Wednesday, September 21, 2011

8 and 8 are 16

It feels good to be back home.  These last four days I have been in Edmonton at the request of an old friend I haven't seen in nearly a decade, a fellow I once trod the boards with at the Edmonton Fringe Festival.  He wanted to put a mess of writers together in a room to rehash a film script that wasn't 'working' for the producer, and I was asked to come along for not a bad little sum of money, but annoyingly no film credit (my friend wanted to keep it for himself, and I can't blame him).

As a result my head is pretty spongy after four days of argument, pressured creativity and fighting with personal biases.  After one very angry four hour argument on Monday about the elimination of an important character, it may be that I've made one marginally influential person an enemy for life ... but that's how it goes.  We started with eleven people on Saturday and by Tuesday morning we were down to seven.  When I left last night to get back here to my normal life, there were four of them still going at the minor details.

Let me just say that group think sucks.

I've been able to check my mail and this blog once a day, but I haven't had any time to write anything until this morning ... and I have commitments today, too, that I need to be fulfilling.  But ... having given a deeper meaning for Wisdom, I was asked last Friday to do the same for Intelligence.  I've given some thought to intelligence here and there, in the midst of seeing both spectacular evidence for, and evidence against, its existence.  And this morning looking at the etymology for intelligence, which is always a good place to start, I find that the roots of the word are inte or inter, meaning "between," and legere, meaning "to choose" or "to pick out."  Legere also inspires the  word 'election,' which is "to gather, collect or choose."

And I think I begin to understand more clearly a difference between Wisdom and Intelligence that hasn't been there before.

If Wisdom is the moment of clarity that denotes awareness of a single 'truth,' then Intelligence is the comprehension of multiple 'truths' and the ability to select between them.  More to the point, Intelligence is the talent that allows an individual to forego something that was formerly considered to be true in exchange for something that appears to have a superior value.  Or if it helps, while Wisdom is rigid, Intelligence is fluid.

There are 'truths' in the D&D universe that do not change.  The gods exist.  We know this, because the DM has designated that the gods exist, and to characters existing within the metaphysical DM's world, this knowledge cannot be contentious.  A wise man, therefore, knows of the existence of gods, and that much of what occurs in the world occurs through the intervention of the gods.

However, an intelligent man may accept that information without feeling any compulsion to act upon it one way or another.  Yes, the gods exist.  It does not automatically follow that the gods must be worshipped.  Worshipping the gods is a choice.  As an intelligent individual, a character may believe that the best course of action is to resist the power of the gods; this does not say it is the right decision, but having the comprehension to weigh the options against the character's personal needs - to not be a leaf drifting in the current, so to speak - is a sign of intelligence.

The tendency of the liberal culture we dwell in is to presume there is a RIGHT choice, and that intelligence is measured by the individual's ability to see a the correct course of action in a given circumstance.  That is, you may have a choice, but if you make a choice that most people would disagree with, it is a 'stupid' choice, and you are obviously a stupid person.  However, this is a designation of moral judgment, and not real evidence of stupidity.  Spending time in a room with intelligent, creative people calling one another 'stupid' is uncompromising evidence of how quick we are to define stupidity by the measure of making a different choice.  In most circumstances, its possible to step back from situations like this with the "agree to disagree" compromise ... but where it comes to creative intelligence in the hands of people who have been asked to express their positions for money, about something that stands to make a great deal of money, backing down is really not an option ... thus a group of intelligent people are pushed to define the reasons for the choices they make, and in the explanation of those reasons attempt to prove that their choices are better than some other person's choices.

This argument deepens pretty quickly and I don't want to get bogged down in it.  My wish here is only to express that a particular character in the game may make a choice about killing or not killing a monster.  A different character may make a different choice.  Neither choice is evidence of a lack, or an abundance, of intelligence.  The mark of intelligence is, instead, the ability to recognize that there IS a choice.

With the years of living, the tendency in life is to adopt certain belief systems based upon one's personal experiences.  We injure ourselves, we injure others, we bring about emotional calamities by speaking out, we keep too much in, we lose a job due to our temper or we leave some friend in the lurch and find we are minus a friend.  We turn to a deity that brings us comfort, we turn to a spouse or a partner and sacrifice contacts which we perceive were negative influences in our lives ... and over time, much time, we steadily build up a list of do's and dont's which we personally believe defines a well-lived life from a poorly lived life.  And if we have the opportunity, we preach to others the benefits of our experience, to encourage them to make less mistakes and to adopt a strategy similar to our own.

