News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

More On IQ:

How about the key role of methodology in the modern conception of intelligence, or at least in my amateur notion of it? Most of our habits of thought, particularly those which distinguish us from the Third World, are culturally derived. This seems obvious I'm sure, but bear with me for a moment.

Take the ability to work with logic. Logic, in the sense of syllogism, is by no means intrinsic to the human brain as demonstrated by the difficulty with which logical propositions are expressed clearly only to be followed by the additional uphill battle of persuading the largely sentimental population at large.

For example, key to thinking and speaking logically is firewalling oneself off from the emotions of your audience, singular or plural. If you care about the other person's feelings and worry about the impression you're making on them, you can't focus on that trickiest and most elusive element: logic. It takes full concentration upon following syllogism, context, points of reference, and so forth to be logical.

The brain's like a computer with too little RAM. Run one program at a time, and it's quick. Run a parcel of programs and it's slow. In debates, rather than try to interact with your opponent across the board, if you remove emotional involvement this frees up RAM and you're back to being quick again. Of course it means that you have to be cold; it means that you have to adjourn the usual protocol, instincts, and so forth. A very unnatural process. Which is why so few people do it. But you'll see, if you watch, that the better grade of logician does this. They're indifferent to you. You mean nothing to them. They only care about what you say, not that you say it.

But it works. I've been doing this since my teens. Not because I'm intrinsically smart, but because I picked it up from a Scottish father whose relatives do the same thing. In other words, I got it from culture. When I was younger, I thought it was because I was smarter. I made the easy mistake of confusing cultural acquirements with genetic advantage.

Similarly, to be logical, one can't invest emotional capital into perspectives. The way to proceed rapidly, deftly, and successfully through the maze of logical propositions that constitute modern life is to never be loyal to any of them ever. When you discover a handsome, cherished proposition is wrong, abandon it like yesterday's newspaper and immediately move on. Even better: never cherish a proposition. Never allow yourself to feel embarrassed, ashamed or regretful. Not because you're too tough to admit that you're just as dumb as the rest of us, but because these emotions are not helpful. They slow you down and distract you. The point of debate is the pursuit of truth, not the pursuit of comeuppance, revenge, and ego gratification. Chase those three, and you'll get your butt kicked by any logician worthy of the name. Just as you would be able to kick his arse where he to chase these three.

Again, a very simple methodology. But when you think about it, how many people actually do this? They usually do the opposite.

Invest emotional capital and it becomes critical whether or not you're right. The correctness of a perspective becomes entangled in one's sense of self-esteem. Divest yourself of this emotional capital and you can be very nimble and intelligent, even wise because you can plow rapidly through logical propositions and figure out what's most likely to be correct. You're never in defense mode. Only in offense mode.

Furthermore, one has to be almost pathological about the pursuit of truth. Only through doing so, for whatever reason, can one develop reasonable logical propositions and be in a position to explode unreasonable ones. Again, it's a very simple methodology. Anyone can do this.

However, I don't think I've ever met another person who's scrupulously honest. Who does not fudge. Who is not polite when telling the truth will be deemed offensive. And yet, the only way to test your own views is to give them as expansive a hearing as possible. You never know who is going to cut the legs out from under one of your arguments.

Again, this sort of approach goes against the grain of normal human interaction. But only through doing so does a person have a chance of becoming intelligent. Again, we're talking about adherence to an unnatural methodology. A methodology that has nothing to do with genetic superiority, but entirely to do with the serendipity of being born into a culture and era which tolerates, even values, such eccentricities as penetrating intelligence. Many cultures, of course do not.

Cultures which are oppressed by martial law tend not to esteemed penetrating intelligence. On the one hand, it's of course because of the control of free speech and punishment of dissidents. On the other hand, it's a matter of parents not wanting their children to get in trouble and discouraging them from airing their views. This is often done to the point where parents do not tell their children what they themselves think for fear of being accidentally incriminated by their kids or because their kids may speak up and get in trouble. A couple of generations of this and the grandkids are feebs.

Again, in many, many cultures and for many, many reasons, intelligence of the penetrating kind is by no means encouraged. It's discouraged, and actively so. Can imagine how penetrating intelligence goes down in modern theocracies, for example? Think back to all the thinkers burned at the stake during the Christian Middle Ages. Ask yourself what the average IQ must have been in those days? Pretty depressing I'm sure.

There are many rules of thumb whose digestion and application are required for membership in the First World mindset. Adjourning violence in favor of respecting the opinions of others and their right to disagree with you. Time management. In other words, a three o'clock appointment means meeting someone at three o'clock and not at 3:30 or 4 p.m. The adjournment of superstitions. In other words, the abandoning of prohibitions on fishing on certain days, the forbidding of planting on others, and so forth. Adjournment of the notion that lending money at interest is evil. Thou must covet, for otherwise the global economy collapses.

There are many others. Again, membership in the modern world is mostly about adherence to a set of rules and guidelines which work in our commercial era and information age, where time is money, knowledge is power, and, I personally find, honesty is still the best policy. I might make a capable liar if I was to devote myself to the craft, but rest assured my IQ would drop precipitously. No thanks.

Biff Cappuccino

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