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Be wise to-day; 'tis madness to defer;
Next day the fatal precedent will plead;
Thus on, till wisdom is push'd out of life. ~ Edward Young
Wisdom requires the long view. ~ John F. Kennedy
Every great age is marked by innovation and daring--by the ability to meet unprecedented problems with intelligent solutions. In a time of turbulence and change, it is more true than ever that knowledge is power; for only by true understanding and steadfast judgment are we able to master the challenge of history. If this is so, we must strive to acquire knowledge--and to apply it with wisdom. ~ John F. Kennedy
To flee vice is the beginning of virtue, and to have got rid of folly is the beginning of wisdom. ~ Horace
Putting human affairs in exact formulas shows in itself a lack of the sense of humor and therefore a lack of wisdom. ~ Lin Yutang
Wisdom is not the purchase of a day, and it is no wonder that we should err at the first setting off. ~ Thomas Paine
Incline your heart to discernment; if, moreover, you call out for understanding itself and you give forth your voice for discernment itself, if you keep seeking for it as for silver, and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, in that case you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God. For Jehovah himself gives wisdom; out of his mouth there are knowledge and discernment.
~ Solomon
Proverbs 2:1-6
Those who get it obtain friendship with God. ~ Solomon
Acquire wisdom, acquire understanding. Do not forget, and do not turn aside from the sayings of my mouth. Do not leave it, and it will keep you. Love it, and it will safeguard you. Wisdom is the prime thing. Acquire wisdom; and with all that you acquire, acquire understanding. Highly esteem it, and it will exalt you. It will glorify you because you embrace it. To your head it will give a wreath of charm; a crown of beauty it will bestow upon you. ~ Solomon
Knowledge is indivisible. When people grow wise in one direction, they are sure to make it easier for themselves to grow wise in other directions as well. ~ Isaac Asimov
To finish the moment, to find the journey's end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wisdom is the ability to think and act with prudence, knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight. Wisdom is (practical) knowledge gained through experience and observation.

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  • Prima sapientiae clavis definitur, assidua scilicet seu frequens interrogatio … Dubitando enim ad inquisitionem venimus; inquirendo veritatem percipimus.
    • Constant and frequent questioning is the first key to wisdom … For through doubting we are led to inquire, and by inquiry we perceive the truth.
    • Peter Abelard (1079–1142) Sic et Non, Prologus; translation from Frank Pierrepont Graves A History of Education During the Middle Ages and the Transition to Modern Times ([1918] 2005) p. 53.
  • It is necessary therefore that the person who is to study, with any tolerable chance of profit, the principles of nobleness and justice and politics generally, should have received a good moral training. For our data here are moral judgments, and if a man knows what it is right to do, he does not require a formal reason. And a person that has been thus trained, either possesses these first principles already, or can easily acquire them. As for him who neither possesses nor can acquire them, let him take to heart the words of Hesiod:
  • ‘ He is the best of all who thinks for himself in all things.
  • He, too, is good who takes advice from a wiser (person).
  • But he who neither thinks for himself, nor lays to heart another's wisdom, this is a useless man.’
  • Knowledge is indivisible. When people grow wise in one direction, they are sure to make it easier for themselves to grow wise in other directions as well. On the other hand, when they split up knowledge, concentrate on their own field, and scorn and ignore other fields, they grow less wise — even in their own field.
  • For many of my years — perhaps twelve — had passed away since my nineteenth, when, upon the reading of Cicero's Hortensius, I was roused to a desire for wisdom. And here I was, still postponing the abandonment of this world's happiness to devote myself to the search. For not just the finding alone, but also the bare search for it, ought to have been preferred above the treasures and kingdoms of this world; better than all bodily pleasures, though they were to be had for the taking.


