The Difference Between Wisdom and Intellect

Comparing intellect to wisdom; the true form of intellect.

Throughout our research on Wisdom for the film, we often asked ourselves, what is the difference between Wisdom and intellect (and we capitalize the word Wisdom purposely here)? The answer—at first—was difficult to find. Intellect is often misunderstood as a measurement of one’s intelligence, but it’s better defined as the ability to express one’s intelligence and understanding. An “intellect” is generally the term used to describe a person who possesses this ability, and is often misunderstood as also meaning a “wise person”

So how does intellect differ from Wisdom? Well, one of the wisest men in history once said: “We should take care not to make the intellect our god: it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.”

This famous quote was written by Albert Einstein, and is a perfect example of the answer we were seeking throughout our research. Einstein knew that intellect alone should not be viewed as the end-all of intelligence, and found emotional intelligence to be a crucial component of achieving wisdom.

You see, philosophers have argued for generations that there is an important difference between the two. That Wisdom is in many ways a higher form of intellect, or the big picture goal of intellectual pursuits, ie., philosophy being the “love of Wisdom”.

I would argue that wisdom is best described as “visceral intellect”. Visceral being that gut or instinctive feeling, and deep emotional reaction that some attribute—metaphorically—to our hearts. Although visceral is equally characterized as a form of anti-intellect, due to it’s emotional and instinctive properties, it may be better viewed as a necessary companion to intellect when viewed on the path to becoming Wise.

Just as Einstein describes, humanity should not only look to hard facts and knowledge when seeking the answers to our problems; but must search deep within ourselves to feel out the true and righteous solutions.

(Original image by Jim Warren).