Dennis Prager devotes one hour each week to "ultimate issues," and yesterday the topic was wisdom. Which got me to thinking: what is the object of wisdom? No, not the purpose of it, as in the object of a game, but what is the "thing" wisdom is about?
And how do we distinguish this from the thing intelligence is about -- the object of intelligence?
In truth, there are many objects of intelligence, from matter to logic to mathematics to "the past" (i.e. history), and each object requires the method appropriate to it: obviously we don't study physical objects in the same way we do mathematical ones.
Now, one object of wisdom must be intelligence itself. Intelligence can't see its own purpose or scope; that is for wisdom to sort out. So, for starters, wisdom is intelligence about intelligence, specifically, human intelligence. But more generally, it is intelligence about human beings -- about how to be one. After all, plenty of intelligent people have no idea how they are supposed to live. They lack wisdom.
You could say that the university is a factory for churning out the unwise, for as Prager pointed out yesterday, it is impossible to be both secular and wise. This is not a knock, rather, just a statement of fact. But it explains why universities have become such breeding grounds of intelligent stupidity.
Conversely, a religion is supposed to be (among other things) a repository of wisdom. And as we've mentioned before, one of its primary functions is to transmit wisdom to people of less than average intelligence -- which, after all, is half the population. That half will never be suited for college.
No, correct me on that. Academia is determined to be so free of intellectual standards that anyone with an IQ above 80 or so should be able to complete a degree in a fake subject such as sociology or gender studies. However, to gain a real degree in a real subject requires an IQ of around 115; for a really hard subject you'll still need an IQ of around 130 (although here again, liberals are doing everything they can to erode those standards as well).
Yesterday I was rereading an excellent book that concisely summarizes the current state of intelligence research, The Neuroscience of Intelligence. It begins with a quote by a fellow researcher to the effect that "the attack on [intelligence] tests" represents nothing less than "an attack on truth itself by those who deal with unpleasant and unflattering truths by denying them and by attacking and trying to destroy the evidence for them."
Yes, the left, doing what it does best: the deployment of intelligence to destroy intelligence. This is no small matter, and indeed, you could say that it is the very basis of clinical psychology, at least the type in which I was trained. To the extent that truth is attacked -- and it is, routinely and incessantly -- the attack must first take place in one's own mind.
And yet, there are "intellectual sociopaths," so to speak, who don't do this exactly. Rather, they are totally cynical manipulators for whom truth doesn't even enter into it.
I'm thinking of Tucker Carlson, who apparently can't get real politicians to come on the show for fear of being humiliated in debate, so he is reduced to debating this or that "DNC spokesman." These are practiced liars who will aggressively defend any policy or principle, no matter how preposterous or provably false. But just as you have to be an intelligent actor to effectively play a stupid character, you have to be a fairly bright spokesman to confidently assert such nonsense.
But the deeper point I want to make is that such intellectual sociopaths have successfully eliminated the object of intelligence from their minds -- the object being truth. And if you are going to have a fruitful dialog with someone, its fruitfulness is predicated entirely upon a mutual search for truth. It is this Mysterious Third that renders dialog fruitful; or, you could say that a fruitful dialog is always an implicit trialog.
Certainly Socrates knew this. It's what his Method is all about. The Socratic dialog "is not a civil war between two opponents but a joint raid against the common enemies of confusion, ignorance, and error, using the common weapons of the common master, Reason" (Kreeft). And Reason isn't just anything; rather, it subsumes the "three acts of mind" through which we know what a thing is, whether it is, and why it is.
Reason is easy enough to get around: just deny the existence of truth, as do postmodern relativists. "Truth is perception," they say. First of all, this truth cannot be perceived, so the statement is self-refuting on its face.
But notice something more sinister: the object of truth is reduced to subjective perception, which is to say, appearance, when the whole point of intelligence is to apprehend the reality behind, beneath, or above appearances. So, relativism is like a cognitive neutron bomb, destroying the object of intelligence while leaving the intelligence standing. It is utter absurdity, but there it is.
There's a guy who can recall 22,514 digits from pi. That's nothing, because there's another guy who can do it to 67,890 digits. Now that is intelligence. Except that his IQ is actually so low that he can't even care for himself. "His father managed all aspects of his life except when he answered questions from memory" (Haier).
You'd think memory would be critical to intelligence, and it is, but there are actually more important factors, beginning with reasoning and spatial ability. Moreover, there are two main aspects of intelligence: crystalized intelligence and fluid intelligence. The first has more to do with learning facts and absorbing information, while the second has to do with "inductive and deductive reasoning for novel problem-solving." A pi-throwing idiot savant is only adept at the first kind.
But more importantly, so too is a computer, and I've noticed my own crystalized intelligence atrophy as a consequence of the internet putting all knowledge at my fingertips. Or, even with my library, I know only a tiny fraction of what's in it, but I do know where to retrieve a factoid if I need it.
Is wisdom crystalized or fluid? It must be both. There are certain principles of wisdom, but life comes at you fast, for which reason we need fluid wisdom, which is none other than prudence.
Haier asks, "what is intelligence?" and "how do you know it when you see it?" I know it, but how do I know it? What are my criteria? Interestingly, I don't have any conscious or explicit criteria. But there's no question that some minds are coming from a more profound and comprehensive place -- it is simultaneously deeper, higher, and more integral, whereas a person of below average intelligence is all surface, either diffuse or hardened, silly or stupid.
Can you turn a surface intelligence into a profound one? That is one of the core assumptions of liberalism, but all signs -- if you believe the research -- point to no. At the moment of conception, your intelligence is baked into the cake, barring some environmental catastrophe. People don't want to believe this, and yet, it can be quite liberating in a way. It is the whole basis of Bryan Caplan's excellent The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money and Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think.
I was already raising my son in an
irresponsible idiosyncratic fashion, but these books have added fuel to the fire. He is who he is, and there's not a lot I can do about it except to help him actualize it. Knowing this takes a lot of the stress out of the whole enterprise. How much of what you learned in school do you actually remember? All that crystalized intelligence is long gone. What was the point? People are much more like plants than machines. I know I was. I just naturally grew into the person I was to be, not because of, but in spite of, the environment.
I remember studying organicism in grad school, but quickly passing it over in favor of more environmentally weighted theories, in particular, attachment theory. (Intellectuals tend not to be attracted to theories that render themselves inconsequential, which is why they have always recoiled at, for example, the free market.) But at the same time, there was a concept within attachment theory called "good enough mothering," implying that good enough is more than enough, and that better than good enough adds little value.
Anyway, "Organismic theories in psychology are a family of holistic psychological theories which tend to stress the organization, unity, and integration of human beings expressed through each individual's inherent growth or developmental tendency." That is now what I believe, although with important qualifications. A seed will grow into the plant it is destined to be, but there is soil, sunlight, fertilizer, pruning, etc.
Whatever intelligence is, we all know someone -- lots of them -- who is not as smart as we are. But according to Haier, "given their rarity, it is less likely you know a true genius." That's true. I suppose I've never really met one. Lots of smart people to be sure, but what is a genius -- I mean, besides a high IQ? Is it a quantitative difference, or a qualitative one?
And what about the genius with bad programming? The other night I tried to watch a documentary about Stephen Hawking, but it was too tedious to finish. Smart guy, no doubt. Genius, I guess. But trying to philosophize within the limits of science is just stupid. The object of physics is not the object of wisdom.