  • Wisdom is the science of the spirit, just as knowledge is the science of matter. Knowledge is separative and objective, whilst wisdom is synthetic and subjective. Knowledge divides; wisdom unites. Knowledge differentiates whilst wisdom blends.
  • Wisdom concerns the one Self, knowledge deals with the not-self whilst the understanding is the point of view of the Ego [soul or higher self], or Thinker, or his relation between them.
  • Wisdom, actuated and motivated by love, and intelligently applied to world problems, is much needed today... Many more must love with wisdom, and appreciate the group aspiration, before we shall see the next reality to be known and to emerge out of the darkness which we are now in the process of dispelling.
  • The storyteller is a man who has counsel for his readers. But if today "having counsel" is beginning to have an old-fashioned ring, this is because the communicability of experience is decreasing. In consequence we have no counsel either for ourselves or for others. After all, counsel is less an answer to a question than a proposal concerning the continuation of a story which is just unfolding. To seek this counsel one would first have to be able to tell the story. ... Counsel woven into the fabric of real life is wisdom. The art of storytelling is reaching its end because the epic side of truth, wisdom, is dying out.
  • Men are often praised for their sagacity, but all the foresight in the world can't tell a double-yoked egg until it is broken.
  • Every man thinks his own wisdom faultless, and every mother her own child beautiful. (January)
    ... If wisdom were to vanish suddenly from the universe, no one yet would suspect himself a fool. (January)
    ... To feel one’s ignorance is to be wise; to feel sure of one’s wisdom is to be a fool. (February)
    ...Daily practical wisdom consists of four things: To know the root of Truth, the branches of Truth, the limit of Truth, and the opposite of Truth. (February 28)
    ... The heart of the fool is in his tongue; the tongue of the wise is in his heart. (July)
    ... One is not aged because his head is grey. Whoever, although a youth, has wisdom, him the gods consider an elder. (October)
    ... Intelligence is not shown by witty words, but by wise actions. (October)
    ....The most precious gift received by man on earth is desire for wisdom. (December)
    ... Do but return to the principles of wisdom, and those who take you now for a monkey or a wild beast will make a god of you. (December)
  • Do not go by revelation;
    Do not go by tradition;
    Do not go by hearsay;
    Do not go on the authority of sacred texts;
    Do not go on the grounds of pure logic;
    Do not go by a view that seems rational;
    Do not go by reflecting on mere appearances;
    Do not go along with a considered view because you agree with it;
    Do not go along on the grounds that the person is competent;
    Do not go along because "the recluse is our teacher."
    Kalamas, when you yourselves know: These things are unwholesome, these things are blameworthy; these things are censured by the wise; and when undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill, abandon them...
    Kalamas, when you know for yourselves: These are wholesome; these things are not blameworthy; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness, having undertaken them, abide in them.
  • Wisdom is purified by morality, and morality is purified by wisdom: where one is, the other is, the moral man has wisdom and the wise man has morality, and the combination of morality and wisdom is called the highest thing in the world.
  • But these are foolish things to all the wise,
    And I love wisdom more than she loves me;
    My tendency is to philosophise
    On most things, from a tyrant to a tree;
    But still the spouseless virgin Knowledge flies,
    What are we? and whence come we? what shall be
    Our ultimate existence? What's our present?
    Are questions answerless, and yet incessant.


  • Don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying yes begins things. Saying yes is how things grow. Saying yes leads to knowledge. "Yes" is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say yes.
  • It seems the part of wisdom.
  • Knowledge is proud that he has learn'd so much;
    Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.


  • The fear of God is not the beginning of wisdom. The fear of God is the death of wisdom. Skepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom.
  • "I do not know." The person who cannot make that statement is one who will never learn anything. And I have prided myself on my ability to learn.
    • Said by the orcish warchief Thrall in Keith Decandido, Cycle of Hatred (2006)


  • Man thinks
    Brutes have no wisdom, since they know not his:
    Can we divine their world?
  • In our age, when 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, there is coming into existence a new kind of provincialism.
    • T. S. Eliot, "What Is a Classic?" (1944), in On Poetry and Poets (London: Faber and Faber, 1957), p. 69
  • Cleverness is not wisdom. And not to think mortal thoughts is to see few days.
  • For in much wisdom there is much sorrow;
    whoever increases knowledge increases grief.
  • Wisdom is a better defence for the wise than ten princes in the city.
  • How will people become wise
when they take hold of a plow
or pride themselves
in how well they handle an ox prod,
when they drive cattle
and are absorbed with their work,
and their conversation is about bulls?


  • A wise man changes his mind sometimes, but a fool never. To change your mind is the best evidence you have one. The last redoubt holding out for me was the year-day principle (on which I had written a defense in 1972 for the Southern Publishing Association Daniel volume which was published in 1978). This collapsed when I handled hundreds of books of commentary on Revelation in the Library of Congress stacks and found that the respective authors had in many cases suggested dates that seemed appropriate for their own time but ridiculous later. It became clear that we, as Adventists, had done the same as our predecessors.
  • Wisdom is intelligence in context.
  • Laissez dire les sots: le savoir a son prix.
    • Let fools the studious despise,
      There's nothing lost by being wise.
    • Jean de La Fontaine, Fables, VIII. 19. Quote reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 419-23.


