Do you think there is an intrinsic merit to intelligence?

  • #1
I've been wrestling with this idea that, beyond the context of today's society, knowledge, intelligence, wisdom,...etc are essentially worthless and just as mundane and trivial as say... hair color. I can't reason why there is any true, logical justification of society's perception of intelligence as a far superior quality one can possess compared to anything else. It seems to me that most people value intelligence above all other qualities when evaluating someone's merit in society.
Obviously, a superior intelligence would no doubt afford one with more opportunities, but that's only because that's the way our society functions. After all, someone's intelligence can only be measured on the basis of comparison. The last man on earth is both the dumbest and smartest person alive, so therefore his intelligence is meaningless in this hypothetical stage. It isn't until another person is introduced that one can be considered "smarter" or "dumber."
Even then, what would dictate that the smarter person is "better" than the other? Is a measure of his potential? But then again, how can a measure of one's potential or intelligence warrant a label of superiority of inferiority?
I honestly think the answer lies in the egotistical nature of human beings. People who possess a quality that others do not tend to exaggerate the importance of that quality, as with the case of intellect. The reason for this post is I personally don't believe there is any real significance to being smarter than someone else, because there is no universal absolute scale of measurement that defines the importance of a person on an individual scale.
So I repeat my question and leave it open for debate, do you think there is an intrinsic merit to intelligence?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
russ_watters
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That wasn't very coherent, but let me ask you this to try to focus it: Do you think it is reasonably possible for someone with below average intelligence to be a competent doctor?
 
  • #3
That wasn't very coherent, but let me ask you this to try to focus it: Do you think it is reasonably possible for someone with below average intelligence to be a competent doctor?
I'm not inquiring about the practicality of intelligence, I would think it's obvious that a high intellect has many "valuable" applications. But what one considers "valuable" is entirely subjective to me, and in that sense I can't see any true justification for the thought that intelligence is inherently a more meritorious quality than any other.
 
  • #4
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It's a tool. You can use it to build or destroy.
 
  • #5
Evo
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This isn't philosophy. Please read both sets of guidelines before starting a thread in philosophy.
 
  • #6
Q_Goest
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The ability to adapt to one's environment might be a measure of intelligence. If we accept that measure, then the benefit is that the individual is more likely or better able to survive and propagate. Take your example of the last man on Earth. Let's add in the possibility of that individual having a mate. We might find that person being more likely to survive with a higher intelligence.

I don't know that really answers your question. We don't need superior intelligence in the conventional sense to survive today. In fact, it could even be a hindrance. But then, the definition of intelligence here is rather vague. Perhaps we could turn it around and suggest that any ability that aids in survival and the ability to propagate is a measure of intelligence.
 
  • #7
The ability to adapt to one's environment might be a measure of intelligence... We might find that person being more likely to survive with a higher intelligence...
Perhaps we could turn it around and suggest that any ability that aids in survival and the ability to propagate is a measure of intelligence.
I do agree I didn't concisely define intelligence in my post, but I think that the concept I'm thinking of isn't necessarily an evolutionary aspect of it. By the definitions/suggestions you've supplied one could say that physical strength, fertility, advanced eyesight... any ability that would aid in survival would be intelligence. But I think we can both agree that isn't the most appropriate definition, or at least as far as I'm concerned. When I refer to intellect here, I am generally talking about the quality of one's ability to reason and think rationally and analytically. So my argument here is that (and I suppose this is the result of overly nihilistic tendencies of mine) intellect in that context, removed from the conditions imposed by society (which I understand isn't practical, this is rather just an extreme case) is no more valuable to an individual than any other quality. This is why I don't understand why many individuals place such a high value on their intelligence and feel arrogant when it is superior to another's, but ashamed and intimidated when it is inferior.
Sorry for such a long reply
 
  • #8
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I do agree I didn't concisely define intelligence in my post, but I think that the concept I'm thinking of isn't necessarily an evolutionary aspect of it. By the definitions/suggestions you've supplied one could say that physical strength, fertility, advanced eyesight... any ability that would aid in survival would be intelligence. But I think we can both agree that isn't the most appropriate definition, or at least as far as I'm concerned. When I refer to intellect here, I am generally talking about the quality of one's ability to reason and think rationally and analytically. So my argument here is that (and I suppose this is the result of overly nihilistic tendencies of mine) intellect in that context, removed from the conditions imposed by society (which I understand isn't practical, this is rather just an extreme case) is no more valuable to an individual than any other quality. This is why I don't understand why many individuals place such a high value on their intelligence and feel arrogant when it is superior to another's, but ashamed and intimidated when it is inferior.
Sorry for such a long reply
I think you've found the magic word "survival". We live in a very competitive and hostile world.
 
