Intelligence

‘In my course I have known and, according to my measure, have cooperated with great men; and I have never yet seen any plan which has not been mended by the observations of those who were much inferior in understanding to the person who took the lead in the business.’
Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790

Not till much later than this did the preoccupation with intelligence, and especially the measuring and ‘testing’ of it, become noticeable in Europe and America—viz. during the period 1890 to 1950.

The realities of the human psyche, however, are beyond the reach of categorizing—and perhaps beyond the understanding of anyone with the mental imperative to ‘assess’ and tabulate his fellow men.

The Crick and Watson discovery in 1953 was a matter of excitement to such people: here at last, it seemed, might be the ultimate diagramma for understanding the mechanisms of how human beings differ from one another. It was, alas, a mirage: instead of the 100,000 genes that were expected, the human genome comprises apparently only 30,000: not enough to restore or refurbish the theory of genetic determinism.

The word intelligence has been hijacked by such people: in the act of creating ‘intelligence tests’, they have sought to redefine intelligence by limiting it to those faculties that their tests test. They are, in a way, begging the question.

Perhaps the word intelligence needs to be reclaimed: it seems like the best word we have to represent the word that Greeks used: synesis, which means the power of connection. Such a concept goes beyond cleverness, and can embrace all that human beings are able to think, transact or imagine, including the savoir faire of Nausicaa.

Next post: Plato and Sir Karl Popper.

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