The MI Series (Bonus): Existential

We have covered the eight main areas of Multiple Intelligence, but there is an ninth area that is still under debate and has not been made official: Existential.

While the other areas are far more concrete and fairly easy to show and measure, this proposed intelligence can be open for wide interpretation. Howard Gardner describes this area as being characterized by “capturing and pondering the fundamental questions of existence” (Human Intelligence, p. 22). He admits readily that this area needs more evidence in order for it to qualify as an intelligence.

The default assumption is that this is referencing a sort of “spiritual intelligence,” but spirituality is not really mentioned in Gardner’s idea of it above. Religion is not mentioned, either. Right there, two of the major ideas that most of us have when it comes to this type of intelligence are more or less thrown out. Being religious does not necessarily equal high Existential Intelligence.

By this definition, plenty of scientists could possibly fit into this category, which could easily shift it into the Logical/Mathematical or even Naturalist areas. Looking strictly on the spiritual side could yield people ranging from the Pope to Deepak Chopra, and all the way to religious cults if taken far enough. All of those just listed could also easily fall into Interpersonal or Verbal/Linguistic. It is a slippery slope.


The idea of such an intelligence, though, is intriguing. I personally think that it should be explored further. Even if it doesn’t end up being its own intelligence category, it could become a subcategory, or perhaps just an area of exploration for further study.

And that wraps up the Multiple Intelligence blog series! If you missed any of the previous posts in the series, I will link them just below. I hope you learned a little bit more about this amazing theory, the different ways of looking at intelligence, and gained some insight into my practice and approach. As always, feel free to email me at, or visit the main site at

Previous entries in The MI (Multiple Intelligence) Series: Spatial, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Musical, Logical/Mathematical, Naturalistic, Bodily-Kinesthetic, and Verbal/Linguistic.

Additional Reading

Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Howard Gardner. BasicBooks, 1983.

ThoughtCo. article (very good overview of Existential Intelligence, and what it looks like in action)

The Second Principle (another really good exploration of the implications of an Existential Intelligence)

Photo Credit: My own 🙂