What Is Intelligence?

Are you book smart, good at math, or a logic problem pro?  If so, you are likely labeled as intelligent.  We see people with a command of language, numbers, or puzzles as highly valued in society.

But is this definition of intelligence too limiting?  Could there be different ways to measure the capacity of a brain?

Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University, argues in his theory of multiple intelligences that there are eight different intelligences.  They are:

  • Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
  • Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
  • Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
  • Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
  • Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
  • Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)

What is intelligence?  How could society benefit from a broader view of what it means to be smart?  How would we be different?  On a personal level, how are you smart?  (Traditional intelligences are okay too.)

Related questions: How Do You Learn? How Are You Special?  When Is It Useful To Fail?

5 thoughts on “What Is Intelligence?”

  1. I think that we place too much emphasis on intelligence and the gaining of knowledge when we really should be promoting the development of wisdom.
    An intelligent individual can give the right answer, but a wise individual asks the right question. An intelligent individual knows his strengths and is confident in them, but a wise individual acknowledges his weaknesses and is willing to learn.
    Intelligence is to think well, but wisdom is to thoughtfully act.

    I am reminded of the scripture at James 3:13 – “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him by his fine conduct demonstrate works performed with a mildness that comes from wisdom.”

    1. Cecily, I agree with you, but… I’m reminded of St. Paul’s words, (I’m paraphrasing here), three things remain, faith, hope, and love. And the greatest is love. So, I’d put love ahead of both intelligence and wisdom. What do you think?

      1. First Corinthians 13, one of my favorites, especially verses 4-8! I wholeheartedly agree with you Tom, love comes first. Though I must say that it takes a wise individual to understand and apply such love!

  2. I love your answers!
    Just because someone is intelligent and uses their skills in a way to better understand their world or better themselves. Does not mean that they are wise or make terrific choices.
    You need to throw the emotions in there somewhere and back it up with your heart.

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