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How to Distinguish Intelligence From Wisdom

Updated: Jun 2

a human-built hills where cities reside.

Ms. Tamara Moskal's Synopsis

Intelligence is the ability to learn, understand, and apply knowledge skillfully. Wisdom is a practical tool, using knowledge and experience to make good decisions and judgments. An intelligent person is not necessarily wise and may make poor decisions due to a lack of experience and mental maturity. IQ tests are controversial because they are inaccurate, can be discriminatory, and measure only logical intelligence, not emotional and social.
The difference between wisdom and intelligence in communication is negligible beyond when education is involved. Obtaining knowledge is the key to intelligent decisions and wisdom.
Accusing somebody of "stupidity" is offensive, so it's better to avoid the topic rather than ignore the stupidity or twist it into a false compliment. Although many individuals possess intelligence, not all hold certificates. Diplomas grant people privileges even though not all take the best decisions and are competent. Even though intelligence is genetically determined, anybody can become wise by using their inborn intellect in the best possible way.



What is intelligence, and how is it different from wisdom?

Intelligence is the ability to learn, understand, and apply knowledge skillfully. As such, intelligence is a virtue. The artist may be intelligent by the fact that he applies his knowledge in one or more artistic crafts. Wisdom, on the other hand is the ability to use knowledge and experience to make good decisions and judgements.

As such, wisdom is a practical tool. Thus, the intelligent person may not be practical, necessarily, if their skill isn't practical. That is, while the wise person is measured by their ability to make realistic judgement of situations and characters. The point of making judgement is to survive. And surviving, of course, allows us to thrive.

Intelligence is often measured by IQ tests, which are controversial in their ability to do so. However, there is no single test that can measure intelligence accurately.

Can a person be considered more intelligent but less wise, or vice versa?

Yes, it is possible for a person to be more intelligent but less wise, or vice versa. As stated, Intelligence is about the ability to learn and understand, while wisdom is about the ability to use that knowledge to make good decisions. For example, a person can be very intelligent, and yet, lack the life experience or emotional maturity to make wise decisions. Conversely, a person can be less intelligent but have a lot of life experience and wisdom, which he or she may use practically.

Dr. Eggman, which has been covered on Philosocom, is very intelligent, but very unwise character -- hence why he constantly loses to his foes, despite being an extremely talented genius. He is very gifted, but far from practical, making him an incompetent intellect.

What role does intelligence play in our everyday lives, and even in our survival?

Intelligence plays an important role in our everyday lives. It helps us to learn new things, solve problems, and make valuable decisions. Intelligence can also help us to avoid danger and survive in difficult situations, when combined with wisdom.

Here is a simple example of a smart decision:

  • Deciding to study for a test instead of going out with friends.

Here are 2 examples of a foolish decision:

Why is it measured by IQ tests, which are controversial in their ability to do so?

IQ tests are controversial because they are not always accurate. In addition, they were and can be used for discrimination against those who scored lowly, in favor of those who excelled. IQ tests also only measure certain types of intelligence, such as logical-mathematical intelligence. There are many other types of intelligence, such as emotional intelligence and social intelligence, that are not measured by IQ tests. In turn, this could lead to misconceptions that can trigger the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Is there actually a significant difference between intelligence and wisdom?

The problem is that each of these words can be used to define the other without the need of distinction. The fact that they are so similar may be sufficent for an effective communication, thus devaluing the need for distinguishing between the terms. An intelligent decision, for example, can just be as accepted as a wise decision without the necessity of altering the meaning in this sentence. It is reasonable to assume that the true difference between these words only arrives when education is at hand.

Several insights

The most obvious pathway to intelligence and wisdom is knowledge. Knowledge is a resource that can reveal to you opportunities you would not have otherwise considered. In other words, knowledge is power. For example, learning new strategies in chess can increase the intelligence of your decisions when facing a formidable opponent. Those who are unaware of their abilities and their potentials are not necessarily stupid, but they can make their current decisions even smarter than before, should they be aware of what they're truly capable of.

As such, the intellect applies knowledge in the name of their skill, like with the artist's example. An intelligent artist is one that uses their skills very efficently. However, not all skills are practical necessarily. The wise person may apply the knowledge they earned thus far in order to make smarter decisions, and in order to better evaluate the environment they are in.

The problem with the word "stupidity" is that it is often used as an insult. Almost everyone is likely to be offended by this adjective, so when referring to people without the intention of insulting them, you are either confined to ignore their "stupidity", falsely call them wise, or twist your speech in a way that will compliment them through a change of perspective... All in your efforts to not insult them with the possible truth about them.

For example, talking about one's potential instead of their incompetence can give a person hope instead of being insulted. It might be important to criticize, but unfortunately, some people are more emotionally sensitive than others. Thus, you may need to understand the individual you're speaking to, in order to make smart decisions upon interaction and collaboration. Perhaps you don't even need to bring the topic up, nor lead to the subject?

While many people can be smart, education requires certificates that not everyone has. These documents grant them a distinction, both interpersonal and practical, that does not exist within the other adjectives. Regardless, not every educated person will make smart decisions in all fields, even if their academic titles represent extraordinary intelligence in a very specific field. This leads to a variant of the appeal to authority fallacy, known as the degree fallacy.

Thus, even the educated can be somewhat "dumb" as all of us can be. And by "dumb" I mean incompetent. It all depends on the task at hand and whether or not you have the knowledge required to make choices that give you more benefit than otherwise.


