Sunday June 16, 2024

Love for wisdom

By Dr Syed Kaleem Imam
October 26, 2021

In the world of wisdom, learning and intellect, philosophers are revered for their deep thinking and logical argument. Undoubtedly, Socrates was a legendary philosopher who immortalised himself when he preferred death over compromising over his teachings and beliefs.

Unfortunately, this subject has been denounced in the sort of society we see in the underdeveloped world. Thinking, questioning, creating means challenging and deviating from the prevailing thoughts and beliefs, and the powers that be. Which is why this approach is generally not promoted – and is in fact discouraged via tactics such as charges of sedition, and can lead to ostracisation.

On a personal note, I admit, I too was ridiculed for studying and later teaching this subject and looked upon rather sceptically. The impression died down slowly as I started to climb the ladder in worldly affairs. Largely, philosophy – a term coined by Pythagoras – is a combination of two Greek expressions, ‘Philos’ meaning ‘to love’ and ‘Sophos’ meaning ‘wisdom’ – and is known as the mother of all sciences.

On an academic level, the subject is generally deemed difficult, not enough to grasp in a glance, as if awakening can be effortless. Some seem to thrive in the study of philosophy, while others simply don't have the patience for it. Despite all the odds and the scepticism, it has always been fruitful to study ‘metaphysics’, the ultimate nature of life and truth; ‘epistemology’, the art of appraising sources and the nature of knowledge and belief; ‘ethics’, describing and discussing moral value; and ‘logic’, conversing on the rules of inference and the art of reasoning.

These seekers of wisdom have catalysed the evolution of human society. They have tried to understand the relation between mind and body, and the spiritual and materialistic clatter, and prosperity of humans. It has transcended from the world of myths, and beliefs, to the industrial and scientific revolutions, sculpted presently by pragmaticism, and now to technology and digitalisation.

For atheists, wisdom had nothing to do with belief in deities. Agnostics proclaimed that the ultimate reality was undetermined. Equating awakening with developing wisdom is crucial for life in the Buddhist tradition ‘for acute comprehension of all experiences’ and a possible freedom from suffering. In the Indian traditions, knowledge, self-awareness, and sincere bonding with creation has been the center theme. However, wisdom in the Bible is viewed as one of the premier virtues along with compassion and justice, urging followers to obtain and enhance knowledge, whereas in Christian theology, ‘insight’ is described as an aspect of God.

‘Hikmah’ as explained by Ibn Arabi is rightly to be treasured, but acquiring the ‘truth’ from wherever it comes dignifies humans. Islam encourages optimizing on the revealed sources, as well as on pursuing independent interpretation for non-revealed sources through human reasoning and consensus (Ijtihad).

For Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Plato's educational philosophy talks of ‘justice, state order’ and the ‘Philosopher King’. Aristotle believed that ‘human nature, nurturing and rationality’ are imperative ingredients for refinement. Thoughts during the Renaissance period represented a movement away from Christianity, medieval Scholasticism and towards Humanism coming from Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes. Kant was a proponent of education, practical learning and believed in thinking, development of character and to realise worldly affairs in the existing space and time. Philosophy underwent professionalization of the social process by the end of the 19th century, with the rise of analytic and continental philosophy, effectively closing the era of ‘isolated thinking’.

Growth of thinking prudently supported by evidential outcomes has helped humans solve numerous problems and make superior decisions, especially in this age of disruption and disinformation. This has led to exploration, discovery, and invention. This philosophical approach has enhanced humans’ ability to adapt and resolve crises. It matters that many got wise before getting old and reverend.

Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic muddled education systems throughout the world, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries, leading to a multiplicity of in-person, hybrid, and online-only plans, which led to challenges for countless pupils, educators, and families including kids with learning disabilities and those learning in a foreign language.

In a nutshell, one can know oneself through the wisdom gained by empirical, rational, intuitive development or inherent innate ideas, faith and scientific research and artificial intelligence today.

The world is changing at an ever-quickening rate, which means that a lot of knowledge becomes obsolete and inaccurate more quickly. This is why obligatory lifelong education is important.

Inarguably ‘If you wish to acquire knowledge, read Francis Bacon but if you are seeking wisdom, value Shakespeare’.

The writer, a security expert, holds a PhD in Politics & International Relations, and is presently serving as IGP NHMP. Email: