Human Intelligence

Hear the sum of the whole matter in the compass of one brief word – every art possessed by man comes from Prometheus.

– Aeschylus c. 500 BC

The definition of intelligence is controversial. As intelligent beings, we have a range of capacities that are open to scientific research, but for which the predominant scientific approaches have no convincing explanation.

For example, human beings have history and consciousness and reason and art and politics and a hundred other things that exist only in the most rudimentary forms in other species. As far as the vast majority of other species are concerned, they are completely unknown. Yet as far as I am aware, there are no scientific models of human nature, or any significant fraction of that nature, that even recognise, let alone account for the centrality of these things to what it means to be human.

As for the importance of intelligence to all this, it only because of their intelligence that human beings are able to wonder about their world and their place in it, that they care what sense their world makes, and that they have the power to change that world until it does indeed make sense. On the other hand, their peculiar intelligence is embodied in few, if any, innate practical capacities, so they have no choice but to make their world from the bottom upwards, from the simplest forms of sustenance to the most sophisticated world-systems.

Even though they play little part in modern scientific thought, such ideas of human nature have a long and eminent history, and plainly it is essential to any science of human nature that we understand the intelligence that makes all this possible. I hope that this site will operate as a conduit through which such ideas can be channelled back into scientific thinking.

by RJ Robinson