In a previous question there was a debate as to whether Voldemort is a genius or not. Here is some evidence towards his magical intelligence:

  • Possessed a power beyond almost any wizard in known history, and since magic has a lot to do with knowledge, he must have had greater magical knowledge than any wizard in known history.

  • Left Hogwarts with "top grades in every examination he had taken".

  • Is very loquacious: He inspires fear and loyalty in his followers. Also leaders in general need to be smart in order to make intelligent decisions. (Not sure if speaking Parseltongue makes you loquacious...)

Obviously he possessed knowledge regarding magic that far surpassed almost anyone in the Harry Potter universe. However if we discount his magical knowledge, does he possess an extraordinary intelligence that isn't a result of his lust for magical knowledge? There is certainly evidence of poor decisions made by him, are there examples outside of magical knowledge that show he possesses superior intelligence?

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    Not an answer, but I think you're making an incorrect premise. There are super-numerous examples of people generally considered "intelligent" who made poor decisions. May 25, 2012 at 23:51
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    Also not worthy of an answer, but I don't see why his magical knowledge is NOT a valid indicator of his intelligence. It's like saying "Is there any indicator of Einstein's intelligence, that isn't a result of his lust for knowledge how physics makes the Universe tick". May 25, 2012 at 23:53
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    Also note that knowledge and intelligence are not the same thing and that one can excel in one area while failing in the other. Knowledge is simply possession of accurate statements in one's mind (with different philosophers adding various constraints, like justification), while intelligence is the ability to recognize patterns and make valid inferences from statements.
    – jwodder
    May 25, 2012 at 23:58
  • @DVK I wasn't making that premise, though poor decisions are definitely not an indication of intelligence. And I view magic more as a skill than an indication of intelligence, especially considering the number of people who are good at magic, but terribly unintelligent; it definitely requires smarts, but I don't think that being good at magic means that you are smart.
    – NominSim
    May 26, 2012 at 0:06
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    @NominSim: One thing that I think you are overlooking is the nature of Hogwarts and magical society. In a muggle school there are a multitude of subjects. In Hogwarts, there are also a multitude of subjects, but all of them are some form of magic or relate to magic. They don't study language at Hogwarts, or math, or science, or art or literature. So how else could a wizard measure themselves intellectually - there isn't anything else. Unless you count history of magic, but I doubt that very many folks really care about that. May 26, 2012 at 2:36

2 Answers 2


Yes, the Dark Lord is intelligent apart from his magical knowledge. He is cunning and crafty, as evidenced by his behavior after first regaining a body at the end of TGOF.

He stayed hidden, building alliances, gathering his forces, and intentionally creating an air of mystery and fear.

He was also able, quite apart from magical ability, to plot a way to snatch Harry from under Dumbledore's watchful eye, by planting a spy at Hogwarts, who would ensure Harry's victory and transportation to that graveyard. That took planning, thought, and showed that he was quite intelligent.

He was able to fool teachers as a youth, hiding his true nature from all but Dumbledore, but never slipping up enough to give even Dumbledore proof of his involvement in events like the ones that happened while Tom was at school. The worst of those events, Tom was able to successfully frame an innocent fellow student.

The books are chock full of examples of Voldemort's intelligence. His false charm, cunning, and planning, all done masterfully to hide his true aims are evident from his youth until his demise.

His downfall, like all evil geniuses, was overconfidence in his own abilities. This isn't a lack of intelligence, it's simply human nature.

  • Worst would be killing a fellow student (Myrtle), don't you think? Framing someone is, actually, everyday activity in schools, only on a different level. Adding salt to the wound, killing a fellow student for making a Horcrux.
    – n611x007
    Jun 16, 2012 at 18:22
  • @naxa - actually, I was referring to Myrtle's death as the worst, for which he framed Hagrid (or at least his pet). Jun 16, 2012 at 22:03
  • ok, now it's clearer. :) I think it would be worth to refer to this in the answer, though.
    – n611x007
    Jun 17, 2012 at 9:11

My answer is: yes.

Taking magic out of the equation makes most HP discussions is a little constrained. For example, if an economic genius with an bottomless knowledge of market behavior is looked at without his virtues as it pertains to economics, that person may or may not still be considered an intellectual person. Often, an intellectual is completely inept outside of their field of expertise. A renowned philosopher may make terrible decisions when "on the streets", or when making decisions on things he/she does not care about, such as their diet.

Such is the genius scientist who alienates his friends.

An intellectual is defined as a person who uses intelligence in a professional or defining capacity.

Since the question plainly asks to remove magic from the picture, we still see a man who led a small yet failed band of revolutionaries. Who devoted a part of his life to discovering/learning secrets. He manipulated a group of followers into obeying him. He was not typically the muscle of his operation. He orchestrated his will while his existence was yet faint.

Not all the classes in Hogwarts require "magical ability". Consider "potions", a skill that seems to require no actual magical ability, but instead requires an innate knowledge of various ingredients. Regardless of what he was taught in school, he still received top grades. Magic aside, he was a top rated scholar.

  • Um. No. You're confusing expertise and IQ. Intelligent person can learn any topic (though be better at some than others). It's about reasoning and pattern recognition, not economics. Apr 25, 2014 at 14:22
  • @DVK The accepted answer is yes, and this is nearly 2 years old, time to retire it. Any argument to the contrary seems to be arguing semantics. Apr 30, 2014 at 11:21

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