Tuesday, October 30, 2007

We are all wise.

“We are all wise. The difference between persons is not in wisdom but in art.”

R. W. Emerson, "Intellect", p. 421 of the Library of America edition.

Is this true? One thing you have to train yourself to do in order to read philosophy is to put that question on hold. If you stop whenver a premise is untrue, you would not get very far with a large share of philosophers.

Anyway, I don't think it's true. Some people are wiser than others, actually wiser, not just more artful. Some of us are not very wise at all.

Say I modify the statement a little. "Between equally wise persons, the difference is in art." That could be more euphonious. But now it looks true to me. The manner of expression of ideas or wisdom forms a crucial part of their effectiveness or impact. I may have made the sentiment too utilitarian for Emerson's taste, but I feel like I'm moving toward what he really meant.

That's why I'm writing here - working on the "art" side. Maybe it will lead to actual wisdom. Maybe it will only help me appear more wise. Maybe it's just vanity. I'll keep trying.

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