Why is Intelligence Difficult to Define?
Intelligence is not easy to define in the same way that it is almost impossible to measure it accurately. Intelligence Quotient or IQ is not the end-all be-all measurement for intelligence; it only shows one side to it. Intelligence is usually defined by the intellectual capacity of a person yet these capacities are different depending on the context they exist in. An academically competent individual is perceived intelligent within the halls of the academe yet he may not be so much when he is situated in the streets. For people who consider themselves street smart, they see themselves intelligent only in more practical situations in life. The definition of intelligence is not monopolized, rather it exists in different forms, and both individualized and collectivized.
What is clear is that intelligence is not completely borne out of learning. Some people see intelligence as something inherent in an individual but for some, they think of it as something integrated; both learned and inherent. Back in the old days, intelligence was associated only to people who held high positions in the society. These privileged individuals had the capacity to be educated and to access different bodies of knowledge. Aside from this, going more years back, women were not even allowed to study. In a time where the society was heavily patriarchal, the idea of knowledgeable women was taboo. This does not mean that women who had no access to education were automatically unintelligent. This proves that intelligence must always be contextualized for it to be understood fully in the society.
Howard Gardner, an academic, presented the concept of multiple intelligences. For Gardner, intelligence can be put into different categories. This meant that all of us are intelligent in different ways. A person whose intelligence is within the visual spatial category may not fall within the bodily kinetic category. The dynamism of intelligence also signifies that it does not come in black and white. Intelligence is definitely contextual and it is perceived differently by every individual. This is why the society should not put a standard on intelligence. Some academic institutions are notorious in putting a strict standard on how intelligence is measured and somehow this is acceptable because these institutions function in a way that is dependent on academic competency. In their context, it is the primary way of defining intelligence but that does not mean that their ways should apply outside of their social environment.
In the society, not all who are perceived as intelligent easily navigate their way in life. Not all become successful later in life. This is proof that despite the inherent intelligence some people may have, this is not cultivated in the long run. This keeps individuals in reaching their full potentials in the society. This is the danger in standardizing intelligence which is a human trait. When it is standardized, it tends to be applied in the different aspects of the society. This is the rule that is seen when academic institutions only accept a chosen few that pass their standards, the same way that companies only choose the best candidates to work for their team.
At the end of the day, intelligence is still difficult to define because it is a human trait that can both come naturally and acquired through learning. What the society needs is to have a deeper understanding of intelligence and all its aspects and recognize it even in its most “informal” forms. It is high time to remember that not only academics are the intelligent individuals in the society. Like Gardner says, each of us has a little bit inside us and it’s up to us how to use it to its full potential.