"The Intellectual is, quite simply, a human being who has a pencil in his or her hand when reading a book."

George Steiner (The uncommon reader…lecture at Bennington College)


Sapere aude! have the courage to use your own intelligence!

-Immanuel Kant




"I like nonsense; it wakes up the brain cells." Dr. Seuss



"The intellectuals' chief cause of anguish are one another's works."

-Jacques Barzun




"Intelligence is characterized by a natural incomprehension of life."

-Henri Bergson




"The more intelligent a man is,  the more originality he discovers in men. Ordinary people see no difference between men."

-Blaise Pascal



"Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do."

-Isaac Asimov



"The more we live by our intellect, the less we understand the meaning of life."

-William James



"You see-the trouble with me is, I belong to a vanishing race. I'm one of the intellectuals....Brains without purpose: Noise without sound. Shadow without substance."

-Robert E. Sherwood




"Could anyone say that Intellect, the true and real Intellect, will ever be in error and believe the unreal? Certainly not. For how could it still be Intellect when it was being unintelligent? it must, then, always know and not ever forget anything, and its knowing must not be that of a guesser, or ambiguous, or like that of someone who has heard what he knows from someone else."





"Intellectuals are in fact people who wield the power of the spoken and the written word, and one of the touches that distinguish them from other people who do the same is the absence for another-the absence of that first-hand knowledge., which only actual experience for practical affairs. This touch in general accounts for another-the absence of that first-hand knowledge...which only actual experience can give. The critical attitude arising....from the fact that his main chance of asserting himself lies in his actual or potential nuisance value, should add a third touch.,"

-Joseph A. Schumpeter Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy




   "Intellectuals, the justification for whose existence is that they have a superior understanding of the world to that of non-intellectuals, find it hard to accept that all understanding of empirical matters is partial, temporary, subject to revision and doubtful; and that any political system that does not take this into account will end up imposing lies (and worse) upon whole populations. There have been times and places in history, perhaps, when to impose a priori schema on society has not been utterly disastrous; but Europe in the the twentieth century was decidedly not one of them.

   But intellectuals not only want to think well of themselves, they want to be important. The attraction of ideology is that it offers a simple principle, or a few simple principles, by which to understand the world; and of course, it offers the prospect of power to those who know and wield those principles with the greatest facility. it seems to me likely that inside every Marxist Western intellectual there has been a Stalin trying to get out."

-Anthony Daniels  Preface for Last Exit to utopia by Jean-Fancois Revel


  "Unfortunately for the human race, the intellectual has a near monopoly in the formulation and propagation of  dogma because of his verbal training and linguistic agility. The facile tongue, (or pen) and dogma seem mutually generative. It was this close, almost predestined connection between dogma and intellectuals that  led Brunetiere, the French literary critic, to define an intellectual as one who meddles dogmatically in matters about which he is ignorant.

   One would logically suppose that the more education one has the less would be one's susceptibility to dogma. it is quite the opposite. Education, apart from the physical sciences, and even these are not always exempt, has always been the most notorious example of organized indoctrination. Indeed the well-educated person or, more precisely, the "most educated," person is often the most dogmatic. The teacher who spends his life teaching  dogma has become, so  to speak, dogmatically blind. he is quick to attack opposing dogma, but slow  to  condemn or even to recognize his own."

   Only unsophisticated minds, whose number is legion, and great minds, rarissimae aves, seem to have developed some immunity to the dogma that props up prevailing Western political and social ideology. The former are equipped neither by upbringing, by training, nor by inclination to comprehend such dogma, while the latter are reluctant to swallow it because they comprehend it  all too well.

   consequently, it should not comes as a shock to discover that the intellectual or "educated" man can be more harmful to society than the uneducated or unsophisticated man. The literate person has the ability to spread his ignorance abroad, to sell his dogma wholesale. The unlettered person can only pass on his beliefs to those in his immediate vicinity."

Wilmot Robertson

The Dispossessed Majority




"It is the peculiarity of privilege and of every privileged position to kill the intellect and heart of man. The privileged man, whether he be privileged politically or economically, is a man deprived in intellect and heart."