  • Wisdom makes but a slow defence against trouble, though at last a sure one.


  • ... quantum theory reminds us, as Bohr has put it, of the old wisdom that when searching for harmony in life one must never forget that in the drama of existence we are ourselves both players and spectators. It is understandable that in our scientific relation to nature our own activity becomes very important when we have to deal with parts of nature into which we can penetrate only by using the most elaborate tools.
  • A boor cannot be sin-fearing, an ignoramus cannot be pious, a bashful one cannot learn, a short-tempered person cannot teach, nor does anyone who does much business grow wise.
  • Vis consili expers mole ruit sua.
    • Force without wisdom falls of its own weight.
    • Horace, Odes (c. 23 BC and 13 BC), Book III, ode iv, line 65
  • Virtus est vitium fugere et sapientia prima
    stultitia caruisse.
    • To flee vice is the beginning of virtue, and to have got rid of folly is the beginning of wisdom.
    • Horace, Epistles (c. 20 BC and 14 BC), Book I, epistle i, line 41


  • No se avergüenzan los Sabios
    de mirarse convencidos;
    porque saben, como Sabios,
    que su saber es finito.
    • The sages were not ashamed
      to find themselves convinced;
      for they knew, being wise,
      that their knowledge was not infinite.
    • Juana Inés de la Cruz "Villancico a Catarina," translated from the Spanish by Kate Flores in The Defiant Muse: Hispanic Feminist Poems (1986)


The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook. ~ William James
  • But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, not hypocritical. Moreover, the fruit of righteousness is sown in peaceful conditions for those who are making peace.
  • The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.


  • Wisdom requires the long view. And the long view shows us that the revolution of national independence is a fundamental fact of our era. This revolution will not be stopped. As new nations emerge from the oblivion of centuries, their first aspiration is to affirm their national identity. Their deepest hope is for a world where, within a framework of international cooperation, every country can solve its own problems according to its own traditions and ideals.
    • John F. Kennedy, Address at the University of California at Berkeley (March 23, 1962). Delivered at Memorial Stadium at the University of California in Berkeley, California. Source: Address at the University of California at Berkeley, March 23, 1962. Boston: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. Archived from the original on June 24, 2024.
  • Beyond the drumfire of daily crisis, therefore, there is arising the outlines of a robust and vital world community, founded on nations secure in their own independence, and united by their allegiance to world peace. It would be foolish to say that this world will be won tomorrow, or the day after. The processes of history are fitful and uncertain and aggravating. There will be frustrations and setbacks. There will be times of anxiety and gloom. The specter of thermonuclear war will continue to hang over mankind; and we must heed the advice of Oliver Wendell Holmes of "freedom leaning on her spear" until all nations are wise enough to disarm safely and effectively. Yet we can have a new confidence today in the direction in which history is moving. Nothing is more stirring than the recognition of great public purpose. Every great age is marked by innovation and daring--by the ability to meet unprecedented problems with intelligent solutions. In a time of turbulence and change, it is more true than ever that knowledge is power; for only by true understanding and steadfast judgment are we able to master the challenge of history. If this is so, we must strive to acquire knowledge--and to apply it with wisdom.
    • John F. Kennedy, Address at the University of California at Berkeley (March 23, 1962). Delivered at Memorial Stadium at the University of California in Berkeley, California. Source: Address at the University of California at Berkeley, March 23, 1962. Boston: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. Archived from the original on June 24, 2024.
  • What the world actually admires as sagacity is knowledge of evil—whereas wisdom is knowledge of the good. The one who loves does not have and does not want to have knowledge of evil; in this regard he is and remains, he wants to be and wants to remain, a child.
  • You grieve for those who should not be grieved for; yet you speak wise words. Neither for the dead nor those not dead do the wise grieve. Never was there a time when I did not exist nor you nor these lords of men. As the soul experiences in this body childhood, youth, and old age, so also it acquires another body; the sage in this is not deluded.
  • For verily (the true nature) of 'right action' should be known; also (that) of 'forbidden (or unlawful) action' and of 'inaction'; imponderable is the nature (path) of action. He who recognises inaction in action and action in inaction is wise among men; he is a Yogi and a true performer of all actions.
  • As enjoyments, born of contacts (with external objects), have a beginning and an end, they become the cause of unhappiness. The wise man, O Kaunteya! does not find happiness in them.


