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Skepticism and critical thinking is not panacea, but can help to understand the world better
News Skeptic Quotations Recommended Links John Kenneth Galbraith Napoleon Otto Von Bismarck War and Peace George Bernard Shaw Oscar Wilde Propaganda Somerset Maugham Marx Ambrose Bierce Winston Churchill Skeptical Finance Quotes Keynes Marcus Aurelius George Carlin Eric Hoffer Kurt Vonnegut Benito Mussolini Slackerism Quotes Mark Twain Lenin Benjamin Franklin History Quotes Niccolo Machiavelli Antiwar Quotes George Orwell Joseph Stalin Reinhold Niebuhr H. L. Mencken Peter Kropotkin Hemingway Sun Tzu Quotes Kiss Principle Perseverance Quotes Stanley Kubrick Henry A Wallace François de La Rochefoucauld Latin Quotes C. Northcote Parkinson Fear and Courage Gore Vidall Ronald Reagan Truth and Lie Authority Quotes about tact Shakespeare Quotes William James Bob Hope Thomas Jefferson Harry Trumen Education Quotes George Bernard Shaw Quotes about Psychopaths Bushisms Quotes about Psychopaths Language Design and Programming Quotes SE quotes Einstein William James Democracy Talkativeness and Gossip Love and marriage quotes Liberty and Dissent Quotes about Wisdom Quotes about Russia and Russians Quotes About Corruption Humor Etc
Eleanor Roosevelt “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt, This is My Story
“It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.” ― Maurice Switzer
William Shakespeare “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” ― William Shakespeare, As You Like It
Mark Twain “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” ― Mark Twain
Aristotle “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” ― Aristotle
Jess C. Scott “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.” ― Jess C. Scott, The Intern
Socrates “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” ― Socrates
Isaac Asimov “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” ― Isaac Asimov
Mark Twain “In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” ― Mark Twain
J.R.R. Tolkien “Never laugh at live dragons.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien
Jonathan Swift “May you live every day of your life.” ― Jonathan Swift
Aristotle “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ― Aristotle, Metaphysics
Fran Lebowitz “Think before you speak. Read before you think.” ― Fran Lebowitz, The Fran Lebowitz Reader
Paulo Coelho “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” ― Paulo Coelho, Alchemist
Socrates “The unexamined life is not worth living.” ― Socrates
Confucius “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” ― Confucius
Paulo Coelho “The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
J.M. Barrie “I'm not young enough to know everything.” ― J.M. Barrie, The Admirable Crichton
Jane Austen “Angry people are not always wise.” ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Leo Tolstoy “It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.” ― Leo Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata
Marjorie Pay Hinckley “The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache.” ― Marjorie Pay Hinckley
Albert Einstein “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” ― Albert Einstein
Lao Tzu “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.” ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Abigail Van Buren “The best index to a person's character is how he treats people who can't do him any good, and how he treats people who can't fight back.” ― Abigail Van Buren
Jimi Hendrix “Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens” ― Jimi Hendrix
Quotes tagged as "wisdom" (showing 31-60 of 3,000)
Chad Sugg “If you're reading this... Congratulations, you're alive. If that's not something to smile about, then I don't know what is.” ― Chad Sugg, Monsters Under Your Head
Bob Marley “Don't Gain The World & Lose Your Soul, Wisdom Is Better Than Silver Or Gold.” ― Bob Marley
Langston Hughes “Hold fast to dreams, For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird, That cannot fly.” ― Langston Hughes
Alexander Hamilton “He who stands for nothing will fall for anything.” ― Alexander Hamilton
Truman Capote “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” ― Truman Capote
J.R.R. Tolkien “It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Albert Einstein “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” ― Albert Einstein
Maya Angelou “When you know better you do better.” ― Maya Angelou
Groucho Marx “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can never live long enough to make them all yourself.” ― Groucho Marx
Albert Einstein “It is not that I'm so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.” ― Albert Einstein
Eckhart Tolle “The past has no power over the present moment.” ― Eckhart Tolle
Friedrich Nietzsche “The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
Kahlil Gibran “Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper, That we may record our emptiness.” ― Kahlil Gibran
Joseph Campbell “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ― Joseph Campbell
Rumi “Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.” ― Rumi, Masnavi i Man'avi, the spiritual couplets of Maula
