• Pseudonym
    907
    Well, "What's a genius" probably deserves a thread of its own - but mere membership of Mensa doesn't cut it for me.MetaphysicsNow

    Yes, whatever conclusion we might reach about intelligence, I think we can agree that mensa membership isn't it.

    We can probably say without courting too much controversy that Mozart is a better composer than Taylor Swift, and whilst we might get heckled by adolescents for suggesting so, we could probably find a musicologist who could give us all kinds of good reasons for believing that to be the case objectively. Similarly, perhaps some professor of literature can be appealed to to show us exactly how Shakespeare is a better writer than JK Rowling.MetaphysicsNow

    So this is where I start to have problems. I'm not so sure we could find a musicologist or literature professor who could give us good reasons for assuming that Mozart was actually possessed of some quality Taylor Swift lacks (I'm presuming here she writes her own songs?). Mozart is not really considered a genius in China because China has a different musical tradition and Mozart didn't make music which appealed to that sense. So, could we say that Mozart's genius was somehow tapping into the character of his time? But then, isn't that what Bob Dylan did? Nirvana, and I suppose Taylor Swift? If not, and Mozart does have some timeless genius, then why isn't he considered highly in China, are the Chinese all stupid when it comes to music?

    What's more, if there was some objective set of thing that Shakespeare could do better than any other, then producing works of literary genius could be taught like maths.

    When Ramanujan worked out his mathematics, his culture made no difference, it was immediately recognisable as genius to Hardy, a whole continent away.

    What I'm still not seeing, though, is how admitting all that would support the idea that there is one measurable thing/property called intelligence that Shakespeare and Mozart had more of than do Taylor Swift and JK Rowling.MetaphysicsNow

    Basically, if someone who is good at maths and someone who is good at music are both 'intelligent', and if someone who is good at maths and music is more intelligent than someone only good at either, then intelligence must have some quantitative element. If a musicologist could define a genius by their capability, then it is possible (although maybe not pragmatic) for them to design a task only the capable musicians will pass. We already know we can have a maths test, so put these two tests together and someone who passes both is objectively more intelligent.

    I'm only really exploring the consequences here. Personally, I'd probably fall down on the idea that artistic merit simply can't be measured. I just don't like the hypocrisy in pretending it can be measured when proclaiming mozart a genius, but then avoiding measurement when grouping such abilities with 'intelligence' as a whole.
  • MetaphysicsNow
    299
    Well, there's quite a lot going on in your post, some of which I think I'm inclined to agree with. I think you are perfectly correct, for instance, to point out a cultural element in the ascription of genius to musicians and writers that is largely absent in the case of mathematics. Of course, I'm pretty sure that cultural and social elements nevertheless have their role to play in the life history of any genius, but the language of mathematics is, at least these days, international.
    Having said that, I think I might have to take more of an issue with what seems to be an implication of this remark of yours:
    What's more, if there was some objective set of thing that Shakespeare could do better than any other, then producing works of literary genius could be taught like maths.
    We can teach people how to write poetry, just as we can teach people how to construct mathematical proofs, but it will never follow that the people we do so teach will go on to become outstanding poets or mathematicians, rather than mediocre or even miserable ones. So, I'm not really sure there is any real difference in kind between mathematics/literature/music that can be drawn on the basis of pedagogical limits.
    Basically, if someone who is good at maths and someone who is good at music are both 'intelligent', and if someone who is good at maths and music is more intelligent than someone only good at either, then intelligence must have some quantitative element.
    Well, as I hinted above, I do not agree with the premise that someone who is good at both maths and music is more intelligent than someone good at only one or the other. But, even if I were somehow forced into agreeing with that, the most that would commit me to in regards to a quantitative aspect to intelligence generally is that we could quantify intelligence generally by counting the number of distinct intelligent behaviours a person exhibits (given appropriate circumstances for exhibiting them, of course). That is very far removed from the kind of approach engaged in by those involved in the IQ testing industry (at least in its current form).
  • Pseudonym
    907
    We can teach people how to write poetry, just as we can teach people how to construct mathematical proofs, but it will never follow that the people we do so teach will go on to become outstanding poets or mathematicians, rather than mediocre or even miserable ones. So, I'm not really sure there is any real difference in kind between mathematics/literature/music that can be drawn on the basis of pedagogical limits.MetaphysicsNow

