Inspiring Enchantment & Illumination with Tarot & Intuitive Guidance

The Charioteer of Virtues – Wisdom

Vasudhara – Goddess of Wealth and Wisdom

In our age… men seem more than ever prone to confuse wisdom with knowledge, and knowledge with information, and to try to solve problems of life in terms of engineering.
~ T. S. Eliot

One of the four classical virtues, wisdom, or prudence, is arguably fundamental to the proper application of the others. For instance, as was discussed yesterday, courage without wisdom is often folly and may even create great harm.

Plato argued that the separate virtues cannot exist independently, but his evidence offers wisdom as the central virtue upon which the others depend. Prudence was considered by the ancient Greeks and later on by early Christian philosophers to be the cause, measure and form of all virtues, the auriga virtutum or the charioteer of the virtues.

The word comes from Old French prudence (13th century), which, in turn is a contracted form of the Latin providentia, meaning foresight and sagacity. This virtue is interchangeably known as Wisdom, Insight, and Knowledge. In its classical form, it is the ability to judge if actions are virtuous or vicious, not only in general, but within a given context or situation.

In modern English usage, the word “prudence,” has changed somewhat to mean the reluctance to take risks, or even over-cautiousness, making it less of a virtue and more of a vice.

Although wisdom itself is not an action, it is the virtue by which actions are evaluated. Thus, to know if someone has the habitual behavior of wisdom, once would have to be observed exercising sound judgment consistently over time.

One view of wisdom is that it is the ability to gather to oneself personal knowledge and experience, to understand and use discretion, and to even have an intuitive understanding of matters. It is more, then, than simply knowledge and fact, although those do comprise it. It is the ability to extrapolate and project, based on those facts.

Furthermore, it is then the capacity to apply these qualities well, using them to find solutions to problems. In other words, it is the judicious and purposeful application of knowledge that is valued in society.

Who do you deem wise? Who do you know that has the virtue of foresight, understanding, discretion and even an intuitive understanding of things that are important, or good for those around them? In your own life, what experiences have brought you real wisdom?

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  • October 17, 2008, 4:15 pm Rhondda

    Okay, wow, I like this. Would you mind giving the reference of the T.S.Eliot quote. That seems quite apropos and I would like to follow it further. Is is in an essay he wrote? Thanks.

  • October 19, 2008, 7:18 am Beth Owl's Daughter

    Just now saw your post, Rhondda.. sure: it’s from
    Selected prose of T.S. Eliot
    By T. S. Eliot, Frank Kermode
    Contributor T. S. Eliot, Frank Kermode
    Published by Harcourt Trade, 1975
    ISBN 0156806541, 9780156806541

    and here is a link to it.

    Now that I have dazzled you with my erudite references, I have to admit that I actually found the quote in a quotations list. 🙂
    – Beth

  • October 20, 2008, 6:26 pm Rhondda

    Thank you. Rhondda