  • Theosophy... has its good news to bring you; not the good news of salvation, indeed, but the still greater good news that there is nothing to be “saved” from except your own error and ignorance that there is no Divine wrath from which you must escape, but that the whole world is moving on in one mighty and glorious order towards an end greater than the mind of man can conceive. This is not a poetic dream, not a mere flight of the imagination, but a certainty which can be seen and known, which can be examined scientifically by those who will take the trouble to prepare themselves for such an investigation.
  • Never... forget that though the outer side of life may seem so dull and heavy, there is yet always the Divine fire glowing within, remember that 'the soul of things is sweet, the heart of being is celestial rest, stronger than woe is Will, that which is good doth pass to better, best.' ...So this celestial bliss, that lies beyond the sorrow and the suffering shall become for you the ever present reality, until you learn to look through the misery and see its cause — and not only to see the cause but (far beyond that) the exhaustion of that evil through this temporary suffering, and the glory that is to come the magnificent qualities which all this is developing in the man. So this gospel will become a living reality to you. So, although you sympathize ever more and more deeply, you will find that you have within you the power to help, to comfort and to save, because you know, because you have this gospel in your hearts, and so you can communicate its light to others. So you will say to them once more, in the words of the greatest of Indian teachers: "Do not complain, and cry and pray, but open your eyes and see; the light is all about you, if you will only remove the bandage from your eyes and look; it is always with you, so wonderful, so glorious, so far bond anything that man has ever dreamt of or prayed for, and it is forever and forever.” p. 392
  • Ripe in wisdom was he, but patient, and simple, and childlike.
  • The sons of this system of things are wiser in a practical way toward their own generation than the sons of the light are.


  • Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
    Is daily spun; but there exists no loom
    To weave it into fabric
  • Though wisdom wake, suspicion sleeps
    At wisdom's gate, and to simplicity
    Resigns her charge, while goodness thinks no ill
    Where no ill seems.
  • But to know
    That which before us lies in daily life,
    Is the prime wisdom.


  • Wisdom is not the purchase of a day, and it is no wonder that we should err at the first setting off.
  • O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and beyond tracing out his ways are! For “who has come to know Jehovah’s mind, or who has become his adviser?” Or, “who has first given to him, so that it must be repaid to him?” Because from him and by him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.
  • Wisdom … never closes her school of thought but always opens her doors to those who thirst for the sweet water of discourse, and pouring on them an unstinted stream of undiluted doctrine, persuades them to be drunken with the drunkenness which is soberness itself.
    • Philo, Every Good Man is Free, 13
  • Tell (for you can) what is it to be wise?
    'Tis but to know how little can be known,
    To see all other's faults, and feel our own.
  • Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice? She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths. She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors. Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man. O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart. Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things. For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them. They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge. Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it. I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate. Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.
  • I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment: That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures. The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men. Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD. But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.
    • The poetic personification of Wisdom speaking in Book of Proverbs 8:20 - 36 (KJV)
  • The wise person storms the city of the mighty, and overthrows the stronghold in which they trust.


  • He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding.


  • Afin que ne semblons es Atheniens, qui ne consultoient jamais sinon après le cas faict.
    • So that we may not be like the Athenians, who never consulted except after the event done.
    • François Rabelais, Pantagruel (1532), Chapter XXIV
  • You are that rarest of creatures: a man with the wisdom to see beyond his own time.
  • Wisdom precludes boldness.
  • To realise the unimportance of time is the gate of wisdom.
  • Having granted the excellence of these maxims, I come to certain points in which I do not believe that one can grant either the superlative wisdom or the superlative goodness of Christ as depicted in the Gospels... there one does find some things that do not seem to be very wise. For one thing, he certainly thought that His second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that. He says, for instance, "Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come." Then he says, "There are some standing here which shall not taste death till the Son of Man comes into His kingdom"; and there are a lot of places where it is quite clear that He believed that His second coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was the belief of His earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of His moral teaching. When He said, "Take no thought for the morrow," and things of that sort, it was very largely because He thought that the second coming was going to be very soon, and that all ordinary mundane affairs did not count. I have, as a matter of fact, known some Christians who did believe that the second coming was imminent. I knew a parson who frightened his congregation terribly by telling them that the second coming was very imminent indeed, but they were much consoled when they found that he was planting trees in his garden. The early Christians did really believe it, and they did abstain from such things as planting trees in their gardens, because they did accept from Christ the belief that the second coming was imminent. In that respect, clearly He was not so wise as some other people have been, and He was certainly not superlatively wise.
    • Bertrand Russell, Why I am not a Christian (1927), "Defects in Christ's Teaching"
  • There is the instance of the Gadarene swine, where it certainly was not very kind to the pigs to put the devils into them and make them rush down the hill into the sea. You must remember that He was omnipotent, and He could have made the devils simply go away; but He chose to send them into the pigs. Then there is the curious story of the fig-tree, which always rather puzzled me. You remember what happened about the fig-tree. "He was hungry; and seeing a fig-tree afar off having leaves, He came if haply He might find anything thereon; and when he came to it He found nothing but leaves, for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it: 'No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever'.... and Peter.... saith unto Him: 'Master, behold the fig-tree which thou cursedst is withered away.'" This is a very curious story, because it was not the right time of year for figs, and you really could not blame the tree. I cannot myself feel that either in the matter of wisdom or in the matter of virtue Christ stands quite as high as some other people known to History. I think I should put Buddha and Socrates above Him in those respects.


