IMOS provides books, other resources and educational courses, all with the aim of encouraging people to develop their intelligent thinking skills. We want to see a kinder, more thoughtful society, less dominated by prejudice.
'The Dark Arts of Genius' is a short book that serves as an introduction to how advanced, independent thinking skills can be nurtured and developed.
The Dark Arts of Genius
Warning/Disclaimer: Whilst this book of ideas, opinions and thought-exercises is not intended to be offensive in any way, some people do find it incredibly offensive. You read it at your own risk!
Hello. Let me introduce myself: I'm Robert Jameson - and I'm interested in how we can make the world a better place by unlocking people's potential for intelligent thinking.
In this short book, I'm going to be presenting some ideas about what I think are the key skills and capabilities at the heart of genius. More importantly, I'm going to be suggesting ways in which these skills and capabilities can be developed.
I've called this book, 'The Dark Arts of Genius,' because it deals with what, for many people, is the unmentionable, unacceptable, inappropriate and downright offensive subject of how some people are so much more intelligent than others. If you don't want to take the risk of being offended, then this book is not for you.
In the next chapter, I'm going to be hitting you with the big one - the big secret of genius - a monumental, potentially life-changing revelation. But stay with me - don't skip ahead - because I think I need to start by being clear on a few important introductory points.
Firstly, I want to say a few words about philosophy - because, whilst I regard this as a philosophical book, it differs considerably from what you might normally expect in other philosophical offerings.
For one thing, I'm not going to be mentioning the great philosophers or referencing philosophical concepts in any sort of formal, academic fashion.
I want to encourage people to be philosophers - but what I don't mean by that is that they should study the lives and ideas of famous philosophers.
It seems to me that, all too often, people who are supposed to be studying to be philosophers, end up becoming walking reference guides to the lives and ideas of famous philosophers of the past, having neglected the development of their own potential to philosophise about issues for themselves.
It's not that studying the great philosophers is a bad idea as such. It's very important that some people do engage in such studies - but I think we should be careful not to confuse such historical studies with actual philosophy.
Being knowledgeable about other people's ideas does not make you a philosopher. Indeed, the temptation to instinctively reference that knowledge can easily hamper, rather than enhance, a person's ability to think intelligently about an issue for themselves.
Now, some people, even some senior academics, might ask: 'But isn't it a waste of time to philosophise about something, only to come up with an idea that was already thought of by a famous philosopher hundreds or thousands of years ago?'
Well, no - obviously not - because besides the importance of the idea, the process of coming up with ideas for yourself is an extremely important one. It's brain training. It's vital practice - practice of the skills that can enable new and original ideas to be developed. This still applies, regardless of how many times the idea has been thought of before.
No, philosophy, for me, is about the art and practice of thinking. A philosopher is a dedicated practitioner of the art of thinking - not a repository of knowledge, but someone who has applied themselves to developing their own capacity for intelligent thinking. And how does someone develop this capacity? Well, that's essentially what this book is about.
Next, since this book is largely concerned with the concept of intelligence and with how intelligence can be nurtured and developed, I want to briefly explain what I mean when I refer to 'intelligence' and 'intelligent people' - so as to avoid certain confusions that might otherwise arise.
There are many attempts to obscure the meaning of intelligence. These are often born of political-correctness. It is politically-incorrect to suggest or imply that some people are especially intelligent, because that implies that other people are less intelligent - and that is deemed to be offensive.
But, I think it would be helpful, for our purposes, to put aside the politically-correct idea that everyone is intelligent, 'just in different ways.'
When I talk about intelligence, I mean it in the traditional sense of intelligence referring to a person's intellectual abilities; their capacity in terms of being able to form and develop sound, rational arguments and to understand ideas - and their capacity to follow rational decision-making processes.
In this traditional sense of intelligence, some people are clearly far more intelligent than others. Not wanting to accept this fact doesn't make it any less true.
So, now we're clear on those points, I want to make the key suggestion on which this whole book is based - and it is this: Intelligence is developed, not inherited. You can learn to be exceptionally intelligent.
People sometimes speak as if intelligence is something you are born with. Well, that's probably a rather unhelpful way to think about it, because the truth is that, if we define intelligence in terms of actual thinking skills and capabilities, then the ability to think intelligently is clearly something you have to develop over time.
If you define intelligence as a potential, rather than an actual ability, then, yes, you could argue that intelligence is something you are born with - but that's not really what we mean when we say someone is intelligent. We mean they have the ability, here and now, to think intelligently.
So, intelligence has to be developed. Some people may, of course, be born with a greater potential than others - or, perhaps more accurately, with a more easily accessible potential than others - but intelligence itself comes through study and practice. It doesn't have to come through formal education - it can be developed through informal means - but it does come through study and practice.
To become intelligent, you must learn and practise the skills of intelligent thinking - and utilise and develop the character traits that enable you to apply them consistently.
It may well seem obvious that being intelligent, in the way I've described, requires study and practice. It may seem obvious that such intelligent thinking has to be learnt, but that's just it - people often fail to see or fail to appreciate the obvious.
If studies on the subject are to be believed, the vast majority of people consider themselves to be of above average intelligence. Some of them are correct, some have a rather inflated view of their abilities and many others are seriously deluded.
The real problem, however, is that so many people act as if there is little they can do to improve their intelligence. Even those that do apply themselves to study, are often focused on building knowledge, rather than boosting their intelligence.
The world's most intelligent people, however, are those people prepared to work hard to become intelligent. They lack the arrogance to believe that intelligence is theirs by right. They understand that intelligence is something you have to work at.
