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Anti-intellectualism?

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Brad
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0 posted 02-10-2002 06:07 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Curious what people make of this:

http://www.centerforbookculture.org/context/no9/miller.html

from the text:

"It is that livid quietism on the right, that militant and gleeful anti-rational animus, which marks this latest surge of anti-intellectualism--an attitude not necessarily the same as mere old-fashioned anti-academic feeling. Of course, the anti-intellectual attacks do often come in anti-academic garb--as in one Amazon "review" complaining of Bugliosi's putative embrace by both "the media and leftist academics," or in another that assails The Bush Dyslexicon for dissing "someone with a Harvard Business School degree who has solid common sense values and is not the least bit interested in the liberal academic establishment's opinions." Although they often coincide, however, it is the animus against the active mind itself that really drives such vigilantes, and not a simple class-based beef against the snooty professoriate (the types that, as our president has put it, snack on "Brie and cheese").

This much is clear from the incurable selective blindness of the anti-intellectuals, who can perceive the hated caste of academic privilege only insofar as it includes "the left." Like ERKTHE, they simply cannot see that Bush too went to Yale and Harvard, any more than they can see how his agenda would not only poison but impoverish them (and, latterly, get them blown up in their own neighborhoods). At times the need to reinterpret Bush the drunken Eli as a dedicated populist has led to some absurd inventions. On Amazon, one troubled critic of my book asserted that "Bush was an excellent student at Yale, but many of his tests were graded down at his request to keep him as 'one of the people.'" ("This is never acknowledged by Miller," he observed correctly.)"


--I agree with much that is said, but find the attitude a bit, well, one-sided. Anti-intellectualism on the left may not be as obvious but it is nevertheless there. It's the American way.

Brad

[This message has been edited by Brad (02-10-2002 06:14 PM).]

Tim
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1 posted 02-10-2002 07:15 PM       View Profile for Tim   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Tim

Anti-intellectualism to Miller is anyone who doesn't subscribe to his rather unique view of the world.  If he were not a professor, would his diatrabes be considered intellectualism?  There might well be a reason his work on Bush was received the way it was received by people some might even consider intellectuals.  Bush may not be the brightest bulb in the string, but I somehow doubt he is pyschopathic.  I can't say I have a problem discussing the issue of anti-intellectualism, but to start with Miller is somewhat amusing to me. Generally, self-proscribed intellectuals only recognize those who mirror or totally accept their views as intellectual. And when you enter the arena of institutional and personal attacks, somehow it seems to me you have exited the intellectual arena. Heck fire, Miller may well make good fodder for media when then need to someone to attack either themselves or the establishment, but perhaps I am not intellectual enough to consider him intellectual. Seems a bit more to me as the Rush Limbaugh of the left.  
Brad
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2 posted 02-10-2002 07:57 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Okay, here's Robert Nozick's take:
http://www.cato.org/pubs/policy_report/cpr-20n1-1.html

Is this anti-intellectual or intellectually accurate?
Brad
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3 posted 02-10-2002 08:02 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

From the Nozick text:

The Value of Intellectuals

Intellectuals now expect to be the most highly valued people in a society, those with the most prestige and power, those with the greatest rewards. Intellectuals feel entitled to this. But, by and large, a capitalist society does not honor its intellectuals. Ludwig von Mises explains the special resentment of intellectuals, in contrast to workers, by saying they mix socially with successful capitalists and so have them as a salient comparison group and are humiliated by their lesser status. However, even those intellectuals who do not mix socially are similarly resentful, while merely mixing is not enough--the sports and dancing instructors who cater to the rich and have affairs with them are not noticeably anti-capitalist.

Why then do contemporary intellectuals feel entitled to the highest rewards their society has to offer and resentful when they do not receive this? Intellectuals feel they are the most valuable people, the ones with the highest merit, and that society should reward people in accordance with their value and merit. But a capitalist society does not satisfy the principle of distribution "to each according to his merit or value." Apart from the gifts, inheritances, and gambling winnings that occur in a free society, the market distributes to those who satisfy the perceived market-expressed demands of others, and how much it so distributes depends on how much is demanded and how great the alternative supply is. Unsuccessful businessmen and workers do not have the same animus against the capitalist system as do the wordsmith intellectuals. Only the sense of unrecognized superiority, of entitlement betrayed, produces that animus."