-Mikhail A. Bakunin




"Intelligence is characterized by a natural incomprehension of life."

-Bernard Berenson




"As regards intellectual work it remains a fact, indeed, that great decisions in the realms of thought and momentous discoveries and solutions of problems are only possible to an individual working in solitude."

-Sigmund Freud




"One of the principal lessons of our tragic century, which has seen so many millions of innocent lives sacrificed in schemes to improve the lot of humanity, is-beware intellectuals."

-Paul Johnson Intellectuals




Intellect is community property and can be handed down…..




"This is what intelligence is: paying attention to the right things."

-Edward Hall




"The only means of strengthening one's intelligence is to make up one's mind about nothing-to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts .."

-John Keats



"What! Here are we with the jolly world of God all round us, able to sing, to draw, to paint, to hammer and build, to sail, to ride horses, to run, to leap; having for our splendid inheritance love in youth and memory in old age, and we are to take one miserable little faculty, our one-legged, knock-kneed, gimcrack, grumpy intellect, or analytical curiosity rather (a diseased appetite), and let it swell till it eats up every other function."



"…..Isn’t this the very age in which "intellectual" is a pejorative term, the age in which "eggheads" are held in contempt? Haven’t we long since lost respect for the well-written sentence, the cogent argument, the philosophically formed principle, and substituted for these things the mush slogan, the packaged "image" , and the comfortable expedient? Perhaps so. But no matter what words we choose to regard as abusive, no mater how frantically we try to relieve the pressure on our minds by pretending to surrender them to Madison Avenue, we are now most of us engaged in working with concepts rather than things, which means that we are working as intellectuals."

Walter Kerr

The Decline of Pleasure


"Enlightenment is man's emergence from his nonage...This nonage, or immaturity was not a result of lack of intelligence, but from lack of determination and courage to use that intelligence without another's guidance. Have the courage to use your own intelligence."

-Immanuel Kant (1784)


"Intellect in America is resented as a kind of excellence, as a claim to distinction, as a challenge to egalitarianism, as a quality which almost certainly deprives a man or woman of the common touch."

Richard Hofstadter (1963)


"The intellect is a very nice whirligig, toy, but how people take it seriously is more than I can understand."

-Ezra Pound



"It doesn't matter how intelligent you are if you don't use your brain. Intelligent people aren't necessarily rigorous thinkers. In fact many of them are mentally lazy. Ideology provides a way for lazy people to respond to issues, ideas, people and events without thinking. For the ideologue, ideology is the Rosetta Stone of everything. Why think when the system provides all the answers?"

-Daniel Flynn

Intellectual Morons: How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas



"Anti-intellectualism gives rise to the most extreme, the most morally deplorable, form of sloth. It is to be found in persons for whom the ultimate objectives in life are the maximization of pleasure, money, fame, or power, and who, thus motivated, express their contempt for those who waste their lives in purely intellectual pursuits. It is almost as if they wished they did not have the burden of having intellects that might distract them from their fanatical devotion to nonintellectual aims."

-Mortimer Adler


"In the past few years, the playing field of American intellectual life has shifted, and the traditional intellectual has become increasingly marginalized. A 1950s education in Freud, Marx, and modernism is not a sufficient qualification for a thinking person today. Indeed the traditional American intellectuals are in a sense increasingly reactionary, and quite often proudly (and perversely) ignorant of many of the truly significant intellectual accomplishments of our time. Their culture which diminishes Science, is often non-empiracal. It uses its own jargon and washes its own laundry. It is chiefly characterized by comments on comments, the swelling spiral of commentary eventually reaching the point where the real world gets lost."

John Brockman

The New Humanists: Science at the Edge


"Intellectual passion drives out sensuality."

