Knowledge which is divorced from justice, may be called cunning rather than wisdom. – Cicero
What does that mean?
In this quote, I believe he is talking about the fact that knowledge doesn’t have morals built into it. Fire can be used to keep you warm, or it can be used to kill you. Fire has no morals, only the people who use it have morals (or are lacking them). Here I use the word morals in place of justice, as both refer to a proper and beneficial use compared to an improper or harmful use of knowledge.
Those who put knowledge to a moral or good use are considered wise. Those who put knowledge to use for immoral or ill use are considered cunning. The knowledge is the same, but the use it is put to, whether there is justice or morals in the application, will determine the label we place on it.
Why is justice important?
In this case, to be just is to apply knowledge in a fair and equitable manner. By being consistent with the morals and values of a population, this just application is often considered wisdom.
The opposite, cunning, is the use of knowledge without fairness or equity and is often in opposition of the morals and values of a population. A hero is rarely described in this manner, but a villain is often described this way.
If someone else had useful knowledge, would you want them to use it in a wise manner, or would you prefer them to use it in a cunning manner? If you had useful knowledge, would you use it wisely or cunningly?
Where can I apply this in my life?
What if you knew that a certain company was going to have a week long dip in the price of it’s shares and then rebound? What if the dip would bring the value to one tenth the value it would trade at the following week?
Would it be wise or cunning to buy as many shares as you could, hold them for a week, then sell them for a tenfold profit? Such transactions usually land people in jail for insider trading, but how would you answer the question?
While most of us will never find ourselves in that particular position, we often find ourselves with knowledge that we could use wisely, cunningly, or not at all. If you found out that your boss was involved in something they should not be involved in, what would you do?
Wisdom might ask that you confront them with the information, if it is a minor infraction, or their boss if it is a major infraction. Cunning might have you gossiping about it, or even use it for leverage (blackmail is such a nasty word) towards future benefits. Apathy might just do nothing, no big surprise there. Which voice do you think would speak the loudest to you, which path would you take, or would it depend on other circumstances?
To me, this quote is about ethics and proper use of knowledge. In the prior example, there was a choice to be made regarding a bit of knowledge a person had come across regarding their boss. Now I would like you to think about other times in your life when you have had information and how you used it. Did you do the right thing, the ethical thing? Why or why not? Please take some time to examine your actions and, more importantly, your motives.
When I was in Junior High, I just happened to come across a teacher’s password to the school’s computer system. Being the inquisitive geek that I was, I used it. With some friends, we compromised the computer system and, with the help of someone’s older brother, installed other privileged accounts. In short, we completely hijacked their computer. We didn’t interfere with their ability to use the system, but we did all we could to ensure we could use it. That gets a great score on the Nerd scale, but scores poorly on the Ethics scale, wouldn’t you say?
While I can try to blame it on youth and enthusiasm, it still was wrong. I learned from the experience and haven’t done anything like that since. How about you? What did the events you experienced teach you? Even when you did the right thing, you should have learned something, right?
Doing the right thing is always the right thing to do, but it’s not always the easiest thing to do. Experience and repetition are key to developing the strength of character necessary to do the right thing more and more often. Now hit the deck and give me 10 good and just decisions! 8)
From: Twitter, @PhilosophyQuotz
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/marcustull156317.html
Photo by Duncan~