person who engages in critical thinking, research, and reflection about the reality of society
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An Intellectual is a person who engages in critical study, thought, and reflection. Intelligentsia refers to a social class of intellectuals actively engaged in disseminating culture, such as artists and teachers.
- Like every 'intellectual', a philosophy teacher is a petty bourgeois. When he opens his mouth, it is petty-bourgeois ideology that speaks: its resources and ruses are infinite.
- Intellectuals are judged not by their morals, but by the quality of their ideas, which are rarely reducible to simple verdicts of truth or falsity, if only because banalities are by definition accurate
- Perry Anderson, Spectrum: From Right to Left in the World of Ideas (2007) p. 76
- There are, indeed, few things that are more frightening than the steadily increasing prestige of scientifically minded brain trusters in the councils of government during the last decades. The trouble is not that they are cold-blooded enough to “think the unthinkable,” but that they do not think.
- Hannah Arendt, "On Violence"
- Intellectuals … advertise their superiority to political practice but are absolutely in its thrall. … It is no accident that Marxist theory and practice use the intellectuals as tools and keep them in brutal subservience.
- Allan Bloom, Giants and Dwarfs (1990)
- Even intellectuals should have learned by now that objective rationality is not the default position of the human mind, much less the bedrock of human affairs.
- Roy Blount, Jr., Long Time Leaving: Dispatches from Up South
- Well, I suppose we have to have young intellectuals, if we’re ever to survive to be middle-aged philosophers.
- Algis Budrys, Some Will Not Die (1961), Chapter 5
- An intellectual is a man who says a simple thing in a difficult way; an artist is a man who says a difficult thing in a simple way.
- Charles Bukowski, Notes of a Dirty Old Man (1969).
- “An intellectual? Yes. And never deny it. An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself. I like this, because I am happy to be both halves, the watcher and the watched. "Can they be brought together?" This is a practical question. We must get down to it. "I despise intelligence" really means: "I cannot bear my doubts.”
- Albert Camus, Notebooks (1942-1951).
- A large section of the intelligentsia seems wholly devoid of intelligence.
- G. K. Chesterton, The Autobiography of G.K. Chesterton.
- Twenty years ago, Dwight Macdonald published a series of articles in Politics on the responsibility of peoples and, specifically, the responsibility of intellectuals. I read them as an undergraduate, in the years just after the war, and had occasion to read them again a few months ago. They seem to me to have lost none of their power or persuasiveness. Macdonald is concerned with the question of war guilt . He asks the question: To what extent were the German or Japanese people responsible for the atrocities committed by their governments? And, quite properly, he turns the question back to us: To what extent are the British or American people responsible for the vicious terror bombings of civilians, perfected as a technique of warfare by the Western democracies and reaching their culmination in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, surely among the most unspeakable crimes in history.
- With respect to the responsibility of intellectuals, there are still other, equally disturbing questions. Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions. In the Western world, at least, they have the power that comes from political liberty, from access to information and freedom of expression. For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology and class interest, through which the events of current history are presented to us. The responsibilities of intellectuals, then, are much deeper than what Macdonald calls the "responsibility of people," given the unique privileges that intellectuals enjoy.
- Most people are not intellectuals — a fact that intellectuals have terrible trouble coming to terms with.
- Every thinker puts some portion of an apparently stable world in peril and no one can wholly predict what will emerge in its place.
- John Dewey Experience and Nature (1925), Ch. VI: Nature, Mind and the Subject.
- Experience proves that it is rather the so called 'Intelligentsia' that is most apt to yield to these disastrous suggestions, since he intellectual has no direct contact with life in the raw, but encounters it in its easiest synthetic form-upon the printed page.
- Ask a wise man to dinner and he'll upset everyone by his gloomy silence or tiresome questions. Invite him to a dance and you'll have a camel prancing about. Haul him off to a public entertainment and his face will be enough to spoil the people's entertainment.
- Desiderius Erasmus, Praise of Folly
- I am speaking like an intellectual, but the intellectual, to my mind, is more in touch with humanity than is the confident scientist, who patronizes the past, oversimplifies the present, and envisages a future where his leadership will be accepted...We want him to plan for our bodies. We do not want him to plan for our minds, and we cannot accept, so far, his assurance that he will not do this.
- E. M. Forster, "The Challenge of Our Time", in Two Cheers for Democracy. New York, Harcourt, Brace, 1951.
- Even in the most favourable periods for cultural development , Intellectuals tend to have uneasy relationship with the status quo.
- Frank Furedi, Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?: Confronting 21st Century Philistinism.