Ludwig van Beethoven “Music is ... A higher revelation than all Wisdom & Philosophy” ― Ludwig van Beethoven
H.L. Mencken “The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.” ― H.L. Mencken
Winston Churchill “Never, never, never give in!” ― Winston Churchill
Paulo Coelho “There are moments when troubles enter our lives and we can do nothing to avoid them. But they are there for a reason. Only when we have overcome them will we understand why they were there.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Fifth Mountain
Laurell K. Hamilton “There comes a point when you either embrace who and what you are, or condemn yourself to be miserable all your days. Other people will try to make you miserable; don't help them by doing the job yourself.” ― Laurell K. Hamilton
Charles M. Schulz “I think I've discovered the secret of life -- you just hang around until you get used to it.” ― Charles M. Schulz
Confucius “He who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions.” ― Confucius
“Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” ― Michael Levine
Jarod Kintz “I’m not waiting until my hair turns white to become patient and wise. Nope, I’m dyeing my hair tonight.” ― Jarod Kintz, This Book is Not for Sale
Leo Buscaglia “Risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.” ― Leo Buscaglia
Maya Angelou “The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.” ― Maya Angelou
A.A. Milne “Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.” ― A.A. Milne
Thomas Jefferson “Honesty is the first chapter of the book wisdom.” ― Thomas Jefferson
Francis Bacon “A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” ― Francis Bacon, The Essays
Jarod Kintz “Whether you live to be 50 or 100 makes no difference, if you made no difference in the world.” ― Jarod Kintz, Great Listener Series Mute Women
Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.” ― Isaac Asimov, Foundation
Albert Einstein “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” ― Albert Einstein
Gautama Buddha “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” ― Gautama Buddha
Patrick Rothfuss “There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.” ― Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man's Fear
Jarod Kintz “The mouth is made for communication, and nothing is more articulate than a kiss.” ― Jarod Kintz, It Occurred to Me
Adolf Hitler “If you win, you need not have to explain...If you lose, you should not be there to explain!” ― Adolf Hitler
Rick Riordan “Even strength must bow to wisdom sometimes.” ― Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief
Oscar Wilde “We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities.” ― Oscar Wilde
Leo Tolstoy “We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.” ― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Robert A. Heinlein “Anybody can look at a pretty girl and see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl that she used to be. But a great artist-a master-and that is what Auguste Rodin was-can look at an old woman, protray her exactly as she is...and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be...and more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo, or even you, see that this lovely young girl is still alive, not old and ugly at all, but simply prisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart...no matter what the merciless hours have done to her. Look at her, Ben. Growing old doesn't matter to you and me; we were never meant to be admired-but it does to them.” ― Robert A. Heinlein
Gautama Buddha “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ― Gautama Buddha
Cassandra Clare “All knowledge hurts.” ― Cassandra Clare, City of Bones
Helen Keller “Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there's a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.” ― Helen Keller
Abraham Lincoln “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” ― Abraham Lincoln
Mahatma Gandhi “It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
Brian Tracy “Never complain, never explain. Resist the temptation to defend yourself or make excuses.” ― Brian Tracy
T.S. Eliot “We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.” ― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Socrates “Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” ― Socrates
Louisa May Alcott “I ask not for any crown But that which all may win; Nor try to conquer any world Except the one within.” ― Louisa May Alcott
Oscar Wilde “The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism, and Selected Critical Prose
Oscar Wilde “Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
George Orwell “The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.” ― George Orwell, In Front of Your Nose: 1945-1950
Ralph Waldo Emerson “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
J.R.R. Tolkien “He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Jarod Kintz “Patience and wisdom walk hand in hand, like two one-armed lovers.” ― Jarod Kintz, $3.33
“Show me a young Conservative and I'll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I'll show you someone with no brains.”
