Quotes About Intelligence

Having proved men’s and brutes’ bodies on one type: almost superfluous to consider minds.

– Charles Darwin, Transmutation Notebooks

This intelligence-testing business reminds me of the way they used to weigh hogs in Texas. They would get a long plank, put it over a cross-bar, and somehow tie the hog on one end of the plank. They’d search all around till they’d found a stone that would balance the weight of the hog and they’d put that on the other end of the plank. Then they’d guess the weight of the stone.

– John Dewey

There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are others who, thanks to their art and intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.

– Pablo Picasso

In the scale of life there is a gradual decline in physical variability, as the organism has gathered into itself resources for meeting the exigencies of changing external conditions; and that while in the mindless and motionless plant these resources are at a minimum, their maximum is reached in the mind of man, which, at length, rises to a level with the total order and powers of nature, and in its scientific comprehension of nature is a summary, an epitome of the world.

– Chauncey Wright, Limits of Natural Selection

In our study of Anatomy there is a mass of mysterious Philosophy, and such as reduced the very Heathens to Divinity; yet, amongst all those rare discoveries and curious pieces I find in the Fabrick of Man… there is no Organ or Instrument for the rational soul…. Thus we are men, and we know not how…

– Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici

Many organisms ‘experience’ the sun, and even guide their lives by its passage. A sunflower may track the sun in a minimal way, twisting to face it as it crosses the sky, maximising its daily exposure to sunlight, but it can’t cope with an intervening umbrella… But we human beings don’t just track the sun, we make an ontological discovery about the sun: it’s the sun!

– Daniel Dennett, Kinds of Mind

There is nobody more irritating than somebody with less intelligence and more sense than we have.

– Don Herold

None of my animals (with the possible exception now and again of the monkeys) showed the least understanding of the how or why of their actions, as distinct from the crude fact that such and such a thing produced the result they required… What Jack [his dog] or the elephant knew was, crudely, that they had to push [a] bolt… The reason why… they obviously never grasped.

– LT Hobhouse, Mind in Evolution

Man considering himself is the great prodigy of nature. For he cannot conceive what his body is, even less what his spirit is, least of all how body can be united with spirit. That is the peak of his difficulty and yet it is his very being.

– Blaise Pascal, Pensées

[Communication] permits all human beings regardless of race, culture, age, gender or experience, to unite more closely with one another than individuals of any other species… No matter how similar to one another wildebeests are, standing shoulder to shoulder to shoulder in a herd, they cannot know much of anything about their similarities, let alone their differences. They cannot compare notes. They can have similar experiences, side by side, but they really cannot share experiences the way we do.

– Daniel Dennett, Kinds of Mind

Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog.

– Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.

– Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach

As far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels of praise of intelligence.

– Bertrand Russell

It is an idea that will be found consistent with the natural phenomena around universe, with the various events of human life, and with the successive revelations of God to man, to suppose that the world is a mighty process for the creation and formation of mind. Many vessels will necessarily come out of this great furnace in wrong shapes. These will be broken and thrown aside as useless; while those vessels whose forms are full of truth, grace, and loveliness, will be wafted into happier situations, nearer the presence of the mighty maker.

– Reverend Thomas Malthus, Essay on the Principle of Population

Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.

– Pablo Picasso

Man is the result of a purposeless and materialistic process that did not have him in mind. He was not planned. He is a state of matter, a form of life, a sort of animal, and a species of the Order Primates, akin nearly or remotely to all of life and indeed to all that is material. It is however a gross misrepresentation to say that he is just an accident or nothing but an animal. Among all the myriad forms of matter and of life on the earth, or as far as we know in the universe, man is unique. He happens to represent the highest form of organisation of matter and energy that has ever appeared. Recognition of this kinship with the rest of the universe is necessary for understanding him, but his essential nature is defined by qualities found nowhere else, not by those he has in common with apes, fishes, trees, fire, or anything other than himself.

– George Gaylord Simpson, The Meaning of Evolution

I deem I was not made for heaven or hell. But simply for the Earth.

– William Morris, Bellerophon at Argos

You may think that there are other more important differences between you and an ape, such as being able to speak, and make machines, and know right from wrong, and say your prayers, and other little matters of that kind; but that is a child’s fancy, my dear. Nothing is to be depended upon but the great hippopotamus test.

– Charles Kingsley, The Water Babies

You can give a dog neurosis… by a complicated laboratory experiment: you can find cases of brief emotional conflict in the lives of wild animals and birds. But, for the most part, psychological conflict is shirked by the simple expedient of arranging that now one and now another instinct should dominate the animal’s behaviour.

– Julian Huxley, The Uniqueness of Man

Calling a [political] state an ‘organism’ and concluding that it is therefore comparable with a metazoan organism is a glaring example of the fallacy of the shifting middle term.

– George Gaylord Simpson, The Meaning of Evolution

One can imagine an animal angry, frightened, unhappy, happy, startled. But hopeful? And why not? A dog believes his master is at the door. But can he also believe his master will come the day after tomorrow? – And what can he not do here? – How do I do it? – How am I supposed to answer this?

– Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Part II, i

‘He was a philosopher, if you know what that was. ’ ‘A man who dreams of fewer things than there are in heaven and earth,’ said the Savage promptly.

– Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

It has become abundantly clear that human behaviour is active in character, that it is determined not only by past experience, but also by plans and designs formulating the future, and that the human brain is a remarkable apparatus which can not only create these models of the future, but also subordinate its behaviour to them. It has become evident at the same time that recognition of the decisive role played by such plans and designs, these schemes for the future and the programmes by which they are materialized, cannot be allowed to remain outside the sphere of scientific knowledge, and that the mechanisms on which they are based can and must be subject of deterministic analysis and scientific explanation, like all other phenomena and associations in the objective world.

– Alexander Luria, The Working Brain

To disparage man and exalt animals in order to establish a point of contact, followed by a point of union, has been and still is the general tendency of the ‘advanced theories’ in fashion in our day. Ah, how often are these ‘sublime theories’, that morbid craze of our time, based upon ‘proofs’ which, if subjected to the light of experiment, would lead to… ridiculous results.

– Jean Henri Fabre