The H3O/Art of Life Blog
Artificial IQ: The Historio- Philosophical Origins of Pathological Ideas, Part One
Updated: Dec 13, 2022
By Dr. Josef Ben Levi Presented by Omni-U Virtual University
When I began to think about the ideas of intelligence and achievement, I could not help thinking about the historical origins of the ideas of intelligence, achievement, and pathology and the manner in which these ideas intersect with the socially constructed notion of "race." These conceptions have created what Frederick Nietzschethe called the "pathos of distance" which was his way of differentiating the "noble class" from the "servile class" based on social status and values. It is also reflected in the ideas of Herbert Spencer and his social Darwinist and biological determinist views related to the concept of the "good." Those persons who were considered "good" were life-preserving, brave, stout, well-bred, and "morally good." They were aristocratic, brave, valiant, and capable. Those who did not have those attributes were viewed as cowardly, vile, low-born, wretched, miserable, bad, evil, wicked, destructive, and mischievous- in essence as "non-persons." (Nietzche, 1966). (Taney,1857) But, in order to address these ideas, I think it is important to look at how they have come to dominate the discourse on social relationships, particularly in the United States, and- by extension- the idea of who is or is not intelligent or capable of achieving academic success in this country and who is, therefore, possessed of some sort of disability or pathology. Unfortunately, the term "pathology" is tossed around too freely. Crime is viewed as pathological and those who are negatively defined,i.e., the "low-born," the "vile," etc., are viewed as infected with that pathology. Yet, if that is so, then it follows that America, itself, was rooted in pathology since the British and French monarchs sent their worst“ deplorables," i.e., their human trash, to occupy the colonies as a means of removing "vileness” from their societies. It is imperative that we take a brief- though not exhaustive-journey through the historio-philosophical and creative intellectual genesis of the 18th and 19th centuries in order to see who were the players that created the logic behind the ideas which we are discussing here. What is unfortunate about these views is that while they were, and still are, primarily applied to captive Africans who were held in bondage throughout the Americas, our focus will be on the United States which applied them to the southern and eastern European immigrants in the 19th century as well. (Brodkin, 1999). These European immigrants were regarded - by the populations already settled in this country- as feeble-minded, idiotic, wretched, evil, miserable, and destructive. (Kennedy, 1964). Yet, the immigrants were able to eventually coalesce into a political force that would ultimately allow them to become assimilated and acculturated into American life and lose some of the stereotypes applied to them. Unfortunately, that was not the case for the Africans. We must begin on August 8, 1444, when the first large "consignment" of African people was brought to Portugal by two of Prince Henry’s pirate captains, Antonio Gonsalves and Nuno Tristan. This human "cargo" was sent by Prince Henry to Pope Martin V, who later conferred, on Portugal, the right of possession and sovereignty over all countries that might be discovered between Cape Blanco and India (DeGraft-Johnson, 1954). During the 1560s, England’s Queen Elizabeth and her pirate captain, John Hawkyns, started engaging in the trafficking of human souls (Hazelwood, 2004). This ultimately led to the horrible devastation of the Indies as was recounted in detail, in 1552, by the Spanish priest, Rev. Bartolome De Las Casas, after Columbus's voyages.(Briffault,1974) . This was a part of a larger picture of "other-ization'' of people who were non-European. In order to justify the oppression, suppression, and ultimate colonization of lands and peoples, a way had to be devised that could de-contextualize and dehumanize the captives. To develop the proper nomenclature and justifications, a small army of theologians and philosophers of the "enlightenment" period were assembled to include- as a part of their various writing on ontological, epistemological, and axiological issues -statements that disguised the inhuman behavior in which they were engaged as their own "objective" humanity. Humans have souls.How could they be perceived as doing such terrible things to those who were also human? Well, creating an argument that defines the subjugated group(s) as ‘others’ and, simultaneously, "not human" made it easy. These "others" were said to have no souls. In fact, they were depicted as savages and more akin to animals, and -as we all should know- animals do not have souls. In 1748, Charles Montesquieu, in "The Spirit of the Laws", made an interesting statement. He asserted:
“A proof that Negroes do not have common sense is that they make more of a glass necklace than of one of gold, which is of such great consequence among nations having police. It is impossible for us to assume that these people are men because if we assume they are men one would have to begin to believe that we ourselves are not Christians.” Wow! What amazing "logic!" Let me respond to Mr. Montesquieu's statement about the issue of gold and police. Had he known anything at all about where the gold deposits were in West Africa at that time, he would have known that the Wangara people controlled all mining of gold and were sworn to secrecy as to its whereabouts. Also, prior to the European and Arab incursion into Africa- especially West Africa-there was no need for anyone to possess material goods since everything was available in abundance. There was no need for a police force to guard anything because no one ever thought about stealing other people’s stuff (Bovill, 1995; Dudd,1986). In fact, according to Emil Torday; Central Africa was a territory of peace and happiness before the invaders came spreading anarchy, confusion, and ruin. They manufactured quarrels among different African communities and set them at each other’s throats making sure, of course, to supply them with modern weapons (James, 1963). In the early years, the Naturalists who asserted that "natural laws were the only rules that govern the structure and behavior of the natural world and that the changing universe is, at every stage, a product of these laws", were involved in supporting this form of "otherization" and infantilization (Elkins, 1968). They