the Gemans believe that they were a master race. It led to the war. It is necessary therefore to combine knowledge with feelings. Men who have knowledge but no feelings lack wisdom.
We need wisdom both in public and private life. We need wisdom to decide the goal of our life. We need it to free ourselves from personal personal prejudices. We may pursue even a novel thing unwisely if it is too big to achieve. People have wasted their lives in search of the 'philosopher's Stone ', or the elixir of life . They were not pragmatic. They were looking for simple solutions to the complex problems of mankind. Man may attempt to achieve the impossible, he may do harm to himself in the process.
Similarly in personal life wisdom is needed to avoid dislike for one another. Two persons may remain enemies because of their prejudice. One may dislike the other for imaginary faults. It they can be told that we all have some flaws, they may become friends. Russel believes that thought reasonable persuasion. We can avoid hatred. Wisdom lies in freeing ourselves from the control of our sense of our sense organs. Our ego develops through our senses. We cannot be free from the sense of sight, sound and touch. We know the world primarily though our senses. As we grow we discover that there are other things also. We start recognizing them . Thus we give up thinking of ourselves alone. We start thinking of other people, we grow wise. We give up our egoism. It is difficult to completely get rid of selfishness, but we can think of things beyond our immediate surroundings. Wisdom comes when we start giving importance to things which do not concern immediately. Wisdom comes when we stars loving others.
Russel feels that wisdom can be taught as a goal of education. The message in the parable of the Good Samaritan is that we should love our neighbor, whether friend or foe. Many a time, we miss the message in this parable, because we cease to love those who cause harm to the society. The only way out is though understanding and not hatred. In brief Russel exhorts us not hate anybody. The author draws out examples from history, of Queen Elizabeth I, Henry the IV, and Abraham Lincoln, who were free from the errors committed by other eminent people in the past.
The dangers of hatred and narrow - mindedness can be pointed out in the course of giving knowledge .Russel feels knowledge and morals can be combined in scheme of education . People should be educated to see things in relation to other things of the world . They should be encouraged to think of themselves as world citizens.
In conclusion the author states five factors that contribute to wisdom. They are.
2) A sense of proportion
5) Awareness of human needs and understating.
Summing up, as knowledge increases, our power to do evil also increases. In order to make good use of our knowledge we would require more and more wisdom. we need more wisdom to make good use of our increasing knowledge. Only then can we realize our purpose in life, and achieve our aims.
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