anti-philosophical attitude

Anti-intellectualism is hostility towards and mistrust of intellect, intellectuals, and intellectual pursuits, usually expressed as the derision of education, philosophy, literature, art, and science, as impractical, politically motivated, and even contemptible human pursuits. Anti-intellectuals present themselves and are perceived as champions of common folk—populists against political and academic elitism—and tend to see educated people as a status class that dominates political discourse and higher education while being detached from the concerns of ordinary people. Totalitarian governments manipulate and apply anti-intellectualism to repress political dissent.

Anti-intellectualism contrasts the reedy scholar with the bovine boxer, the comparison epitomizes the populist view of reading and study as antithetical to sport and athleticism. Note the disproportionate heads and bodies, with the size of the head representing mental ability and the size of the body representing physical ability. ~ Thomas Nast


  • There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."
  • The Republican embrace of anti-intellectualism was, to a large extent, a put-on. At least until now.... There is no evidence that Republican leaders have been demonstrably dumber than their Democratic counterparts.
    • Max Boot, How the ‘Stupid Party’ Created Trump (August 2, 2016)
  • Both [Ayn] Rand and Rothbard...had to cast themselves as participants in a Manichean struggle against unscrupulous wrongdoers... their own views, such that anyone who disagreed with them must be a deliberate enemy of truth; and it marked the beginning of the anti-intellectualism that continues to disfigure libertarian thought.
  • Anti-intellectualism … has been present in some form and degree in most societies; in one it takes the form of the administering of hemlock, in another of town-and-gown riots, in another of censorship and regimentation, in still another of Congressional investigations.
  • Anti-intellectualism … first got its strong grip on our ways of thinking because it was fostered by an evangelical religion that also purveyed many humane and democratic sentiments. It made its way into our politics because it became associated with our passion for equality. It has become formidable in our education partly because our educational beliefs are evangelically egalitarian. Hence, as far as possible, our anti-intellectualism must be excised from the benevolent impulses upon which it lives by constant and delicate acts of intellectual surgery which spare these impulses themselves.
  • Fundamentalism, with its born-again regression, its pink-and-gold concept of heaven, its literal-mindedness, its rambunctious good cheer... its anti-intellectualism... its puerile hymns... are made to order for King Kid America.
    • Florence King, Reflections in a Jaundiced Eye, St. Martin's Press: 1990, page 33
  • I shall always be grateful to one of my critics, who, in a book review, perplexed me by his remark that I was "anti-intellectual." I wrote him to find out what, precisely, made him level this charge. He replied by pointing out that I explicitly took issue with the governing ideas of today’s intelligentsia… For my critic, the very fact that I had set myself against the intelligentsia made me anti-intellectual in "a straightforward sense." May I confess that his answer thrilled me? I knew I had heard something important, something I would think about for a long time. I had always thought of an intellectual as someone who thinks for himself or herself, who explores ideas wherever they might lead, and who, above all… is suspicious of the argument from authority, especially group authority.
    • Gary Saul Morson, What Is the Intelligentsia? Once More, an Old Russian Question (Fall 1993)
  • Unreason and anti-intellectualism abominate thought. Thinking implies disagreement; and disagreement implies nonconformity; and nonconformity implies heresy; and heresy implies disloyalty — so, obviously, thinking must be stopped. But shouting is not a substitute for thinking and reason is not the subversion but the salvation of freedom.
  • This, then, is the new illiteracy, the illiteracy of those who can read but don't. [...] This new illiteracy is more pernicious than the old, because unlike the old illiteracy it does not debar its victims from power and influence, although like the old illiteracy it disqualifies them for it. Those long-dead men and women who learned to read so that they might read the Bible and John Bunyan would tell us that pride is the greatest of all sins, the father of sin. And the victims of the new illiteracy are proud of it. If you don't believe me, talk to them and see with what pride they trumpet their utter ignorance of any book you care to name.
    • Gene Wolfe, "From a house on the Borderland", Horrorstruck (1987); reprinted in Gene Wolfe, Castle of Days (1992)

See also

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