Tim
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4 posted 02-10-2002 09:42 PM       View Profile for Tim   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Tim

Thank you for the new starting point. Whether it is anti-intellectual or intellectually accurate depends on who is doing the reading. Most importantly, it provides a starting point on the definition of intellectual.  Really is a broad ranged topic.  You readily believe there is an anti-intellectualism bent to American society?  How so?
Just some random thoughts.  In another thread about the Bell Curve, there was a point made how intellect is not the determinative factor in success. While the Bell Curve certainly was villified, I suspect it ranks right up there with Hawkins on books that are defined by policital correctness.  The point is they both attempt to interject scientific issues into the general public.  Intellect does not take into consideration horse sense or creativity.
The intellectually elite institutions rely on intellect as their primary selective criteria for entry.  These institutions provide the base for the top echelons of leadership in business, government and the intellectual community.
How is there anti-intellectualism, when there is such a high correlation between Ivy League and the county's elite.
I was somewhat surprised to see the premise that resentment exists in the intellectual (as defined) community as far as their role in society.  I don't hang around with too many Ivy Leaguers, and therefore was not aware of resentment.  I might well be missing things here in the hinterlands, but most folks I know don't resent intellect. If intellectualism is defined as per the article, I would still consider the resentment not to be directed towards the intellect per se, but towards the attitude and politics of the intellectual. You made the comment about Bush being a better received president without the intellect of Carter.  Carter was a brilliant man, as well as Clinton.  The better example would be Reagan who relied on principles and acting skills rather than intellect.  It goes back to the point that character, common sense and creativity are as much of an individual as intellect.  Enough rambling, but perhaps if we could delineate how this anti-intellectualism is manifested?

[This message has been edited by Tim (02-10-2002 09:43 PM).]

Brad
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5 posted 02-11-2002 03:24 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

--I'm hoping that eventually we can combine the two but that's neither here nor there.

"Whether it is anti-intellectual or intellectually accurate depends on who is doing the reading."

--Fair enough. Later, I'll expand the question and see if we can make some useful distinctions. But you're right, we have to do some defining here.

"You readily believe there is an anti-intellectualism bent to American society?  How so?"

--Yes. But by this I don't mean people are against intelligence. By intellectual, I mean an individual who, intelligent or not, has an interest in things intellectual.

--What are things intellectual?

--Pretty much anything that isn't common sensical (horse sense is a breed of a different color perhaps.   ) and common sensical can be defined as the immediately practical.

Put another way, intellectuals give you opinions about something that seems so obvious there's no need to talk about it or so completely unimportant that, well, there's no need to talk about it.

Scientists give you facts about something that seems so obvious there's no need to talk about it or so completely unimportant that, well, there's no need to talk about it.

But facts are good when we're playing trivial pursuit.

More later,
Brad

[This message has been edited by Brad (02-11-2002 03:27 AM).]

Opeth
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6 posted 02-11-2002 11:03 AM       View Profile for Opeth   Email Opeth   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Opeth

Reading the subject matter of this thread reminded me of the Simpson's episode where the intellects, as an elite group, (including Lisa) end up running the town of Springfield.

Mr. Hawkings, who is considered to be one, if not, the most intelligent human being alive, was actually a guest and played himself on that episode.

It is a "don't miss it" episode.
Brad
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7 posted 02-12-2002 07:50 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

While ultimately 'anti-intellectualism' is nothing more than another version of 'us and them', it takes on a very bitter sense with people. Don't forget that America is founded on two principally opposed traditions: individualism and egalitarianism.

The Simpsons are a good example but not Stephen Hawking, it's the guy who owns the comic book store and has dreams about Seven of Nine (but who doesn't?). He's weird but harmless, he talks about things that you just don't have to care about.

Intellectuals, connotatively defined, talk about or are supposed to talk about things that matter, things that are important. Maybe we really don't care about those things all that much (Homer, Hannibal's elephants, Shakespeare etc.), we know these are important in some abstract sense. They are the preserver of our tradition. That's their job.  

It's okay. Well, not quite, it's okay that they do that but we really don't vote for these people (and never have), they don't have any practical sense, they're not one of us and won't represent our interests, the real interests of those who really work for a living.