  • #9
I'm not a native English speaker so forgive me if something sounds strange and please ask for clarification!

Well, I too think that intelligence (whatever that means) has no intrinsic value. Now, I don't think that it has no value at all, but it's not an intrinsic value.

Think for example, money. Is having more money an end in itself? The answer is no (well for most people). People want money to get other things like better education or housing or health care. Those things in turn translate to something else, until you come to a point where there can be no further translation. These are intrinsic values. These are (again for most people) things like survival, health, painless existence, pleasure, participation in social groups, peace, love, etc... Survival is good because its good and nothing else can be said about it.

Well the same goes with intelligence. It is a means to an end, and not an end in itself. If Intelligence didn't translate in at least one of those deeper values, then it would be valueless. The degree in which it realizes those values is the real value of intelligence. Find YOUR intrinsic values, and see how intelligence affects them. That would be the value of intelligence to you. It may indeed turn to be very valueable, or valueless or even harmful to you or to anyone.

The ability to adapt to one's environment might be a measure of
intelligence.
That's an interesting measure! I'm sure it could be useful in most situations. But under this measure, would you consider Stephen Hawking an intelligent man?
 
  • #10
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On the one hand unchained1978, I would whole heartedly agree with you. If you take that old hypothetical scenario of the imminent destruction of all human life, except with the possibility to save significant but limited numbers, how would we select who should be saved, then absolutely the critieria should not simply be about intelligence. At that level, the life of an exceptionally intelligent person has no more intrinsic value than that of a person of exceptionally low intelligence. I can anticipate that many would disagree with that assertion but the attitude that underlies that viewpoint is one that comes close to motivating me to man the barricades and haul out the guillotine.

On the other hand, the reality is that we are not selecting who is fit for survival and who is not, we are just idly pondering the value of high intelligence, and at that level, it is clear that human advancement has been driven by those who have operated at the edges of human capability. Think of it a little like the Olympics. When we watch the athletics and the gymnastic events (or swimming or cycling or whatever – I don’t mean to leave anyone out) most of us know that we are not ourselves capable of what we witness, but part of the fascination and wonder is about the astonishing and extraordinary things of which human beings are capable. And the thing about those who operate at the limits of human intelligence is not just about the wonder of what human beings are capable, there are also powerful, tangible benefits to all of humanity for what they achieve. At that level, I would have to say, high intelligence does have some intrinsic value.
 
  • #11
Ryan_m_b
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Nothing has an "intrinsic value". This implies that it is a worth itself rather than having worth. Having a relatively higher intelligence compared to either other organisms or other people has practical value in a wide variety of situations.

The only way we can measure things is if we have a metric to measure them by. Questions such as "is X good/worthy/valuable" are nonsense without a caveat saying "under Y condition(s)?"
 
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  • #12
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A different way to look at this is to consider a group of people that are relative equals physically - the individual with significantly higher intelligence should have an intrinsic value (of intelligence) based upon this business example:

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/i/intrinsicvalue.asp#axzz1Q6YKcfGs
"2. Intrinsic value in options is the in-the-money portion of the option's premium. For example, If a call options strike price is $15 and the underlying stock's market price is at $25, then the intrinsic value of the call option is $10. "
 
  • #13
Ryan_m_b
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A different way to look at this is to consider a group of people that are relative equals physically - the individual with significantly higher intelligence should have an intrinsic value (of intelligence) based upon this business example:

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/i/intrinsicvalue.asp#axzz1Q6YKcfGs
"2. Intrinsic value in options is the in-the-money portion of the option's premium. For example, If a call options strike price is $15 and the underlying stock's market price is at $25, then the intrinsic value of the call option is $10. "
Again though value is a relative measure. If we give ten physically equal people repetitive physical tasks their intelligence does not matter so long as it does not fall beneath that required of the task. In this respect an IQ of 130 has no more value than 85.

The question of intrinsic value implies some scale of objective value which is unrealistic.
 
  • #14
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Again though value is a relative measure. If we give ten physically equal people repetitive physical tasks their intelligence does not matter so long as it does not fall beneath that required of the task. In this respect an IQ of 130 has no more value than 85.

The question of intrinsic value implies some scale of objective value which is unrealistic.
While that's true - as the complexity of the task, tools are introduced , and planning is required - the value of the intelligence would (should) increase?
 
  • #15
Ryan_m_b
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While that's true - as the complexity of the task, tools are introduced , and planning is required - the value of the intelligence would (should) increase?
Definitely but first you need to establish a measure. If intelligence level X is needed to sufficiently use tool Y and 3X is needed to totally understand everything about the Y tool-using process then >3X is no more valuable than 3X.

