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Intelligence is a property of mind that encompasses many related mental abilities, such as the capacities to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend ideas and language, and learn.

For the US television series, see Intelligence (U.S. TV series)
See also:


"A Government resting upon the Will of the People has no anchorage except in the People's Intelligence."— Howard University, Founders Library Reference Room, above the south doorway
Sorted alphabetically by author or source
  • Mad, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence.
  • She should be my counsellor,
    But not my tyrant. For the spirit needs
    Impulses from a deeper source than hers;
    And there are motions, in the mind of man,
    That she must look upon with awe.
    • William Cullen Bryant, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 353.
  • seemed to be listening to me, not to find out useful information, but to try to catch me in a logical fallacy. This tells us all that you are used to being smarter than your teachers, and that you listen to them in order to catch them making mistakes and prove how smart you are to the other students. This is such a pointless, stupid way of listening to teachers that it is clear you are going to waste months of our time before you finally catch on that the only transaction that matters is a transfer of useful information from adults who possess it to children who do not, and that catching mistakes is a criminal misuse of time.
  • Government resting upon the will and universal suffrage of the people has no anchorage except in the people's intelligence.
    • President Grover Cleveland at the celebration of the sesquicentennial of Princeton College (October 22, 1896).
  • Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as strong to think.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 353.
  • Thou living ray of intellectual fire.
  • The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
  • Advertising may be described as the science of arresting human intelligence long enough to get money from it.
    • Garden of Folly, "The Perfect Salesman" (1924).
  • I am disappointed, Veidt. Very disappointed. Restructuring myself after the subtraction of my intrinsic field was the first trick I learned. It didn't kill Osterman... Did you think it would kill me? I've walked across the surface of the sun. I've seen events so tiny and so fast they hardly can be said to have occurred at all. But you... you're just a man. And the world's smartest man poses no more threat to me than does its smartest termite.
  • The more you observe nature, the more you perceive that there is tremendous organization in all things. It is an intelligence so great that just by observing natural phenomena I come to the conclusion that a Creator exists.
    • Carlo Rubbia. The Brazilian magazine Veja asked Carlo Rubbia, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics, “Do you believe in God?; reported in Evolution Is Not a Fact, Awake! magazine, 1998, 8/8.
  • The intellect has only one failing, which to be sure, is a very considerable one. It has no conscience. Napoleon is the readiest instance of this. If his heart had borne any proportion to his brain, he had been one of the greatest men of history.
    • James Russel Lowell, reported in a Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895) by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, p. 353.
  • I believe in "intelligence," and I believe also that there are inherited differences in intellectual ability, but I do not believe that intelligence is a simple scalar endowment that can be quanitified by attaching a single figure to it—an I.Q. or the like.
  • I once spoke to a human geneticist who declared that the notion of intelligence was quite meaningless, so I tried calling him unintelligent. He was annoyed, and it did not appease him when I went on to ask how he came to attach such a clear meaning to the notion of lack of intelligence. We never spoke again.
  • The inherent contradiction between condemning the intellect as invalid and incapable of reaching truth, and using that same intellect to make the condemnation, seems, strangely, not to occur to those who hold this derogatory view of the intellect.
    • Norah Michener, Maritain on the Nature of Man. Hull, Canada: Éditions "L'Éclair", 1955, p. 2.
  • I'll call "Society of Mind" this scheme in which each mind is made of many smaller processes. These we'll call agents. Each mental agent by itself can only do some simple thing that needs no mind at all. Yet when we join these agents in societies—in very special ways—this leads to true intelligence.
  • We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.
  • Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.
  • It appears to me that one defeats the fanatic precisely by not being a fanatic oneself, but on the contrary by using one's intelligence.
  • He told me that it isn't what you do but how you do it that shows whether you are clever or not.
  • Psychology, speaking for emotion and instinct, has reduced intellect to impotence over life. Metaphysics has subordinated it to will. Bergson and his followers have charged it with falsehood and issued a general warning against its misrepresentations; while with pragmatists and instrumentalists it has sunk so low that it is dressed in livery and sent to live in the servant's quarters. It is against this last indignity in particular that I wish to speak a word of protest, to the end that the intellect may be accorded full rights within the community of human activities and interests.
    • Ralph Barton Perry, "The Integrity of the Intellect," Harvard Theological Review, vol. 13, no. 3, July 1920, pp.220-221.
  • As the saints and prophets were often forced to practise long vigils and fastings and prayers before their ecstasies would fall upon them and their visions would appear, so Virtue in its purest and most exalted form can only be acquired by means of severe and long continued culture of the mind. Persons with feeble and untrained intellects may live according to their conscience; but the conscience itself will be defective. … To cultivate the intellect is therefore a religious duty; and when this truth is fairly recognized by men, the religion which teaches that the intellect should be distrusted and that it should be subservient to faith, will inevitably fall.
  • Every thing connected with intellect is permanent.
    • William Roscoe, reported in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895) by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, p. 353.
  • We live in a culture in which intelligence is denied relevance altogether, in a search for radical innocence, or is defended as an instrument of authority and repression. In my view, the only intelligence worth defending is critical, dialectical, skeptical, desimplifying.
    • Susan Sontag, "Women, the Arts, & the Politics of Culture: An Interview with Susan Sontag" in Salmagundi, No. 31-32 (Fall/Winter 1975), p. 29; later published in Conversations with Susan Sontag (1995) edited by Leland A. Poague, p. 77.
  • To be an intellectual really means to speak a truth that allows suffering to speak.
    • Cornel West, "Chekhov, Coltrane, and Democracy: Interview by David Lionel Smith." The Cornel West Reader (1998).
  • Intelligence is quickness to apprehend as distinct from ability, which is capacity to act wisely on the thing apprehended.
  • I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 398.
  • The hand that follows intellect can achieve.
  • In short, intelligence, considered in what seems to be its original feature, is the faculty of manufacturing artificial objects, especially tools to make tools, and of indefinitely urging the manufacture.
  • Instinct perfected is a faculty of using and even constructing organized instruments; intelligence perfected is the faculty of making and using unorganized instruments.
  • For the eye of the intellect "sees in all objects what it brought with it the means of seeing."
    • Thomas Carlyle, Varnhagen Von Ense's Memoirs, London and Westminster Review (1838).
  • The growth of the intellect is spontaneous in every expansion. The mind that grows could not predict the times, the means, the mode of that spontaneity. God enters by a private door into every individual.
  • Works of the intellect are great only by comparison with each other.
  • Glorious indeed is the world of God around us, but more glorious the world of God within us. There lies the Land of Song; there lies the poet's native land.
  • A man is not a wall, whose stones are crushed upon the road; or a pipe, whose fragments are thrown away at a street corner. The fragments of an intellect are always good.
  • The march of intellect.
    • Robert Southey, Sir Thomas More; or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, Volume II, p. 361.
  • Intelligence appears to be the thing that enables a man to get along without education. Education enables a man to get along without the use of his intelligence.
    • Albert Edward Wiggam, as quoted in Philippine Almanac (1986), p. 344.
  • The intellectual power, through words and things,
    Went sounding on, a dim and perilous way!
  • Three sleepless nights I passed in sounding on,
    Through words and things, a dim and perilous way.

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