Knowledge and Wisdom
By Wei Lin
The relationship between knowledge and wisdom is something that we have long been trying to pin down, but to no avail. Notwithstanding its elusive nature, this issue merits further discussion, for it undoubtedly has much to do with our learning, education, life, science, technology, and so on.
While “knowledge” could be regarded as “human beings’ systematic perception of the objective facts in the physical world to this day”, “wisdom” is very difficult, if not impossible, to define. Explanations offered in various reference books are far from satisfactory, as the so-called wisdom is often confused with competence or cleverness.
Contrary to what many people might think, my opinion is that knowledge constitutes the basis of wisdom, because it seems inconceivable that a man of wisdom could be ignorant. For example, it would not have dawned upon Zhuge Liang , the epitome of wisdom, that sufficient arrows could be “borrowed” from the opponent army with the aid of an “east wind” , but for his rich knowledge in astronomy and geography. Similarly, had the “old man at the frontier” known little about horses, he could not have regained his lost possession. No wonder Aristotle came to the conclusion that wisdom is, in a certain sense, some kind of knowledge.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that knowledge can by no means be equated with wisdom, because an illiterate man might be able to keep a very complicated issue in perspective whereas a philosophy professor could do something quite stupid in his dealing with simple matters.
Confucius  once remarked, “Learning without thinking is labor lost; thinking without learning is perilous.” In this context, “learning” can be taken as acquiring knowledge while “thinking” might be seen as the application of knowledge to arrive at wisdom.
Knowledge can be possessed while wisdom is not exclusive to any particular person. Knowledge is derived from the outside world while wisdom comes from within. The more knowledge one accumulates, the more comprehensive it gets; in contrast, the greater the wisdom, the simpler it becomes, hence the saying by Lao-tzu , “Learning is addition whereas the practice of Tao is subtraction .”
In terms of human intelligence, knowledge can be categorized according to subject or discipline, but wisdom knows no boundaries between different subjects. Compared with knowledge, which is relatively objective, consistent and logic, wisdom is subjective, individual and creative. While knowledge is neither good nor bad, wisdom could be either good or bad. In the final analysis, knowledge is deduced, abstracted and put to use by wisdom.
Competence is the application of wisdom in a specific case while cleverness can be seen as wisdom in a narrow sense.
Honestly, I am afraid language can not fully convey the rich tapestry of wisdom, for it also involves one’s emotions, character, views, values, dispositions and a combination of various other elements, such as an opportune time and favorable geographic conditions. “A man of great wisdom is like a fool”, so goes a Chinese saying. This is what true wisdom is about. Therefore, we need to distinguish between knowledge and wisdom, and realize that even though artificial intelligence (AI) may replace knowledge, competence and cleverness, it would never take the place of human wisdom.
 Zhuge Liang (181-234), a well-known Chinese military strategist who served as a chancellor of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period.
 Zhuge Liang once obtained, with straw boats, more than 100,000 arrows from Cao Cao’s army.
 Chinese philosopher (551-479 B.C.), whose ideas about the importance of practical moral values were collected by his disciples in the Analects and formed the basis of the philosophy of Confucianism.
 Chinese philosopher (around 600 B.C.), traditionally regarded as the founder of Taoism and author of the Tao-te-Ching.
 A line from Lao-tzu’s Tao-te-Ching, Chapter 48.