Knowledge = The leaves of books turned Intelligence = The mind to reason and learn Wisdom = The vision to discern
When I stop to ask myself why I select the word “smart” – over so many other more specific word choices – to describe a person, I have to consider what exactly smart means. Am I implying that this individual is well-educated (i.e. knowledgeable), or gifted with powerful reasoning and problem-solving abilities (i.e. intelligent), or insightful (i.e. wise)? Do I only call a person “smart” who possesses all three qualities? What is smartness?
smart adj.smart·er, smart·est 1. a. Having or showing intelligence; bright. See Synonyms at intelligent. b. Canny and shrewd in dealings with others: a smart negotiator. 2. a. Amusingly clever; witty: a smart quip; a lively, smart conversation. Taken from thefreedictionary.com
The definition here seems to be primarily describing intelligence. If smart = intelligent, is it possible, then, to be smart but not knowledgeable?
Sadly, it is common for people to be dismissed as unintelligent because they appear to lack cultural knowledge, or they had a poor-quality childhood education, or have had limited life experience. They don’t present as knowledgeable or well-read, so they get labeled (verbally or silently) as “dumb”.
And yet, it’s possible (and probable) that these same people are also highly intelligent.
If knowledge is “book smarts”, and intelligence is “brightness”, what is wisdom?
wisdom n. 1. The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight. 2. Common sense; good judgment: "It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things" (Henry DavidThoreau). Taken from thefreedictionary.com
Wisdom, then, is insight and vision.
I think it’s tougher to self-assess whether you have wisdom than it is to gauge whether or not you’re well-read, or whether you’re skilled at reasoning and problem-solving. Wisdom is something you rarely know you have, if and when you have it. And, IMHO, it’s also the kind of thing many people lacking wisdom seem to think they have. Kind of the way it is with humility. 🙂 If you’re humble and you know it, then….
Throughout your life, have you identified someone (or been identified) as “dumb”, “stupid”, or some other adjective or insulting name that implied the same? Why did someone label you that way? Or why did you label that person the way you did?
In such a situation, the following logic flaw is often implicated:
The offensive/judging party is fixated on a certain form of intelligence (a contextual or scene-appropriate intelligence), and makes a subjective (or partially quantitative) assessment that this individual (perhaps you) does not meet up to the definition of “intelligent” within that sphere.
Maybe in school, your classmate accused you of being “dumb”, based on your performance on a test. However, since your contextual intelligence (your apparent intelligence in that area of study based on your performance that particular day) was all they had with which to evaluate you, they assigned you the sweeping assessment of “unintelligent”. He/she equated your (supposed) contextual intelligence with your entire quota of intelligence as a person.
Sadly, contextual intelligence is often our go-to source for determining the intelligence level of another (because we like to peg and classify people, don’t we? To interact with the unknown [in this case, a person who’s not obviously “smart” or obviously “dumb” by popular forms of measurement] makes many people uncomfortable).
When we do this, what we are really saying is either that a person possesses form(s) of intelligence that we recognize, or that the person has intelligence forms that we cannot identify or perceive.
Different Forms of Intelligence
Are you agile yet strong? Flexible and graceful?
Do you have perfect pitch?
Do you read people well, or feel what they’re feeling?
Are you skilled at understanding mechanical systems or visualizing images in your head, or accurately guessing the amount of storage space required for a pile of stuff?
If so, then you have kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, and/or spatial intelligence, respectively.
There are many schools of thought regarding intelligence. There’s the Multiple Intelligences Theory (technically a hypothesis) proposed by Howard Gardner in his book: Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which acknowledges musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic abilities all as forms of intelligence.
Additional forms of intelligence (somewhat overlapping with Multiple Intelligences) are those of IQ and EQ or essentially, academic/verbal/spatial/logical intelligence and emotional/social/empathic (interpersonal and perhaps intrapersonal) intelligence. Many people score high on both of these “quotient” tests, and others’ scores suggest that they may be particularly gifted in one area or the other.
However, as with any test, these scores should not be viewed as definitive assessments of a human’s intelligence – or even as accurate reflections of ability in the measured areas. A highly intelligent person may “flunk” the IQ or EQ assessments for many possible reasons. Some people just struggle with tests in general, because of the pressure or anxiety that tests can elicit, and consequently, they underperform despite their ability in the area being examined.
I will end this piece with a question: If you had to choose between being knowledgeable, intelligent, or wise (and could only choose one quality), what would you choose, and why?
(…Isn’t that beautiful?…)
© 2017 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved