Skip to comments.‘Intellectuals’ (Thomas Sowell)
Posted on 11/10/2008 7:47:23 PM PST by jazusamo
Among the many wonders to be expected from an Obama administration, if Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times is to be believed, is ending "the anti-intellectualism that has long been a strain in American life."
He cited Adlai Stevenson, the suave and debonair governor of Illinois, who twice ran for president against Eisenhower in the 1950s, as an example of an intellectual in politics.
Intellectuals, according to Mr. Kristof, are people who are "interested in ideas and comfortable with complexity," people who "read the classics."
It is hard to know whether to laugh or cry.
Adlai Stevenson was certainly regarded as an intellectual by intellectuals in the 1950s. But, half a century later, facts paint a very different picture.
Historian Michael Beschloss, among others, has noted that Stevenson "could go quite happily for months or years without picking up a book." But Stevenson had the airs of an intellectual the form, rather than the substance.
What is more telling, form was enough to impress the intellectuals, not only then but even now, years after the facts have been revealed, though apparently not to Mr. Kristof.
That is one of many reasons why intellectuals are not taken as seriously by others as they take themselves.
(Excerpt) Read more at jewishworldreview.com ...
Yeah, because if President Teleprompter isn’t an ‘intellectual’ i don’t know what is... speaking of, when are we going to see O’s college transcripts and LSAT scores? still waiting...
ping for later
Someone called me an intellectual once and I almost punched him, which of course would have been sufficient proof that I was no such thing.
Thomas Sowell is an intellectual, too bad Obama would never tap him for anything.
Ha, maybe you should have and learned him something. :)
Dr. Sowell has a wonderful ability to express himself, but a true reason to respect Sowell is the credit he unjealously gives to others who deserve it.
Another Sowell gem!
If Mr.Kristof of the New York Times thinks we don’t like intellectuals now, just wait until we’re done with Obama. Of course, wasn’t Carter supposed to be an intellectual as well?
So true, that was a great line by Buckley and Dr. Sowell fully appreciates it.
“That is one of many reasons why intellectuals are not taken as seriously by others as they take themselves.”
Brings up Orwell’s famous observation...
... ‘an idea SO stupid that ONLY an intellectual would believe it’
That is an amusing line.
“Intellectual” is a word that simply confers favorable status on the person being described—as Sowell rightfully points out here. It has no other value as a characterization.
Good point about BO, he talks a good game but so far in life has done zero. I don’t remember Carter being referred to as an intellectual but he could have been, I was so ticked off at him then I might have blocked it out.
Symbolism/Substance = Obama
Why, why, Lord, could we not have had Thomas Sowell as our first black president? Aside from the fact that he is too smart to subject himself to the scum-sucking media?
Thomas Sowell should be required reading.
Kristof’s article is very funny.
Adlai Stevenson flunked out of Harvard Law (his transcripts were locked up by then Dean Griswold). He graduated from Northwestern, but wasn’t a standout there.
As Sowell says, he wasn’t a great reader, either.
Kristof also refers to Kennedy as an intellectual. Kennedy won a Pulitzer for a book ghostwritten by Ted Sorensen (he’s finally admitted drafting the chapters).
The press really needs to get over this (D)=intellectual theory.
Agreed...Our country would have been the better off for it had he been.
ummm Thomas Sowell, you’re also an intellectual. The right kind :)
anyone who doesn’t read Sowell shouldn’t be president.
More than half a century later, when the archives of the Soviet Union were finally opened up under Mikhail Gorbachev, it turned out that about six million people had died in that famine about the same number as the people killed in Hitler's Holocaust.
Sowell understands intellectual groupthink's dangers: death - - Ignored and denied.
The term “pseudo-intellectual” was popularized in the 1960s, just to describe the self-described, self-appointed “intellectuals” of the period, who were just as naive and lacking both a real education and common sense.
Granted, studying Latin and the “Harvard Classics” are a good way to round out an education, for some. But in no way do they comprise a core study. For the most part, they are trivial or archaic. Good bathroom reading matter, for cocktail party ego chatter, but of little use in the real world.
And thus, the attraction of socialism and other paper enterprises to academia. On paper, it appears comprehensible and logical; but its adherents are both blissfully unaware of its inherent failures in the real world, and in denial that they could have failed on their own merits.
It is a “silly mythos”. Discovering a fantasy novel that seems so real, tangible, and desirable, that its readers forget it is nonsense, sucked out of the thumb of an entertaining writer. They forever try to define the world in terms of their philosophy.
Anti-knowledge, in that to its believers, it is infallible. Little different from those who believe all knowledge is contained within the Koran, and all else is extraneous and corrupt.
In truth, such people are themselves “anti-intellectuals”. They only tolerate what reinforces their prejudices. They are unlearned bigots.
I like Dr. Sowell, such a contrast to the effete Mr. Will. It wish him a long life because with the passing of Reagan, Buckley, Friedman, etc., he is among the last of the Mohicans.
