Posted by: Dave | August 28, 2011

The Intellectual Personality, and Intelligence

I’m not interested in going into a big ramble about my ~3-year hiatus from posting. Suffice it to say, I feel like writing right now, and I feel like publishing my thoughts here, even if they’re not relevant to the blog’s intended focus.

I have a nagging interest in intelligence. The first adjective I thought of to use in that sentence was “flirtatious,” and I suppose it’s both. “Nagging” fits when I’m bedeviled with insecurity about many facets of my own intellect. The flirtatious side of my interest is borne from genuine curiosity, when I fleetingly wonder if I should have studied psychology instead of literature. My inspiration for this composition derives from both sources, I think.

Over the course of this summer of 2011, it’s gradually occurred to me that having what I’ll call an “intellectual personality” is not mutually exclusive with being intelligent. The intellectual personality is made up of at least two parts; I say “at least” because I reckon there may be more, but I haven’t yet realized them. The two parts are intellectual curiosity, and intellectual honesty. These are fairly self-explanatory, especially intellectual curiosity. By this, I simply mean the inquisitive nature shared to an extent by all of us, the desire to know and understand things. I deem intellectual honesty slightly more complicated since I’d place within it a subheading called, “desire for accuracy”. Intellectual honesty, as we all know, is the desire to be sound in our reasoning. I think most if not all people share this desire as well, although many apply spurious reasoning in ignorance, (willful or not) of orthodox, a priori Reason as it’s taught in schools. Included in intellectual honesty is the desire to be accurate, a trait that always endears someone to me when it manifests as those little refrains in speech and writing that briefly explore counter-views. Another sure sign of intellectual honesty is a persistent unwillingness to fully commit to an idea if it falls outside the realm of reasonable empirical certainty. Ultimately, intellectual “curiosity” and “honesty” may be two ways of expressing almost the same thing.

Here are two OED definitions that I probably should have sought long ago so that I might have worked out this “revelation” much earlier:


[mass noun]

the faculty of reasoning and understanding objectively, especially with regard to abstract matters: he was a man of action rather than of intellect


[mass noun]

1 the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills: an eminent man of great intelligence

[count noun]

a person or being with the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills: extraterrestrial intelligences

I think, up until now, I didn’t fully know the difference. The defining struggle of my life for the past several years since starting university has been realizing that I have an “intellectual personality” while simultaneously not being especially intelligent. I hasten to add that I know what a brutal and perhaps unwarranted self-criticism that sounds like, and the reader probably now thinks I need to work on my self-esteem. While that may be true, I want to be very clear that I don’t mean to say I’m “not intelligent overall”, but rather that I’m not a genius overall. As I’ve become cognizant of my intellectual personality, and assumed it indicative of high intelligence as well, my apparent run-of-the-mill intelligence quotient was a logical hole, and thus very troublesome.

Perhaps my revelation is a well-understood fact of life by those in the know, and I intend to research this. (I’ll have to squeeze it in somewhere between my ongoing reading list whose topics include biology, astronomy, quantum mechanics, and neuroscience, among others.)


On an unrelated note, I may continue making posts here, occasionally or with regularity, or I might disappear again. If I start posting again, even if it’s not very regular, I’d love to find a way to amalgamate my blogs without painstakingly copy/pasting the contents of each post. I’ve done it before, from blogger to wordpress, so I’m betting it’s possible, I’ll just have to track down the method.

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