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Richard Hofstader has shown that there is quite a difference between intelligent and intellectual thinking. Most people do not often realize this. And sometimes, they do both blindly. Intelligent thinking only works within the given circumstances, while intellectual thinking steps outside those boundaries and/or looks for ways of changing the given. These two categories also contain their own sub-categories of low, medium and high range thinking levels.

For example, if I had just started working at a toy store, I would be using low-level intelligence when learning where certain items were located in the store. This process, undoubtedly, does not take much concentration. Rather, it is just a regurgitation of facts. Someone would tell me where a specific toy was located, and I would simply have to remember which shelf it was on, or how to ring it up for future reference.

I would be using medium-level intelligence when running the register or working on the computer. For this, I would need to have some former computer knowledge and I would also have to apply it to whatever I was working on at the time. I would have to learn and remember what steps to take when ringing up a certain item such as the difference between checks, credit cards and cash, and also such things as store credit and returns or exchanges. This level of thinking would obviously require a bit more effort on my part.

An example of high-level intelligence would be if I were to manage a chain of stores. Not only would I have to supervise my own store, but I would have to make sure that all of the stores were successful. I?d oversee all the employees, watch the profits, and then think about what needed to be done for each individual store and do whatever necessary to help the sales. This job would require much of my attention. I would need to use more “brain-power,” as it were, in this situation than in the ones mentioned before.

One similarity of the afore mentioned levels is that I, the store employee, am always restrained to working within the given circumstances. The store and its products are the “given” in this instance, and I have not yet attempted to alter that in any way. That is the main characteristic of intelligence. Intellectualism, on the other hand, works around or outside the given. And when the intelligent person cannot work around or outside of it, he or she simply attempts to change it entirely, thereby becoming an intellectual.

Using an entirely different example, lower-level intellectualism could be compared to playing the piano. First, I would need to learn how to play the instrument; gain basic knowledge of the notes, scales, rhythms, etc. And after I?d learned all that and practiced for awhile, sooner or later I would be able to improvise. I could make up my own songs. I could design my own style of rhythms. I could make the chords sound different — so that nobody else would like the way they sound, except me. I could do a lot of things to change piano music as we now know it. I could tailor the music to fit my own unique liking, but it would still be considered only lower level intelligence because my actions would not have a profound effect on society.

I would be thinking on a medium-level intellectual scale if there was a death in the family, of which I was very upset over. This is considered intellectual because my mind would have to adjust to the new circumstances; to life without that loved one. For example, if my father had died, my family and I would have to start working harder in order to keep up our style of living. My sister might need to go out and get a job, and we might have to stay on a budget. But we would also wonder about things like life after death, the reason for our father?s death, why it happened to us and not some other family, and things like that. Our minds would not only think logically, but also intellectually in this situation. We would be thinking around the given.

I would be thinking on an upper-level intellectual scale if I were a philosopher like Descartes. Descartes contemplated the existence of God. He toyed with the idea that knowledge is unattainable. And he created his own arguments for his beliefs. And he believed things despite what society told him, and he was often looked down upon because he held those beliefs. He reasoned outside the given set of boundaries. When people told Descartes that God did not exist, he questioned them and reasoned that all human existence is based upon the fact that there is a omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent God. His thoughts were focused outside the given. He was a highly intelligent man, whose beliefs were created by working around the set boundaries.

The difference between intelligence and intellectualism is clear: Intelligent minds are only able to work within the given set of boundaries, such as learning the location of items in a toy store, how to run the computers and even rearranging displays. However, the intellectual mind tries to work around or outside the given, such as playing an instrument, dealing with death, or thinking philosophically.


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