“Intelligence Reframed” by Howard Gardner: Not a Very Good Book on Multiple Intelligences

Обновлено: 6 дек. 2021 г.

Only half of the book Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century (1999) is directly dedicated to exploring the theory of multiple intelligences with its nuances, the rest of the book explores miscellaneous topics. As with my previous instances of reading Howard Gardner’s books, it didn’t impress me with depth or quality of thinking. The book is outdated and is not a good source of up-to-date information.



While the multiple intelligences theory is a significant advancement towards a multilineal view of human development, this particular book lacks a distinctively developmental view (in the best sense of this term). Gardner fails to mention any stages of development of a particular intelligence, even though he is well aware of the works of such developmentalists as Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, and Carol Gilligan and discusses developmental psychology in other works.


Again, to emphasize this point: it saddens me that Gardner’s view of multiple intelligences, at least in this book, seems to be undevelopmental—both in terms of child development (no discussion of stages) and in terms of adult development (no discussion of how multiple intelligences evolve in adults). It’s a major disappointment, given what we know about development thanks to child & adult development research. It is confusing given Gardner’s involvement with developmental psychology.


The book wouldn’t significantly deepen your understanding of multiple intelligences, it is not an example of a breakthrough high-quality thinking, for many of Gardner’s arguments seem to be arbitrary or ill-informed (as with his reasoning of why one cannot speak of such thing as moral intelligence—really, he is willing to endorse musical intelligence while denying moral intelligence or expressing suspicion towards emotional intelligence based on dubious reasoning). The book is a series of “educated guesses” rather than a serious groundbreaking treatise (although I must say I did like the first half of the book . . . Gardner’s intuition that development shouldn’t be reduced to a single factor is most definitely true).


There are obvious developmental limitations inherent to the book’s perspective itself. In this book multiple intelligences are portrayed in a very pluralistic-stage oriented way (if I am to refer to a stage distinguished in Ken Wilber’s famous developmental model as well as in many other developmental frameworks such as Ego Development Theory and Spiral Dynamics), with lots of emphasis on such noble causes as non-marginalization and horizontal inclusion—but at the price of totally ignoring undeconstructable vertical stage sequences.


Gardner’s perspective in this book is also, obviously, oriented towards exclusive identification with a gross-materialistic state of consciousness—so even his discussion of spiritual intelligence lacks any understanding of such things as meditation or contemplative prayer experiences and what they bring to our knowing of the world, even though he is aware of Daniel Goleman’s works as well as those of Ken Wilber (he even refers to Wilber’s important book The Eye of Spirit).



I believe Ken Wilber’s discussion of developmental lines (or developmental streams), each of which unfolding in stages, is much more powerful, much more nuanced, has much more clarity and granularity (and depth)—and is more true to how human beings actually grow and develop. See his book Integral Psychology—it is much better to invest time in reading and studying it instead of Gardner’s work.

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