    I think maybe the issue here is one of scale. I'm not sure what conclusions to draw from it, but the difference in ability between even a mediocre mathematics graduate (when compared to someone who has no formal mathematics training beyond primary school) is entire worlds. The non-mathematician would be lost entirely trying to work out some complex mathematical equation. Yet this is not the case for the English Literature graduate. I doubt the difference in poetry ability between an average English Lit graduate and someone with no formal training in English would even be detectable by the layman. It certainly doesn't seem to have much of an impact on what we seem to refer to as literary geniuses, who I'm fairly certain are drawn no more from the pool of English Lit graduates that they are from the pool of non-graduates. The Ramanujan's of this world, however, are vanishingly rare.

    So I'm not sure I can support the contention that we're actually teaching the English Lit graduates anything that objectively, or even statistically, makes them more able to produce works of poetry that later get labelled genius.

    Well, as I hinted above, I do not agree with the premise that someone who is good at both maths and music is more intelligent than someone good at only one or the other.MetaphysicsNow

    I think this reveals the difference between what seems like possibly your more analytical approach, and my ordinary language one. I'm not even trying to assess what we should, or could label intelligence, I don't even think that this kind of analysis makes sense. What interests me is how we actually do label intelligence, and exploring any inconsistencies in that application which might reveal interesting insights into human psychology. So I'm not questioning the 'rightness' of calling the polymath more intelligent that the uni-math. We simply do, I think it's incontestable that when faced with someone who spoke six languages, played concert violin, wrote award winning poetry and had a doctorate in maths we would call then more 'intelligent' than their neighbour who simply played violin in the same orchestra.

    Likewise, our entire education system is predicated on the fact that some people are better at maths than others. What interests me about your proposition is how you might talk about, say person A getting 50% in a maths test as opposed to person B getting 100%. Or person A writing award winning poetry whilst person B is published, but not acclaimed. If you'd like to avoid saying that one is more intelligent that the other, what would you say about them? I suppose you could simply say that one was 'better' at their particular task, but I'm not sure whether that would be just equivocating with words. If intelligence is not the capability to be 'better' at some range of tasks, then what is it?

    That is very far removed from the kind of approach engaged in by those involved in the IQ testing industry (at least in its current form).MetaphysicsNow

    Just to confirm, we're in absolute agreement on this. If intelligence testing is possible it certainly isn't being done at the moment by IQ tests. I'm inclined to think it's not testable at all in any pragmatic way, but I think that has implications for the way we currently use the term.

    A little story which I'm sure you will have heard in different guises but I think is apt here. A homesteader being told about Einstein commented that whilst he (the homesteader) had lived a long and happy life, working outdoors and enjoying whatever life handed him, having a loving wife and three happy children, Einstein had worked at often menial jobs, could not sustain a marriage, had little or no relationship with his children and died racked with guilt about his part in the atomic bomb. Who's the most intelligent?
  • Posty McPostface
    3.5k
    A little story which I'm sure you will have heard in different guises but I think is apt here. A homesteader being told about Einstein commented that whilst he (the homesteader) had lived a long and happy life, working outdoors and enjoying whatever life handed him, having a loving wife and three happy children, Einstein had worked at often menial jobs, could not sustain a marriage, had little or no relationship with his children and died racked with guilt about his part in the atomic bomb. Who's the most intelligent?Pseudonym

    You can be both. I don't know if achievement is equatable with intelligence but that's the sentiment I'm getting here. Highly intelligent people are just more productive, by about 1.5x per each SD. So, there may be an issue with directionality but they might just find different things more interesting, which sustains their aura of creativity.

    So, the issue seems more like one about creativity instead of ability and skill.
  • MetaphysicsNow
    299
    @Posty McPostface@Pseudonym A mark of an interesting anecdote is that it is open to many interpretations - I for one was thinking more along the lines of what might be the connections between happiness and intelligence.
    If intelligence is not the capability to be 'better' at some range of tasks, then what is it?
    Short answer - I do not know. Slightly longer answer - maybe it isn't really anything (any thing) at all. Perhaps I'm an intellectual nihilist :wink:
  • Pseudonym
    907


    To be honest, I'm inclined to agree.