  • Almost every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise, to balance it.
  • The disease having been caused by allowing cleverness to displace wisdom, no amount of clever research is likely to produce a cure.
    • E. F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered (1973), p. 35
  • To that dauntless temper of his mind,
    He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour
    To act in safety.
  • Well, God give them wisdom that have it; and those that are fools, let them use their talents.
  • My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;
    So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;
    Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;
    If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;
    Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.
    For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.
  • Be not wise in thine own eyes.
    • Solomon, Proverbs 3:7 (KJV)
  • He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.
    Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.
    Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
    Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.
    She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.
  • O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.
    • Solomon, Proverbs 8:5, King James Version
  • For wisdom is better than rubies; And all the things that may be desired are not to be compared unto it.
    • Solomon Proverbs 8:11, American Standard Version
  • He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind. And the fool shall be servant to the wise in heart.
  • For those who despise wisdom and instruction are doomed.
    Vain is their hope, fruitless their labours,
    and worthless their works.
  • The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction.
  • Those who get it obtain friendship with God.
  • If you listen well enough, even the emptiness will whisper wisdom.


  • It takes extraordinary wisdom and self-control to accept that many things have a logic we do not understand that is smarter than our own.
    • Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms (2010) Epistemology and Subtractive Knowledge, p. 78.
  • Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.
  • Nor is he the wisest man who never proved himself a fool.




  • Wisdom is oftimes nearer when we stoop
    Than when we soar.


  • σοφίαν δὲ τὸ μέγιστον ἀγαθὸν οὐ δοκεῖ σοι ἀπείργουσα τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἡ ἀκρασία εἰς τοὐναντίον αὐτοὺς ἐμβάλλειν; ἢ οὐ δοκεῖ σοι προσέχειν τε τοῖς ὠφελοῦσι καὶ καταμανθάνειν αὐτὰ κωλύειν, ἀφέλκουσα ἐπὶ τὰ ἡδέα, καὶ πολλάκις αἰσθανομένους τῶν ἀγαθῶν τε καὶ τῶν κακῶν ἐκπλήξασα ποιεῖν τὸ χεῖρον ἀντὶ τοῦ βελτίονος αἱρεῖσθαι;
    • As for Wisdom, the greatest blessing, does not incontinence exclude it and drive men to the opposite? Or don't you think that incontinence prevents them from attending to useful things and understanding them, by drawing them away to things pleasant, and often so stuns their perception of good and evil that they choose the worse instead of the better?


