Following-up the previous posting: Intelligence as a Creative Force

The Interiority of Intelligence

There is an old philosophical idea which is best identified as ‘the interiority of intelligence’. Ancient Stoicism was one of the first explorations of that idea, since it is founded on a peculiar interiority: what every individual can control, as opposed to the external world of nature which is beyond control and in fact entirely predetermined. What is entirely predetermined cannot be controlled, by definition, and therefore what can be controlled is not predetermined and as such offers the potential for freedom.

By “intelligence” neither I nor Stoics mean any special genius or even any specialized mental function, but just the ordinary engagement with life of an ordinary person. The interiority of intelligence is not sensitivity to the interior of the body. It is not a spacial interiority at all. It is strictly peculiar to intelligence, since it is an interiority of non-actuality (everything in measurable space is a brute actuality).

The ancient philosophical observation that “Man is the measure of all things” (Protagoras of Abdera, a pre-Socratic Sophist c. 490-420 B.C.) is another statement or declaration of the interiority of intelligence, because the measuring done by persons does not create or put limits on nature. Nature rolls along quite independently of being measured or not. However, “man” as a particular intelligence is the measure of things becoming internal to that person’s orientation or direction of force in the world. The action efforts of individual intelligences are a sort of sonar or radar which reflect back to intelligence a digest or construct of the shape and quality of the environment. That is the sense in which “Man is the measure of all things”.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is another statement of the same insight. The “eye” in which beauty has its being is not the anatomical eye but rather the interiority of the beholder’s intelligence.

As another example, the take-away lesson from Leibniz’ monadology is the interiority of intelligence. Although there are multiple beings in Leibniz’ vision of the world, he constructed a description of individual subjective experience as entirely self-contained as a windowless ‘monad’ with no access to other beings or anything but phenomena injected by God strictly for the interiority of each particular intelligence.

The Non-Actuality of that Interiority

A common concept of knowledge is one in which consciousness is a receptive slate upon which is stamped, little by little, an imprint of the world beyond the self, the features of objective nature. However, perception exists within an individual’s taking action in constructing a sustainable life; for example, speculating on probable futures, imagining, remembering, searching and selecting, feeling gratification, irritation or desperation, and striving to make some imagined possibility into reality. There is vastly more to learning than soaking up data and facts about the world. Every individual’s innate mental process or intelligence radiates curiosity, questioning, and changes of orientation. For choices of action, there is far more than immediate responses stimulated by sensory perception. Intelligence has the power of deliberation, of presenting itself with conflicting propositions or pretended scenarios and evaluating their merits by ranging over a substantial body of mental contents such as elaborate memory constructs and enduring intentions to create a certain personal future-in-life. In adjusting its orientation, its bearings out of the past and into the increasingly remote and improbable future, intelligence has the power to identify relevant causes and effects from a context which includes remote features as well as possibilities, probabilities, and negations, none of which are present in the strict actuality of nature. Temporally remote events do not exist in nature, but are inseparable from the normal orientation of an intelligence. Deliberative intelligence has powers of making sense of perceptions by fragmenting and isolating pieces of the deluge of sensuality, and re-connecting selections of the fragments by various principles of relevance, involving conceptual invention, pattern recognition, pattern fabrication and projection, and extrapolation, for example. It isn’t knowledge that fountains up from subjectivity but rather what might be called inspiration, questing, and questioning: the need and readiness for knowledge. Action does result but skepticism does not apply.

Rather than merely opening to let the world in, a person executes a process of construction that relates brief and fleeting sensory stimulations to more enduring mental expectations, patterns, dreams, and narratives which are simple, schematic, and ideal. You search for dandelions in your grass and you don’t see any, and don’t see any, and then you see one and then another and then lots that must have been there all along. A curve drawn on paper does not have to be perfectly round and regular or completely closed to be seen as a circle. An observer will ‘fix’ imperfections, and see a circle. We ‘read’ that mark drawn on paper on the basis of the briefest possible encounter, the quickest impression, and read it as ‘meaning’ a circle. No one is ever aware of nature or culture except as sampled, probed, filtered, and then re-constituted, remodelled, or re-mixed by their struggling intelligence in desperate flight. These are normal operations of subjectivity. Each individual is a source of selective questions and structuring creativity in combination with a specific and limited capacity to sense and make sense of externally supplied data. Awareness of limitations is part of the ‘desperate flight’ of intelligence.