    I think intelligence, in the way we use the word, must mean something like 'the ability to successfully (and perhaps also efficiently) carry out some task or other which is not exclusively learnt by muscle-memory'

    Hence my conclusion that on this simple level, intelligence can be tested - simply set a mixed range of such tasks and the person who succeeds at most, the most efficiently is the most intelligent.

    Its complicated by two things. The first is that intelligence usually must act on knowledge. We must do something with the known facts to produce the result. So if we're claiming to be testing something innate, the only way to do so would be to ensure all examinees have exactly the same knowledge. Pretty much impossible, I think.

    The second complication (which the anecdote is really about) comes from the fact that acquiring knowledge, practicing problem solving (in whatever field from maths to music), and even taking intelligence tests, are themselves all part of the larger task (that of living life). So one could conceivably do well in any of these specific tasks, but actually doing well in any of them is not a particularly successful way of solving the overarching problem that they are just a small part of.

    Its like an engineer building a really efficient aircraft engine which consequently is too heavy for the aircraft to carry. We would like to applaud his skill in creating such an efficient engine, but really putting all that time and effort into fuel-efficiency without considering weight wasn't very smart. Similarly, dedicating one's life to solving p vs np whilst neglecting to solve the need for companionship, family, sunshine, good food and physical excersice, would equally not be very smart.
  • Pseudonym
    907


    Should have tagged you in to the above response. It's aimed at your comment too.
  • Tomseltje
    129
    I didn't measure anything and I did not even compare your "wether" with a correctly typed "whether".MetaphysicsNow

    Our disagreement seems to be based upon your more narrow definition of the word 'to measure', You seem to apply it as something that only is about determining quantity. Perhaps if you reconsider my statements under this definition of measure : the act or process of ascertaining the extent, dimensions, or quantity of something;
    In case of determining wether an 's' or a 'z' is spelled, you made a measurement of what you saw. Otherwise, how could you tell the two apart?
  • Tomseltje
    129
    Now I understand that you do not understand statistics. If you don't understand statistics, then you won't even know what IQ tests are about. Why are you arguing if you don't know IQ tests?FLUX23

    Why are you assuming it is me who doesn't understand statistics? As long as you don't provide a decent argument for your assumption, you are just poisoning the well.
    I might just as easily assume that it is you who doesn't understand statistics to the degree required to understand me correctly, and don't know enough about how iq tests are made and applied to give an accurate response. An assertion that at least is substanciated by the fact that you failed provide any actual counterargument to my statements, but instead opted for an ad hominem fallacy.
  • MetaphysicsNow
    299
    I refer you to my final reply to FLUX23 - I believe you must have a very specific theory of mind-brain identity involving a very specific definition of "measurement" and probably some representational view of perception such that merely in seeing something, a measurement is always being made. Under any run-of-the-mill notion of "measurement" seeing and "s" on a page and measuring an "s" on a page are entirely different kinds of activities.
  • Tomseltje
    129
    No, that won't work either.SophistiCat

    Sure it works. It works for bodylenght, so why not for intelligence. If we want to determine whether someone is short or tall, we compare them to the average height. Next to this we can express their height in cm or inches, the latter doesn't tell whether someone is tall or short without a known average.

    In case of children we even correct the measured lenght for age, same as with iq tests. Why assume it won't work if the same appraoch clearly works for other things we measure?
  • Tomseltje
    129
    And when you recognise that you have made a mistake (if you ever do) do you thereby measure that fact?MetaphysicsNow

    The measuring preceeds the recognision.
  • Tomseltje
    129
    The questioning of IQ validity is an evidence of low IQ.Belter

    I'd argue that the questioning of iq validity is evidence of high iq, but that total dismissal of iq validity is evidence of low iq. The first is about separating baby from bathwater, the second is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
  • Tomseltje
    129
    And the only thing that IQ tests have ever been able to tell about anyone is how good or bad they are at taking IQ tests. — MetaphysicsNow


    This the wrong point. Why IQ tests are different to other psychological ones? The questioning of IQ validity is an evidence of low IQ.
    Belter

