​Intelligence: Up, Down, and All Around​
TWCF Number
Project Duration
May 1 / 2018
- December 1 / 2020
Core Funding Area
Big Questions
Amount Awarded
Grant DOI*

* A Grant DOI (digital object identifier) is a unique, open, global, persistent and machine-actionable identifier for a grant.

Ellen Fridland
Institution King's College London

Where does human intelligence emerge from, and what does it share with other forms of intelligence?

Giving primacy to skill over the ability to reason, this project will define intelligence in terms of learning. It argues that intelligent states, processes, and behaviors meet two conditions: flexibility and appropriateness. Accordingly, our aim is to understand intelligence as comprising a suite of automatic, immediate, fluid, and fluent processes that neurotypical, language-using, adult Homo sapiens share with non-human animals, small children, and even artificial and social systems.

In this way, intelligence is neither reflective nor transparent. Rather, it emerges from multiple processes, often automatic and opaque. This conception of intelligence has ramifications not only for who and what qualifies as intelligent but also for moral education and therapeutic intervention. We will show empirically that the flexibility of our automatic affective system may be calibrated or attuned in ways that reflect a sensitivity to the aims and objectives of an agent. Grounding our hypothesis in studies of motor skill learning, where we clearly see automatic motor routines develop as a result of deliberate, intentional practice, we expect that affective processes can likewise be shaped and structured in accordance with personal-level, conceptual, reflective states. This serves as the foundation of our account of moral skill.

We will produce a book-length monograph of empirically informed philosophy of mind, focusing on moral skill. We will also publish two journal articles, one philosophical on the nature of intelligence and the other empirical on the difference between implicit and explicit interventions on the affective responses of alcohol dependent patients. The project challenges and corrects both intellectualism about skill and the dual systems theory dominant in moral psychology. The intellectual impact of our project is thus foundational to both philosophy and psychology. Our work also has direct practical implications for addiction treatment and moral education.

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