James Robert Flynn is a political philosopher and an intelligence researcher based in New Zealand. He is most famous for his publications about the continued year-after-year increase of IQ scores throughout the world, which is now referred to as the Flynn Effect. His last manuscript, entitled “In Defense of Free Speech: The University as Censor,” and initially scheduled for publication in September 2019, was withdrawn by its own publisher.
Grégoire Canlorbe: Besides your inquiries in intelligence research, you got involved in the exegesis of Aristotle’s philosophy… your very first published book developing “an Aristotelian view” on ideology in politics. What does your current polemical case for free speech owe to this Aristotelian background?
James Flynn: I believe that I would defend free speech my debt to Aristotle aside. Any censorship turns what should be a contest of ideas into a test of strength—who has the power to shut their opponent up—and “might makes right” is hardly a principle that will maximize truth. But Aristotle was well aware that dialogue rather than authority was the proper method. He said: “Plato was a friend to us all, but an even better friend must be the truth.”
Grégoire Canlorbe: While Aristotle’s pre-scientific physics attested to a kind of intelligence more empirical than imaginative, and more qualitative than measurement-oriented, Galilei’s intellect would exhibit qualities of speculation and inspiration, and mathematical and logico-experimental aptitudes, from which modern, properly scientific physics would spring. How would those two distinct sorts of intelligence translate into a contemporary IQ test?
James Flynn: The current IQ tests are culturally relative in the sense that they try to measure skills appropriate in a modern scientific society. Look at the subtests of the Wechsler IQ test: (1) Vocabulary measures when you have a command of the language of a school-educated person; (2) Similarities measures whether you can use abstractions to classify and generalize as scientists do; (3) Arithmetic measures whether you are numerate; (4) Digit span measures whether you have a working memory for numbers; (5) Coding measures whether you note correlations between two systems of identification.