-Leonardo Da Vinci


   "From the very outset the eminence of this new creature, the intellectual, who was to play such a tremendous role in the history of the twentieth century, was inseparable from his necessary indignation. It was his indignation that elevated him to a plateau of moral superiority. Once up there, he was in a position to look down at the rest of humanity. And it hadn't cost him any effort, intellectual or otherwise. As Marshall McLuhan would put it years later: "Moral indignation is a technique used to endow the idiot with dignity." Precisely which intellectuals of the twentieth century were or were not idiots is a debatable point, but it is hard to argue with the definition I once heard a French diplomat offer at a dinner part: "An intellectual is a person knowledgeable in one field who speaks out only in others."

Tom Wolfe

Hooking UP


"We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality."

-Albert Einstein


"There are some things only intellectuals are crazy enough to believe."

-George Orwell


"An intellectual hatred is the worst."

-William Butler Yeats


"Rule your mind or it will rule you."



"I’ve always felt that a person’s intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic."

Lisa Alther


"True intelligence very readily conceives of an intelligence superior to its own; and this is why truly intelligent men are modest."

Andre Gide


"Intellect does not attain its full force until it attacks power."

-Madame De Stael


"Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are."

George Santayana


"The greatest danger of intellect is that it so readily breeds intellectualism."

Jacques Barzun



"I doubt if we get  very far by the intellect alone. I doubt if intellect caries us very far. "

Alfred North Whitehead


"All intellectuality is in the long run shallowness; never does it allow of probing to the very roots of a matter, never of reaching down to the depths of the soul, or of the universe."

Werner Sombart

The Jews and Modern Capitalism


"There are one-story intellects, two-story intellects, and three-story intellects with skylights. All fact collectors, who have no aim beyond their facts, are one-story men. Two-story men compare, reason, generalize, using the labors of fact collectors as well as their own. Three-story men idealize, imagine, predict; their best illumination comes from above, through the skylight."

-Oliver Wendell Holmes


"The hostility of the common man toward the intellectual is of all times and places. It is an understandable animus related to the herd instinct and probably latent in every man. The great symbol of martyred Intellect, Socrates, was a victim of the same spontaneous resentment which makes the majority at school gang up on the bookish boy-or at least pretend that regular fellows despise study and prove their mettle by any means except the systematic use of mind This sentiment is so universal that anyone who sets himself against it soon knows that he is trying to resist a force of nature…."

Jacques Barzun

The House of Intellect


"But intellect is as essentially subordinate as good a good as money is. It is good only as a minister and purveyor to right affections."

Henry James, Sr.


"The intellect is the chief place of lying, speaking about what one does not know. In effect, the psychology of man is the psychology of lying. As inner work proceeds one may become less interesting and more colorless, showing that lying is diminishing."



"If I may substitute the German word Intelligenz, it will be seen at once that I have no idea of drawing any supercilious discrimination as between, say, the clever and the stupid, or the educated and the uneducated. Intelligenz is the power invariably, in Plato’s phrase, to see things as they are….Those who have this power are everywhere; everywhere they are not so much resisting as quietly eluding and disregarding all social pressure which tends to mechanize their processes of observation and thought."

Albert Jay Nock


   "The rationalist definition is of relatively recent vintage, yet the term intellect is very old. In researching the problem of adapting our intellects to our future-seeing powers. I decided to undertake an  archeological autopsy to find out how it was defined before it was colonized by and converted into its exclusive rationalistic definition. 

   In tracing the history of intellect backward from the present, it was surprising to find that the once-authoritative 1892 Encyclopedia Britannica did not have an entry for "intellect." 

   That encyclopedia, however, does provide commentary on "intellection" and "intellectual feelings"-neither of which is used today. Together, apparently thought of as synonyms, these are defined as "not only the feelings connected with certainty, doubt, perplexity, comprehensions, and so forth, but also.....with what are called the higher, par excellence feelings which are regarded as entirely determined by the form of the flow of ideas (emphasis mine) but not by the ideas themselves."

   This definition is a very good one with regard to how we actually experience our intellects. We do not experience them as logic or reason per se but as flows of ideas (the processing of energy formation packages) that result in deductions-deductions themselves being stabilized energy information packages.

