Essay 4: What Is Meta-Intelligence?

You have heard of meta-data and perhaps meta-analysis.  In meta-analysis you don’t (say) study climate change directly, rather you study all the research and all the reports and papers on climate change trying to sense a grand overall conclusion and implication rather than simply making a synopsis or summary.

Meta-intelligence is in this spirit because it wants to get an overview of other overviews, a view of views.

Let’s do one example, namely, Paul Tillich (died in 1965), the famous German-American thinker.

He “walks around” human language and notices:

“Language… has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”

He also senses a missing dimension in all modern science:  “Whenever man has looked at his world, he has found himself in it as a part of it. But he also has realized that he is a stranger in the world of objects, unable to penetrate it beyond a certain level of scientific analysis. And then he has become aware of the fact that he himself is the door to the deeper levels of reality, that in his own existence he has the only possible approach to existence itself.”

(Systematic Theology IUniversity of Chicago Press, 1951)

In other words, we design equations and experiments that suit our ways of seeing and thinking, our brains and nervous systems and we never really know if we are glimpsing eternal laws of nature or patterns that satisfy us given the way we are.

We can’t see what part of our scientific world-view is a construct as opposed to a pure discovery.

We never really know: are these problems?  Difficulties?  Puzzles?Mysteries?

Gabriel Marcel, the French thinker who taught at Harvard in the 1950s, teaches us that a puzzle is something we might successfully surround and solve while a mystery is something that surrounds us and cannot be solved like a puzzle, an issue, a query, a question.

Meta-intelligence is aware of these levels and layers and doesn’t fall into a Descartes-type “whirlpool of doubt” since it accepts the great historian Pieter Geyl’s (died in 1966) category of the existence of “arguments without end” (i.e., finality is always “shy”).