― Winston Churchill
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” ― C.S. Lewis
“The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
“Obscurity and a competence—that is the life that is best worth living.” ― Mark Twain, Notebook
“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.” ― Thomas Stephen Szasz
Anna Godbersen “Don't go looking for boys in the dark They will say pretty things then leave you with scars. Do go looking for boys in the park For that is where the true gentlemen are.” ― Anna Godbersen, The Luxe
Scott Westerfeld “Perhaps the logical conclusion of everyone looking the same is everyone thinking the same.” ― Scott Westerfeld, Uglies
Colette “You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.” ― Colette
Since ancient times, the elusive concept of wisdom has figured prominently in philosophical and religious texts. The question remains compelling: What is wisdom, and how does it play out in individual lives? Most psychologists agree that if you define wisdom as maintaining positive well-being and kindness in the face of challenges, it is one of the most important qualities one can possess to age successfully — and to face physical decline and death.
Vivian Clayton, a geriatric neuropsychologist in Orinda, Calif., developed a definition of wisdom in the 1970s, when she was a graduate student, that has served as a foundation for research on the subject ever since. After scouring ancient texts for evocations of wisdom, she found that most people described as wise were decision makers. So she asked a group of law students, law professors and retired judges to name the characteristics of a wise person. Based on an analysis of their answers, she determined that wisdom consists of three key components: cognition, reflection and compassion.
Unfortunately, research shows that cognitive functioning slows as people age. But speed isn’t everything. A recent study in Topics in Cognitive Science pointed out that older people have much more information in their brains than younger ones, so retrieving it naturally takes longer. And the quality of the information in the older brain is more nuanced. While younger people were faster in tests of cognitive performance, older people showed “greater sensitivity to fine-grained differences,” the study found.
It stands to reason that the more information people have in their brains, the more they can detect familiar patterns. Elkhonon Goldberg, a neuroscientist in New York and author of “The Wisdom Paradox,” says that “cognitive templates” develop in the older brain based on pattern recognition, and that these can form the basis for wise behavior and decisions.
According to Dr. Clayton, one must take time to gain insights and perspectives from one’s cognitive knowledge to be wise (the reflective dimension). Then one can use those insights to understand and help others (the compassionate dimension).
Working from Dr. Clayton’s framework, Monika Ardelt, an associate sociology professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville, felt a need to expand on studies of old age because of research showing that satisfaction late in life consists of things like maintaining physical and mental health, volunteering and having positive relationships with others. But this isn’t always possible if the body breaks down, if social roles are diminished and if people suffer major losses. “So these people cannot age successfully? They have to give up?” she recalled asking herself.
Wisdom, she has found, is the ace in the hole that can help even severely impaired people find meaning, contentment and acceptance in later life.
She developed a scale consisting of 39 questions aimed at measuring three dimensions of wisdom. People responding to statements on Professor Ardelt’s wisdom scale — things like “a problem has little attraction for me if I don’t think it has a solution,” or “I can be comfortable with all kinds of people” and “I’m easily irritated by people who argue with me” — were not told they were being measured for wisdom. Respondents later answered questions about hypothetical challenges and crises, and those who showed evidence of high wisdom were also more likely to have better coping skills, Professor Ardelt found. In general, for example, they said they would be more active than passive about dealing with hardship.
An impediment to wisdom is thinking, “I can’t stand who I am now because I’m not who I used to be,” said Isabella S. Bick, a psychotherapist who, at 81, still practices part time out of her home in Sharon, Conn. She has aging clients who are upset by a perceived worsening of their looks, their sexual performance, their physical abilities, their memory. For them, as for herself, an acceptance of aging is necessary for growth, but “it’s not a resigned acceptance; it’s an embracing acceptance,” she said.
“Wise people are able to accept reality as it is, with equanimity,” Professor Ardelt said. Her research shows that when people in nursing homes or with a terminal illness score high on her wisdom scale, they also report a greater sense of well-being. “If things are really bad, it’s good to be wise,” she said.
The Berlin Wisdom Project, a research effort begun in the 1980s that sought to define wisdom by studying ancient and modern texts, called it “an expert knowledge system concerning the fundamental pragmatics of life.” A co-founder of the project, Ursula M. Staudinger, went on to distinguish between general wisdom, the kind that involves understanding life from an observer’s point of view (for example, as an advice giver), and personal wisdom, which involves deep insight into one’s own life.
