The wise will have an upward bound life. That is what this passage tells us. It promises both an encouragement for the wise - that their path will lead upward. It also gives a warning - that the unwise path will end in Sheol, the place of the dead.
In His commentary on this verse Phillips makes the comment, "Darwin would have us believe that our feet are set surely on the upward way, that may is progressing by slow but sure degrees from protoplasm to paradise." This is the belief of those who account randomness and no purpose whatsoever for our existance and our origin. Unfortunately, both science and sociology tell us a much different story. They tell us a story consistent with the Biblical narrative.
Science reminds us through the second law of thermodynamics that we are in a constant state of decay. Things are not coming together into more order and more stability - they are moving from order to disorder. We look at the astounding complexity of life and see that it screams to us of an intelligent design infinitely higher than that of man. Science also tells us that something is wrong with this world. Things keep dying. It is as is this world has been cursed so that what originally was made - is now devolving into greater and greater chaos. Disease, sickness, pain, and suffering are the norm as we grow older individually - as well as our world grows older corporately.
Social Sciences also do not point in a direction that is good. The history of man is not a history of us getting wiser and wiser. It is not a history of mankind embracing new heights of goodness and mercy. On the contrary, the 20th and 21st centuries have witnessed a cruelty and evil that almost cannot be matched by previous generations. The endless wars and evils of our generation strike us in ways that at times takes the breath away. More people have been brutally murdered and systematically executed than ever before. We've found modern ways to exterminate our children, killing over 250 million of them since the inception of that horrific procedure. We call it population control - God calls it genocide of the innocents. The way of the fool leads to the place of death - that is what we know from experience. The way of the fool leads to pride and arrogance as he says there is no God.
The path of life goes upward for the wise man. He sees things as God sees them. He is blessed no matter what situations and privations await him in life. He knows that this life is not all that there is. In fact the Scriptures teach him that this life is just a fleeting breath. He is like a brief puff of wind that rustles the leaves and he is gone. Therefore he lives for God's will rather than his own lusts. Amazingly, this kind of choice fills him with joy - no matter what he faces in life. For him the worst he will ever face is in this life. He knows that things lead upward for him - until the day that he will embrace eternal life in all its fullness. He tastes it now, finding it sweet and delightful to his soul's palette. But how he yearns for the full meal. This grants him the joys of knowing life and of sterring clear from spiritual death and its ultimate companion, hell.
Things on this earth are not getting better and better. They were ruined by the entrance of sin brought on by man's rebellion and disobedience. Things are falling apart on this earth and will continue to do so until the day God brings an end to this fallen existance. Living for only here and now is therefore the utmost foolishness. The wise man knows this, because he knows God. The wise man therefore lives for eternal things. He lives because of His Creator's mercy in providing salvation through Jesus Christ. He also lives FOR His Creator and Lord - knowing that this is the pathway that leads upward - path this cursed ground - into the very presence of God in glory. Oh, precious ones - take this path!