A Tell-All Score?
Intellect is highly valued in western society, perhaps even more so than many other attributes that make us human, such as the mental and moral makeup of one’s character. There have been a wide array of apparatuses that serve the purpose of gauging one’s intelligence, the most notable being the Intelligence Quotient, or IQ for short, a standardized test which deals primarily in the realm of logic, testing an individual's ability to decode and solve a variety of mental puzzles in a reasonable manner. But is IQ really indicative of one’s intelligence? Is one’s IQ score crucial in identifying their self-worth and role in society?
Most have pledged a hasty allegiance to the magical IQ score. Exclusive clubs like Mensa have been organized to facilitate communities of highly intelligent individuals. In this instance, one’s IQ score is the sole point of concern. All other faculties are pushed to the side for the intrinsically meaningless score.
Some institutions have battled to find value within the IQ score, and study factors beyond IQ to correctly identify the needs of an individual.
“Education systems use IQ tests to help identify children for special education and gifted education programmes and to offer extra support. Researchers across the social and hard sciences study IQ test results also looking at everything from their relation to genetics, socio-economic status, academic achievement, and race.”
So, should you relinquish hope of a successful life if you fail to achieve an adequate score in this test of logic and reason? Of course not (Mensa’s parties suck anyway). There is so much more to a person than a mere test score. Besides, what is intelligence in the first place? Isn’t it a little presumptuous to believe that there is only one definition when it comes to classifying an individual’s brain power?
There have been many great minds who challenge western society's love affair with that of logic and reason, such as Jacques Derrida and Friedrich Nietzsche. These two intellectuals have risen to their level of fame through raising intriguing criticism directed upon society's innate inclination towards structuralization. Boiling down the dense phenomena of intelligence into a mere standardized score is a prime example of structuralization. Nietzsche in particular is celebrated for his cynical insights upon the egoism expressed by the human race.
“Once upon a time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing. That was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of 'world history,' but nevertheless, it was only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star cooled and congealed, and the clever beasts had to die. One might invent such a fable, and yet he still would not have adequately illustrated how miserable, how shadowy and transient, how aimless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature. There were eternities during which it did not exist. And when it is all over with the human intellect, nothing will have happened.” (Nietzsche)
Jacques Derrida holds somewhat similar sentiments to that of Nietzsche's however, Derrida bears a more optimistic view upon the human intellect. Derrida challenges society’s excessive loyalty to certain ideas, ideas which are interpreted as absolute truths and heirachally praised in the minds of the masses. The logos backed IQ test is a manifestation of mans abundant desire to claim certain facets of life to be universally superior to others. This is done with sheeplike sentimentality.
Derrida conflates this sheeplike sentimentality towards that of logic as an overruling problem. A problem which can be identified and further delved into through the acceptance of doubt, or as Derrida phrases it, aporia.
“What, in sum, appears to block our way or to separate us in the very place where it would no longer be possible to constitute a problem, a project, or a projection, that is, at the point where the very project or the problematic task becomes impossible and where we are exposed, absolutely without protection, without problem, and without prosthesis, without possible substitution, singularly exposed in our absolute and absolutely naked uniqueness, that is to say, disarmed, delivered to the other, incapable even of sheltering ourselves behind what could still protect the interiority of a secret. There, in sum, in this place of aporia, there is no longer any problem.” (Derrida)
The questions of IQ’s universal validity may be labeled as the problem is respect to the Derridean worldview. The problem, in this instance being western societies jurisdiction that the IQ backed logic is the chief concern when distinguishing ones worth. We can begin to resolve this issue, according to Derrida, with our acceptance of aporia. Through this acceptance we can deconstruct both sides of the overriding problem.
Idealogical Tug of War
It appears much more simple to claim blind allegiance to a certain concept over another. W. Joel Schneider, a psychologist as Temple University states, “Our society at this time in history values the ability to make generalizations from incomplete data and to deduce new information from abstract rules”. The act of knowing becomes intellectually comforting. Embracing this comfort transforms the truly confusing realm which surrounds each and every one of us into an easily digestible, rational experience.
In reality, each cherished and hated idea finds significant meaning through its juxtaposition. Both sides may very well be onto something and simultaneously be suffering from conflicting fallacies. Therefore, one should withhold hasty judgement towards conflicting concepts. Strive for objectivity in the hopes of excavating the full scope of truth which is rarely confined to a singular side of the coin. Hence, is the power of aporia.
In regards to IQ, it most certainly serves a valid purpose. I would not currently be writing this virtual sentence under the roof of a large library on my laptop without the powerful virtuous of Intelligence. It is imperative to salute the IQ. However, this does not mean we must bow down before the likes of IQ and chant our acceptance of it being the essential element of one’s makeup.
There remain a monsoon of varying emotional attributes that fulfill duties just as crucial as that of IQ. Being able to control these emotions is a form of Intelligence in its own right. “It’s no wonder that emotional intelligence was heralded as the next big thing in business success, potentially more important than IQ, when Daniel Goleman’s bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence, arrived in 1995”.
We are all complex beings, that very complexity is concerned with much more than IQ.
The IQ test’s meaning is far less significant to one’s overall cognitive ability than we naively grant it. Sure, it can help to determine one’s proficiency in decoding puzzles. However, it fails to take account of an individual's ability to spark friendships or gauge their capacity for empathy, qualities which are just as important in the grand scheme of things. This is not to say logic and reason are not important, but this overzealous commitment to these concepts, what Derrida calls logocentrism, is not the end-all be-all when it comes to identifying the social and intellectual worth of an individual.
Still, society will always have a natural inclination toward a clear cut answer. Life is littered with enigmas, and expelling the mysteries of life has been the goal of mankind since we mysteriously spawned upon this organic spaceship. We are enticed to choose, to set our mind, to dig our heels in, and above all else, resist becoming the dreaded flip-flopper, a person without conviction.
Withhold your judgements, deconstruct the many enigmas of life, and embrace the power that comes with confusion. It is the most intelligent choice.
"Aporias" By: Jacques Derrida
"Emotional Intelligence Needs a Rewrite" By: Lisa Feldman Barrett. Published by Nautilus
"On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense" By: Friedrich Nietzsche
"The IQ test wars: Why screening for intelligence is still so controversial" By: Daphne Martschenko. Published by Independent.co.uk
"What Do IQ Tests Test?: Interview With Psychologist W. Joel Schneider" By: Scott Barry Kaufmam. Published by Scientific American