A lot of people confuse knowledge with intelligence. Indeed, it is quite commonly assumed that people who know a lot of things are clever. I disagree almost entirely. The ability to repeat facts (or to quote ideas which are perceived to be facts) is merely the ability to memorise and regurgitate data. A talent for memory does not equate to an ability in deductive reasoning and should not be confused with such.
In any debate, one may either absorb the arguments of other parties – and thus modify or, indeed, perhaps radically change one’s own perspective as a consequence – or one may merely stick to one’s own line of reasoning dogmatically. (Not for nothing is dogmatism prefixed with dog, incidentally. Fiercely loyal? Without question. Incapable of rationale? Absolutely.)
One’s mind is (or, at least, ought to be) capable of holding diverse perspectives and negotiating between these to find an acceptable truth in which to believe, based upon the available information at any given time. This is the core of the process of decision making and is still considered to be a management skill in companies where the staff aren’t constrained into strait-jacketed corporate unthinking. The acquisition and recognition of additional variables should always lead to the re-evaluation of any situation and a possible alteration of perspective on not only what is seen to be the way forward but what is considered to be right and fair.
Indecision is often perceived to be a weakness but I would contend that it is actually an indication of the ability to give consideration to every possibility. The quest for truth and knowledge depends, necessarily, on the capacity to make a paradigm shift once fresh light has been cast upon a scenario, rather than merely continuing blindly on one course regardless of any subsequent change. That this process of mind may not be instantaneous is only to be expected and so this hesitation is, I believe, an indicator of true intelligence. Politicians are frequently accused by the media of making U-turns as though this were a failing when, in truth, the re-thinking of political direction is often for the best – not that this necessarily shows intelligence, mind you.
Equally, of course, one’s reaction to any situation may be coloured by mood and emotion – thus humanity itself adds a potential random element to decision making. Absolute certainty is more often a sign of programming than it is of wisdom, and the holding of a doctrine which can bear no quarter for doubt is the stance of an unthinking idiot. This is an unquestionable truth.
As a slight digression, the human brain is known to be divided into hemispheres and it appears that they may replicate each other’s functions, to an extent. Indeed, it has been observed that, when the link between the two is broken, by cutting the corpus callosum, they may even act independently . Thus it may be seen that most thought might be a process of the balancing of ideas in the pursuit of an equilibrium between, say, idealism and pragmatism.
A process not unlike this is considered by some to be an essential ingredient in the development of artificial intelligence.
Computers aside, though, this consideration raises interesting questions, not least from a theological perspective. Might it be that one is possessed of what may be considered to be two souls? If so, perhaps the true purpose of life is to reconcile these hemispheres of mind and thus attain a spiritual Nirvana. Real learning is learning not what to think but how to think.
Do I believe that that any of this is true? Perhaps, it depends.