- Intellectuals are not defined according to the jobs they do, but [by] the manner in which they act, the way they see themselves, and the values that they uphold.
- Frank Furedi, Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?: Confronting 21st Century Philistinism.
- The creative role of an intellectual requires detachment from any particular idea or interest. Since the beginning of modernity, the authority of the intellectual has rested on the claim to be acting and speaking on behalf of society as a whole.
- [I]ntellectuals have always been more influential where the people are less free, because when an intellectual persuades a dictator or a socialist prime minister (a small distinction to be sure), their advice gets translated into reality. When an intellectual says, "It would be a better society if all beer was free" a free-market politician would, or at least should, say "Maybe, but what can I do about it?"
- There's always something suspect about an intellectual on the winning side.
- Vaclav Havel, Disturbing the Peace (1986)
- Love without courage and wisdom is sentimentality, as with the ordinary church member. Courage without love and wisdom is foolhardiness, as with the ordinary soldier. Wisdom without love and courage is cowardice, as with the ordinary intellectual.
- Ammon Hennacy, The Book of Ammon (1965)
- There he lives, I thought, and carries on his labors year by year, reads and annotates texts, seeks for analogies between western Asiatic and Indian mythologies, and it satisfies him, because he believes in the value of it all. He believes in the studies whose servant he is; he believes in the value of mere knowledge and its acquisition, because he believes in progress. … He is a good, unthinking, happy child, who takes himself seriously; and, in fact, he is much to be envied.
- Herman Hesse, Steppenwolf, B. Creighton, trans., (New York: 1990), p. 78
- Since men of words usually play a crucial role in the rise of mass movements, it is obvious that the presence of an educated and articulate minority is probably indispensable for the continued vigor of a social body. It is necessary, of course, that the men of words should not be in intimate alliance with the established government. The long stagnation of the Orient has many causes, but there is no doubt that one of the most important is the fact that for centuries the educated were not only few but almost always part of the government—either as officials or priests.
- A free society is as much a threat to the intellectual's sense of worth as an automated economy is to the workingman's sense of worth. Any social order that can function with a minimum of leadership will be anathema to the intellectual.
- Eric Hoffer, The Ordeal of Change (1963).
- The intellectual craves a social order in which uncommon people perform uncommon tasks every day. He wants a society throbbing with dedication, reverence, and worship. He sees it as scandalous that the discoveries of science and the feats of heroes should have as their denouement the comfort and affluence of common folk. A social order run by and for the people is to him a mindless organism motivated by sheer physiologism.
- Eric Hoffer, The Ordeal of Change (1963).
- A ruling intelligentsia, whether in Europe, Asia or Africa, treats the masses as raw material to be experimented on, processed, and wasted at will.
- Eric Hoffer, The Temper of Our Time (1967).
- Sharp fluctuations of moral absolutism and moral relativism are also among the attitudes of intellectuals revealed in this study. The moral absolutism is reserved for the stern judgments of their own society, while a pragmatic moral relativism appears when they give the benefit of the doubt to certain dictators and their political systems as long as they find them fundamentally praiseworthy and well intentioned. It follows that the centrality and consistent use of the critical faculties of intellectuals has often been overestimated.
- Paul Hollander, From Benito Mussolini to Hugo Chavez, Intellectuals and a Century of Political Hero Worship (Cambridge University Press, 2016), p.14
- The man of action has the present, but the thinker controls the future.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., The Essential Holmes: Selections from the Letters, Speeches, Judicial Opinions, and Other Writings of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
- The course of every intellectual, if he pursues his journey long and unflinchingly enough, ends in the obvious, from which the non-intellectuals have never stirred.
- Aldous Huxley, Point Counter Point (1928).
- An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex.
- Aldous Huxley, as quoted in Discovering Evolutionary Ecology: Bringing Together Ecology And Evolution (2006) by Peter J. Mayhew, p. 24.
- Unlike the masses, intellectuals have a taste for rationality and an interest in facts.
- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited (1958).
- Intellectuals are cynical and cynics have never built a cathedral.
- Henry Kissinger, As quoted in Sketchbook 1966-1971 (1971) by Max Frisch, p. 230.
- An intellectual may be defined as a man who speaks with general authority about a subject on which he has no particular competence.
- Irving Kristol, Foreign Affairs (July 1967)
- The intellectual forces of the workers and peasants are growing and getting stronger in their fight to overthrow the bourgeoisie and their accomplices, the educated classes, the lackeys of capital, who consider themselves the brains of the nation. In fact they are not its brains but its shit.
