Hence the overall argument of The History of Human Reason:
- Intelligence is not only cognition; rather, it’s the basic structure of everything we consider specifically. human. It is what explains consciousness, makes history possible and explains the peculiar nature of human individuality. In fact, ‘being intelligent’ stands in the same relation to ‘human nature’ as the idea of ‘being alive’ stands in relation to organic life as a whole.
- Our intelligence thus determines all dimensions of human activity and organisation, social and psychic. Some of this is common to both levels – the inherently intentional nature of the internal structure of intelligence and intelligence’s natural recognition that the external world is ‘real’; plus the two dimensions of interaction between intention and reality, which is the social (insofar as reality consists of other intelligent beings) and the symbolic (insofar as reality consists of objects).
- How these dimensions are structured can be summarised in these diagrams (explained in Chapter 1, The Nature of Intelligence):
On both these levels intelligence far exceeds any strictly biological structure.
- Intelligence also transcends biology in its unlimited capacity for development. This includes not only its evidently boundless capacity for dealing with new kinds of reality – much of it created by intelligence’s own capacity for culture and technology – but also for redeveloping itself. Although it is a biological that both the tendency and limits of any organism’s development are constrained by the nature of that organism, there is in fact no evidence that such limits exist for fully intelligent beings.
- So intelligence not only develops but is self-developing. And the developmental trajectory up which it ascends consists of four major stages. These are detailed in the next four chapters, but suffice it to say that through them intelligence both expands the span of reality it is capable of controlling and resolves the internal limits and contradictions to which its current level of development exposes it.
- Not that development is smooth process. As the remaining chapters argue, while intelligence is immature, it is subject to any number of constraints, limits and even madnesses. But these are reflections not of any inherent limits but the ignorance, error and immaturity to which any immature structure is necessarily prone – as is evidenced by the way the problems encountered at each stage of development so precisely mirror the specific stage at which they occur.
- So to what end does intelligence tend? If its development is not limited by any underlying biology (if only because, if it were, any sufficiently developed intelligence would go out of its way to eliminate those restraints), where will it end? In brief, truth and freedom. But to see what that means, you’ll have to read the book.
- Throughout this process the issue of the social versus the psychic is left undefined. This is not because the relationship is obvious or there is no difference. On the contrary, the problem is rather that there are so many levels of structure, from individual skills to personalities to social institutions to social structures of the greatest historical scope, but although there are many ways in which the development of each interacts with that of its neighbours, nevertheless each follows the same general developmental path, and no close or automatic connections between any two should be expected unless a detailed analysis of each shows a clear mutual determination. As this is precisely what is missing, even the simplest society may throw up its Aristotle, and 40% or so of the people living in our own, vastly more complex society may fall below an equivalent level of sophistication in their own development.