Differences Between Knowledge Vs Wisdom, Insight And Intelligence

Most people are familiar with the words ‘knowledge’ and ‘wisdom,’ but few understand the difference between knowledge vs wisdom. You may have questions such as does knowledge lead to wisdom? Or can you have knowledge without wisdom? 

Although both refer to the mind and the accumulation of experiences and thoughts, they are distinct in terms of their acquisition, meaning, and applications in life. 

What Are The Differences Between Knowledge Vs Wisdom And Insight?

Knowledge is acquired through learning and education. It is essentially accumulating data and facts.  Often knowledge occurs after spending a period of time learning about a subject or topic. You gain knowledge through learning and understanding facts. 

For instance, someone who knows a lot about a certain subject, such as geography, is considered knowledgeable in Geography. When we study books or search for information online, we become more knowledgeable on what we are researching.

The truth is that you can have knowledge and fail to have wisdom. So, what is wisdom and why is it important?  

Wisdom is the ability to discern and apply judgment based on your knowledge that things are true, right, durable, and lasting in your life. When we speak of wisdom, we talk about the state of being wise. 

We gain wisdom from everyday experiences. We choose to take the knowledge and experience gained and apply it to our everyday life. 

When we are talking about knowledge and wisdom, insight is also another word worth mentioning. So, what is the difference between knowledge, wisdom and insight? 

Insight refers to obtaining a deeper and clearer perception of life, knowledge and wisdom. It involves grasping the deepest level of knowledge and the essence of wisdom, so as to gain a truer understanding or your life and a bigger picture of how things are interconnected. 

Simply put, if knowledge is information, then wisdom is the ability to understand that information and apply it. Whereas insight is the awareness of the underlying essence of truth in the knowledge acquired. 

The synonyms for knowledge include: 

  • Learning
  • Education 
  • Erudition 

On the other hand, synonyms for wisdom include:

  • Wiseness 
  • Enlightenment 
  • Reason 
knowledge vs wisdom

Difference Between Knowledge Vs Wisdom Vs Intelligence 

Intelligence is connected to knowledge in that it involves the ability to retain knowledge and use reasoning to solve problems. A person with high level of intelligence can remember all the knowledge they’ve learned and use it to solve simple problems. Alternatively, wisdom is associated with complex reasoning and problem solving. 

Related: How to Keep a Conversation Going and Never Run Out of Things To Say

Main Differences Between Knowledge And Wisdom

Knowledge is a part of the equation, whereas wisdom takes into consideration the whole situation. With wisdom, a person goes beyond learning the facts and begins to make sense of those facts. Conversely, knowledge refers to “what is learned.” 

When we refer to someone that is knowledgeable, what we mean is that they possess an above-average awareness of truths, data, or information concerning a particular subject that’s considered logical, established, and can be known definitely. 

The table below shows the key differences between the two:

Knowledge Wisdom 
Meaning Knowledge involves being in possession of a compilation of facts, data, or information about a topic, event or person.Typically, anything you can learn or know is knowledge.  Wisdom is an intangible quality that’s mostly gained through life’s experiences. It enables us to make correct judgements and decisions as a person is able to sort through information and determine what facts of their knowledge are valuable. 
Time Knowledge evolves over time. E.g. what we know about a disease, like diabetes,  has significantly increased compared to what we knew 10 years ago. Wisdom is timeless as it has an enduring aspect. 
Source Learning, education, reason and logical thought. Mostly stems from self and intuition. Our personal experiences frame wisdom. They also define us and refine our character. Knowledge is an aspect of wisdom. Therefore, by learning new things and reflecting on experiences, we become wiser. 

Similarities Between Knowledge And Wisdom

Knowledge and wisdom share some similarities. For starters, both of them are nouns that talk about the process of actively gaining information. To obtain knowledge or wisdom, you need more than one piece of information and they both take time to acquire.

knowledge vs wisdom

Which Is Better? Knowledge Vs Wisdom? 

It is not uncommon to see a person who is knowledgeable about something but they lack wisdom. However, you will not be able to find a person who is incredibly wise but they lack knowledge and experience. This is because simply having knowledge does not instantly make you a wise person. However, if you have wisdom, you were not able to obtain it without knowledge.

Take for example a wise leader of a company. They make decisions based on their knowledge and understanding of how the company is currently performing in the market. They apply this knowledge and in turn make wise decisions that lead the company to a higher level of success. Knowledge is gathered over time but a wise leader understands how to utilize it and act on it accordingly. A leader that has knowledge but lacks wisdom, may make poor decisions that affect the profitability of the company and result in a poor work environment and lower returns for stakeholders.

So which is better? Knowledge vs Wisdom? Actually, both are integral for a successful and healthy life. Our society emphasizes the importance of obtaining knowledge. However, knowledge can quite often be useless without the wisdom and understanding on how to ulitize that knowledge. If you want a whole, healthy, and amazing life – you need knowledge, Wisdom, and insight. 