- Science, at bottom, is really anti-intellectual. It always distrusts pure reason, and demands the production of objective fact.
- H. L. Mencken, Minority Report : H.L. Mencken's Notebooks (1956).
- First Doctor:
- Most learned bachelor
- Whom I esteem and honor,
- I would like to ask you the cause and reason why
- Opium makes one sleep.
- The reason is that in opium resides
- A dormitive virtue,
- Of which it is the nature
- To stupefy the senses.
- Well, well, well, well has he answered!
- Worthy, worthy is he to enter
- Into our learned body.
- Molière, Le Malade Imaginaire (1673), Act III
- He's not an intellectual. Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world.
- Peggy Noonan, "Broken Glass Democrats" in The Wall Street Journal (19 February 2004)
- In societies such as ours, it is unusual for anyone describable as an intellectual to feel a very deep attachment to his own country. Public opinion — that is, the section of public opinion of which he as an intellectual is aware — will not allow him to do so. Most of the people surrounding him are sceptical and disaffected, and he may adopt the same attitude from imitativeness or sheer cowardice: in that case he will have abandoned the form of nationalism that lies nearest to hand without getting any closer to a genuinely internationalist outlook. He still feels the need for a Fatherland, and it is natural to look for one somewhere abroad. Having found it, he can wallow unrestrainedly in exactly those emotions from which he believes that he has emancipated himself. God, the King, the Empire, the Union Jack — all the overthrown idols can reappear under different names, and because they are not recognised for what they are they can be worshipped with a good conscience. Transferred nationalism, like the use of scapegoats, is a way of attaining salvation without altering one's conduct.
- Certain authors, speaking of their works, say, “My book,” “My commentary,” “My history,” etc. They resemble middle-class people who have a house of their own, and always have “My house” on their tongue. They would do better to say, “Our book,” “Our commentary,” “Our history,” etc., because there is in them usually more of other people’s than their own.
- Blaise Pascal, Pensées, #43, W. F. Trotter, trans. (New York: 1958)
- Knowledge is the food of the soul; and we must take care, my friend, that the Sophist does not deceive us when he praises what he sells, like the dealers wholesale or retail who sell the food of the body; for they praise indiscriminately all their goods, without knowing what are really beneficial or hurtful.
- Plato, Protagoras, 313c, B. Jowett, trans.
- Each of these private teachers who work for pay … inculcates nothing else than these opinions of the multitude which they opine when they are assembled and calls this knowledge wisdom.
- Plato, The Republic, 493a
- The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read,
With loads of learned lumber in his head.
- And I think of the duty of every intellectual to help others to free their minds and to understand the critical approach - a duty which most intellectuals have forgotten since the time of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. For unfortunately, it is all too common among intellectuals to want to want to impress others, and as Schopenhauer put it, not to teach but to captivate. They appear as leaders or prophets - partly because it is expected of them to appear as prophets, as proclaimers of the dark secrets of life and the world, of man, history, and existence. Here, as so often, ceaseless demand produces a supply. Leaders and prophets are looked for, so it is hardly surprising that leaders and prophets are found. But 'grown men do not need leaders', as H.G. Wells once said. And grown men ought to know that they do not need leaders. As for prophets, I believe in the duty of every intellectual to keep them at arm's length.
- Karl Popper, All Life is Problem Solving (As translated by Patrick Camiller)
- The true Enlightenment thinker, the true rationalist, never wants to talk anyone into anything. No, he does not even want to convince; all the time he is aware that he may be wrong. Above all, he values the intellectual independence of others too highly to want to convince them in important matters. He would much rather invite contradiction, preferably in the form of rational and disciplined criticism. He seeks not to convince but to arouse — to challenge others to form free opinions.
- Karl Popper, All Life is Problem Solving (As translated by Patrick Camiller)
- Why do I think that we, the intellectuals, are able to help? Simply because we, the intellectuals, have done the most terrible harm for thousands of years. Mass murder in the name of an idea, a doctrine, a theory, a religion — that is all our doing, our invention: the invention of the intellectuals. If only we would stop setting man against man — often with the best intentions — much would be gained. Nobody can say that it is impossible for us to stop doing this.
- Karl Popper, In Search of a Better World (1984)
- Today there are academic dogmas as well, such as those of the cultural Left, the Austrian school of economics, and the followers of Leo Strauss. Intellectuals, moreover, often flock together; in fact very few of them are truly untamable individualists in the tradition of Socrates, Thoreau, Nietzsche, Camus, and Orwell.