An intellectual is supposed to be noble and when they aren't, when they not only study insane things like the use of astrology as a guide to Shakespeare's plays or compare early nineteenth century views of masturbation in young women with the novels of Jane Austen, but also challenge the common sensical ideas of truth, of common sense, and the way we know things to be true, well, we feel betrayed.

That's not what they're supposed to do.

There will always be a view of the intellectual as a patrician, as someone we're supposed to look up to, and Americans resent that (not completely without good reason). It angers even more when that same intellectual tells you that the patrician view of the intellectual is nothing more than a social construction, that it's not true -- but still acts as if it were, still refuses to get off his/her pedestal an act and talk like the rest of us.

Still acts like they're better than you and tells you what to think.

"Who do they think they are? They haven't done an honest day's work in their life."

Conservatives see this, they see this resentment and capitalize on it. The Left has always villified the rich, but the rich have countered by villifying the elite (those intellectuals in those universities and their friends). Look, they think they're better than you, they don't talk like you, they want to change you and your lifestyle.  

It's an amazing thing really, the separation of the rich and the elite.

And the Left fell for it. The intellectual Left (beginning with the Vietnam war) became ever more enamoured with Far Left theory and not the day to day concerns of people. When criticized, they now label the critics as 'conservative' and the conservatives now label the Left as 'intellectuals.'

That is, they are out of touch with us. They are the patricians. Follow the rich, we're the ones that have worked hard for our money, we deserve respect, we won't take your hard earned money, we don't understand all this new fangled jargon, we believe in the same things you do, we're just like you.

It's an amazing thing that so many people buy this, that the Right doesn't have an intellectual, academic base as well.

Because of course they do.

Because an intellectual act, denotatively defined, is simply the act of maintaining a sustainable argument that others can follow, agreeing or not.

It's anyone who goes beyond. "Well, that's just my opinion" an attempts to show why someone else should agree with it as well.

Intellectuals talk about things that interest them and talk about them in depth. The goal of an intellectual is to persuade.

And that endangers the right of everyone to have an opinion, doesn't it?

Or does it?

Brad
Brad
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8 posted 02-12-2002 08:01 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

An intellectual is a salesman for ideas.
Interloper
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9 posted 02-13-2002 05:20 PM       View Profile for Interloper   Email Interloper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Interloper

And then there are psuedo-intellectuals  ...  but that is probably another thread
Opeth
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10 posted 02-13-2002 05:50 PM       View Profile for Opeth   Email Opeth   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Opeth

I just mentioned Mr.Hawking in order to give the episode credibility. The Simpsons is one of the most intelligently written shows on tv today.
Brad
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11 posted 02-13-2002 06:15 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Opeth,

I agree.

Interloper,

An intellectual is someone you don't understand and agree with.

A psuedo-intellectual is someone you don't understand and disagree with.

Good to see you posting again.

Brad
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12 posted 02-13-2002 07:08 PM       View Profile for JBaker515   Email JBaker515   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for JBaker515

Yes.  The simpsons rules, and is well written.

~~Jeff~~

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13 posted 02-14-2002 09:13 AM       View Profile for Interloper   Email Interloper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Interloper

Brad,

I always thought an intellectual was somone I understood and agreed with while a psuedo-intellectual was someone I couldn't understand and, as a result, could neither agree nor disagree

An anti-intellectual could be a very learned person who states difficult propositions, hypotheses, and positions in terms understandable by a moderately intelligent person.  One who disdains complex sentences and "made up" words that lack commonly accepted definitions.

Being but a moderately intelligent person, I have probably been too simplistic in my statement and understanding of intellectualism.
Brad
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14 posted 02-15-2002 02:05 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Certainly, an intelligent person can be anti-intellectual. An anti-intellectual simply sees no value in extended arguments, in- depth studies, and in learning for its own sake.

They don't try to understand difficult arguments, not because they can't, but because they see no value in making the effort.

There's a flip side to this as well. When I say that Americans are, for the most part, anti-intellectual, what that also means is that they emphasize practical matters.

There's a joke about this:

A Briton, a Frenchman, and an American go to South America to build a bridge. The Briton immediately began discussing the adminstrative procedures, the Frenchman immediately started examining the aesthetic ramifications of each design, and while these two were talking the American built the bridge.  

By the way, I disagree with Nozick's premise. Intellectuals don't want the world to be one big school, they want the world to be one big coffee shop.

Brad
 
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