This was a fun read, with many good points; however, please check out Anti-Intellectualism in…
Silvia Scandar Mahan
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After reading Hofstadter’s book I’d recommend getting a more rational perspective by reading Thomas Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society. In that work you will find what was wrong with Hofstadter’s work and why it should not be considered an accurate depiction of Intellectualism, Anit-Intellectualism, or the effects of either on the society — not just American but European as well.

To give you a brief intrduction, and in so doing tip the reasons this post is likewise flawed, you have to define Intellectualism and then define what Anti-Intellectualism is. Contrary to the belief of those who feel maligned or smug depending on their background, Anti-Intellectualism is not what happened in Friends. It is not the bashing of nerds or the rejection of intellectual pursuits.

Consider all the realms of endeavor which require intellect. Doctors, lawyers, auto mechanics, IT people, appliance repair technicians are just a few. There is no doubt these occupations require strong intellectual capacity and interest. Yet nowhere, even in this article, do we see those claiming a problem of anti-intellectualism extends to these occupations. Indeed we see the opposite — the intellect of the other characters in their specialties is ignored at best in favor of Ross because he was “an intellectual”.

And that is the core of the matter: what defines an intellectual? Hofstadter did not define it. Instead he simply used any disagreement with the chosen dogma of the existing group of self-styled intellectuals as being anti-intellectual. So what does constitute an intellectual? Let us use the show for the answer.

For much of show, Ross was indeed an intellectual. Chandler, despite having a high intellect as well, was not. The difference is the Ross was not engaged in pursuits beyond the realm of ideas whereas Chandler was. An intellectual is on whose pursuits exists entirely in the realm of intellect. They deal in abstracts rather than realities. They talk of “the poor” meaning a statistical group (ie. a fabrication) rather than looking at the actual people involved, for example.

Indeed in the character of Ross we see the most interest generated when his abstract world intersects with reality. His growth of character consisted primarily of realizing, slowly, that his abstact view of the world did not mesh with the actual world and moving beyond it.

Once you realize that intellectualism, and thus anti-intellectualism is not the “rawr we hate smart people” mantra certain intellectuals would like you to think it is you will be able to see the actual anti-intellectualism for what it is. And you just may come to appreciate the good that it has done for the country.

And yes, some things are going to always be around. Poverty, for example, is not something we can get rid of. Why? Because we’ve defined it in relative terms. The plain fact that today’s poor are drastically better off than the poor fo say even 30 years ago should be strong evidence to show this to anyone who bothers to look beyond the numbers of statistics. There is a massive difference between being poor in the U.S. and poor in Russia. As such until we are willing to go beyond using relative terms and define a clear, objective, and hard definition of what poverty is it can not ever be eliminated.

So yes, by all means go read a book. But go read ones that don’t reinforce your personal view of the world. Read things which challenge it. This is particularly important the stronger your emotions around your view of the world (ie. “the world hates those of us who are smart” — a demonstrably false position) as, if you are truly interested in the intellectual aspect, it is precisely the world view you rail against that you need to actually understand.

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