Today I am returning to the topic of existential intelligence. I have covered it before but from the standpoint of how it could affect teaching in an elementary classroom. Today, when questions about our existence are more on people’s minds than before I want to take a second look at the concept.
Not part of the Multiple Intelligences theory
Dr. Howard Gardner is the brain behind the theory of multiple intelligences. In that, he alludes to such a thing as existential intelligence, but he says that it can’t be defined as a separate intelligence according to the criteria he used for his types of intelligences. But that doesn’t mean it is not real, we have many other forms of intelligence that are widely accepted, such as emotional intelligence and social intelligence.
What do we mean by existential intelligence?
There are many different ways of describing existential intelligence, but they all have at least one thing in common, the ability to ponder over the big existential questions like what happens when we die? and what is the meaning of life?
The nature of those questions can be both religious, spiritual, philosophical, and we use our intuition, thoughts, and meta-cognition (thinking about thinking) to ask and try to answer those questions. These are questions that are either too big or too small to be perceived by our senses.
What are the signs of existential intelligence?
There are several signs that you have a strong existential intelligence, and here are a few of them;
- you spend hours thinking about human existence, the nature of consciousness, and other “big” questions
- you always look at the big picture when asked a question
- you make a decision considering how your decision will affect others
- you are interested in the morals and values of society and politics
- you are interested in religious and philosophical debates
- it is important that your friends have the same values as you
- others might find you to be very intense
- you have a hard time to switch off these deep thoughts
Can you train your existential intelligence? And why should you?
To improve this type of intelligence can help you see the bigger picture of things, as well as help you understand other people better. Existential intelligent people are often intuitive, emphatic, and considerate.
So how can we improve?
Of course, you can study ancient and modern religious and philosophical thinkers, but there are much more close to home things you can do to improve your existential intelligence, here are a few of them;
- Keep a dream diary
- Keep any kind of journaling of your thoughts
- Improve your critical thinking skills
- Give yourself time to daydream
- Take part in religious and philosophical discussions with friends
So is existential intelligence real?
There is no simple answer to that question. If you follow Howard Gardner’s criteria from his theory about multiple intelligences, the answer is no. But as I said in the beginning, that is not the only way of looking at intelligence, and without a doubt, the world has been filled with existential thinkers, so whether we put the label intelligence on it or not I for one is convinced that are many types of intelligence that don’t fit into the theory of MI (multiple intelligences), and who knows, maybe there is such a thing as teaching intelligence?
My final thoughts
Not everything in life fits into a theory or a model, but does that make it less real. What is real is an existential question, and just thinking about it is in my mind using your existential intelligence. So yes, I do believe that existential intelligence is something we all are capable of using and improving.
As always, if you are interested in my video on the topic it is linked below.