  • There is no wisdom without leisure.
    • Ancient Jewish Wisdom, cited by W. B. Yeats in an address given 3/28/1923.
  • And wisdom is a butterfly
    And not a gloomy bird of prey.
  • On every thorn, delightful wisdom grows,
    In every rill a sweet instruction flows.
  • Be wise to-day; 'tis madness to defer;
    Next day the fatal precedent will plead;
    Thus on, till wisdom is push'd out of life.
  • Wisdom, though richer than Peruvian mines,
    And sweeter than the sweet ambrosial hive,
    What is she, but the means of happiness?
    That unobtain'd, than folly more a fool.
    • Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night II, line 496
  • The man of wisdom is the man of years.
  • But wisdom, awful wisdom! which inspects,
    Discerns, compares, weighs, separates, infers,
    Seizes the right, and holds it to the last.
    • Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night VIII, line 1,253
  • Teach me my days to number, and apply
    My trembling heart to wisdom.
    • Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night IX, line 1,312
  • Putting human affairs in exact formulas shows in itself a lack of the sense of humor and therefore a lack of wisdom.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 878-82.
  • To speak as the common people do, to think as wise men do.
    • Roger Ascham, Dedication to All the Gentlemen and Yeomen of England
  • A wise man is out of the reach of fortune.
    • Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici; quoted as "That insolent paradox"
  • The wisdom of our ancestors.
    • Edmund Burke, Observations an a Late Publicatian on the Present State of the Nation, Volume I, p. 516. Also in the Discussion on the Traitorous Correspondence Bill. (1793). Cicero, De Legibus, II. 2. 3. Lord Eldon—On Sir Samuel Romilly's Bill. 1815. Sydney Smith, Plymley's Letters. Letter V. Bacon said to be first user of the phrase. Ascribed also to Sir William Grant, in Jennings' Anecdotal History of Parliament.
  • Wise men learn more from fools than fools from the wise.
  • Wisdom and goodness are twin-born, one heart
    Must hold both sisters, never seen apart.
  • Some people are more nice than wise.
  • But they whom truth and wisdom lead
    Can gather honey from a weed.
  • Who are a little wise the best fools be.
  • In much wisdom is much grief.
    • Ecclesiastes. I. 18
  • The words of the wise are as goads.
    • Ecclesiastes, XII. 11
  • Nequicquam sapere sapientem, qui ipse sibi prodesse non quiret.
    • The wise man is wise in vain who cannot be wise to his own advantage.
    • Ennius, I. Quoted by Cicero, De Officii, 3, 15
  • No one could be so wise as Thurlow looked.
    • Charles James Fox. See Campbell's Lives of the Lord Chancellors, Volume V, p. 661; also 551. Said also of Webster.
  • Chiefs who no more in bloody fights engage,
    But, wise through time, and narrative with age,
    In summer-days like grasshoppers rejoice,
    A bloodless race, that send a feeble voice.
  • For never, never, wicked man was wise.
    • Homer, The Odyssey, Book II, line 320; Alexander Pope's translation
  • In youth and beauty wisdom is but rare!
    • Homer, The Odyssey, Book VII, line 379; Alexander Pope's translation
  • How prone to doubt, how cautious are the wise!
    • Homer, The Odyssey, Book XIII, line 375; Alexander Pope's translation
  • Utiliumque sagax rerum et divina futuri.
    • Sagacious in making useful discoveries.
    • Horace, Ars Poetica (18 BC), 218
  • Sapere aude.
    • Dare to be wise.
    • Horace, Epistles, I. 2. 40
  • Quis nam igitur liber? Sapiens qui sibi imperiosus.
    • Who then is free? The wise man who can govern himself.
    • Horace, Satires, II. 7. 83
  • He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
    • Job. V. 13
  • Wisdom shall die with you.
    • Job, XII. 2
  • The price of wisdom is above rubies.
    • Job, XXVIII. 18
  • Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.
    • Job, XXXII. 7
  • Great men are not always wise.
    • Job, XXXII. 9
  • Away, thou strange justifier of thyself, to be wiser than thou wert, by the event.
    • Ben Jonson, Silent Woman, Act II, scene 2. "Wise after the event." Quoted by Sir George Staunton in speech replying to Sir James Graham's resolution condemning the Melbourne ministry, House of Commons, April 7, 1840. Homer—Iliad, XVII. 32. Hesiod—Works and Days. V. 79 and 202. Sophocles—Antigone. V. 1270; and 1350. Fabius—Liv, XXII. 39. Erasmus—Epitome Chiliadum Adagiorum. (Ed. 1528), p. 55; 295
  • Victrix fortunæ sapientia.
    • Wisdom is the conqueror of fortune.
    • Juvenal, Satires (early 2nd century), XIII. 20
  • Il est plus aisé d'être sage pour les autres, que pour soi-même.
  • Quisquis plus justo non sapit, ille sapit.
    • Whoever is not too wise is wise.
    • Martial, Epigrammata, XIV. 10. 2
  • * Be wise;
    Soar not too high to fall; but stoop to rise.
  • Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
    • Matthew. X. 16
  • Wisdom is justified of her children.
    • Matthew, XI. 19; Luke, VII. 35
  • A little too wise they say do ne'er live long.
  • Il est bon de frotter et limer notre cervelle centre celle d'autrui.
    • It is good to rub and polish our brain against that of others.