The chief requirement to be able to develop exceptional intelligence is simply the determination to learn the skills that intelligent thinking requires.
It seems to me that intelligent thinking and intelligent behaviour are incredibly important. We could do with a more intelligent world - more thoughtfulness, more consideration. People, animals and the planet we live on repeatedly suffer as the result of unintelligent behaviour - and unintelligent behaviour is a common and obvious result of unintelligent thinking.
To make a better world, we could do with some intelligent people - rather more of them than we have now - but what can we do about it?
The first step is to realise that we can do something about it. Intelligence can be developed. People can be trained to be more intelligent - but is there a reliable method of doing so?
People are born. Most grow up to be not very intelligent, some grow up to be reasonably intelligent and very few grow up to be geniuses - but what if we didn't have to rely so much upon chance? What if it were possible to take reasonably ordinary people and train them to develop the super-advanced thinking skills of a genius?
If we could find a way to do that with any sort of reasonable success rate, then surely that would be amongst the greatest discoveries in human history.
If even 1% of the world's population could be trained to develop genius-level thinking skills, our prospects for the future could be dramatically transformed for the better. Well, it may well be very much possible. The biggest barrier lies simply in the difficulty of finding people willing to study and learn the skills and attitudes involved. That's why I've written this book.
I thank you for taking an interest in this book - because, by doing so, you're taking part in a great experiment to try to make the world a better place.
2. The Great Secret
In this chapter, I'm going to reveal to you the incredible secret of being super-intelligent - and I'm going to keep things fairly brief, in order to encourage you to focus on what is, essentially, a very simple point, but an extremely important one.
So, prepare yourself for an amazing revelation. Are you ready? Are you sure? OK then - here is it: The reason most people aren't very intelligent is that they are stupid.
Now, that, in itself, sounds like a fairly idiotically obvious statement - but don't be fooled! Stop to think about it and you'll realise that there's much more to it than it might seem.
This is genius in action - to see the obvious in what other people have overlooked. The amazingly important point here - and it is easily missed if you aren't paying careful attention - is that it isn't that stupidity is the absence of intelligence - it is largely that intelligence is the absence of stupidity.
Think about it! Stupidity can be a real, distinct and substantial 'thing' in itself. Stupidity is an active, powerful entity - not merely a lack of intellectual ability. In fact, one might say that stupidity is intelligence with things added to it - things that are very unhelpful and undesirable.
Our central problem, as a species, is not that people lack the processing capacity for intelligent thought. They may have a considerable capacity for rational thinking, but they also have mental blocks and biases that, more often than not, get in the way.
The capacity to think intelligently is, in a sense, straightforward. Simple logic, simple procedures - of the sort even young children can demonstrate when they play Guess Who - can go a very long way.
So why are so few people intelligent? Because there are many influences which are superbly effective at twisting their thought processes and undermining their intelligence.
To understand intelligence, we need to understand why most people are not intelligent - and why even people who sometimes appear very capable intellectually, seem to so easily lose the capacity for intelligent thought in many circumstances. We need to study the influences that prevent them being intelligent.
So what are these mental blocks and biases that get in the way of intelligent thinking? The answer, in the main, is prejudice.
I sometimes say that the main barriers to intelligence are laziness and prejudice. Either people can't be bothered to think about things - or, when they do, they are too blinded by prejudice for their rational brain functions to be able to operate effectively.
In many ways, however, laziness is a form of prejudice. Laziness is a bias towards doing what seems easiest, in the short term, rather than what would probably be best. It is a prejudice against anything which involves substantial effort. And so, unintelligent thinking nearly always comes down to some form of prejudice.
99 times out of 100, when people fail to follow a rational argument, it is not because it is complicated or difficult to follow. It is not because they are incapable of following the argument. It is because they refuse to follow the argument.
Often this is out of sheer laziness. Most of the rest of the time, they simply don't want to follow the argument you put in front of them, because they fear (and 'fear' is the right word) that doing so will lead them to a conclusion they don't like, a conclusion they don't want to face up to - a conclusion they are prejudiced against.
So, to protect themselves from this unsettling possibility, they decide (consciously or subconsciously) that they would rather opt out of discussing the matter in hand rationally and intelligently.
Sometimes they just 'go dumb' and claim they simply don't understand. Other times, they employ alternative strategies to end the discussion - such as claiming that the point you're making is 'ridiculous' or 'offensive.' Either way, the intelligent part of the discussion has probably come to an end.
We all ought to be familiar with these well-used strategies. It's relatively easy to recognise them, of course, when other people turn to them in desperation when they are losing an argument. The difficult bit - and, for most people, I mean the extremely difficult bit - lies in recognising the problem when we resort to such behaviour ourselves.
Prejudices, of course, come in many forms - more on this in later chapters. But for now, the key thing that needs to be appreciated is that, in all probability, everyone (or almost everyone) has their own substantial set of prejudices.
You might not think of yourself as a prejudiced person - and you may well be rather less prejudiced than most people - but just because you aren't outrageously racist or sexist or homophobic, this doesn't mean you don't have serious prejudices. You almost certainly have lots of them - and they probably interfere with your thinking capabilities more often than you realise.
Intelligence comes from recognising your own prejudices and finding ways to overcome them - not from denying their existence.
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I hope you found it interesting and would like to read more!
'The Dark Arts of Genius' is currently available in both ebook and paperback versions from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com and Amazon sites around the world.
It is also available in Apple's iBookstore, from Google, in the Kobo and Nook stores and at Scribd.
Now I can't say much fairer than that, can I? You're hardly going to turn down the opportunity to learn the thinking skills of genius! ...or are you?
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