The Getting Of Wisdom
by P Atkinson

"Rejoicing and loving and hating aright." —Aristotle's definition of virtue.

What Is Wisdom
Wisdom is the ability of an understanding to recognise good and evil, it is not knowledge. Knowledge is the recognition of cause and effect, which is independent of good or evil. Realising that a man will die if he has his head removed is knowledge, deciding if a particular decapitation is an accident, a crime or the upholding of justice, is wisdom.

The Crucial Difference Between Wisdom And Knowledge
It is experience which dictates our understanding of cause and effect—knowledge; which makes it the concern of investigation and discovery: the realm of science. But it is morality, the fixed foundation of understanding, that dictates our understanding of meaning—right and wrong: the realm of religion. This is why the recognition of sin is constant and the claims of Revelations endure, while scientific theories vary in the light of new discoveries. Although scientific advancements may obscure the truth and require refinement in Church teachings, such changes are only to the interpretation of, not changes to, the axioms of morality.

The Realms Of The Church And Science
It is not, and never should be, the role of religion to decide upon the truth or falsity of knowledge. If knowledge appears to contradict Revelations, then the interpretation of Revelations has strayed into the realm of knowledge and should therefore be modified. Hence it was a failure of duty of the Church when it interfered with Galileo's investigation into the earth's orbit. It was wrong for the Church to interpret Revelations to mean the earth was the actual centre of the universe, and the sun had to orbit the earth. This is the realm of science, which is why the teachings of the Church then produced a temporary denial of truth: an absurdity, which rightfully cast doubt upon the character of Church officials, but inevitably raised doubt about religion as a whole.

Limitations Of Wisdom
The greater the experience, the more extensive the lessons and the better the decisions must become. Hence the older an understanding the larger the experience to draw upon and the wiser the decisions that will result, subject to some crucial limitations:

  1. Not Absolute Different understandings—different founding values — form different, and often incompatible, beliefs (wisdom). What is wise to one community may be foolish to another. So while knowledge is universal, wisdom is specific to a community.
  2. Subject To Senility The chance of dementia, which is loss of the ability to think clearly, increases with age. When an understanding becomes senile its decisions are corrupted by dementia making them valueless, and communities as well as individuals are afflicted by this disease.
  3. Constantly Needs Refining The world constantly changes so that previous decisions must be regularly modified in the light of new experience. The communal response is traditionally via the law, which in our community is through common law. Particular instances are put to the courts for them to rule, and so continually refine the existing communal wisdom.
  4. Needs A Sane Understanding Wisdom can only be accumulated if the understanding is sane, otherwise fears and fancies corrupt not only purpose but knowledge, which becomes delusion.

Two Kinds Of Understanding
Essentially there are two kinds of human understanding depending upon the initial basis of the understanding. An individual can either be selfish or unselfish as taught by the early experiences of infancy. For this will determine if they can master their instincts to gain a clear understanding—be sane; or permanently be the servant of their emotions and be restrained only by convenience—be insane. Hence:

Two Kinds Of Understanding
Unselfish (Sane)Selfish (Insane)
Others are more important than self Nothing is more important than self
Self-Restraint Inspired by the needs of others for their dignity, peace, property, and lives. Self-Restraint Enforced only by convenience — the reaction of others.
Truth Essential for self-restraint to recognise when it is needed. This imposes a constraint on the impact of fear and fancy upon observation, and enforces a sober view of events. Truth Irrelevant convenience dictates all restraints, and without this private sense of restraint observations become readily distorted by the influence of fear and fancy.
Clear Right And Wrong While the individual may fail to always do right, the result will be private feelings of guilt and shame; a knowledge of doing wrong.No Right And Wrong just good and bad results for self. Shame and guilt only exist in the pleas of individuals discovered in crime.
Competent Armed with truth, inspired by duty, and powered by resolve realises pursuit of achievements regardless of private sacrifice.Incompetent Indifference to truth, irresolute and uninspired, prevents any worthwhile achievement except in boasts or excuses.

Only an unselfish (sane) understanding is valuable because it is the only sort that allows the accumulation of wisdom and wealth.

Communal Wisdom
An ability to apply reason makes an individual powerful but it is an arduous tool to employ, and carries the constant risk of misjudgment. So to simplify the use of human reason and maximise its benefits people adopt habits —they thoughtlessly repeat behaviour that produced the best result. Such repetition is an expression of wisdom, which in communities becomes manners, customs, language and laws.

Huge Advantage
Learning from the experience of previous generations gives humans a huge advantage over other creatures. Our offspring can discover a mass of knowledge through simple instruction, which supplies the lessons learnt by the hard won experience of all previous generations. This is not just about the arts and sciences, but also about themselves. The basic morality that supplies understanding will have been extended and applied over the centuries to create a huge pool of wisdom, which will be reflected in an increasingly refined code of living.

The Application Of Wisdom
By applying such wisdom the community becomes more ordered and stronger, which makes it easier and safer for the child to attain maturity and become a useful citizen, which in turn allows a community to gain the greatest benefit from its progeny. (Indeed, this is the way a community propagates itself.)

Losing Wisdom
While wisdom can be accumulated it can also be lost. Inevitably how a child utilises the knowledge supplied by its education must be a function of its nature. If the child is unselfish and reveres its parents, it will heed its lessons, attempt to become a useful citizen and hopefully add its small achievements to the assets of the community. But if the child is selfish, then this knowledge will merely become instruction in the best way to obtain private profit. And such a person will never be a useful citizen as their efforts can only confuse and impoverish others. So whether the pool of communal wisdom a generation inherits will be increased or decreased depends upon that generation's nature. For example:

Impact On The Community Of The Institution Of Marriage
Order and Energy (Circa 1800)Disorder and Apathy (Circa 2000)
Placing private whim second to community needs demanded a Lifetime of:
Fidelity and loyalty
Toleration of others
Obedience from wife and children
Responsibility and dedication from husband
• Vitalizing The Community by channelling sexual energy into work.
• Setting clear roles and responsibilities for the two genders so everyone knows what is expected of them.
• Establishing the notions of:
Authority Unquestioning obedience to the father, with this relationship being instruction on the future relationship between the community and the citizen.
Nurturing The care shown to all family members by the mother.
The importance of the group With the family being more important than any single member.
Placing private whim ahead of communal needs through easy divorce discards the need for:
Fidelity and loyalty
Responsibility and dedication
• Enervating The Community by dissipating sexual energy
• Confusing the roles and responsibilities for the two genders, creating uncertainty about duties and behaviour.
• Discarding the notion of:
Authority As there is none exercised without question, and this relationship becomes the instruction on the future relationship between the community and the citizen.
Nurturing The adults are only together out of self-interest.
The importance of the group With everyone showing only a selfish concern.


Impact Of The Nature Of Public Understanding On The Community
OrderedDevelopment Of Manners, Customs, And Laws: A fixed set of values allows us to learn from experiences and so establish and regularly enhance a code of living for the benefit of all. ChaoticDestruction Of Manners, Customs, And Laws: Convenience determines what is good , just or true, and this varies depending upon who, where and when, which prevents the adoption of any clear fixed code, and undermines any existing such codes, to the detriment of all.
PowerfulCompetent, Resolute and Sure allows the community to recognise and overcome its problems. ImpotentIncompetent, Irresolute and Deluded Prevents the community from recognising or resolving its problems.