Roger Harty: The Difference Between Wisdom And Knowledge

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NO matter what I say here, this subject is always going to be subject to a certain amount of debate, but for my part I feel it is a debate well worth giving the time to explore.

The differences are very subtle, yet very important. The differences can sometimes be appreciated with a sense of humour yet these differences can be connected with the very survival of mankind. That is why they are so serious and worth exploring.

On a humorous note to begin, this very question was asked by that inspirational rugby great, Brian O’Driscoll as a prank a few years ago, and he gave the answer.

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”

Brian gave it as words of wisdom that he heard, the original author was one Miles Kingston.

For me the subtle differences are as follows.

Knowledge is based on man’s opinion. Wisdom is based on truth.

Knowledge may deliver best results (but can be dangerous). Wisdom will always deliver.

Knowledge comes from learning and man’s thinking intelligence. Wisdom comes from man’s body intelligence (gut instinct), facts and observation of nature.

Let’s explore two particular subjects.

Many great philosophers including the greatest powers in The Church believed that the world was flat. Have no doubt that many of these were very intelligent people and it was their genuine opinion that the world was indeed flat.

This was their great knowledge which was derived from their well thought out opinions. However that’s exactly what they were – opinions.

The problem was that such was their conviction that to disagree with them in that era, one was putting one’s life in mortal danger.

It was in this environment that Galileo and Copernicus suggested that the world was round. Their wisdom was derived from gut instinct, facts and observation of nature – indeed it was no coincidence that this discovery happened around the same time as the invention of the telescope.

Wisdom wins over man’s knowledge.

On a more modern and extremely serious note we have the whole area of nuclear power. Man’s knowledge has developed the most deadly accurate and powerful nuclear weaponry.

Yet wisdom will tell us to refrain from developing such weaponry as all we (mankind) will eventually succeed in is in finding a way to obliterate ourselves from the planet.

Wisdom wins over knowledge

• Next week I am going to write about — Stillness reigns supreme.


  1. Very, very good!!

  2. Roger,
    an excellent article.
    Can I send a copy of your Knowledge and Wisdom
    to Kim Jong Un.
    Is it a coincidence he was born in 1984,
    or was George Orwell a Prophet?