Friday, May 4, 2012

The Difference between Intelligence and Wisdom (my understanding of)

Without a doubt, the words "intelligence" and "wisdom" carry two separate meanings; at least, to the literate. As for the common Malaysian student in the street, their only indentification of the dissimilarities between the two words is the one they got from video games: that Intelligence affects Magic Power, and that Wisdom affects Magic Defense. Of course, the real application of the words are actually much more deep and contextual than that.

Consider the monks in their monastery, chanting throughout the day and meditating on the important things in life; or even the hermit sage who lives on the mountaintop, as so often depicted by TV. One would say that they are seeking for worldly or cosmic wisdom. The word "intelligence" doesn't really fit anywhere into the picture.

On the other hand, consider the student, who spends all his time in the library, leafing through archives and text books; or hooded, shadowy figures, moving from pile to pile of books, in a dark, vast room filled with bookshelves, discovering and discussing how the world works, as often depicted by the darker regions of the mind. It is possible that, on some level, these people may be considered to be searching for wisdom - as much of it as can be imparted from aged scraps of paper - but perhaps intelligence would be a better word.

Wikipedia and Wiktionary both display slight differences between the definitions of the two words. According to Wiktionary, "intelligence" refers to the capacity of the mind, especially to understand principles and apply it to practice - whereas "wisdom" refers to the ability to make a decision based on experience, knowledge, and intuitive understanding.
Both are fairly incomplete definitions. Wikipedia provides a wider explanation. "Wisdom" is an understanding and realization of people, events, or situations, resulting in the ability to make judgements. "Intelligence" is the possesion of the abilities abstract thought, reasoning, problem solving, etc.
The Wikipedia page on "wisdom" featured a considerable amount of philosophy, whereas the "intelligence" page cited the word "psychometrics" more than once.

From all of this, even the common Malaysian student in the street can form a vague understanding of the difference between wisdom and intelligence. However, some people find it necessary to pit different forms of knowledge against each other to find out which one is the greatest. Many would go on about the differences between "head knowledge" and "heart knowledge", and how intelligence would be useless without wisdom; but in truth, intelligence plays a much bigger role in modern life.

As King Solomon was a very religious man, the Lord gave him a choice of any one thing he wished for. He could have wished for money or long life, but instead, King Solomon asked for wisdom - a decision which showed that he had a sizeable amount of it to begin with. It is with the wisdom that he received, that we hear the myriad number of tales about how he solved problems: the two mothers' child, the queen's ten children, etc. But he was evidently rather intelligent as well, as was required of a king.

Albert Einstein is largely regarded as one of the greatest minds in history. The theory of relativity and E-equals-M-C-square are only two of his many world-changing theories. Some may joke about his electrifying hairdo, but under all that frizzle was an intelligent cranium. He didn't obtain his intellect through meditation or sitting on a mountain; no, he received a proper education. However, those who knew him often regard him as a man of great wisdom as well.

The top spot falls to neither wisdom, nor intelligence. Both are needed in perfect balance to be considered a truly knowledgeable being. With intelligence, one can solve the more complex and challenging problems in life - and with wisdom, the metaphysical ones.

Unfortunately, humans still insist on placing price tags on the younger members of their species - namely, through exams and grades. Perhaps one would not be so bothered about it, if these tests did not focus so much on conventional intelligence - in fact, even of true intelligence are these examinations sadly lacking. This is where the term "head knowledge" comes in. This is especially true in Malaysia, as any common Malaysian student in the street can tell you. I am generally non-partisan, and shall refrain from delving too deeply into the subject, but when even the Sunday newspapers comment on the country's system of education, you know something's not right somewhere. Many claim that the Malaysian system of education focuses a lot on head knowledge, and that students with large memory capacities, and not the truly intelligent ones, are the ones who excel. In Malaysia, students are not given oppurtunities to express their excellence in the arts, such as music and, ahem, writing, to the extent that some students leave the country in order to pursue these arts without being boxed in by Malaysia's narrow-mindedness. And yet we complain about the flow of money out of the country, eh?

To that end, it is for one such an examination that I will be sitting for in the coming week, and must therefore study tediously for it. With any luck, perhaps I may be able to glean some amounts of wisdom and intelligence from these books; but head knowledge seems more likely. And so, I bid farewell to my kind readers, as I take a few weeks of hiatus from internet for studying. Was this post just a superfluous way of saying that I'll be away for a while? Well, don't ask, don't tell. Adieu.

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