Pillars Of Wisdom
While knowledge is part of wisdom, wisdom is not part of knowledge. The components of wisdom exist independently despite wisdom’s dependence on them. A roof raised upon four pillars is only as high as the pillars. The roof without the pillars is not a roof, but the pillars without the roof are still pillars. The roof is not the sum total of the pillars for it is a different thing altogether despite its dependence on them. Likewise is wisdom. It rests upon the four pillars of knowledge, logic, empathy, and experience. The stronger these pillars are, the heavier and higher the wisdom they can carry, and the better it can shelter its possessor, whether an individual or society. The “roof” however will lose balance and collapse into arrogance if the knowledge pillar is much higher and stronger than the rest. It collapses into closed-mindedness if experience is much higher and stronger than the rest. It collapses into callousness if the logic pillar is much higher and stronger than the rest. If the empathy pillar is much taller and stronger than the rest, it collapses into narcissism.
How many people out there have acquired knowledge and experience, and possess both logic and empathy, yet lack wisdom?
In conclusion, wisdom rests on the harmonious balance between well-developed knowledge, logic, empathy, and experience, but even if in balance, they do not produce wisdom. They merely form the foundations upon which latent wisdom can manifest.
Originally published on February 12, 2017
Note: Critics have emphasized the role of humbleness and assumed that this equation lacks that element. Humility is very much part of the formula. Humility is often (but not necessarily) a byproduct of the four pillars, and true wisdom, which has been identified as a separate thing, inherently contains humility. Finally, due to some debates, it is necessary to reemphasize that the four pillars do not automatically produce wisdom; they simply raise it up and allow it to display itself. One may have been blessed with a strong potential for wisdom, but without the four pillars it does not manifest. Like a roof, the stronger the foundations beneath, the greater the storms it can weather, yet without pillars, a roof on the ground is by definition not a roof.
Update (November 25, 2020): Recently, I saw a talk by Dr. Jordan Peterson where he, too, states his realization that wisdom is a separate thing from knowledge. In fact, he clarified in his talk that wisdom, knowledge, and intellect are completely separate things. I agree with this, and even a less-than-thorough look at today’s products of the modern higher educational system is more than sufficient to emphasize this.