The Concept of Intelligence
ABSTRACT: Gilbert Ryle’s dispositional analysis of the concept of intelligence makes the error of assimilating intelligence to the category of dispositional or semi-dispositional concepts. Far from being a dispositional concept, intelligence is an episodic concept that refers neither to dispositions nor to ‘knowing how,’ but to a fashion or style of proceeding whose significance is adverbial. Being derivative from the function of the adverb ‘intelligently,’ the concept of intelligence does not have essential reference to specific verbs but rather to the manner or style of proceeding of nearly any verb that is descriptive of the proceedings of an agent. Intelligence- words are expressive of a manner of doing things that may be narrated in one of two ways. The first takes the form of a series of contrasts which, when put together as a list of disjuncts, may be called the contrast-criteria of intelligence. The second may take the form of the characteristic activities which comprise the criteria of intelligence.
This subject is but a small part of the larger issue that is waged between dualists and materialists: whether the words used to ascribe mental qualities have a physical or "psychological" reference. Much of the literature concerned with this broader topic takes on the character of a general broadside against either the materialist or dualist position. When specific qualities of our mental life are discussed, it is discussed either in passing, or to make certain that they be assimiable to the general thesis being propounded. When Gilbert Ryle wrote of intelligence,(1) he was interested in making it out to be a dispositional concept (his technique for refuting dualism). Ryle's fear seemed to have been that if any mental concepts escape such dispositional analysis, then we may be forced to give way to dualism. The dualist's reaction was to withdraw from the dispositional analysis and to claim that " intelligence " can only make sense when it is ultimately linked to an alternative concept which presumably has reference to a "process" (the existence of which may be ascertained by a subjective avowal: intent, deliberation, reflective choice, etc.).
Whether this maneuver avoids the Rylean critique is subject to serious doubt. Each new term may itself have a problem concerning the "metaphysical" status of its referent: whether it is a physical or a "spiritual" process.
Another problem with this approach is that it often makes the concept of intelligence dependent on factors that may have no more than a casual relation to its meaning: a contextual connection, for example.
While a dispositional analysis of intelligence would effectively rescue it from entrapment inside "the ghost in the machine" it would fail to do the concept the justice that the dualist seeks for it, and that is to make the observation that it appears to be more an episodic than a dispositional concept.
It is in this connection that...