25 Quotes on the Complexity of Human Intelligence

We have learned a lot from our podcast interviews and casual conversations about complex adaptive systems. Recently, we have taken a closer look at the human story of how we define intelligence.

In the Webster dictionary, "intelligence" is defined as –the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations. We feel that this definition and the cultural understanding of this word, limits the holistic nature of true human intelligence.  

 So, we were curious to learn more about the nuance, scope and scale of human abilities. And began wondering, what does intelligence really mean? 

Here are some of our favorite quotes that we believe capture the complexity of true human intelligence:


"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Knowing others is intelligence.
Knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength.
Mastering yourself is true power.
" - Tao Te Ching

"Knowledge cuts up the world. Wisdom makes it whole." – Brazilian proverb

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who'll decide where to go." - Dr. Seuss

"Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change." – Stephen Hawking

"The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination." - Albert Einstein

"The senses are what activate our intelligence. If we had no senses, our intelligence would literally remain asleep." - Philip Shepherd, Radical Wholeness  

"Our mental limitations prevent us from recognizing our mental limitation." - Dr. Robert Burton (episode 63)

"I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow." - Woodrow Wilson

"Ideas usually come, not at my desk writing, but in the midst of living." - Anais Nin

"Creativity is noting but a mind set free." - Torrie Asai

"The moment we think we know the answer, or even the question, we close down our options to explore & we can no longer find the things that we didn’t know to look for." - Sonja Blignaut (episode 39)

"It is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than it is to think yourself into a new way of acting." - Millard Fuller

"Intuitive messages, our inner guidance, is literally what elevates consciousness." - Dr. Rollin McCraty (episode 74)

"Mental models are deeply held internal images of how the world works, images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking & acting. Very often, we are not consciously aware of our mental models or the effects they have on our behavior." - Peter Senge

"The end point of rationality is to demonstrate the limits of rationality." - Blaise Pascal

"The best defense against combative ideologies isn’t more facts, but an admission of the limits to our knowledge." - Dr. Robert Burton (episode 63)

"The brain gives the heart its sight. The heart gives the brain its vision." - Rob Kall

"Embodiment is a state in which your entire intelligence is experienced as a coherent unity attuned to the world." - Philip Shepherd (episode 72)

"The ability to think past either/or situations is the foundation of critical thinking, but still, it requires courage. Getting curious & asking questions happens outside our bunkers of certainty." - Brene Brown, Braving the Wilderness

"The brain is like a muscle. When it is in use we feel very good. Understanding is joyous." - Carl Sagan

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain

"Our knowledge is a network of experiences, people and ideas." - Stacy Hale, former HumanCurrent co-host (episode 12)

"Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships." - Travis Bradberry

"Always assume a posture of curiosity or not knowing. Be curious. Question assumptions." - Sonja Blignaut (episode 39)

You can listen to the HumanCurrent podcast here and don't forget to subscribe in iTunes. Be sure to listen to our most recent episode where share our interview with the Director of Research at HeartMath Institute, Dr. Rollin McCraty.