were important because their justifications were also used to support various forms of "Eugenics", a term coined by Francis Galton who is considered to be the Father of Genetics and Statistics. In 1758, Carolus Linnaeus debased Africans in his "Taxonomy of Races." In 1859, Harvard professor Louis Agassiz maintained that Blacks should not receive social equality since their appropriate lot was submission to their "superior" white counterparts. In fact, he argued that education of the Black race should be based on their latent "inferiority" and, thus, they should be trained strictly for manual labor. Carl Jung believed that the different strata of the mind correspond to the history of the races. In this regard, he asserted that the African “has probably a whole layer less than the white man.” In the 1969 Harvard Educational Review, Edwin Katzenellenbogen, of the Harvard Medical School faculty -who was later convicted of war crimes at Buchenwald-asserted that Blacks were intellectually inferior to Whites and that he could measure it. (Henderson, 1995) The constructions about who is or is not an object, were conceived by and inherited from Immanuel Kant, David Hume, and Thomas Hobbes, among others. For Kant, human reason is a synthesizing faculty that, in the act of knowing something in the world, actively constructs orderliness out of the chaos of experience in accordance with human reason’s own structures, own forms, and own categories. To be an object in the world, according to Kant; means to have been constructed as an object according to human reason’s criteria of “objectivity,” in short “they,” i.e., European intelligentsia, make all the patterns.
Hence, in Kant’s work, "Critique of Pure Reason" (1781), in the section titled, “Transcendental Deduction,” he deduced that, by its very nature, human thinking has universal and necessary forms, necessary and unavoidable categories, or structures - schematic ways of operating. Following this line of thinking, it would t be impossible for Blacks to have any intelligence since it is not in line with the universals to which Kant is referring. Nor, considering the significant influence his analytical ideas have on academia in the United States today, would it be. He also saw nature, as experienced and known, becoming a closed system with humanity at its center, holding, in advance and universally and necessarily, the conditions under which nature can appear. This was like the ideas of Francis Bacon in the "Novum Organum," where he saw nature as this “bitch” that had to be harnessed and controlled so that all her goodies could be managed. Kant went even further in his description of African people when he stated: In the "Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime," (Frierson & Guyer, 2011)- especially section 4 "Of national characteristics"- Kant, following Hippocratic lines, outlines a geographical and psychological(moral) classification of humans. Just as other biological phenomena, such as animals, are divided into domestic and wild, land, air, and water species, and so forth, different human races are also conceived of as manifesting biologically original and distinct classes, which are geographically distributed. Taking skin color as evidence of a "racial" class, Kant classified humans into white (Europeans), yellow (Asians), black (Africans), and red (American Indians). "Moral" geography (which might as well be called "cultural" geography) studies the customs and the mores held collectively by each of these races, classes, or groups. For example, some elements, in the "moral geography" taught by Kant, included expositions on culture, such as the "knowledge" that it is customary to permit theft in Africa, or to desert children in China, or to bury them alive in Brazil, or for Eskimos to strangle them. Finally, it is the domain of moral philosophy to show, for example, that such actions, based upon unreflective mores and customs, natural impulses, "the inclination to evil," and/or the "commands of authority," lack "ethical principles" and are therefore not properly, i.e., essentially, human. While the Americans are completely uneducable because they lack "affect and passion," in Kant's table of moral classifications, the Africans escape such a malheur, but can only be "trained" as slaves and servants: "The race of the American cannot be educated. It has no motivating force, for it lacks affect and passion. They are not in love; thus, they are also not afraid. They hardly speak, do not caress each other, care about nothing, and are lazy. However, the race of the Negroes, one could say, is completely the opposite of the Americans; they are full of affect and passion, very lively, talkative, and vain. They can be educated but only as servants (slaves), that is if they allow themselves to be trained. They have many motivating forces, are also sensitive, are afraid of blows, and do much out of a sense of honor." The African, according to Kant, deserves this kind of "training" because he or she is "exclusively idle," lazy, and prone to hesitation and jealousy, and the African is all these because, for climate and anthropological reasons, he or she lacks "true" (rational and moral) character: "All inhabitants of the hottest zones are, without exceptions, idle. With some, this laziness is offset by government and force ..." The aroused power of imagination has the effect that he [the inhabitant] often attempts to do something, but the heat soon passes, and reluctance soon assumes its old position." From the foregoing, it is obvious that Kant is able to hold the above views about the African because, thanks to transatlantic mercantilist "slave trades", Kant sees The Color of Reason and knows that, in fact, African slaves are flogged,i.e., "trained," as European labor. From a philosophical perspective and, perhaps, in a more subtle way, Kant's position manifests an inarticulate subscription to a system of thought which assumes that what is different- especially that which is "black"-, ‘is bad, evil, inferior, or a moral negation of "white," light, and goodness. If it is presumed that Blacks live at that lower stage of the taxonomy of civil society- so well formulated by Kant -in successive stages from savagery to barbarism, to civilization- then it should not be a surprise that the assumptions about intelligence, and those upon whom it is endowed, remains in the public discourse. Neitzche's "pathos of distance" was a designed creation that essentially entailed an extreme lack of understanding as well as processes of deculturalization and xenophobia.
