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Related: academic - anti-intellectualism - education - literacy - mind - New York intellectuals - theory

Contrast: stupidity

Key texts: The Intellectuals and the Masses (1992) - John Carey - No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture (1989) - Andrew Ross

"Living in an ivory tower" usually characterizes unworldly intellectuals who live only for their work and don't care much about the social and political consequences of it, concentrating their entire efforts on the quest for what they perceive to be scientific or artistic truths, a characteristic often attributed to academic elitism. [Jun 2006]


An intellectual is a person who uses his or her intellect to study, reflect, or speculate on a variety of different ideas. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual [Jun 2005]

Intellectual history

Intellectual history means either:

the history of intellectuals, or:
the history of the people who create, discuss, write about and in other ways propagate ideas. This includes not only western intellectual traditions, but those in the far east, near east, mid-east and Africa as well.

Intellectual history differs from the history of philosophy and the history of ideas, although these fields are closely related and often overlap. Its central perspective suggests that ideas do not change in isolation from the people who create and use them and that we must study the culture, lives and environments of people to understand their notions and ideas.

Western intellectual history
The social/intellectual context in the writings of western European history includes:

The Enlightenment - human rights, new science, democracy (scholarly sources Kant, Dilthey).

The Royal Society - a secular creation of an intellectual world led by figures such as Newton, Robert Hooke, Christopher Wren, Joseph Addison, Bishop Sprat.

The Encyclopaedists - the creation of central repositories of knowledge available to all outside of academies, including mass market encyclopaedias and dictionaries: Diderot, Samuel Johnson, Voltaire.

Romanticism - individual, subjective, imaginative, personal, visonary (scholarly sources Carlyle, Rousseau, Hook, Herder).

Post-Romanticism/reaction to naturalism, opposes external-only observations by adding internal observations (scholarly sources Comte, von Ranke).

Modernism - rejects Christian academic scholarly tradition (scholarly sources Beard, Ferdinand de Saussure, Freud, Jung, Novick).

Existentialism - pre- and post-WW2 rejection of Western norms and cultural values. Martin Heidegger Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Husserl, Hannah Arendt, Hans Jonas, Karl L÷with, Herbert Marc, Claude Levi-Strauss, Martin Buber, Edmund Husserl, religious and cultural values that allowed Nazism to achieve intellectual prominence in Germany and France in the 1930s and 1940s. And which they saw needed both repudiation and study, as a way to re-establish the individual against the values of a hostile and destructive series of communities creating alienation, isolation, and individual meaninglessness. The anti-fascist, anti-Catholic elements of some these thinkers naturally led them to Communism and Socialism with Sartre himself a dedicated atheist and Maoist til his death. Heidegger on the other hand was a member of the Nazi party. The inability to accept the implicit significance of western cultural values, from the Greco-Roman period onwards, led this group to fragment Western knowledge and approach it anthropologically, critically, and with a measure of hostility that spurred much academic debate against the established European power structure.

Postmodernism - rejects Modernism, meta-narrative - multiple perspective, role of individual (scholarly sources Lyotard, Foucault, Barthes).

Structuralism - many phenomena do not occur in isolation but in relation to each other (scholarly sources Geertz, Levi-Strauss).

Poststructuralism - deconstruction, destablizes the relationship between language and objects the language refers to (scholarly sources Lyotard, Derrida, Foucault). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual_history [Oct 2005]

Men of letters

The expression man of letters stood in many cultures for what we might take to be the contemporary intellectual; the distinction not having great weight when literacy was not fairly universal (and, incidentally, not assumed of a woman). Men of letters are also termed literati (from the Latin), as a group; literatus, in the singular, is rarely used in English. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual [Jun 2005]


Intelligence is a general mental capability that involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend ideas and language, and learn. In psychology, the study of intelligence is related to the study of personality but is not the same as creativity, personality, character, or wisdom. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellect [Jun 2005]

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