Wisdom is often meant as the ability and desire to make choices that can gain approval in a long-term examination by many people. In this sense, to label a choice "wise" implies that the action or inaction was strategically correct when judged by widely-held values.
A wise person is often called a "sage." The technical philosophical term for the opposite of wisdom is "folly."
As with all decisions, a wise decision must be made with incomplete information. But to act wisely, a sage must plan a reasonable future situation, desire the outcome to be broadly beneficial, and then act.
Many modern authorities on government, religion and philosophical ethics say that wisdom connotes an "enlightened perspective." This perspective is often defined in a utilitarian way, as effective support for the long-term common good.
Insights and acts that many people agree are wise tend to:
- arise from a viewpoint compatible with many ethical systems,
- serve life, public goods or other impersonal values, not narrow self-interest
- be grounded in but not limited by past experience or history and yet anticipate future likely consequences
- be informed by multiple forms of intelligence – reason, intuition, heart, spirit, etc..
Traditionally, wisdom is related to virtue. It is tautological that it is wise to be virtuous. Some philosophers believe that virtues harmonize, that is, in order to succeed at any virtue, one must succeed somewhat at all of them. In this view, sages must have virtues such as humility, compassion, composure , and being able to laugh at oneself. Many liberals and religions select a wider set of virtues for sages, including impartial love, tolerance for dissonance, paradox, nuance , ambiguity and uncertainty.
Some people say that the most universally and usefully-wise sages sense, work with and align themselves and others to life. In this view, sages help people appreciate the intrinsic wholeness and interconnectedness of life.
Classically, wisdom is considered to come with age. Some religions consider wisdom a gift granted by God. The Jewish book of Proverbs in the Old Testament states `Fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom`.