Wisdom for a mans self is, in many branches thereof, a depraved thing: it is the wisdom of rats, that will be sure to leave a house some time before it fall: it is the wisdom of the fox, that thrusts out the badger, who digged and made room for him: it is the wisdom of the crocodiles, that shed tears when they would devour.
Such men in all deliberations find ease to be of the negative side, and affect a credit to object and foretell difficulties; for when propositions are denied there is an end of them; but if they be allowed, it requireth a new work: which false point of wisdom is the bane of business.
Socrates was pronounced by the oracle of Delphos to be the wisest man of Greece, which he would turn from himself ironically, saying, There could be nothing in him to verify the oracle, except this, that he was not wise, and knew it; and others were not wise, and knew it not.
Wisdom makes all the troubles, griefs, and pains incident to life, whether casual adversities or natural afflictions, easy and supportable, by rightly valuing the importance and moderating the influence of them.
Arguments of divine wisdom, in the frame of animate bodies, are the artificial position of many valves all so situate as to give a free passage to the blood in their due channels, but not permit them to regurgitate and disturb the great circulation.
A wise man always walks with his scale to measure, and his balances to weigh, in his hand. If he cannot have the best, he asks himself if he cannot have the next best. But if he comes to the point of graduation, where all positive good ceases, he asks himself next, What is the least evil? and on a view of the downward comparison, he considers and embraces that least evil as comparative good.
Wisdom is that perfection of an intelligent agent by which he is enabled to select and employ the most proper means in order to accomplish a good and important end. It includes the idea of knowledge or intelligence, but may be distinguished from it. Knowledge is opposed to ignorance, wisdom is opposed to folly or error in conduct. As applied to God, it may be considered as comprehending the operations of his omniscience and benevolence; or, in other words, his knowledge to discern, and his disposition to choose, those means and ends which are calculated to promote the order and the happiness of the universe.
Dr. Thomas Dick: Christian Philosopher, sect. iii.
There is this difference between a wise man and a fool: the wise man expects future things, but does not depend upon them, and in the mean time enjoys the present, remembering the past with delight; but the life of the fool is wholly carried on to the future.
He that considers how little our constitution can bear a remove into parts of this air, not much higher than we breathe in, will be satisfied that the all-wise architect has suited our organs and the bodies that are to effect them, one to another.
Intellectual beings in their constant endeavours after true felicity can suspend this prosecution in particular cases, till they have looked before them and informed themselves whether that particular thing lie in their way to their main end.
Human wisdom makes as ill use of her talent when she exercises it in rescinding from the number and sweetness of those pleasures that are naturally our due, as she employs it favourably, and well, in artificially disguising and tricking out the ills of life, to alleviate the sense of them.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cottons 3d ed., ch. xxix.
The wisdom of the Deity, as testified in the works of creation, surpasses all idea we have of wisdom drawn from the highest intellectual operations of the highest of intelligent beings with whom we are acquainted; and (which is of the chief importance to us), whatever be its compass or extent, which it is evidently impossible that we should be able to determine, it must be adequate to the conduct of that order of things under which we live.
The learned man is only useful to the learned; the wise man is equally useful to the wise and the simple. The merely learned man has not elevated his mind above that of others; his judgments are not more penetrating, his remarks not more delicate, nor his actions more beautiful than those of others; he merely uses other instruments than his own; his hands are employed in business of which the head sometimes takes little note. It is wholly different with the wise man: he moves far above the common level,he observes everything from a different point of view; in his employments there is always an aim, in his views always freedom, and all with him is above the common level.
That is the truest wisdom of a man which doth most conduce to the happiness of life. For wisdom as it refers to action lies in the proposal of a right end, and the choice of the most proper means to attain it: which end doth not refer to any one part of a mans life, but to the whole as taken together. He therefore only deserves the name of a wise man, not that considers how to be rich and great when he is poor and mean, nor how to be well when he is sick, nor how to escape a present danger, nor how to compass a particular design; but he that considers the whole course of his life together, and what is fit for him to make the end of it, and by what means he may best enjoy the happiness of it.
It may be said, almost without qualification, that true wisdom consists in the ready and accurate perception of analogies. Without the former quality, knowledge of the past is uninstructive; without the latter, it is deceptive.
Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacons Essay, Of Seeming Wise.
Another, having been warned that wisdom and wit are not the same thing, makes it a part of wisdom to distrust everything that can possibly be regarded as witty; not having judgment to perceive the combination, when it occurs, of wit with sound reasoning. The ivy-wreath conceals from his view the point of the thyrsus. His is not the wisdom that can laugh at what is ludicrous, and at the same time preserve a clear discernment of sound and unsound reasoning.
Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacons Essay, Of Seeming Wise.