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Philosophy of Mind: Intelligence and IQ


By Frank Simons

The Meditation Center presents the 24-part Great Courses series Philosophy of Mind: Part 14, Intelligence and IQ, at 5:30pm, Thursday, September 7, at the Center, Callejon Blanco 4.

Should we think of intelligence as one thing, in the singular, or should we think of intelligences— lots of them of different kinds—in the plural? Pursuing that question will take us through the history of IQ testing and give us a look at some alternative approaches.

Is IQ a matter of one’s genes or one’s environment? The consensus is that genetic factors explain between 40 and 80 percent of IQ variability, with environmental factors accounting for between 20 and 60, resulting in two-thirds of IQ variability due to genetics. Many researchers settle for 50/50. Although we know both heredity and environment play a role, we don’t know how.

The history of IQ testing is the history of attempts to measure the one thing that is intelligence. The idea of multiple intelligences is an alternative approach. One piece of evidence in favor of multiple intelligences is the phenomenon of prodigies and savants. John Stuart Mill learned ancient Greek by the age of 3. By 8, he had read Herodotus, Plato, and others in the original Greek. Mozart began to play the harpsichord at 3 and was composing at 6. Steve Wozniak was developing sophisticated electronics while in the fifth grade. The fact that prodigies excel in very particular fields is an argument in favor of specialized intelligences. Kim Peek, the inspiration for the movie Rain Man, could give the day and week of any date in history. Given the name of a small town, he could give the zip code and area code and perform a mental MapQuest search. Oliver Sacks, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, recounts the numerical ability of a pair of twins who would trade primes. The fact that savants may test as unintelligent in other areas is another argument for the existence of distinct types of intelligence. Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner used studies of prodigies and savants, cases of brain damage and other sources, to develop a theoretical account of multiple intelligences. He proposes seven with an individual representing each: Linguistic, T.S. Eliot; Logical and Mathematical, Albert Einstein; Spatial, Picasso; Musical, Stravinsky; Bodily-Kinetic, Martha Graham; Interpersonal, Sigmund Freud; Intrapersonal, Gandhi; Naturalist, Darwin. The theory has clear educational implications.

Professor Patrick Grim, as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, has provided his students with invaluable insights into issues of philosophy, artificial intelligence, theoretical biology, and other fields. Professor Grim was awarded the universities presidential and chancellor’s awards for teaching excellence and was elected to the Academy of Teachers and Scholars.

There will be an opportunity for discussion following the video.

Presentations of the Center are offered without charge. Donations are gratefully accepted.


Video Presentation

Philosophy of Mind: Part 14, Intelligence and IQ

By Frank Simons

Thu, Sep 7, 5:30pm

Meditation Center

Callejon Blanco 4

Free, donations accepted


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