Friday, March 10, 2017

Intelligence is Not Enough

In the essay Prerogatives of the Human State, Schuon outlines an intriguing little schematic vis-a-vis our humanness. Recall that man is primarily defined by intelligence, freedom, and sentiment, corresponding to the True, Good, and Beautiful, respectively.

He then outlines what these characteristics entail in combination; for example, intelligence + will = "capability." As mentioned, he is quite compact here, not really drawing out the implications. But if you think about it, if you combine what you actually know with the will to accomplish something with it, the result is a hybrid called "capability."

For example, I may have the will to accomplish any number of things, but lacking the requisite intelligence, be incapable of seeing them through. Conversely, I may have the intelligence to accomplish them, but be too lazy, with the same result. Either way I am rendered one of the millions of Incapables. And our universities -- in particular, in the humanities -- specialize in cranking out baskets of Incapables, don't they?

Next, sensibility + will = "character." Since intelligence is not in the equation, it is obviously possible to be a decent person with average or below average intelligence. Likewise -- obviously -- intelligence is no guarantor of decency and good character.

Finally, intelligence + sensibility = "scope." This is a subtle one, because it explains how even the highest intelligence -- say, Albert Einstein -- combined with the wrong sensibility results in shallowness, or narrow-mindedness, or just the credentialed foolishness of the tenured. Conversely, the power and profundity of a great artist are a result of intelligence and sensibility.

Speaking of which, I just read a book -- When Reason Goes on Holiday -- that is filled with examples of how high intelligence minus sensibility = a warped and perverse scope. It's really quite remarkable. One of the worst cases is Bertrand Russell, whose "genius" no one can doubt. Which only goes to show what genius is good for in the absence of other ingredients for making a functioning human.

The book begins with a gag by physicist E.T. Jaynes to the effect that "It is curious that the greatest intellectual gifts sometimes carry with them the inability to perceive simple realities that would be obvious to a moron." Curious, yes, but as common as dirt.

One of the left's largely unstated objections to Trump must surely be that he has a very different sensibility from their own refined tastes. But what of the sensibility of a man who is actually intimate with Al Sharpton -- who values his advice and invites him into the White House on countless occasions? My sensibility would induce vomiting at the prospect of spending time with Al Sharpton. Then again, it would induce the same at the prospect of, say, beimg forced to read the speeches of Barack Obama.

The volume is appropriately titled "We Are the Change We Seek," an ungrammatical tautology that is as vacuous as the man himself. Let's see what some of the reviewers say. This ought to be insultaining.

Read it? Hell, I lived it; all eight pathetic years. I'd rather read a transcription of a bowel resection than be subjected to any more of his doublespeak.

I'm treating it as a good object lesson for the grandkids in critical thinking, the diagnosing of logical fallacies, and the dangers of accepting political speeches at face value.

I find the ultra soft & strong Quilted Northern more enjoyable. Not only was this product harsh and scratchy, it was nonabsorbent and difficult to read as it swirled towards its rightful place in my permanent library of all of Obama's works. I hope the memoir, for which Penguin Random House paid upwards of $65 million, is printed on better paper.

Sesardić describes one of those little ironic pranks of history, in that he, being that he grew up under a communist regime, learned to value "intellectual integrity and the uncompromising pursuit of truth." Note that "intellectual" is a modifier of "integrity," which goes to what was said above about sensibility and character. Reading such thinkers "helped us preserve our sanity in the world of constant lies that surrounded us."

In stark contrast, we live in a free society that is nevertheless permeated by fake news, malignant ideology, and tenured nonsense. A couple of posts ago, for example, I linked to the website of the American Psychological Association. I am surely an American Psychologist, but their sensibilities could hardly be more different from mine. There is literally no place for a conservative or traditionalist mental health professional in their cramped and ideologically conformist world.

Here is an example of Bertrand Russell's political genius: "In every part of the world the source of war and of suffering lies at the door of US imperialism. Wherever there is hunger, wherever there is exploitative tyranny, wherever people are tortured and the masses left to rot under the weight of disease and starvation, the force which holds down the people stems from Washington."

Okay then. Sounds like one of the sermons of Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Einstein was another piece of work. Of Lenin, he said that "I admire a man who has thrown all his energy into making social justice real, at the sacrifice of his own person." Yes, a perfect example of Christian self-sacrifice. "Men like him are the guardians and reformers of the conscience of mankind."

Well, he certainly reformed the conscience. Out of existence.

Wittgenstein is another Big Brain of the previous century. "The atmosphere of Stalinism contained something that attracted him." What might that be? "A total destruction of early twentieth century social forms was required (he thought) if there was to be any improvement." Eggs and omelets. How'd that work out?

