Intelligence vs. the Intellect: Anatomy of a War Front

Intelligence has always been considered the shadow of the mind, of spirit, of understanding. Why must we now reconsider this devaluation?

Catherine Malabou

Speaker's affiliation
Kingston University
Name of Series
Wellek Library Lecture Series
Sponsoring Department
The Critical Theory Institute at the University of California, Irvine
Event Date
Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Catherine Malabou delivers the first of three Wellek Library Lectures at the University of California, Irvine. Malabou's lectures address how the current domination of neuroscience over three main fields—human sciences, government and management, and cybernetics—urges philosophy and critical theory to explore a concept they have always tended to fly away from, deliberately or not: that of intelligence. Intelligence has always been considered the shadow of the mind, of spirit, of understanding. Loaded with a biological and psychological connotation, it has paradoxically never been regarded as the privileged locus of enlightened rationality. The current acknowlegement of the ever growing part that the brain is playing in all fields of activity forces us to reconsider this devaluation, and to ask ourselves what intelligence means at an age when the borders between humanity and animality, natural and artificial cognition, democracy and hypersovereignty are definitely and radically challenged. Countering Bergson’s affirmation of intelligence as a form of life that systematically turns itself against life, thus disavowing constantly its own origin in petrifying it, Malabou shows how intelligence defined as a set of new crossings between the biological, the technological and the symbolic is revealing a new topology of thinking, freedom and resistance.

Watch Malabou's second and third Wellek lectures here:

Out of the Blue Brain (Thursday, May 21, 2015)

Like a Pollock Painting (Friday, May 22, 2015)



Catherine Malabou is Professor of Philsophy at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University, London. Aiming to bring together the continenental traditionof philosophy and psychoanalysis with advances in neuroscience, she has developed the concept of plasticity. Her books include Les nouveaux blessés (2007), Changer de différence, le féminin et la question philosophique (2009), and What Should We Do With Our Brains? Her  forthcoming book La grande exclusion addresses homelessness and social emergency.


Established in 1981, the Wellek lectures have enabled distinguished critics to exchange ideas and defend their work over the course of three lectures. The featured scholars have shaped the direction of contemporary critical theory. Past lead lecturers have included Jean Baudrillard, Étienne Balibar, Edward Said, Jean-François Lyotard, and Jacques Derrida. This event is named in honor of Professor René Wellek, whose corpus of work in critical theory is housed at UC Irvine’s Langson Library. The papers resulting from the Wellek lectures will be published by Columbia University Press.