To be wise

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A few days ago I finally figured out something I've wondered about for 25 years: the relationship between wisdom and intelligence. Anyone can see they're not the same by the number of people who are smart, but not very wise. And yet intelligence and wisdom do seem related. How?

What is wisdom? I'd say it's knowing what to do in a lot of situations. I'm not trying to make a deep point here about the true nature of wisdom, just to figure out how we use the word. A wise person is someone who usually knows the right thing to do.

And yet isn't being smart also knowing what to do in certain situations? For example, knowing what to do when the teacher tells your elementary school class to add all the numbers from 1 to 100? [1]

Some say wisdom and intelligence apply to different types of problems—wisdom to human problems and intelligence to abstract ones. But that isn't true. Some wisdom has nothing to do with people: for example, the wisdom of the engineer who knows certain structures are less prone to failure than others. And certainly smart people can find clever solutions to human problems as well as abstract ones. [2]

Another popular explanation is that wisdom comes from experience while intelligence is innate. But people are not simply wise in proportion to how much experience they have. Other things must contribute to wisdom besides experience, and some may be innate: a reflective disposition, for example.

Neither of the conventional explanations of the difference between wisdom and intelligence stands up to scrutiny. So what is the difference? If we look at how people use the words "wise" and "smart," what they seem to mean is different shapes of performance.

Curve

"Wise" and "smart" are both ways of saying someone knows what to do. The difference is that "wise" means one has a high average outcome across all situations, and "smart" means one does spectacularly well in a few. That is, if you had a graph in which the x axis represented situations and the y

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