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Is every intelligence a collection? Obviously 'general intelligence' is a collection of abilities, a statistical entity that is a measure of ability "in general". What about musical intelligence? Again, makes sense to say yes. Can any ability be named that is not composed of other skills?

The intelligence necessary to reproduce a "C" without a referent involves a cluster of processes, but is it a unitary ability? I would think maybe, but then, working up, where does that stop?

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    i suppose the obvious answer is "yes, but of what?"
    – user67675
    Nov 10, 2023 at 19:39
  • The TLDR is that mind reduces to brain reduces to neural function in cognitive science.
    – J D
    Nov 10, 2023 at 20:02
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    The minimum stable system is triadic Nov 10, 2023 at 20:09
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    I agree with you that IQ is far too narrow to speak meaninfully about the full range of contributions a person can make in life. :D
    – J D
    Nov 10, 2023 at 20:18
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    i assumed we know what it is: a stastistical construct meant to capture what we mean by intelligence @ScottRowe that doesn't mean it's just imprecise. i think of it as shorthand for our expectations
    – user67675
    Nov 11, 2023 at 1:38

3 Answers 3

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Modularity of the mind (SEP) is the article that covers the idea that the mind is not a monolithic entity. Marvin Minsky, Jerry Fodor, and other philosophers of mind recognize that if intelligence is a property of the mind, it is subject to decomposition. There are two popular theories of intelligence, MI theory by Howard Gardner who represents a tradition of building that modularity into the description of intelligence (hence 'multiple intelligence theory') and the more traditional G factor model. Neither theory really conceives of intelligence as ultimately monolithic, and both theories have criteria for representing distinct subtypes of intelligence.

Both theories recognize neural computation as the ultimate basis for thought and so intelligences weakly or strongly reduce to units of neural computation. Some theories of the emergence of grammars in Homo sapiens speak directly to the evolution of neurons providing capacities that precede certain intelligences, for instance, the use of grammar, by citing findings in cognitive neuroscience directly. It is thought that the neural computations for the fine motor control to manipulate the opposable thumb in the human hand opened the pathway to greater mass in the associative and neocortices to develop concomitantly with manipulating the environment and language use.

Thus, yes, acts of mental intelligence in modern cognitive science are reduced to collections of neural computation, and that's where intelligence is grounded.

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  • In AI, one will often hear about simulated intelligence being grounded in computational models which are statistical rather than symbolic models. Hence, there are genetic algorithms, ML, ANNs, swarm models, etc. The adjective applied in this case may be 'sub-symbolic', and such models of intelligence are often referred to in the spirit of Thorndike as connectionism.
    – J D
    Nov 10, 2023 at 20:06
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    Sorry I didn't make the answer more explicit. It is a resounding yes that intelligences are reduced to sub-intelligences which are themselves collections of neural computations, in the view of cognitive science, at least. Philosophy of mind does admit other, non-scientific theories, such as the Monads of Leibniz, for instance.
    – J D
    Nov 10, 2023 at 20:09
  • yeah, there's not much to disagree with there.
    – user67675
    Nov 10, 2023 at 20:13
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    How can anything be monolithic? not even an atom is. Nov 10, 2023 at 20:19
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    anyway, do you really believe that any system can be regulated by the sum of its parts? Nov 10, 2023 at 20:30
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Intellectual narcissism says one's intelligence is composed of a single thing, whatever that is (brain size, neuron speed, some other status symbol) and however general it is (musical genius, love of the deity). Reducing raw abilities to the brain would be an antidote to that, if we keep our wits (which is too much to ask for many). But yeah, no way is general intelligence not 'warm' enough: it is a phantom next to both actual achievement and individual skills.

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    Not all tall people are good basketball players (speaking from my experience). The variation is mostly due to practice. That's how you get to Carnegie Hall. But being very good at one thing helps little or not at all with anything else. Great musical performers are rarely also great chefs or physicists. (And wars not make one great, as we know) So, modularity seems to be proven.
    – Scott Rowe
    Nov 11, 2023 at 14:50
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Collection does not cover it. I propose synthesis as a better term.

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