What Makes Someone Intelligent?
January 21, 2013 - Life
Who is more intelligent: (1) a construction worker voting for a progressive, responsible and tolerant party or (2) a mathematical whizkid working at a bank and voting for a party whose main goal it is to get rid of minorities? In other words: what is it that makes someone intelligent? Is it how good he or she is in calculating the inverse matrix of a particular order? Or is it how thoughtful he or she has been about our community and whether or not he or she has made a contribution to how we as a society might become a more loving/productive institution?
I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine who I believe belongs far more to category (2) than (1). He spoke to me about his discontent with pretty much every Moroccan around; including the ones he had never actually met. He considered it to be a good idea to send each and every Moroccan back to his/her country of origin.
In the same week I had a discussion with my uncle. My uncle is a very nice man – just like my friend by the way – and belongs far more to category (1) than (2). And although my uncle admitted to be rather slow in absorbing/processing information – reading, calculating etc. – he also told me the following: “Rob, you are free to do everything in life that you want to do. Truly. But please, promise me one thing: never ever vote for those discriminating parties. Ever. Will you?”
I ask you again: who is more intelligent?
Before we might be able to answer this question, we first of all have to explicate the notion of intelligence. I believe that someone’s intelligence ultimately comes down to his/her actions. Someone’s actions are, after all, the only objective criterium we have for judging what goes on in his/her mind. The fact that a friend of you might say, “I could have easily passed that English test if I hadn’t just started studying last night” shows to me that – apparently – this person is not very intelligent. A truly intelligent person would have known better, right? And it is for the same reason that someone who is good in mathematics or physics, or any other discipline we usually associate with the notion of intelligence, is not necessarily intelligent. Look at the banking sector, I would say. Have those mathematical “geniuses” been acting very intelligently lately?
You could of course argue that I am mistaken the concept of intelligence for the concept of wisdom, where intelligence might be about the “processing power” of one’s brain while wisdom might be about the reasonableness of one’s decisions. I would reply by saying that even the “processing power” of one’s brain can in the end only be judged by the manner in which the person acts. That is the only objective criterium we have for making any claims about that person’s intelligence. No matter how many areas of one’s brain turn yellow/green/red in a f-MRI scan, we are still unable to know the true processing power of the person’s brain. Maybe the person’s brain is just very inefficient, using a lot of brainpower for very little output. That is why the only true test of intelligence consists in what one does with his/her brain.
But what do you think?