Opinion psychology

Lesson 4: Intelligence is Not Necessarily Wisdom

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To know that there is a clear difference between intelligence and wisdom, one must simply ask themselves if one can exist without the other. Can you be intelligent without being wise? Can you be wise without being intelligent?

The answer to both these questions is yes.

Intelligence without wisdom is less clear to see. But it is obvious that there is wisdom without intelligence. There are people, who are not very intelligent, but are wise in their behavior. They care for others, and for their own well-being.

What about intelligence without wisdom? In 2020, the issue of intelligence without wisdom is becoming more obvious. We have access to all human knowledge online, and yet, a significant number of people choose not to benefit. We have technology that saves us time, yet many people spend their spare time harming themselves. We have tools that can help us make better decisions, yet many people prefer chaos.

There are many AI dystopian thinkers such as Bostrom today, and Jacques Ellul in the past, who have warned about the dangers of an increasingly technological society, how things are and can go wrong.

These are two book that can give you a glimpse into these ideas:

To be intelligent means to solve problems quickly, but these can be the wrong problems.

A highly intelligent gambler might spend their entire lives trying to solve the statistical gaming problems inside the casino. A third-rate philosopher may spend their whole lives thinking about problems that don’t matter to anyone else and have no benefit to his well-being. A sports geek can spend all their time trying to perfect their fantasy teams and give little attention to more pressing and vital areas of their lives.

The wise person is the one who knows what matters most, who knows what to not think about, and what to eliminate from their lives.

The how is a question to answer with intelligence the why is a question to answer with wisdom.

Be Careful who you Idolize

The insight from Peterson, was to be wary of idolizing those who have sacrificed everything for the attainment of one kind of success at the expense of all others. The typical example is of the billionaire who has managed to conquer the world of business, but remains unsatisfied with everything else, perhaps including his own businesses (there is always more money to be made). This is, the same insight one gets from Buddhism, and it happens that another psychologist, Mark Epstein, has made the link between psychotherapy and Buddhism in Thoughts Without a Thinker.

There are some people, who due to their temperament, that if you put in a forest and give them an axe, they’ll do nothing but chop down trees all day. There are those who are wired to do nothing but work, but it isn’t obvious that as a man or a woman, this is something you should aspire towards.

The Importance of Being Balanced

The people who peddle self-help advice have the same selling point, and the same strategy – it is very simple. They figure out what you want, whether it’s money or women or happiness, and then they claim to have found the “secret” to obtaining one of these things. Here is the insidious part – it is insidious only because it is never disclosed – the advice they give you could work. And that is the problem.

It is like the overused saying, “be careful what you wish for…” You may think that by getting exactly what you want, you will be happy, but it is never the case. What the financial guru forgot to tell you, is that by sacrificing all that time, you will have many regrets about the past, and if for some reason, things don’t work out, you will have made all of those sacrifices for nothing.

This is the second insight from Peterson. You want to have a balance, not for the sake of having a balance. You want it, because if one area of your life takes a hit, you are not devastated, and have nothing else to fall back on.

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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