(This is an exercise in the rational imagination).

1. Imagine a universal intelligence. It isn’t hard to do.

2. Of course it is hard to do.

3. But not impossible.

4. Nothing rules it out…everything rules it in.

5. Does the imagination pay dividends here? Of a sort. What sorts of dividends?Learning (what exactly) through the rational imagination.

To begin, let us take some time and gather some data, albeit just a little. Imagine a universal intelligence. What might that mean? It’s a command, a directive if you prefer, an instruction even. It has the form ‘imagine X’ where X is simply some situation or state of affairs or object or entity or scenario or story. In philosophy this form is what is called a ‘thought experiment’ (sometimes, in contexts which we will explore later, they might be called ‘intuition pumps’). The form can be boiled down to a directive or instruction to ‘imagine’ attached to a specific content. The only limits on the thought experiment is the unimaginable.

So, imagine a universal intelligence exists. First of all, what exactly is this ‘universal intelligence’ you are being instructed to imagine? Might different people not imagine it differently? In fact, isn’t it obvious that different people will imagine the universal intelligence differently, sometimes very differently, simply because they are different people?

Imagine a universal intelligence exists, a consciousness that is an agent in the world, a consciousness which extends beyond the limits of time and space. Now the image is perhaps a little more widespread, a little more ‘held in common’, something we might be able to notice by the wide degree of recognition that might arise at this point – in the form of ‘oh, so that’s what they meant’. The universal intelligence is God. Now you see.

Except you don’t.

Imagine a universal intelligence, a consciousness that is an agent in the world, a consciousness which extends beyond the limits of time and space but which is not infinite.

Godlike, but not god, or even God.

Now, what does this universal intelligence look like. Not literally of course. You are not being asked to describe some visual characteristics. Rather, use the minds eye to observe the concept, to trace its form. What does the universal intelligence look like?

Hopefully this question makes sense, or at least seems to.


An anorganic body is not defined by its constitutive organization,
but by its states. The Anti-Oedipus distinguished different
states of the body. On the one hand, the orifices couple on to
organs they find contiguous with them, and draw in nutritive
flows. With the forces of its own strong jowls the infantile mouth
draws into the milk, along with gulps of air and warmth. These
forces produce plenitude, satisfaction, and contentment, which
is not simply an affect shimmering over the inner content. For
contentment is itself a force; the infantile body closes its orifices,
curls up upon itself, closes its eyes and ears to outside
fluxes, makes itself an anorganic plenum, a “body without
organs,” in Artaud’s expression. This undifferentiated and
closed plenum produces and reproduces itself; Deleuze and
Guattari identify the Id, and the primary repression that produces
the Id, with this state of the body. Its contentment is a
primary mode of death drive, which is not a compulsion to
disintegrate into the quiescence of the inert, but the primary

Alphonso Lingis, Dismembered body parts, Pli Vol 4#1&2

The universal intelligence is closed in, curled up on itself.


Article written by

philosopher and filmmaker from brighton, currently teaching philosophy at the Free University of Brighton

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