“Dr. Sowell never disappoints. How can 2 people that share similar upbringings, Chicago roots and educations at Columbia and Harvard think so differently.”
Having a belief in God and being fortunate to have had parents who taught values and good judgement!
I wish we had the chance now.
ONE OF HIS MOST BRILLIANT.
Please read it.
I remember being surrounded by “intellectuals” in Europe during the Cold War who all thought that there was one BENIGN superpower and one EVIL one (we were the evil one). They were all fed by super-secret intellectual pamphlets and journals that even I, a young girl with no interest in politics at the time, knew then were just propaganda written by the USSR. And later I was proven correct. It is very easy to fool “intellectuals” because the self-anointed only need to hear their own jargon before they sign on.
You’re exactly right about the pseudo-intellectuals from the 60’s from what I remember. My friends and relatives were working people and to us they only embarrassed themselves.
Thanks for the ping jaz. God Bless Thomas Sowell...LOL he’s great. Love this article. Right on the mark as usual.
Thomas Sowell is one of the best thinkers and brightest writers in our firmament. What if a mind like his was in the Oval Office?
Wouldn’t matter the color of the skin that wraps it, would it now.
Instead we got That One. Because of the color of his skin and the facade of his intellect.
God bless Thomas Sowell.
Interesting post, thanks Yaelle. I remember the group think that we were the evil ones. I believe there’s still college professors from that era but they’re retiring and the numbers are decreasing I would think.
I have encountered the above since and including high school. The most obvious example today is Barack Obama.
Furthermore, there are some lacking in form but have the intellect. I can think of some good examples, but will leave it at that.
Adlai Stevenson was also a bit effeminate, which tended to set him apart as a true intellectual in form. Kerry had much of that form, AlGore some of it, including a heavy lisp.
The Demo concept of the intellectual is quite old fashioned and appears to us as.... an intellectual eunuch. Left over from the time when few people had college educations it is concept which has lost much of its pull over time because of the intellectual’s tendency to accomplish little of worth. In orther words, intellectuals are not men of action, but men who sit and think a lot and are of little use to the country.
The real intellectuals are the engineers who design our space ships, our fighters, our computers. Want some complexity? Try designing a processor with 10 billion operatinal amplifiers that multitasks. Or a fire control system for our fighters that will track and kill 32 enemy figters. Much more complex than readings of Marcus Aurelius, you betcha.
The anti-intellectualism that is referred to is nothing more than anti-aristocracy and it is fully justified.
A great line. And what Liberals inspire.
>> Intellectuals, according to Mr. Kristof, are people who are “interested in ideas and comfortable with complexity,” people who “read the classics.”
Interesting. I guess for what remains complex, one must get used to it. Now, how many husbands read the classics.
Supposedly, if Michael Medved is correct, Carter has one of the highest IQ’s of the modern presidents. That well correlates to his low performance.
Well stated. My only acquaintance of someone like you speak of was a distant relative and an engineer for JPL, he is brilliant and now retired. Not the least bit snobbish but limited in many subjects that average people talk about. I was fascinated when he would talk about unclassified areas of his work though there was some I couldn’t understand.
Thanks, I didn’t know that but believe you are correct.
You are always welcome! : )
Riffing off you thoughts, I’ve found that a great preponderance of “intellectuals” are innumerate as a toddler - ie, they have no mathematical training or education, they have no concept of numbers and are completely gullible in the face of someone spouting random statistics posing as facts, because they have no internal “gut check” on the numbers.
One of my favorites from the early 90’s was debating someone on gun crime stats in California. This guy (a liberal arts major, well read in “the classics” no doubt) popped out with a stat that XYZ policy resulted in a reduction of 168% of crome stat ABC.”
At this, I looked like someone had just passed gas in public. I asked “After the first 100% reduction, where does the next 68% reduction come from?”
He was completely non-plussed, and repeated his claim. I said “Look, when you reduce something by 100%, it is ALL GONE. How can you reduce something more when you’ve completely eliminated it?!”
The audience sat up and agreed with me, and the ‘intellectual’ suddenly realized he was out to lunch - and then some.
Yet, until I pointed it out, this guy had the bit firmly in his teeth and was wow’ing the crowd.
This is the sort of thing that engineers crucify fellow engineers for. You’d never hear an engineer or scientist (especially a physics guy) pop out with this sort of mistake, because if they did in front of other engineers/scientists, they’d be crucified immediately.
Yet “intellectuals” who think “I don’t need calculus, my man, I’ve read Yeats!” have the public completely bamboozled into thinking they’re smart because they’re such suave talkers.
In todays’ public policy environment, we need more engineers/scientists not only running for office, we need more of them to step up to the plate in educating the public by any means possible. Thanks to the NEA, today’s school and college graduates are just woefully innumerate.