True personal wisdom involves five elements, said Professor Staudinger, now a life span psychologist and professor at Columbia University. They are self-insight; the ability to demonstrate personal growth; self-awareness in terms of your historical era and your family history; understanding that priorities and values, including your own, are not absolute; and an awareness of life’s ambiguities.
Wisdom in this sense is extremely rare, Professor Staudinger said, and research has shown that it actually declines in the final decades. As a coping strategy, it is better to be positive about life when you are older, she said, and the older people skew that way. They are more likely to look back on their lives and say that the events that occurred were for the best; a wise person would fully acknowledge mistakes and losses, and still try to improve.
True wisdom involves recognizing the negative both within and outside ourselves and trying to learn from it, she said.
Modern definitions of wisdom tend to stress kindness — even if it’s not on the order of Buddha, Gandhi or the Dalai Lama. Wisdom is characterized by a “reduction in self-centeredness,” Professor Ardelt said. Wise people try to understand situations from multiple perspectives, not just their own, and they show tolerance as a result.
“There’s evidence that people who rank high in neuroticism are unlikely to be wise,” said Laura L. Carstensen, a psychology professor and founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity in California. “They see things in a self-centered and negative way and so they fail to benefit emotionally from experience, even though they may be very intelligent.”
Professor Carstensen does not consider herself a wisdom researcher because “there’s a piece of me that thinks it’s not useful to use a term that’s been around for 1,000 years.” Some researchers are skeptical about testing for such an amorphous trait as wisdom.
But Professor Carstensen does study emotional regulation, and says that is a key component of wisdom.
If you are wise, she said, “You’re not only regulating your emotional state, you’re also attending to another person’s emotional state.” She added: “You’re not focusing so much on what you need and deserve, but on what you can contribute.”
Daniel Goleman, author of “Focus” and “Emotional Intelligence,” said, “One aspect of wisdom is having a very wide horizon which doesn’t center on ourselves,” or even on our group or organization.
He said an important sign of wisdom was “generativity,” a term used by the psychologist Erik Erikson, who developed an influential theory on stages of the human life span. Generativity means giving back without needing anything in return, Dr. Goleman said. The form of giving back could be creative, social, personal or financial, and “the wisest people do that in a way that doesn’t see their lifetime as limiting when this might happen,” he said.
Dr. Goleman interviewed Erikson, along with his wife, Joan, in the late 1980s, when both were in their 80s. Erikson’s theory of human development had initially included eight stages, from infancy to old age. When the Eriksons themselves reached old age, though, they found a need to add a ninth stage of development, one in which wisdom plays a crucial role. “They depict an old age in which one has enough conviction in one’s own completeness to ward off the despair that gradual physical disintegration can too easily bring,” Dr. Goleman wrote in The Times.
In the final years of life, “Even the simple activities of daily living may present difficulty and conflict,” Joan Erikson wrote in an expanded version of her husband’s book, “The Life Cycle Completed.” “No wonder elders become tired and often depressed.” The book adds: “To face down despair with faith and appropriate humility is perhaps the wisest course.”
“One must join in the process of adaptation. With whatever tact and wisdom we can muster, disabilities must be accepted with lightness and humor.”
Whatever the nature of one’s limitations, simplifying one’s life is also a sign of wisdom, Dr. Clayton said, for example, by giving your things away while you are still alive. Some people have trouble with the idea of settling for less — “they’ve gotten so used to the game of acquiring more,” she said.
Settling for less and simplifying is not the same as giving up. In fact, when older people lack challenges, self-absorption and stagnation may take over, the Eriksons said. The key is to set goals that match one’s current capacities.
Continuing education can be an important way to cultivate wisdom in the later years, researchers say, for one thing because it combats isolation. But training in practical skills may be less useful for older people than courses in the humanities that help people make sense of their lives, Professor Ardelt says. She and other researchers recommend classes in guided autobiography, or life review, as a way of strengthening wisdom. In guided autobiography, students write and share their life stories with the help of a trained instructor.
Dr. Clayton says there’s a point in life when a fundamental shift occurs, and people start thinking about how much time they have left rather than how long they have lived. Reflecting on the meaning and structure of their lives, she said, can help people thrive after the balance shifts and there is much less time left than has gone before.
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