In order to support this idea of intelligence and to maintain its integrity, there had to be a way of measuring it. There had to be tools to assess it based on some perceived “normal” criterion. There had to be a way to prove,-" scientifically"- that some people were savages and others were civil. Of course, this had to be based on the model of those who formed the questions and created the answers in the first place. Exactly who was in a state of nature and who was not? According to Thomas Hobbes, “the state of nature is a state of war where every man is against his fellow man”. How could we continue to prove that intelligence only exists among those who are not quarantined in a state of nature and who possess the goodies of life as a measure of their civility with the freedom to exercise it? How do we distinguish them? Just how are we to measure intelligence? And what do those measurements suggest? If these measurements are supposed to appraise someone’s innate abilities, then what criteria are being applied to the notion of ability? Since many definitions of this sort have hidden political agendas, we would have to determine the political ramifications of those definitions and who does and/or does not benefit from their proliferation. Who is normal? What do we mean by normal? When we look at the criterion established by the few philosophers mentioned above, we see that normal is viewed as a Universalist concept which suggests that the best can be defined as the most free, the most reasonable, and the most civilized. It is the notion - not of just being the best among others in the world- it means representing that toward which the world is heading in its progress toward maturity. This concept is implied in the notion of Progressivism! It is a movement toward the natural end and the destiny of the world. This idea is expressed in the critique of the "normal curve" What is normal and what is abnormal and how it appears that -no matter what type of research is presented to the contrary- there are forces out there that are determined to push an oppressive agenda. Embedded in the ideas of the normal curve are all the current contradictions and implied defects in cognitive skills which have been accepted as a mantra. This is despite the obvious inequities in resources: social, economic, political, and educational. Of course, Blacks were deemed incapable, not only of assimilating into the body politic but also cognitively incompetent to properly engage in the largesse of American society no matter how much innate ability they possessed. The labeling and type-casting that are a part of this crazy paradigm fails to address several issues when attempting to assess Blacks, especially Black males who are overwhelmingly victims of this process. There is this ever-spreading cult of intelligence that can be measured by the letter “G”. This "call letter," however, is used as a measuring rod for all forms of intelligence even when there is not a clear definition of exactly what intelligence is and who really has it (Gottfredson, 2005). The criterion used are unfairly compared to some “normative” cultural behavior of selected white Americans hence, the "norm group test-takers" have an unfair advantage. They have a lifetime of preparation, cultural experience, and material support. It is as if their parents wrote the test for them knowing that they already are cognizant of the house rules (Hilliard, 1981). This is particularly true of the language patterns used by Blacks. No commonly used test of intelligence has been subjected to rigorous scrutiny by cultural linguistic science. Psychometrics is, at present, an academic monopoly masquerading as a science, with respect to the issue of culture. A standardized measurement using a universal language as a vehicle is a linguistic absurdity, since semantic meaning and functional meaning, which are at the deep, meaningful, and structural level, are context-specific and not universal (Hilliard, 1983). Continued in Part 2... References 1. Bacon, F. (1955). Novum Organum: Selected Writings of Francis Bacon. New York: Modern Library. 2. Bennett, Jr., L. (2000). Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream. Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company. 3. Briffault, H. (1974). Bartolome De Las Casas; the Destruction of the Indies: A Brief Account. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 4. Bovill, E. W. (1958). The Golden Trade of the Moors: West African Kingdoms in the Fourteenth Century. Princeton: Markus Weiner Publishers. 5. Brodkin, K. (1999). How the Jews Became White and What That Says About Race in America. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. 6. Clement of Alexandria. (2012). 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