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In this paper I will set out Aristotles conception of wisdom sophia as compared to the modern American conception of the same word I will then discuss some of the problems of Aristotles approach to and concept of wisdom One of the most fundamental concepts in Aristotles Metaphysics is wisdom sophia It is so fundamental that the whole discipline to which Aristotle devoted his life that it is called philosophy ie the love of wisdom Accordingly when we study the philosophy of Aristotle it is crucial that we understand exactly what he meant by sophia and not confuse his concept with ours today An American in 2001 CE would probably conceive of wisdom in a number of ways On a very basic level he would probably have in mind the archetypal cartoon-character wise man - an old thin long-bearded man sitting on some sort of throne basking in the glow of knowledge experience and good judgment Such caricatures clearly affect the common representations of for example the Magi Indeed American popular culture often depicts the wise man as someone with a unique insight into the meaning of life or some similarly profound topic who resides alone on some mountain peak in an exotic Eastern country or something to that effect If we examine these popular caricatures a surprisingly complex concept of wisdom emerges The modern American wise man is of course very learned in a large number of fields But he also has sound judgment good ethical sense and a good understanding of human nature Such wisdom is not merely the result of introspection and formal education but of worldly experience In fact today we often speak of the educated idiot - a person who has a great deal of theoretical knowledge but lacks common sense social skills or other forms of practical wisdom Accordingly when we as speakers of modern English read the word wisdom in Aristotle we are inclined to think of it
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