- Richard A. Posner, Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline (2001), Chapter 1. Setting the Stage.
- The most profound breach in this country is not between the rich and the poor, but between the people and the intellectuals. In their view of life, the American people are predominantly Apollonian. The mainstream intellectuals are Dionysian. This means the people are reality-oriented, common sense-oriented, technology-oriented. The intellectuals call this "materialistic," and "middle-class." The intellectuals are emotion-oriented, and seek in panic an escape from a reality they are unable to deal with, and from a technological civilization that ignores their feelings.
- Ayn Rand, Apollo and Dionysus (1969).
- Most intellectual people do not believe in God, but they fear him just the same.
- Wilhelm Reich, in James Lee Christian Philosophy : An Introduction to the Art of Wondering, (2005), p. 556.
- Complaints about the social irresponsibility of the intellectual typically concern the intellectual’s tendency to marginalize herself, to move out from one community by interior identification of herself with some other community—for example, another country or historical period. … It is not clear that those who thus marginalize themselves can be criticized for social irresponsibility. One cannot be irresponsible toward a community of which one does not think of oneself as a member. Otherwise runaway slaves and tunnelers under the Berlin Wall would be irresponsible.
- Richard Rorty, “Postmodernist bourgeois liberalism,” Objectivity, Relativism and Truth (Cambridge: 1991), p. 197
- This role [of the intellectual] has an edge to it, and cannot be played without a sense of being someone whose place it is publicly to raise embarrassing questions, to confront orthodoxy and dogma (rather than to produce them), to be someone who cannot easily be co-opted by governments or corporations, and whose raison d'être is to represent all those people and issues that are routinely forgotten or swept under the rug.
- Edward Said, Representations of the Intellectual: The 1993 Reith Lectures, p. 11
- There is no getting around authority and power, and no getting around the intellectual's relationship to them. How does the intellectual address authority: as a professional supplicant or as its unrewarded, amateurish conscience?
- Edward Said, Representations of the Intellectual: The 1993 Reith Lectures, p. 83
- Professional philosophers are usually only apologists: that is, they are absorbed in defending some vested illusion or some eloquent idea. Like lawyers or detectives, they study the case for which they are retained.
- George Santayana, The Genteel Tradition in American Philosophy (1911)
- A learned coxcomb dyeth his mistakes in so much a deeper colour: a wrong kind of learning serveth only to embroider his errors.
- George Savile, Marquess of Halifax, “Moral Thoughts and Reflections,” Complete Works (Oxford:1912), p. 242.
- He is of the intelligentsia (which means he has been educated beyond his intelligence).
- Fulton J. Sheen, Peace of Soul (New York: Whittlesey House, 1949), p. 105.
- Two polar groups: at one pole we have the literary intellectuals, at the other scientists, and as the most representative, the physical scientists. Between the two a gulf of mutual incomprehension.
- C. P. Snow, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (1959).
- Few of the great tragedies of history were created by the village idiot, and many by the village genius.
- There are three intellectual pursuits, and, so far as I am aware, only three, in which human beings have performed major feats before the age of puberty. They are music, mathematics, and chess.
- George Steiner, "A Death of Kings"
- The condition of life to which people of the well-to-do classes are accustomed is that of an abundant production of various articles necessary for their comfort and pleasure, and these things are obtained only thanks to the existence of factories and works organized as at present. And, therefore, discussing the improvement of the workers' position, the men of science belonging to the well- to-do classes always have in view only such improvements as will not do away with the system of factory-production and those conveniences of which they avail themselves.
- My experience is that people who call themselves “The Intellectuals” understand theories, but they do not understand things. .. The truth is, I suspect, as I have already suggested, that “The Intellectuals” live too much in the past. They know books but they do not know men.
- To be an intellectual really means to speak a truth that allows suffering to speak. That is, it creates a vision of the world that puts into the limelight the social misery that is usually hidden or concealed by the dominant viewpoints of a society. "Intellectual" in that sense simply means those who are willing to reflect critically upon themselves as well as upon the larger society and to ascertain whether there is some possibility of amelioration and betterment.
- One gets flashes here and there, which help. I am not a philosopher or an intellectual. Practically anything I have done of any worth I feel I have done through my intuition, not my mind - which the intellectuals disapprove of. And that is why I am anathema to certain kinds of Australian intellectual.
- Patrick White, In The Making (1970).
- When we see a woman bartering beauty for gold, we look upon such a one as no other than a common prostitute. ... It is the very same with philosophy: he who sets it forth for public sale, to be disposed of to the highest bidder, is a sophist, a public prostitute.