If you have lived longer, you will develop a tendency to note that those who have lived not so long as you will make mistakes that you recognize ... and you will presume that when they do not adopt your strategy to get past those mistakes, it is because they are not as intelligent as you.  From habit, the habit of living a particular way, and the habit of believing particular things, you will convince yourself day by day and year by year that the choice you took is the ONLY choice.  In fact, psychology tells us that you may in reality believe the choices you made were actually stupid ones, ones that have not made you happy ... but you will continue to insist that your choices must be right because they are choices you are most comfortable with.  After a certain point in life, it becomes so difficult to believe that any other choice is possible that you will rigidly fight the very idea of choice, and insist that people who do not live as you live will ultimately suffer in ways that maybe they can't see now, but they will.  And you will adopt belief systems like karma and god's will and so on to justify your position ... which is really only the fear of change.

These positions we take on virtually everything in life were taken for what seemed at the time to be very good reasons.  However, there are always more strategies in how to cope with hardship and failure than we imagine.  The greater our intelligence, the wider a choice we have at our fingertips in what strategies we may employ.  And while some strategies will slam doors closed and lead to dead ends in thinking, the strategy showing the greatest degree of intelligence will open doors and lead to an ever-widening field of possibilities.

Intelligent choice is like the rather cheesy question where you ask an individual if 8 and 8 ARE 15 or if 8 and 8 IS 15.  If you emphasize ARE and IS when you ask the question, the tendency in the listener is to believe that they are hearing a grammatical question.  They have been trained to answer questions like this in school and they will tend to fall into the trap of believing they understand what question you are asking, simply not hearing that you've said '15' and not '16.'  Psychologically they've heard you say '16' when in fact you haven't, because they have trained their minds to leap to conclusions on the basis of what they hear emphasized, and not on the basis of everything that has been said.

Intelligence, however, recognizes that the devil is in the details, and the highly intelligent listener will immediately comprehend the trick, or will at least demand a restatement of the question, spoken more slowly and deliberately.  The faster the question is stated, the easier it is to catch the casual listener in the trap.  If the question is stated slowly and without the emphasis, even the casual listener will realize the error.  Intelligence is not merely understanding.  It is not merely solving the puzzle.  It is having a readiness for things not being what they appear; it is questioning, continuously, the apparent reality, recognizing that what appears to be true may in fact be a disguise for something hidden underneath.  It is consciously choosing to believe and acknowledge the facts, knowing that at any moment those facts may need to be upgraded and redefined as new information makes itself available.  It is not having a rigid perception; it is having a fluidic conception.

Thus clerics and mages must forever be at odds with one another.  A mage may acknowledge the existence of gods; the mage may even acknowledge the logic in worshipping said gods; but the mage will always be open to the possibility that, in this instance at least, what the gods want may not be material to what is of greater importance for either the mage, or the mage's people.  While the cleric in his or her wisdom will always believe the god, right or wrong, the mage in his or her intelligence will know that the god being wrong means another course of action is required ... and will then resolve upon what the course must be.

And that is Intelligence, my friends.


Oddbit said...

So what I find interesting is the interaction as well as the standalone statistic.

Here we have the intelligence giving the ability to recognize OTHER choices exist and individually weigh their value and Wisdom is to recognize single truth, then what does this mean for wisdom and intelligence interacting?

Does wisdom give me the power to recognize the traits of each 'truth' granted by intelligence, or is the weighing of truths the sole department of intelligence.

If departmentalized into their own paths, if someone were to have a high intelligence and wisdom, what effect would that have on the person? Would they just add the 'one' truth to their list of options?

Given that both stats have their own attributes in addition to just judgment, I'm not going to bring the dreaded question of judgment into this, but I do want to know if intelligence represents something beyond judgment. Such as memory or advanced ability to grasp a concept quickly?

Alexis said...

Ability to grasp a concept quickly is inherent in picking out the trick question; racking up choices and keeping track of them all is evidence of memory.

I think I'd have to argue the answer to your question, "Does wisdom give me the power to recognize the traits of each 'truth' granted by intelligence, or is the weighing of truths the sole department of intelligence" would have to be BOTH.

Butch said...

Would love it if you did all six, Alexis. I suppose Strength and Dexterity are fairly obvious, but I'm curious to hear your take on Charisma and Constitution.

Satchmo said...

Thank you for answering my question so eloquently, Alexis. It is refreshing to see a detailed, philosophical answer instead of a simplified one to a deeply philosophical question.

Alexis said...

I can't say I'm very motivated to do so, Butch. I've written about both before, and I don't think I have anything new to say.

Oddbit said...

I would venture to say dexterity may not be completely obvious. We have many assumptions, but there are many technical skills placed under the domain of dexterity in many games that have a strong mental component. I am unsure of Alexis game's specific use but generally its used for stealth and lockpicking. One likely involves a strong use of awareness of your surroundings and taking the best of many choices, sometimes not the obvious one. The other involves understanding the makeup of a lock and unintended ways to open them.