   Put another way, intellectus is composed of the flowing process of ideas relating (or misrelating) to each other. In this sense, intellect becomes the specialized function of waking awareness in which ideas and knowledge flow with, in, and around each other, ultimately forming perceived relationships. Discernment of flowlike relationships (or processes) is the principal experienced concept of intellect.

   Even though rationalistic definitions hold that intellect is the power of knowing as distinguished from the power to feel and to will, it is difficult to see how the power to feel can be left out of the discernment-of-relationship processes."

Ingo Swann

Your Nostradamus Factor


"He who knows little, thinketh he knows much; but he who knoweth much hath learned his own ignorance. Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more of a fool than of him."

Israel Regardie


"The paradox is the source of the thinker’s passion, and the thinker without a paradox is like a lover without feeling; a paltry mediocrity."

Soren Kierkegaard


"The presence of an idea is like that of a loved one. We imagine that we shall never forget it, and that the beloved can never become indifferent to us; but out of sight, out of mind! The finest thought runs the risk of being irretrievably forgotten if it is is not written down."

-Shopenhauer 'on Thinking for Oneself'


"It is respectable to have no illusions-and profitable-and dull."

Joseph Conrad


"There exists today a group of men, among whom I am proud to find myself, that opposes the empirical tradition, according to which everything happens by chance and without any unified form, changing from time to time and place to place, making it unnecessary to find any law of events other than the "more or less" of statistical induction. In opposition to such vast anarchy we renew the older and more profound tradition of philosophy which seek in all things the "essence," the single mode."

Ortega Y Gasset

On Love



"It is not good enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well."

Rene Descartes (1637)


"The more unintelligent a man is, the less mysterious existence seems to him."



"Will and intellect are one and the same thing."

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677)


"The task of the real intellectual consists of analyzing illusions in order to discover their causes."

Arthur Miller


"Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are."

George Santayana


"The sign of an intelligent people is their ability to control emotions by the application of reason."

Marya Mannes


"To the dull mind all nature is leaden. To the illumined mind the whole world burns and sparkles with light."


Journal 1831



"Only those who know the supremacy of the intellectual life-the life which has a seed of ennobling thought and purpose within it-can understand the grief of one who falls from that serene activity into the absorbing soul wasting struggle with worldly annoyances."

George Eliot



"On the heights it is warmer than people in the valley suppose, especially in winter. The thinker recognizes the full import of this simile."


Miscellaneous maxims and opinions 1879


"The intellectual is constantly betrayed by his vanity. God-like, he blandly assumes that he can express everything in words; whereas the thing one loves, lives, and dies for are not, in the last analysis, completely expressible in words."

Ann Morrow Lindbergh

The Wave of the Future (1940)


"Literary intellectuals are no different from other mortals when it comes to many of the things to which they themselves are often in the habit of pretending superiority. The occupational hazard of the literary intellectual is to believe that he is redeemed by consciousness. He knows, for example, what mean-spiritedness is, and he is, of course, against it; therefore, he need have no further worries about falling into it himself. He is opposed to all the vices and in favor of all the virtues; and this, of course, makes him a righteous man without further ado."

Norman Podheretz

Making It 1968


"The intellectual is a middle-class product; if he is not born into the class he must soon insert himself into it, in order to exist. He is the fine nervous lover of the bourgeoisie."

Louise Bogan

Some notes on popular and unpopular Art (1943)



"We should not pretend to understand the world only by the intellect; we apprehend it just as much by feeling. Therefore the judgment of the intellect is, at best, only the half of truth, and must, if it be honest, also come to an understanding of its inadequacy."

Carl Jung


"If the man who has once begun to think wishes to persist in his mere living he can do so only by surrendering himself, whenever this idea takes possession of him, to thoughtlessness, and stupefying himself therein. If he perseveres with thinking he can come to no other result than Reverence for Life.

Any thinking by which men assert that they are reaching skepticism or life without ethical ideals, is not thinking but thoughtlessness which poses as thinking, and it proves itself to be such by the fact that it is concerned about the mystery of life and the world."

Albert Schweitzer

Out of my life and work



"The ethic, then, which originates in thinking is not "According to reason," but non-rational and enthusiastic. It marks off no skillfully defined circle of duties, but lays upon each individual the responsibility for all life within his reach, and compels him to devote himself to helping it."

