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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Appreciating others' intelligence

A young woman mentioned to me yesterday yesterday that she was reading War and Peace. She was only about a tenth of the way through the book, but raved about how Tolstoy could capture someone's personality perfectly with just one brief anecdote.

It takes a smart person to appreciate a smart person. It's hard to imagine a lesser IQ waxing as enthusiastic about Tolstoy.

Young people willing to read any book, let along a big chunk of pavement like War and Peace, seem an increasingly rare species these days.

When I was young, in the 70's, we read books because there was no other form of entertainment (unless you wanted to watch Gilligan's Island). Today, with the internet, a plethora of movies at your fingertips, Facebook, and all your friends to text, it's all the more admirable for a young person to try to tackle Leo.

The book, by the way, was also highly recommended to me by the smartest guy I ever met: one more piece of proof that you have to be intelligent to appreciate intelligence. 

(I'll read it when the Readers' Digest version comes out.)

Generally, you can really only appreciate others' intelligence up to the level of your own, and perhaps a little beyond. People of ordinary intelligence meet a lot of people smarter then they are, so are generally less inclined to appreciation. But I suspect that three standard deviation-types rarely meet people smarter than they, so unless they are insecure about these things, are probably delighted to discover someone smarter, particularly if he's interested in the same sorts of things. 

2 comments:

Rebecca said...

I read an interesting thread last night titled
"the Disintegration of Conceptual Life"s which seems relevant to the waning popularity of reading books these days.

John Craig said...

Rebecca --
Interesting, and probably true.