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The Relativist Disdain for Intelligence

Gabriel Andrade


Published: 2020/03/01


Relativism is the doctrine that rejects universal standards of cross-cultural comparisons. Ultimately, this implies that there are no universally valid criteria to establish the superiority of one culture over another. As prototypical relativists posit it, this lack of universal, cross-culturally accepted criteria pertains to achievement, knowledge, and moral behavior. Relativism therefore disdains any evaluation of human societies and cultures by such “objective” criteria as economic efficiency, social complexity, ethical standards and conduct, achieved happiness, and creativity. IQ is an important measure that runs counter to relativism, although there are many other possible rankings on the basis of socially valued traits. The very concept of intelligence is therefore rejected, because intelligence establishes hierarchical relations amongst human beings. This article examines relativism in two of its variants, cognitive and moral, and how they relate to concepts of intelligence. It concludes that relativism is an untenable doctrine.

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