Intelligence (not artificial), without instructions for use

I met a teacher who repeated at the slightest opportunity that “being intelligent is being among the people.” He was a rubbish, but he also contributed something. Being on good terms with the world, empathizing with it, relating healthy is a sign of intelligence, according to that maxim. There are others. Historically, and going back, intelligence has been assigned to the mastery of formal capacities such as memory, computation, information control (contemporary times); discursive knowledge (illustrated); prudence (baroque culture); representative power and ingenuity (various renaissances); the argumentative and logical (back in what they have called the Middle Ages); political skill and the practical defense of one’s own interests (Rome).

That is, each culture calls intelligence what interests it. But considering it as a whole, it is observed that in all its meanings and moments, intelligence represents a good. Each individual or group that has the faculties corresponding to its time is considered to have obtained something that is good. Intelligence, therefore, achieves good. And that would in principle be its main quality. He who does not achieve good is not intelligent.

OK. However, what is good for himself, what is good for others, or what is good according to the ideals of the world in which he lives? It is immediately appreciated that the good, even if we knew in depth what it is about, is insufficient to fully describe a conquest of the breadth that we associate with intelligence.

Let’s say that what we consider good must first be good for the individual. How do we know what is really good for him? Clearly we need to say something more.

What follows the good, or what the good implies, is some form of happiness. The individual must be happy with the good that he has achieved. Naturally, he had to know how to get it before. This wisdom to obtain what is good accompanied by happiness is the best possible definition of intelligence. And it is inevitably linked to knowledge. It has its roots in the classical Greek world, in the Platonic theory of knowledge and in the common sense of any citizen of any era.

A person who is not happy cannot be intelligent except in terms of mere social integration in the prevailing criteria, his own at each moment. Recognition, prestige, wealth may surround a certain talent, but that is not why it is considered intelligent. Intuitively, our judgment about personal qualities also takes into account the degree of happiness.

Now we must take a closer look at the notion of good and happiness on which this argument is based, which, as has already been said, is classic.

First of all, what is good for one must also be good for others. From a political point of view, that is, of coexistence in a community or polis, what is good for one of the citizens must be good for all and vice versa. Otherwise, you have to forget about kindness (and coexistence). The point is that the knowledge of this good is not given spontaneously as, for example, we are given judgment on evil. What is wrong we know right away, as Kant suggested, since a simple commutative principle would suffice to know it: would you want them to do it to you?

The good must be conquered and for this educational institutions (such as the Greek ‘paideía’) are essential in the context of a community willing and organized for public discussion. And it’s not guaranteed. The only thing that is guaranteed or that individuals can guarantee themselves is to pursue it. Intelligence would consist of not stopping pursuing something that is known to not be achieved, but which is necessary for the good life of all. In this aspect, love and knowledge belong to that class of things that are only partially or temporarily achieved, but that never stop looking for and to which goodness is adjudicated. Almost all cultures call this search in a similar way: path. From East to West, from Tao to Pythagoreanism, from Confucius to Plato, the endless path is the only one that leads the wise to the truth.

Psychologically, what is good for one is also not easy to obtain. Not even the simplest. We spend our lives trying and making mistakes, and it takes time, if ever, to find what provides some fulfillment and prevents harm. The choice of work, of affections, of desires: it is difficult to find those places that we can finally say are our authentic places.

As for happiness, it must be distinguished from ecstasy and joy, and conceived as a way of coping with the pain of life, as well as successes and conquests. Fit them without destruction of the person. The Greek word for happiness is ‘eudaimonia’, translated as having a good ‘daimon’. The word ‘daimon’, which will go down in literature as an antecedent of demon, actually means divine or relative to divinity. Socrates used it to designate the divine that is in each one of us and described it as the inner voice that stands between us and the actions that harm us. The ‘daimon’ is negative, it protects us from danger, in the same way that the Semitic name of Satan alludes to an internal adversary of God himself.

If one looks closely, it is a restrictive word, which alludes to a possible danger and a difficulty intrinsic to life itself. You are not happy outside of life, riding in glory or just experiencing success, but inside, that is, facing pain, loneliness, the many forms of separation and loss. The happy person is the one who wisely accepts life as it is. In other words, the intelligence that is put into play is the unconditional acceptance of existence. And this can only happen because life is understood, penetrated, assimilated. Or as could be deduced from the very term we use, from Latin roots, probably derived from ‘legere’ –choose, read–, because we can read life. For this reason, the intelligent person can comfort, help, bear the damage and knows that these are the fundamental teachings that he can extract from the world and that he needs to simply live.

The intelligent person has chosen the good and is happy. In this regard, there is no greater contradiction than talking about “artificial intelligence”. But that’s the way the world goes, as Mephistopheles said.

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