Submission Date


Document Type




Faculty Mentor

Stephanie Mackler


Presented during the 22nd Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 24, 2020 at Ursinus College.

A presentation related to this project is available here.

Project Description

The prevailing theory of intelligence in American society encourages restrictive treatment of others and endorses a dull impression of human capabilities. In the process of poking at their domestic opponents, modern Democrats and Republicans combine to expose our collective shortcomings on this front. Our discourse too often focuses on jockeying for position and too rarely focuses on the rich intellectual community we inhabit. Through an analysis of William James’s Pragmatism and Jacques Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster, I look to recapture a liberating view of intelligence that enables us to revise our interpretation of citizenship in an American democratic republic. I focus specifically on how James’s pragmatic method and his reimagining of ‘truth’ coalesce with Rancière’s claims about intellectual equality and our subsequent emancipation from tyranny. Brought together, their arguments urge us to redefine what we regard as intellectually possible for both those around us and for ourselves. This ‘coalition of intelligence’ can also serve as a theoretical basis for reframing our political discourse and revitalizing our understandings of equality and freedom, all of which are crucial processes in working to preserve a democratic republic. In the process, I engage with modern American narratives as valuable counterarguments to what James and Rancière offer. I conclude that the beliefs about intelligence that underlie our current democratic republic invite substantial moral and intellectual underachievement and that the ideas laid out by James and Rancière remind us of the importance of working to correct these shortcomings.

Open Access

Available to all.