What Are Some Examples Of Wisdom?

When you hear someone say that they are an “IT expert” or an expert in “Mindfulness techniques,” that means that they have extensive knowledge about a certain subject. On the other hand, Wisdom comes from observing experiences and learning from them in a way that changes your behavior and affects future decisions. 

For example, someone might be living above their means and end up in an unnecessary amount of debt. But if they are wise, they will learn from their mistakes and not allow it to happen to them again. Moving forward, they will plan to save their money before spending it carelessly. 

An even wiser person might avoid such a mistake altogether by listening to the counsel of others before coming up with a plan on how to manage their finances. 

How do you act when you are faced with a difficult situation? If you react calmly rather than quickly resorting to anger in a difficult situation, then you have chosen to act wisely. This is because rationality, self-control and experience have taught you that anger does not solve a situation. In fact, anger makes the situation worse. 

Wisdom manifests itself in different ways, and many cultures and religions have their own interpretations of what wise behavior looks like. Oftentimes people from different cultures and religious beliefs pass down wisdom in the form of common sayings or philosophical phrases. 

For example, Confucius says, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest. Second by imitation, which is easiest, and third by experience, which is bitterest.” 

Whether a person absorbs that wisdom, believes it, or applies it, depends on the individual. 

knowledge vs wisdom

How Time Affects Knowledge And Wisdom 

Overall, knowledge and Wisdom tend to increase over time. A person who is 20 knows more than a ten year old and a person will be wiser at 50 than when they were at 25 years old. However, there’s more of a direct correlation with knowledge and time than with Wisdom. 

It is generally accepted that a person who spends 20 years studying a subject knows more than a person who has spent five years studying that subject. For example, most of us would be comfortable consulting a doctor with 40 years of experience in the field rather than a recent graduate. 

Experiences over time also significantly add to our level of wisdom. However, the correlation is not always so direct. Whereas, more time dedicated to learning about something will lead to more knowledge, more time doesn’t always guarantee wisdom. For example, you could have a 40 year old person who still lives at home with their parents and they cook and clean for that individual, and as a result that person may act as if they are still 18 years old.

This is because some people may choose not to pursue knowledge, which is the acquisition of data or facts and as a result they do not become wiser. As previously mentioned, you can not have wisdom without knowledge. Wisdom also requires applying judgment, drawing conclusions, and changing behavior accordingly. 

Time can also negatively affect wisdom and knowledge, as facts and data can either change or be forgotten as time passes. Take for example, technology. The technology that we have today is  much more advanced and sophisticated than what we had even 5 years ago. If someone were to call themselves an expert in technology, they would constantly need to be educating themselves within the field and understanding new techniques and how to apply them.

Wisdom can also be affected by time because it is subjective, a wise person may feel out of touch as the years progress. For example, in the past, the wise solution for an unwanted pregnancy was to get married. However, now-a-days, we have other solutions, such as single parenting or adoption.

Applying Knowledge And Wisdom

The application of knowledge often involves finding or knowing the right facts. On the other hand, wisdom goes beyond facts, as it requires a person to perceive a situation and choose which direction they feel would result in the best outcome.

Wisdom may involve factors such as speculation, feelings, moral or ethical values. Generally, applying knowledge is simpler than applying wisdom. 

An example of knowledge application can be found in the transition to renewable energy, where solutions such as solar energy positively impact the environment. The decision to utilize renewable energy is considered wise, as it reduces our dependence on imported fuels. 

If knowledge is knowing and understanding a variety of information, wisdom can hold on to that information and implement it in practical situations. 

As we’ve mentioned earlier, it is easier to obtain knowledge than wisdom. Therefore, it suffices to say that there are more “smart people” than there are “wise people” in the world. 

Still, it is possible to bridge the gap between adequate information and wise application of the information. Wisdom is the practical application of knowledge for a benefit. 

Some examples of translating information and knowledge into wise action or decision include:

  • Reading blogs/articles and listening to podcasts on how to invest and applying the knowledge you learn to your personal finances. 
  • Talking to a nutritionist on the best meals that will help you lose weight and applying that information by sticking to the meal plan.
  • Watching a video of the latest meditation techniques to aid with relaxation and applying those techniques to your life whenever you feel stressed or anxious. 

The Bottom Line

Knowledge, Wisdom, and insight are all valuable traits that we need to have within our lives. The issue is that most of us think that they are interchangeable. However, now that we know the difference, we can consciously work towards ensuring that we have all three principals in our lives.

Acquiring knowledge is valuable in and of itself. But we also need to analyze that information and discover how it relates and can be applied to our own life through wisdom.

Knowledge, wisdom and insight will enhance our quality and experience of life.

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