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On Intellectuals, an Essay

To be included in an upcoming philosophical compilation expected in late 2022.

Intellectuals are commonly considered or labeled “smart,” though they are simply humans who have been removed from the ongoing cycle of society. They tend to see the world and how it truly is, but do they? Such is the question to be answered by this essay. Who do we define as an intellectual? For this essay, I will be defining an intellectual as someone who actively engages with what are considered to be fringe ideas, philosophy, poetry, the arts, politics, and so forth. Not inherently a professor and not inherently a poet.

An intellectual tends to do a lot of thinking as is consistent with their state of mind or default psychology; thus, they come upon many ideas which one who is not in their realm of thoughts or influences may consider ridiculous or impractical. What are we to make of this? There is a disconnect between the intellectuals and people due to the fact that by their defined nature, they are outside of mainstream society. While they may be aware of mainstream society, they do not entirely live within it. Mainstream society is kept at arm’s length and viewed in the peripheral compared to the ideas that they are studying or advocating at that time. I say what they may be studying or advocating at that time due to the tendency for intellectuals to move quickly through ideas, working to find a coherent belief system which, through time, will evolve and conform to their continuing external influences. Due to the intellectual being outside of the mainstream society, they will have a unique mindset compared to the common man on the street, which is considered within high social circles to be enlightened, but is it practical?

When an idea must take an entire treatise that is unable to be read by the laborer in a timely or pleasant manner, the idea is not useful in any sense unless enforced in law or government, which is an entirely different manner not dealt with in this essay. This is primarily dealt with by the professional class of intellectuals known as professors at our universities. While man is looking to progress, advance, simplify his existence and make it more pleasurable, this professional category of supposed intellectuals is busy with trivial matters or technicalities on abstract issues. These technical issues with abstract theories consume time which is not being devoted in a sense to true philosophy or art. When these abstract disputes between professors or schools of thought have been apparently or supposedly resolved, it typically results in the publishing of a book by their own or by another university press which is then read by the family of the author, other professors, colleagues, and those who wish to study the subject or teach it to their students. In most cases, it does not make its way to the bookshelf of the average household or public library. This example highlights the impractical theories and ideas being worked on in contrast with development.

Once again, asking the question, what are we to make of this? My answer is that the personalities and personal interests of the professors or professional intellectuals have taken them off course. They comparably waste their time in the pursuit of praise from their colleagues, forgetting that the larger society exists in the sense of reality and not just as a talking point or something to be modified in political or social theory. While abstract and theoretical ideas are crucially important to our society and the future of humanity, we must step back and ask which theories? That is not a question to be answered in this essay but by those who have pledged to carry on the torch.

Modern intellectuals have a duty to develop their ideas into clear, readable, practical, and actionable principles and ideas. If they cannot do so, then their ideas have not been developed far enough and need refining. While longer length for certain subjects is quite understandable, the point is made. When philosophical or even ideological ideas have the capability to be read in the compact form of a pamphlet that can be distributed easily at low cost, that is when those ideas will have a true impact. Considering myself a member of the intellectual community, I acknowledge that certain subjects can not be widely distributed to the masses, though most others should be. That is the hope of all writers or intellectuals to have another read his work, comprehend his ideas, and take action upon them to improve the world in the way the individual sees fit.

The classic example of the echo chamber is valid for our purposes in this essay. Bouncing fringe ideas off the walls leads to a sense of false refinement, which leads the creator of the idea to possess. When that creator publishes his work for others to read, they will immediately point out flaws. The intellectual lives off a counterfeit sense of reality which is distorted to the point that he takes pleasure in the twisted existence of his psychological state. This quotable sentence is valid to explain the existence of a range of visibly absurd ideas which the public seems to be faced with today.

To conclude this essay, answering the opening question that was posed, intellectuals do not always, entirely, without fault, see the world in its real sense. It can, and is many times, highly distorted due to their lifestyle or influences. Reflecting on these statements, one should not conclude that everything that is said in a lofty or abstract sense is inherently wrong. That notion would be quite false and harmful. The vast majority of practicable philosophy accurately describes the society, world, or existence that defines our life in valid perspectives or interpretations. We can learn many things as a society from ideas that, upon review, are inaccurate. 

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© Philosophical Rambler 2022

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