“Man is the measure of all things” refers to the fact that anyone’s interior impression of the measurable world will be edited and evaluated in terms of that person’s location and sensitivities, as well as biases, projects, needs, wishes, and fears. There are personal and culturally influenced filters. There is no such thing as a pure disinterested blank slate, no ‘pure’ cognitive rationality. All consciousness weighs and measures the impediments and resistances which enclose and restrict its getting further.

The Non-Actuality and Transcendence of Interiority

Freedom is specifically not a feature of the actuality of nature, and so freedom is one way of defining the interiority of intelligence. It was the Stoic way of defining that interiority. The transcendence of us entities of intelligence is our being outside actuality, encountering actuality from outside it, from within our interiority of possibilities, guesses of probabilities, bearings toward desired future possibilities and bearings away from dreaded possibilities. The non-actuality out of which an intelligence encounters the brute actuality of nature includes a structure of temporal depth (past and future) richly alien to actuality. That includes a presence with the non-existent future as a dimension of creative discretionary construction, for example. The intelligence entity that continuously re-orients itself is also a pretender, a dream-fabricator. The freedom and creativity of such monads is in being outside actuality in their unique interiority. The non-actuality of personal orientation requires a conception of monadic interiority as discontinuous with the actuality surrounding it. That is definitive of monadic existence as transcendent within nature. The non-actuality of any monadic intelligence is not identical to the non-actuality of any other. For example, the non-actuality from which author Suzanne Collins encounters the world of actual nature and culture is clearly not the same as the non-actuality from which J.K. Rowling does. Actuality (nature) is only one horizon with respect to which any intelligence constructs and continually refreshes its bearings, orientation, or directionality of agency. There is also an interior horizon, a horizon of non-actuality (a gusher). Both interior and the exterior horizons bring surprises into the situation of the monad and in that sense they are both surprise horizons. That idea of surprise horizons emphasizes the integrative agency of an entity of orientation, balancing inward and outward novelties and also launching initiatives in both directions. Inward initiatives are acts of re-orientation, thinking.

The interiority of intelligence is invisible to scientific measuring instruments because it is an interiority of non-actuality. Since we are dealing with a kind of interiority that is not in the space of the common objective world, an interiority which is discontinuous with the space of actuality, we have to describe each intelligence, each orientation within a life, as its own separate universe of non-actuality. Each intelligence is a universe of non-actuality in relationship with a common exterior world of strict, non-intelligent, pre-determined actuality, the world of nature. An intelligence can never be specified as a particular determinate thing (nor as a cluster of “objects of consciousness” as hypothesized in phenomenology) because its essential nature is an interiority of incomplete and continuously renewing non-actuality.

Freedom Makes Intelligence Transcendent and Discontinuous with Nature

The freedom of intelligence has two aspects: strategic insight in the design and execution of action in the world, and transcendence of mute nature. Moving in the grip of instinct, random impulse, or external forces is not freedom, and neither is clashing with rivals in reflexive efforts of self-inflation. For a person to be free there must be a continuity of evaluating action-impulses for their relevance to self-definition, self-creation, self-declaration, and attachments to others. Embedded in individual deliberative power, language endows intelligence with a unique public voice. A person must have a voice before acquiring language. The transcendence of voice or speech combines monadic originality with cultural knowledge in the creation of utterances that connect with other intelligences. Intelligence manifests an individuating personal genius with deliberative freedom. Intelligence is able to rise above the brute actuality of any moment to judge action which will be good over-all with respect to increasingly remote lifetime outcomes and goals.

Copyright © 2012 Sandy MacDonald. The moral right of the author is asserted.