3 Attributes of the Mind

December 18, 2017

Warning! The following material is my own opinion and thought exercise. Take it with a grain of salt.

There are many models for the mind, varying in different attributes. Some people have broken them up into 5 attributes: Intelligence, Knowledge, Wisdom, Discernment, and Temperament. Others only consider the idea of intelligence, separating them into 9 Types of Intelligence. Still others mix these concepts into Knowledge and Intelligence. I don't believe these concepts are complex, but need a better separation, a cleaner boundary.

I propose simplifying this a bit and stating that there are 3 primary attributes of the mind: Knowledge, Intelligence, and Wisdom. Each person can have 1 of these, all of these, or none of them. None of these attributes, however, are better or more important than the other. Intelligence isn't better than knowledge, and wisdom isn't more important than intelligence. However, let's bear in mind that they do support each other in various ways. Intelligence support knowledge. Wisdom supports intelligence.


I define knowledge, as many do, as the collective experience and data gathered over the course of your life. Everything you read, do, and see contributes to this collective. It's important to understand that knowledge is, many times, required to be effective in life. Without it, you can seem immature, or simply lacking in the necessary skills of trivial work.

The education system is the primary source of knowledge in our youth. We are taught to read, write, and understand various subjects: History, Mathematics, Art, Science, and Literature. After schooling, the gaining of knowledge is primarily left up to you. It requires reading books, watching videos, exploring concepts.

Knowledge is your memory of these experiences. Not all of us have great memories. Instead we have to rely on intelligence to derive knowledge.


Intelligence is the ability to process information effectively. For some people, intelligence can be their only attribute. These types have the ability to have inputs of data given to them and output meaningly data, like a computer. Having only intelligence provides a person with a strong ability to analyze information at any point.

Intelligence builds off of knowledge. When given inputs, we can then request useful information from our memory to support this processing. This is how innovation happens. We take prior experiences, make connections, and take new problems to create a new and better solution. A Junior Developer typically falls into only having the Intelligence attribute. A Senior Developer, with his experience in the field, tend to have Knowledge and Intelligence attributes.

These two attributes are usually where people stop. Let's not forget about wisdom.


Wisdom. This is a more soulful attribute. I have always based wisdom on the ability to determine the difference between Right and Wrong. This is a completely subjective topic, and consequently, doen't really help.

Instead I think wisdom is the ability to judge scenarios and options based on a given set of circumstances. Wisdom is the intuition of the individual that cannot always be directly articulated. Wisdom is judging morally and ethically based on conscious.

Wisdom and intelligence are sometimes confused. Wisdom could be thought of as an intelligent processing of a different type of input. Instead of inputing formulas or books, you're utilizing experiences from the past to make sound judgements. This IS the difference!

Intelligence is raw processing of data. You have a problem with inputs and you produce an output. The higher your intelligence, the better the solution. However, there were "geniuses" working for the Nazis. They lost. The side they chose, showed a lack of judgement and forethought. They made the world a worse place for it.

Knowledge is just that, data. How you use it, all depends on wisdom. It's like the idea of some rich, only-child, who doesn't have the "street smarts" to survive on their own. They can't survive in the world even though they have gone to Harvard and obtained all the knowledge and intelligence in the world.

Wisdom is the ability to judge, rightly, for the betterment of the people and environment around you. A Senior Developer, acting as a mentor, usually shows signs of wisdom.

(It is much more abstract than the other two, I am aware of this. I will try to clarify it more objectively in another post!)

Bringing It Together

A person with knowledge alone is a blank historian, riddled with interesting facts and trivia. They can spit out formulas and dates, tell stories of their past, explain how engines work. But they can't fix the engine. They can't write a fiction novel. They can't develop the next big app.

A person with intelligence is a cold computer, calculating and analytical. They don't remember what they had for breakfast that morning, but are great at seeing 40 formulas and producing a result. They tend to be workhorses in any industry and never move up. They require constant guidance and input to be of any use.

A person with wisdom is a simple, boring type of person. They provide future generations with valued judgements to save people from heartache and pain. These people don't tend have to high-paying jobs because they don't have knowledge or experience and aren't good at processing new things. But they do provide comfort.

There isn't a person alive devoid of any of these. Some people have more knowledge than others. Some have higher levels of intelligence. Still others have experience enough in life to have great judgement. The goal is to build each of these up proportionally. Having only knowledge and intelligence tends to mean you're not pragmatic, that you can't judge a solution for its merits. A person with knowledge and wisdom is a sage, bringing comfort and joy to others. If you are the person with intelligence and wisdom, you have a terrible memory and must continously utilize intelligence to create new knowledge, but you become more efficient as you gain wisdom and intuition.


To state it again, "These are my opinions." In fact, I'm not totally sure I fully agree with this. But this is where I'm at in life. I prefer simpler explanations of topics. 3 is better than 9, to me. I'm sure in a year or two, I will have changed these definitions to better suit my new knowledge of the world. Then I will use wisdom to introduce it to you, the reader!

We'll see though...

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