Of course in real life we can argue that more intelligence is always value because a human/animal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_agent" [Broken] is unlikely to be required to just perform one task and there will always be a task out there that either requires more intelligence than others or in which there is no ceiling to how much intelligence is sufficient.
 
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  • #16
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Definitely but first you need to establish a measure. If intelligence level X is needed to sufficiently use tool Y and 3X is needed to totally understand everything about the Y tool-using process then >3X is no more valuable than 3X.

Of course in real life we can argue that more intelligence is always value because a human/animal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_agent" [Broken] is unlikely to be required to just perform one task and there will always be a task out there that either requires more intelligence than others or in which there is no ceiling to how much intelligence is sufficient.
In real life, business managers are often faced with the challenge of matching persons to positions - where all things are supposed to be equal and seniority is supposed to have value. Sometimes an intelligent teenager with 5 minutes of experience is more valuable than a seasoned worker with 10+ years of experience. This post was based upon experience and observations - please label IMO
 
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  • #17
Ryan_m_b
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This post was based upon experience and observations - please label IMO
Sorry I'm not sure what you mean? I know what "IMO" means but not what you are referring to.
 
  • #18
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Sorry I'm not sure what you mean? I know what "IMO" means but not what you are referring to.
I've personally observed behavior in business settings. I don't have any data to post - it's pure opinion that I've observed (high intelligence high school and college students) adapt quickly and work more efficiently than a very experienced (and lower intelligence) person(s).
 
  • #19
Ryan_m_b
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I've personally observed behavior in business settings. I don't have any data to post - it's pure opinion that I've observed (high intelligence high school and college students) adapt quickly and work more efficiently than a very experienced (and lower intelligence) person(s).
Ah I see, I have observed this to but have also observed highly intelligent people being inept at tasks that people are experienced with. But I think this is down to English's poor definition of the term "intelligence"
 
  • #20
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Ah I see, I have observed this to but have also observed highly intelligent people being inept at tasks that people are experienced with. But I think this is down to English's poor definition of the term "intelligence"
I think you might be referring to the other end of the spectrum - where the very high intelligence person (focused on research perhaps) forgets to tie their shoes or iron their shirt?
 
  • #21
Ryan_m_b
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I think you might be referring to the other end of the spectrum - where the very high intelligence person (focused on research perhaps) forgets to tie their shoes or iron their shirt?
Depends on the person, I've worked with highly intelligent people either academically or practically that are inept at dealing with people, organisation and even thinking outside the box. It's strange but people of the latter variety were highly intelligent with things that they already know but didn't innovate when it came to tasks they couldn't do, they just didn't do it.
 
  • #22
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Depends on the person, I've worked with highly intelligent people either academically or practically that are inept at dealing with people, organisation and even thinking outside the box. It's strange but people of the latter variety were highly intelligent with things that they already know but didn't innovate when it came to tasks they couldn't do, they just didn't do it.
That's an interesting observation. Again, the manager of these persons can either be frustrated by the narrow focus or delighted over the self discipline and confidence in that task - and act accordingly. IMO - it's the coach/manager/administrator/supervisor that has the opportunity to excel when equipped with exceptional people.
 
  • #23
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It's probably too soon to say whether intelligence in humans affords any evolutionary advantage.
 
  • #24
The only way we can measure things is if we have a metric to measure them by. Questions such as "is X good/worthy/valuable" are nonsense without a caveat saying "under Y condition(s)?"
This is really the foundation for my argument. As far as I can tell, there doesn't exist a well defined, impartial and objective metric for measuring the importance of an asset or quality in someone. By that reasoning, I conclude that on a purely individual basis (i.e. outside of the confines of society), intelligence has no outlying importance in comparison to any other quality. I'm glad to see that other people share this view, it's pretty annoying when people are infatuated with their own intelligence as if it holds any weight in comparison. These kind of observations are what prompted this post.
 
  • #25
Ryan_m_b
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This is really the foundation for my argument. As far as I can tell, there doesn't exist a well defined, impartial and objective metric for measuring the importance of an asset or quality in someone. By that reasoning, I conclude that on a purely individual basis (i.e. outside of the confines of society), intelligence has no outlying importance in comparison to any other quality. I'm glad to see that other people share this view, it's pretty annoying when people are infatuated with their own intelligence as if it holds any weight in comparison. These kind of observations are what prompted this post.
Well depending on what you mean there is no such thing as an "impartial and objective metric". On average in human society being more intelligent will help you so it has value, the point is that this value only exists because it allows you to do things that are judged of value and be rewarded as such.
 

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