Thursday, 12 June 2014

Intelligence and Subtlety

An obvious but nonetheless telling observation that cannot be stated enough. This from a novel about a young girl and her talking book:
"Nell," the Constable continued, indicating through his tone of voice that the lesson was concluding, "the difference between ignorant and educated people is that the latter know more facts. But that has nothing to do with whether they are stupid or intelligent. The difference between stupid and intelligent people - and this is true whether or not they're well-educated - is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations - in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward."
Neal Stephenson (1995), The Diamond Age, p.283.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

"intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations"

I am confused. Subtlety is "a small detail that is usually important but not obvious".

It isn't necessarily ambiguous or contradictory. What am I missing here?

Speedy said...

Maybe the quote isn't as clever as it thinks it is.

"They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations - in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward"

Which brought to mind this remark from the man who brought us Doublethink: “There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.”

Gary Elsby said...

Intelligent people are quite easy to spot.
Being highly educated (mum paid for a private education or found education to be not that hard)is often confused with being intelligent.
It is quite possible for a non educated person (bread winner) to be highly intelligent.
The bread winner who left school at 15 is always up for a higher intelligence score if given (or want) and opportunity to do so.
Regardless of any proven tests to credit an intelligence score, the naturally intelligent can go about their business without proving anything to anyone.

To join mensa, the applicant must pass into the top 2% of the UK average.

This means that if the newspapers say we are to be over-run by 500million immigrants from Europe, we are certainly going to be over-run by 500 million immigrants, unless of course, you are intelligent like Nick Clegg who contradicts the view.
Nigel Farage (intelligent) should know better.
He actually does know better but he uses his intelligence to instil 'fear' into 98% of the public who often are spoon-fed the truth somewhere down the line.
Intelligent people should therefore always be challenged by other intelligent people on behalf of the 98% who are neither highly intelligent or educated to a higher standard.
It helps, as always, that the highly educated speaker is educated on the chosen topic of conversation and can disarm almost anyone who isn't.
The highly intelligent person, I've found, is always rather good on a broad range of subjects.
I generally agree with the quote.

Mark W said...

One of the best ever science fiction books, that...

Here is something I came across today on how that quote might apply to politics:

"Voters are basically lazy, basically uninterested in making an effort to understand what we're talking about. Reason requires a higher degree of discipline, of concentration; impression is easier... Reason pushes the viewer back, it demands that he agree or disagree; impression can envelop him, invite him in, without making an intellectual demand... When we argue with the voter we demand that he make the effort of replying. We seek to engage his intellect, and for most people that is the hardest work of all. The emotions are more easily roused, closer to the surface, more malleable."
-William Gavin, media adviser to Richard Nixon.