The Corner

Re: The Philo Challenged

I agree with K-Lo in that I think Derb deprecates too much! Still it’s possible he can’t read philosophy. That doesn’t mean he can’t understand it. I have a close friend who’s sort of like that. He’s extremely intelligent, has a near photographic memory and one of the best educations of anybody I know (like Derb, he knows poetry and stuff). But he conceptualizes everything in the form of stories, particularly military history. Ask him what the French Revolution was about and he’ll talk about Danton and Robespierre and, eventually Napoleon (more war stuff there) and their intrigues. It simply won’t occur to him to talk about the philosophy. I’ve long said he’s the only intellectual I know who doesn’t care about ideas.

Anyway, this all reminded me of a great little passage in James Q. Wilson’s review of David Frum’s book in a recent issue of Commentary. He writes of the different sorts of intelligence and their relative value to temperment:

Of course, intelligence is important. A candidate must understand the issues, be able to connect facts and concepts, and express his understanding well to other people. But I suspected that what my friend meant by “intelligence” was something more akin to what we encounter in college: verbal facility, a lucid memory, and skill at quick give-and-take.

I have met many chief executive officers of private companies and have been struck by how much they vary in this sort of intelligence. I am not old enough to have known William Knudsen, the one-time head of General Motors, who, when asked by the government to evaluate some new program, thought about it and finally said, “It won’t work.” When asked what he meant, he repeated: “It won’t work.” He was right. I have also known some CEO’s of high verbal facility who are excellent at quick give-and-take. What the two varieties of executives have had in common is not the same sort of intelligence but the same temperament.

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