Let's not even talk about Heidegger.

Back to Schuon: capability (intelligence + will) bears upon "administrative qualification, organizational skill and strategy." Character and decency have more to do with "courage and incorruptibility" than just a hi IQ or ambition. And a profound and powerful scope is surely not a consequence of intelligence alone, or all smart people would be creative geniuses, when most of them end up being cognitive drones.

That's about it for today. Terrestrial duties call.


julie said...

And a profound and powerful scope is surely not a consequence of intelligence alone, or all smart people would be creative geniuses, when most of them end up being cognitive drones.

I'm reminded of the fate of the average child prodigy. Once they are adults, though, quite often their intelligence doesn't tend to stand out quite as much. By the time they learn that there is more to life than being the "smartest person in the room," the damage is done.

Gagdad Bob said...

More stuff that touches on intelligence, scope, and sensibility.

Van Harvey said...

"...Read it? Hell, I lived it; all eight pathetic years. I'd rather read a transcription of a bowel resection than be subjected to any more of his doublespeak...."

O. Oh my. All the lol's.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating post, excellent throughout, but particularly he discussion of Russell and Einstein and their foibles and weak points. Thank your work, which both entertained and informed.

Very likely we all have notions which sort of mar and jar the perfection we believe we not to look too closely. Depressing.

In the vein of the list of the three primary components of the human essence, I will go ahead and pollute the internet with a list of four primary spiritual components, which can also be combined to produce various states of spiritual capability or lack thereof.

1. Equality- the ability to observe all without standing in judgement, and it also means the feathers don't get ruffled. By anything. This is the calm of the sage. Lack of equality means putting a value on everything and being very reactive; which is most of us.

2. Sincerity- This means all elements of the personality are in alignment of purpose. We know that this is very hard. We may work hard to make money, for instance, and then squander it foolishly. We work against ourselves. In the spiritual life all elements must be turned towards God with none faking, shirking, or harboring resentment about it. That means if the kinky sex has to go, it has to go, and it has to be given up with a smile. Yeah. This one requires an iron mastery of the self.

3. Unity- The continuous and unbroken ability to perceive God in everything, and everything in God. This is a tough one, as the first time some lady cuts you off in traffic you will think she can't possibly be of God. Enemies have to be loved. Huh? Yet, skimp on this one and you won't hang with God like the friend you were made to be.

4.Surrender- The heaviest and most essential spiritual move; if done correctly and absolutely (and sincerely), all you need will fall into line without effort. You won't have to rely on yourself anymore; you can "relax into the arms of Christ" and your every move will be suggested to you, and every move you make will be stone cold correct for the particular situation. You live on guideded control like a missile locked on to the target. This magical state is the grail of the spiritual life and produces a very fell immunity to suffering. Even a partial approach will yield to you a fantastic life.

The four components mix and match to produce your particular spiritual situation.

Rick said...


Bob do you have any or have you heard of Fleet Foxes?
My son gave me a couple of their albums a while back. Clearly some Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel influence. Overlaid with what best I can describe as a prairie hymnal vibe (is that a thing?) to many of their songs; and after the tiresome doom and gloom sound of much of the 90s stuff, these songs sound downright hopeful in their perspective.

Two of the songs, for what they try to be, I think are masterpieces.


Helplessness Blues
(Halfway into this one it just turns wonderfilled)

julie said...

Never heard of them, but my that is lovely. Thanks, Rick.

ted said...

Fleet Foxes are terrific, and just released a new song.

Gagdad Bob said...

Nice sound -- ethereal and organic, as if it's coming from outside time, at a right angle to everything else. Dreamy, like REM's first three albums. Reminds me of how The Band sounded in 1968 . Not that they sound like The Band, only that it's as if they're tapping into the atemporal root of things.

Meanwhile, a Coon's tale of the history of my state.

Rick said...

Glad y'all like it. They'd gone dormant for about six years so it's good to see them with some new stuff.

julie said...

Apropos of pretty much all of the posts lately, a good article via Vanderleun on the effects of the refusal to judge upon the underclasses:

"All these enthusiasts believed that if sexual relations could be liberated from artificial social inhibitions and legal restrictions, something beautiful would emerge: a life in which no desire need be frustrated, a life in which human pettiness would melt away like snow in spring. Conflict and inequality between the sexes would likewise disappear, because everyone would get what he or she wanted, when and where he or she wanted it. The grounds for such petty bourgeois emotions as jealousy and envy would vanish: in a world of perfect fulfillment, each person would be as happy as the next."

Of course, for people grounded in reality the results were entirely predictable - as predictable as the horror that Venezuela has become.