TV is the epitome of low art in its desire to appeal to and enjoy the attention of unprecedented numbers of people. But TV is not low because it is vulgar or prurient or stupid. It is often all these things, but this is a logical function of its need to please Audience. And I’m not saying that television is vulgar and dumb because the people who compose Audience are vulgar and dumb. Television is the way it is simply because people tend to be really similar in their vulgar and prurient and stupid interests and wildly different in their refined and moral and intelligent interests.
– David Foster Wallace, “E Unibas Pluram”
One of the strongest criticisms of IQ that I know of is that it loses its predictive value at the higher end of the scale. You know with reasonable statistical likelihood that someone with an IQ of 85 might be qualified to be property maintenance manager, but not a real-estate agent. Someone with an IQ of 115 is likely qualified to be a real-estate agent, but unlikely to be successful as a theoretical physicist. But what can you know about someone with an IQ of 170?
In theory, you know that they can do something very well with their head, but IQ by itself does not tell you what that something is. At normal ranges, it establishes basic levels of competencies, but at the higher range, abnormalities make it clear that intelligence diverges into multiple intelligences. A mathematical savant may have extraordinary difficulty with language (we might call such a person autistic). Someone with a phenomenal memory, or an ability to clearly and beautifully explain concepts may have a very difficult time with numbers.
There does appear to be a measure for general intelligence known as g-factor” in the world of psychometrics, and the point is not to dismiss or reject this metric, but to observe how the relevance of this metric breaks down at the higher extreme… and, interestingly enough, seems to intensify at the lower end. Stupidity, in its slowness and incomprehension, has one facet, even if stupid people are, in other ways, different from each other. But intelligence takes many forms, going in many different directions. It is characterized by certain common qualities (namely, speed and functionality), but can manifest in a dizzying variety of ways. Stupidity, on the other hand, merges towards a common point.
The more I have thought about “objective morality,” I have come to think of morality in a similar fashion to intelligence. There appears to exist an objective evil, something we all know intuitively, and which transcends the differing standards of morality across different cultures. It may seem intuitive to imagine that this implies an objective good as well, as though evil represents one end of single-dimension scale. But in reality, there is no real reason to assume this, and the examples of moral excellence we find in history demonstrates a divergence of standards which leaves no room for a single, “objective” good. Like stupidity, moral evil seems to converge from or towards a single essence. Like intelligence, moral excellence diverges into multiple branches according to differing standards that emerge in differing environments.
I suspect that the absence of a clear, objective moral “good” is what causes many people to presume that morality itself is an illusion, and to call themselves amoralists or moral nihilists. Conversely, the clarity of objective evil might explain why many people believe in an objective moral good as well. This conception of morality — of diverging branches of subjective excellence departing from a common trunk of objective evil — also would explain why well-off rich people are more inclined towards moral nihilism, while the poorer and more war-torn parts of the world are more inclined not only towards moral realism, but even absolutism.