    Exactly, the first statement is as useless as stating "the only thing math tests have ever been able to tell about anyone is how good or bad they are at taking math tests"
    Ignoring the fact that it also tells something about the participants math skills.
    The more relevant question is: how accurate are the tests?
  • Tomseltje
    129
    If you are right, then the word "intelligent" would never have exited, much less used by anyone. It is because we have some (vague) concept of intelligence that we can use the word.FLUX23

    Odd that you seem to think I don't understand statistics, while we at least seem to agree on this statement. Perhaps your reply was adressed at someone else?
  • Belter
    78


    If you think that IQ tests are bad designed, so they are not scientifically valid, you should show some kind of evidence. If your argument is that empirical science is inherently "invalid" in some grade, it is a selection fallacy or a kind of general skepticism equally fallacious.
  • Tomseltje
    129
    Basically, we don't look inside anyone's head for intelligence. If we judge it at all we judge it by the things people successfully do. Put a series of those sorts of things in a test and, by default, you do indeed have a device for measuring the thing we're calling 'intelligence'. Either that, or admit that we really don't know what sort of thing an intelligent person should be able to successfully do, and so abandon the idea that we have any means of measuring it, neither intuitive nor quantitativePseudonym

    Agreed, though the fact that we speak about intelligence in a discriminating way, prooves that at least the ones who do this have at least some intuitive way of quantification they believe to be true enough to talk about it. Iq tests are merely an attempt to make such measurements more objective.
  • Belter
    78


    Your theory about IQ (predictable by people's belief about IQ tests) is not plausible. I said that dismissed IQ tests shows low IQ ironically. IQ is predicted by IQ tests, but of course not exclusively. Science always tends to go beyond the present knowledge, so we do not have reason to assume that present tests are the best.
  • Tomseltje
    129
    Under any run-of-the-mill notion of "measurement" seeing and "s" on a page and measuring an "s" on a page are entirely different kinds of activitiesMetaphysicsNow

    I agree on this, since it's very possible to see an s on a page without recognizing it as an s, especially to total illiterate people who don't even have a concept of what an 's' is. You can only start the measurement after seeing the 's'. So the chronological order is: 1 seeing the 's' 2 measureing the shape of the 's' 3 recognizing the 's'. Three steps you have trained your brain to perform within a second, wich someone unfamiliar with the letter 's' has not. Kids spend years in school to train this skill, so eventually some even can get it trained up to the level that they are able to read up to 500 words a minute accurately. Where at the start, even when all letters in the alfabet are known, it can take my 8 year old niece over a minute to read a 5 word sentence. Since she is less skilled at measuring the letters, and on occasion still confuses letters that look similar. d and p for instance are the same shape, just 180 degrees rotated. though when letters are the horizontal flip of each other it is still harder to her (like d and b, or p and q)
  • Dawnstorm
    21
    A little story which I'm sure you will have heard in different guises but I think is apt here. A homesteader being told about Einstein commented that whilst he (the homesteader) had lived a long and happy life, working outdoors and enjoying whatever life handed him, having a loving wife and three happy children, Einstein had worked at often menial jobs, could not sustain a marriage, had little or no relationship with his children and died racked with guilt about his part in the atomic bomb. Who's the most intelligent?Pseudonym

    Isn't that the difference between intelligence (~ the ability to "work with complexity") and wisdom (~ the ability to make things "work out fine for you")? You don't need to be intelligent to be wise, and intelligence certainly doesn't guarantee wisdom.

    If people agree with the rough definition that intelligence has something to do with handling complexity, then we could also move away from testing intelligence via success at tasks. That always sort of bothers me, because there are types of mistakes you only make when you're smart enough for them ("overthinking"). Similarly, someone determined to believe a very simple thing can resist being convinced more easily, if their thought patterns can outmaneuver those of the people who are trying to convince them: Intelligence allows for successful rationalisation of appealing nonsense.

    One might also predict that the more intelligent you are, the more easily bored you get by performing simple tasks. Things like that.

    Basically, intelligence isn't always an advantage and can often work against you in terms of wisdom. I think any definition of intelligence should allow for self-defeating intelligent behaviour.

    So, basically, the Einstein of that anecdote is definitely intelligent, but maybe not that wise, while we have no information whatsoever about the homesteader's intelligence, we could learn a thing or two from his wisdom.

    I'm not sure that's entirely how I see it, but it definitely goes in that direction.
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