Saturday, December 15, 2018


Because I have answered many questions on the Intelligence and IQ categories on Quora, I attempt many of the questions about being smart, improving one's intelligence, and all those "Is there One Weird Trick to being a genius?"  I don't answer about genius at all, as I don't have a clear enough idea in my own mind what it means, so I shouldn't be spreading my ignorance to others.  When I use the word at all, I tend to use it about an idea or single framework ability, not as a description of a person, as in "she had a peculiar genius for bestowing the perfect compliment for encouragement." I answer the "intelligence" questions very specifically about IQ, or about general ability.  For specific abilities, such as music or spatial visualisation, I tend to use the word talent.

But most of all, I redirect the questioner to the idea that Wisdom is more important than Intelligence.  Because it is. Every religious tradition within Christianity and Judaism are adamant on the point, and as well as I know other traditions, they universally agree.  No group of thinkers that has thought long and hard about the good life, the meaning of existence, or the definition of virtue has even mentioned raw candlepower, so far as I can see.  If anything, the closest equivalent "cleverness" seems to be associated more with evil or chaos, as in Milton's Satan, or Norse Loki. Intelligence is a wonderful attribute, like beauty, artistry, strength, or gracefulness. Yet it can be used for evil and manipulation, the same as those others. It is morally neutral.

There are many approaches to wisdom, but I prefer to highlight the Western Civ tradition that comes down to us from the Greeks through the Medieval Church: Three Theological Virtues, Faith, Hope, and Charity; and Four Cardinal Virtues, Justice, Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance.  If you have been practicing those for a few decades, you're pretty smart, regardless of what your IQ is.


james said...

And just _wanting_ wisdom is a good start. So long as we don't imagine we have a goodly store of it already.

Texan99 said...

And yet I truly love being in contact with a genuine genius. There are people who simply stand out for the quality of their minds, just as they might stand out for how beautifully they play the cello or dunk a basketball. They can do something with their heads that is completely out of the ordinary, faster and more profound, better able to make surprising connections, more lucid, more inspiring.

james said...

Very true. That's one of the reasons I like working where I do. There are a few people who really stand out, and it is wonderful to be around when they start in.