Intellectual

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An Intellectual is a person who engages in intelligent study, thought, and reflection, or to qualities related to such activities. Related concepts of Intelligentsia refer to a social class of intellectuals actively engaged in disseminating culture, such as artists or teachers of various types.

See also:
Intelligence

Quotations about Intellectuals/Intellectualism[edit]

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Besides, the person with of independent mind who forms his own who forms his own opinions on the evidence of his senses and the fruits of his logic is an ideal form of human being which, like other ideal forms, rarely exists in nature. Even most intellectuals - always a small minority in a population - tend in their thinking merely to follow more refined fads.
  • 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.
  • “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.”
  • A large section of the intelligentsia seems wholly devoid of intelligence.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Frank Furedi, Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?: Confronting 21st Century Philistinism.
  • There's always something suspect about an intellectual on the winning side.
  • 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.
    • Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (1951) Ch.18 Good and Bad Mass Movements, §125
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • A ruling intelligentsia, whether in Europe, Asia or Africa, treats the masses as raw material to be experimented on, processed, and wasted at will.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Intellectuals are cynical and cynics have never built a cathedral.
    • Henry Kissinger, As quoted in Sketchbook 1966-1971 (1971) by Max Frisch, p. 230.
  • In that very hour he became overjoyed in the holy spirit and said: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have carefully hidden these things from wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to young children. Yes, O Father, because this is the way you approved.
  • 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).
  • 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)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • And, sadder still, there always is a chorus of willing intellectuals to say calming words about benign or altruistic empires, as if one shouldn't trust the evidence of one's eyes watching the destruction and the misery and death brought by the latest mission civilizatrice.
  • 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).
  • It may be expecting too much to expect most intellectuals to have common sense, when their whole life is based on their being uncommon -- that is, saying things that are different from what everyone else is saying. There is only so much genuine originality in anyone. After that, being uncommon means indulging in pointless eccentricities or clever attempts to mock or shock.
  • John Roberts is no doubt a brainy man, and that seems to carry a lot of weight among the intelligentsia – despite glaring lessons from history, showing very brainy men creating everything from absurdities to catastrophes. Few of the great tragedies of history were created by the village idiot, and many by the village genius.
  • To be an intellectual really means to speak a truth that allows suffering to speak.
    • Cornel West, "Chekhov, Coltrane, and Democracy: Interview by David Lionel Smith." in The Cornel West Reader (1998)
  • 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.

Quotations Pertaining to the Chief Pursuits of Intellectuals[edit]


(Note: Chief pursuits denotes activities commonly associated with intellectuals and intellectualism, such as thinking and chess.)

  • All the problems of the world could be settled easily if men were only willing to think. The trouble is that men very often resort to all sorts of devices in order not to think, because thinking is such hard work.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.

See Also[edit]

While not being strictly "of note", the pages listed below are of an equal or higher calibre of the quotations here below.

External links[edit]

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