Intelligence is a complex concept that is difficult to define without pure disagreement. However, it is clear that intelligence plays an important role in our everyday lives. Especially in our professional lives. The more intelligent we are, the better equipped we are to make good decisions that will lead to beneficial outcomes.

Everyone is only as gifted intellectually as their genetics allow, yet anyone can become wise by figuring out what they can do with the intelligence that they have been given.

Mr. Nathan Lasher's Feedback:

Intelligence isn’t something which people either possess or don’t. The average intelligence is 100 for a reason. It might be more correct to describe learning, understanding, and using as steps of successful intellectual expression. A trait which anyone can accomplish.
We all learn as children and somehow forget to as adults. Does that mean that children are more intelligent than adults? They can learn better.
Food for thought, does age hinder our own intelligence? In other words, why is it more difficult to teach an adult than it is to teach a child? Do we become so set in thinking we know everything that we don’t bother learning anything else, only about what is important or interesting to us do we learn?
Is the reason why kids learn better, is because they're forced to learn, unlike adults who can learn about one thing just good enough to make money doing it? Isn’t a huge point in the journey of life, the fact that the more you learn the higher your value as a human goes? You can do more things as a career the more that you know.
Basically, some professions prerequisite is that you must know so much in order to do it. An example would be a doctor. Can’t be one unless you are willing to learn an "X" amount about it.
Willingness to learn might be a very good skill to list on a resume. Most places don’t care what you’ve done, as much as they want to know what your willing to learn. Life-long education is very important. 
Intelligence isn’t merely an ability. Your intelligence, being part of your genetics, is more an essence of who you are. Intelligence is the thing which gives you life.
Your brain is naturally intelligent as you look at all the abstract things it lets your body do without you having to tell it to. You don’t have to tell your stomach to digest food. It's all because your brain is intelligent enough to tell your stomach to do it all on its own. Something has to tell it to.
So, intelligence is also responsible for every body process you have. None would occur if something didn’t tell it to. You don’t have to tell your body to fight off an infection. Your intelligence designed body functions which will fight things off for you. So, intelligence does a lot more than people think, all without their knowledge.
Intelligence is how you receive knowledge and wisdom is about better processing.
Your intelligence is constantly aware of what you are doing even though you might not be processing. Wisdom comes when you learn to efficiently process information and sensory data. Wisdom is finding a better way to do things. Intelligence can simply tell you what is available for you to do. Just because you can do X amount of things doesn’t mean your wise.
You're intelligent, sure, but only wise if you find an effective way to use that information. Intelligence is more a possessive trait and wisdom is more a processing one. Intelligence can help with quantity whereas wisdom can help with quality.
Think about wisdom versus intelligent using the piano as an example. An intelligent person could figure out what all the keys were and where they were. A wise person could use that information to create music. Wisdom is the result of intelligence's self actualization.
Intelligence is the application of learned knowledge and wisdom is effectively doing so.
There is no multiple type of intelligence. Look into psychometric G. The theory of general intelligence. All that there is is your intelligence and different cognitive features which it can use to express itself with. "Musical" and "emotional" are like intelligence personality types. All they are is expressions of intelligence.
Musical intelligence has more to do with your neuroanatomy and the way you process sound. It is not intelligence. It is learned information which your intelligence can use to express itself with.
Any action you do is an expression of your intelligence. If you don’t want to be seen as stupid, all you have to do is avoid doing stupid things. Your actions will speak more to your intelligence than anything else and shouldn’t really be stated but rather demonstrated.
Wisdom accompanies good morals and those who use their intelligence for good deeds. Everybody possesses it, and it isn’t exclusive to those individuals with higher than average.
Anyone can be wise and learn to best utilize the intelligence that they’ve been given.
"Stupid" is a relative subjective term. "Stupid" is something that everyone is. You are always someone who possess less information than someone else. Doesn’t everyone know stuff which you don't know? When it comes to knowing someone else, you are always stupid. They can always tell you stuff which you don’t know.
Today's stupid is used as a status symbol. You want someone to know they are stupid, So you can feel smarter than them. Most commonly referred to as the consequence of an action.
People do something unintelligent and they get ridiculed like it is an absolute. Does everybody not do something not that smart from time to time?
You try remembering to do every single 1 of a million things. See if you don’t occasionally make a slip up. Imperfections are a part of life so why are people considered stupid for making a mistake. Nobody is perfect.
You could say everyone is capable of stupidity just due to the fact of how many fallacies they fall victim to.
Intelligence has to do with your genetics. Plus, intelligence is pretty stationary. It has nothing to do with how much knowledge you possess. It exists apart from that.
Super intelligence, I believe only applies to a small portion of the world. Smart is something everyone understands. Intelligence is a very complex thing. It has to do with brain power and not with knowledge.

291 views3 comments


Tamara Landino
Tamara Landino
Aug 22, 2023

Thank you for this insightful article. In my opinion, intelligence is the hard condition to obtain knowledge; Knowledge is the hard condition to obtain wisdom and true wisdom can’t reach it’s full potential without teachings from life itself.


Yes, Roland, I agree because the status of not having something is necessary before having it, and thus, the knowledgable are first ignorant, the wise first a fool (or less than wise) and master -- a student. The path forward cannot hence be as such before being behind it. Thanks for reading!


Roland Leblanc
Roland Leblanc
Jan 04, 2021

Can we say that we need to be come , become : ''Wise smart fool'' in the sense of being fool enough to go forward in attaining to Wisdom while gaining in Knowledge while living a top, on top of existing only status; so in essence, one can pay attention to what he or she is living up to, and gain in wisdom , and this could be very well be a smart process of getting more aware and more Wise sort of?

Would you agree?


Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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