Hence, the basic function or operation of the intellect is the understanding of reality, with reality being the totality of all things which exist. Even if a contemplative person engaged in the exercise of their intellect is not in government, it is their civic duty to try and influence the government through reason and intellect. And according to Avicenna, the manner by which the intellect understands reality is that the intellect “unifies the many and multiplies the one through analysis and synthesis.” Furthermore, and as Avicenna put it:
“And the rational soul, if it engages itself upon the sciences, its activity is called intellect, and it is accordingly called theoretical intellect. And if it engages itself upon overcoming blameworthy powers that entice unto wrongdoing through their excess, into folly through their abandonment, into impetuosity and impulsivity through their agitation, into cowardice through their indifference or lukewarmness, or into wickedness through their excitement, or into degeneration through their smoldering, and leads them over into the paths of wisdom, courage, temperance, in short, unto God-consciousness, then its activity is ruling or governing. Accordingly, it is called practical intellect or reason.”
Also, intellect “is an essence standing of itself, independent of body.” The aim of human intellect is to “attach” to the “universal intellect” which was discussed in the previous essay. In a sense, intellect and “reason” are largely interchangeable terms. But as Hannah Arendt wrote, there is a slight difference between intellect and reason, in the sense that intellect “desires to grasp what is given to the senses,” whereas reason “wishes to understand its meaning.” Thus, according to Arendt, the difference between intellect and reason is the difference between cognition and thinking. Nevertheless, given the centrality of reason and intellect to the human condition, the Islamic philosopher Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi argued:
“We must not give Passion the mastery over [reason and intellect], for Passion is the blemish of Reason, clouding it and diverting it from the proper path and right purpose, preventing the reasonable man from finding the true guidance and the ultimate salvation of all his affairs.”
How far our society has veered from “salvation” can be inferred from certain statistics. For instance, of the top fifty economies in the world, the United States ranks 47th in terms of the overall health of its population. Given that “multidimensional wealth” – namely, universal access to education, health care, and basic income – is not likely to be dispensed to the population on the part of the state anytime soon, there is the possibility of a “Red Tsunami” in upcoming elections, where the likelihood of a populist overhaul being able to reduce government spending, reduce taxes, and reduce inflation so that people can have ample means to fend for their own education and health care is unclear.
Thus, as the saying goes: “Time is of the essence.” Perhaps no one understood the concept and illusion of time in the modern age more than the late Stephen Hawking. And as Hawking conveyed through what ended up being his final published thoughts before passing away:
“It is without doubt the case that our world is more politically unstable than at any time in my memory. Large numbers of people feel left behind both economically and socially. As a result, they are turning to populist – or at least popular – politicians who have limited experience of government and whose ability to take calm decisions in a crisis has yet to be tested. So that would imply that a Doomsday Clock should be moved closer to a critical point, as the prospect of careless or malicious forces precipitating Armageddon grows.”