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notes on intelligence

I am writing this quickly to get in motion, pump-priming kind of writing, holding-space-for-writing kind of writing, and I am struggling to do so, partly due to having had an off kilter several days with our furnace dying. In any case I thought I’d set down some notes on intelligence, which I’ve thought about often. I suspect that intelligence is largely a hierarchical concept that is anti-intellectual in the sense that it gets in the way of doing intellectual activity. It’s an authorizing concept and so an inhibiting concept as well - permission for some, denying permission to others, and by making permission a requirement still inhibiting the some for whom permission is granted.

A better concept of intellect in my view is a collective one wherein intelligence, to the degree the term has any positive use worth retaining at all, is an attribute of a) a collectivity b) three relationships: those individuals live out with that collectivity, those individuals live out with each other via that collectivity, and those individuals have with themselves due to the above. In my opinion this is ultimately ethical and practical, practices like humility and question-asking, reason-giving, evidence-seeking, etc.

This means rather than thinking in terms of individuals with individual traits we should really think in terms of collectivities. These have individuals as components of them but the individual isn’t the basic unit of analysis for understanding intellectual life. At the same time I do think the individual is the basic unit of moral concern. Tony Smith talks about this in Beyond Liberal Egalitarianism, distinguishing ontological and methodological individualism from what he calls normative individualism, which takes individuals as that basic unit of concern. I have a strong impulse to say that organized egalitarian intellectual life is better than hierarchical intellectual life both in terms political or ethical values but also in that it really is smarter (I think hierarchy is anti-intellectual), but I don’t know that I can prove it so much as I can point to failures of intelligence that result from hierarchical arrangements. (I will say, I’m well aware there’s a significant challenge to getting the organization right and maintaining its preconditions in a society and institutions indifferent or actively hostile to egalitarian intellectual life and collective self-organization. I think often people have experiences of disorganized egalitarianism and get skeptical about organization, while others have experiences of hierarchical intellectualism and hope to climb the ladder - Stirner has a quote on this, something to the effect of ‘having been licked into shape they now lick others into shape, tailored they tailor.)

I see egalitarian intellectual life as an element of living out Marx’s remarks about each and all and people engaged in freely associated cooperation developing one another. I’ll add that I mean intellectual here very broadly far beyond academic and artistic activities, I mean any application of human mental capacities. I think I'm largely just channeling what I vaguely remember from reading Jacques Ranciere, but goal's served, I wrote so some thinking happened. And now on to the monotony of the rest of the day I suppose...

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