    • Michel de Montaigne, Essays, Book I, Chapter XXIV
  • The most manifest sign of wisdom is a continual cheerfulness: her state is like that of things in the regions above the moon, always clear and serene.
  • Le sage vit tant qu'il doibt, non pas tent qu'il peut.
    • A wise man sees as much as he ought, not as much as he can.
    • Michel de Montaigne, Essays, Book II, Chapter III
  • Qui aura esté une fois bien fol ne sera nulle aultre fois bien sage.
    • He who has once been very foolish will at no other time be very wise.
    • Michel de Montaigne, Essays, Book III, Chapter VI
  • O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and beyond tracing out his ways are! 34 For “who has come to know Jehovah’s mind, or who has become his adviser?” 35 Or, “who has first given to him, so that it must be repaid to him?” 36 Because from him and by him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.
  • Seven wise men on an old black settle,
    Seven wise men of the Mermaid Inn,
    Ringing blades of the one right metal,
    What is the best that a blade can win?
  • Some men never spake a wise word, yet doe wisely; some on the other side doe never a wise deed, and yet speake wisely.
  • When swelling buds their od'rous foliage shed,
    And gently harden into fruit, the wise
    Spare not the little offsprings, if they grow
  • Feliciter sapit qui alieno periculo sapit.
    • He gains wisdom in a happy way, who gains it by another's experience.
    • Plautus, Mercator, IV. 7. 40
  • Nemo solus satis sapit.
    • No man is wise enough by himself.
    • Plautus, Miles Gloriosus, III. 3. 12
  • Nemo mortalium omnibus horis sapit.
    • No one is wise at all times.
    • Pliny the Elder, Historia Naturalis, VII. 41. 2
  • Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the street.
    • Proverbs. I. 20
  • Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting get understanding.
    • Proverbs, IV. 7
  • Wisdom is better than rubies.
    • Proverbs, VIII. 11
  • Get wisdom, because it is better than gold: and purchase prudence, for it is more precious than silver.
    • Proverbs 16:16
  • "Those who seek me diligently find me."
    • The voice of Wisdom in Proverbs VIII. 17
  • Be wisely worldly, but not worldly wise.
  • Ce n'est pas être sage
    D'être plus sage qu'il ne le faut.
    • It is not wise to be wiser than is necessary.
    • Quinault, Armide
  • The power is yours, but not the sight;
    You see not upon what you tread;
    You have the ages for your guide,
    But not the wisdom to be led.
  • Wouldst thou wisely, and with pleasure,
    Pass the days of life's short measure,
    From the slow one counsel take,
    But a tool of him ne'er make;
    Ne'er as friend the swift one know,
    Nor the constant one as foe.
  • The Italian seemes wise, and is wise; the Spaniard seemes wise, and is a foole; the French seemes a foole, and is wise; and the English seemes a foole and is a foole.
    • Quoted as a common proverb by Thomas Scot, in The Highwaies of God and the King, p. 8. (1623)
  • Wisdom does not show itself so much in precept as in life—in a firmness of mind and mastery of appetite. It teaches us to do, as well as to talk; and to make our actions and words all of a color.
  • Nulli sapere casu obtigit.
  • Melius in malis sapimus, secunda rectum auferunt.
    • We become wiser by adversity; prosperity destroys our appreciation of the right.
    • Seneca the Younger, Epistolæ Ad Lucilium, XCIV
  • As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.
  • A short saying oft contains much wisdom.
  • Happy those
    Who in the after-days shall live, when Time
    Hath spoken, and the multitude of years
    Taught wisdom to mankind!
  • The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance.
  • By Wisdom wealth is won;
    But riches purchased wisdom yet for none.
  • "The Prophet's words were true;
    The mouth of Ali is the golden door
    Of Wisdom."
    When his friends to Ali bore
    These words, he smiled and said: "And should they ask
    The same until my dying day, the task
    Were easy; for the stream from Wisdom's well,
    Which God supplies, is inexhaustible."
  • Isthuc est sapere non quod ante pedes modo est
    Videre sed etiam illa, quæ futura sunt
    • True wisdom consists not in seeing what is immediately before our eyes, but in foreseeing what is to come.
    • Terence, Adelphi, III. 3. 32
  • The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
    • I Timothy, XVI. 8
  • Wisdom alone is true ambition's aim
    Wisdom the source of virtue, and of fame,
    Obtained with labour, for mankind employed,
    And then, when most you share it, best enjoyed.
  • Wisdom sits alone,
    Topmost in heaven:—she is its light—its God;
    And in the heart of man she sits as high—
    Though grovelling eyes forget her oftentimes,
    Seeing but this world's idols. The pure mind
    Sees her forever: and in youth we come
    Fill'd with her sainted ravishment, and kneel,
    Worshipping God through her sweet altar fires,
    And then is knowledge "good."
  • Wisdom is the gray hair unto men, and an unspotted life is old age.
    • Wisdom of Solomon, IV. 8
  • And he is oft the wisest man
    Who is not wise at all.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)


Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • The wise man is but a clever infant, spelling letters from a hieroglyphical prophetic book, the lexicon of which lies in eternity.
  • What in me is dark, Illumine, what is low, raise and support.
  • For knowledge to become wisdom, and for the soul to grow, the soul must be rooted in God: and it is through prayer that there comes to us that which is the strength of our strength, and the virtue of our virtue, the Holy Spirit.
  • The question is, whether, like the Divine Child in the Temple, we are turning knowledge into wisdom, and whether, understanding more of the mysteries of life, we are feeling more of its sacred law; and whether, having left behind the priests and the scribes and the doctors and the fathers, we are about our Father's business, and becoming wise to God.

Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989)

  • Drop, drop—in our sleep, upon the heart
    sorrow falls, memory's pain,
    and to us, though against our very will,
    even in our own despite,
    comes wisdom
    by the awful grace of God.
    • Aeschylus, Agamemnon. The above lines are from Edith Hamilton, trans., Three Greek Plays, p. 170 (1937). Other translations of this passage from Aeschylus vary. Robert F. Kennedy, delivering an extemporaneous eulogy to Martin Luther King, Jr., the evening of April 4, 1968, in Indianapolis, Indiana, said, "Aeschylus wrote: 'In our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.'" These words, lacking "own", have been used as one of the inscriptions at the Robert F. Kennedy gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery.
  • [The argument of Alcidamas:] Everyone honours the wise. Thus the Parians have honoured Archilochus, in spite of his bitter tongue; the Chians Homer, though he was not their countryman; the Mytilenaeans Sappho, though she was a woman; the Lacedaemonians actually made Chilon a member of their senate, though they are the least literary of men; the inhabitants of Lampsacus gave public burial to Anaxagoras, though he was an alien, and honour him even to this day.
    • Aristotle, Rhetoric, book 2, The Complete Works of Aristotle, rev. Oxford trans., ed. Jonathan Barnes, vol. 2, p. 2228–29 (1984)
  • Ask counsel of both times—of the ancient time what is best, and of the latter time what is fittest.
    • Francis Bacon, "Of Great Place", The Essays, or Counsels Civil & Moral of Francis Bacon, p. 48 (1905). Based on the 1625 edition but with modernized spelling.
  • Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late.
  • Standing in this presence, mindful of the solemnity of this occasion, feeling the emotions which no one may know until he senses the great weight of responsibility for himself, I must utter my belief in the divine inspiration of the founding fathers.
    • Warren G. Harding, inaugural address, March 4, 1921. Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States from George Washington, 1789, to Richard Milhous Nixon, 1969, p. 207 (1969). House Doc. 91–142. Harding is credited with originating the phrase founding fathers. Senator Harding's remarks before the Sons and Daughters of the Revolution, Washington, D.C., February 22, 1918, included this sentence: "It is good to meet and drink at the fountains of wisdom inherited from the founding fathers of the Republic". Address on Washington's Birthday, p. 3 (1918). Senate Doc. 65–180. He also used the phrase in his speech on being officially notified of his nomination for the presidency, Marion, Ohio, July 22, 1920. According to "Of Deathless Remarks…", American Heritage, June 1970, p. 57, his 1918 remarks were "the first use of the phrase that the combined efforts of the experts at the Library of Congress have been able to find".
  • The poet's aim is either to profit or to please, or to blend in one the delightful and the useful. Whatever the lesson you would convey, be brief, that your hearers may catch quickly what is said and faithfully retain it. Every superfluous word is spilled from the too-full memory.
    • Horace, Ars Poetica, lines 333–37. Edward Henry Blakeney, Horace on the Art of Poetry, p. 54 (1928, reprinted 1970). Horace's message is often condensed to "Whatever advice you give, be brief". (Quidquid praecipies, esto brevis.)—line 335.
  • That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in the next.
    • Attributed to John Stuart Mill. Adlai E. Stevenson, Call to Greatness, p. 102 (1954). Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • Pain makes man think. Thought makes man wise. Wisdom makes life endurable.
    • John Patrick, The Teahouse of the August Moon, act I, scene i, p. 6 (1957). These words are spoken by Sakini, an Okinawan, to the audience. They are repeated in act III, scene iii, and at the conclusion of the play.
  • When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.
    • Attributed to Mark Twain in The Reader's Digest (September 1939), p. 22. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989). This has been widely reprinted and attributed to Twain, but has never been found in his works, though various Twain groups and the Twain Papers staff have searched for it.

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