What Does Wisdom Mean To Will Durant

American writer, historian, and philosopher Will Durant describes wisdom in his own intelligent and eloquent way.

Read the following excerpt of ‘What is Wisdom?’ by Durant:

“What is wisdom? I feel like a droplet of spray which proudly poised for a moment on the crest of a wave, undertakes to analyze the sea.

Ideally, wisdom is total perspective — seeing an object, event, or idea in all its pertinent relationships. Spinoza defined wisdom as seeing things sub specie eternitatis, in view of eternity; I suggest defining it as seeing things sub specie totius, in view of the whole.

Obviously we can only approach such total perspective; to possess it would be to be God. The first lesson of philosophy is that philosophy is the study of any part of experience in the light of our whole experience; the second lesson is that the philosopher is a very small part in a very large whole. Just as philosopher means not a “possessor” but a “lover” of wisdom, so we can only seek wisdom devotedly, like a lover fated, as on Keats’ Grecian urn, never to possess, but only to desire. Perhaps it is more blessed to desire than to possess.

Shall we have examples? Rain falls; you mourn that your tennis games must be postponed; you are not a philosopher. But you console yourself with the thought, “How grateful the parched earth will be for the rain!” You have seen the event in a larger perspective, and you are beginning to approach wisdom.”

Please read the rest of this fascinating article here.

Let me also turn your attention to a few recommended books authored by Will Durant, which will give you a good grounding in the history of philosophy and the great thinkers:


  1. Wisdom, to me, is something that transcends understanding, transcends knowledge. To simplify it, I’d say it’s an appreciation of life. That aside, I love this passage and the images Durant uses and his humility.

  2. Jason Cooper says:

    Hi NP,

    Your definition of wisdom sounds good to me.

    I will also add that I usually equate wisdom to truth – Both are mysterious. Both are generally ignored and misconstrued by the majority. But if both can be discovered, accepted and then embraced, they will liberate the mind and illuminate a path towards total peace and joy.