Albert Schweitzer

Out of my Life and Work



"The function of the intellectual has always been confined, in the main, to embellishing the bored existence of the bourgeoisie, to consoling the rich in the trivial troubles of their life. The intelligentsia was the nurse of the capitalist class. It was kept busy embroidering white stitches on the philosophical and ecclesiastical vestments of the bourgeoisie-that old and filthy fabric, besmeared so thickly with the blood of the toiling masses."

-Maksim Gorki



"What offends a great intellect in society is the equality of rights, leading to equality of pretensions, which every one enjoys; while at the same time, inequality of capacity means a corresponding disparity of social power. So-called "good society" recognizes every kind of claim but that of intellect, which is a contraband article; and people are expected to exhibit an unlimited amount of patience towards every form of folly and stupidity, perversity and dullness; whilst personal merit has to beg pardon, as it were for being present, or else conceal itself altogether. Intellectual superiority offends by its very existence, without any desire to do so."




"Intellectual conversation , whether grave or humorous, is only fit for intellectual society; it is downright abhorrent to ordinary people, to please whom it is absolutely necessary to be commonplace and dull. This demands an act of severe self-denial; we have to forfeit three-fourths of ourselves in order to become like other people."



"As a general rule, it may be said that a man’s sociability stands very nearly in inverse ratio to his intellectual value: to say "so and so" is very unsociable, is almost tantamount to saying that he is man of great capacity."



"Think what characterizes the really intelligent person. They can think for themselves. They love abstract ideas. They can look dispassionately at the facts. Humbug is their enemy. Dissent comes easily to them, as does complexity. These are traits that are not only unnecessary for most business jobs, they are actually a handicap when it comes to rising through the ranks of large companies."

-Lucy Kellaway; "Companies Don't Need Brainy People," Financial Times, Nov 22, 2004


"The intellectual life is not the only road to God, nor the safest, but we find it to be a road, and it may be the appointed road for us. Of course it will be so only so long as we keep the impulse pure and disinterested. That is the great difficulty As the author of the Theologia Germanica says, we may come to love knowledge-our knowing-more than the thing known: to delight not in the exercise of our talents but in the fact that they are ours, or even in the reputation they bring us. Every success in the scholar's life increases this danger. If it becomes irresistible, he must give up his scholarly work. The time for plucking out the right eye has arrived."

C.S. Lewis

The Weight of Glory


"Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect, Santayana declared, and the metaphor is apt. The mind that seeks the deepest intellectual fulfillment does not give itself up to every passing idea. Yet what is sometimes forgotten is the larger purpose of such a virtue. For in the end, chastity is something one preserves not for its own sake, which would be barren, but rather so that one may be fully ready for the moment of surrender to the beloved, the suitor whose aim is true. Whether in knowledge or in love, the capacity to recognize and embrace that moment when it finally arrives, perhaps in quite unexpected circumstances, is essential to the virtue. Only with that discernment and inward opening can the full participatory engagement unfold that brings forth new realities and new knowledge. Without this capacity, at once active and receptive, the long discipline would be fruitless. The carefully cultivated skeptical posture would become finally an empty prison, an armored state of unfulfillment, a permanently confining end in itself rather than the rigorous means to a sublime result."

Richard Tarnas

Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View


"Could anyone say that Intellect, the true and real Intellect, will ever be in error and believe the unreal? Certainly not. For how could it still be Intellect when it was being unintelligent? It must, then, always know and not ever forget anything, and its knowing must not be that of a guesser, or ambiguous, or like that of someone who has heard what he knows from someone else."



   ....Man is wiser than his intellect.....his whole organism has a wisdom and purposiveness which goes well beyond his conscious thought.....I think men and women, individually and collectively are inwardly and organismically rejecting the view of one single culture-approved reality. I believe they are moving inevitably toward the acceptance of millions of separate, challenging exciting informative individual perceptions of reality. I regard it as possible that this view-like the simultaneous and separate discovery of the principles of quantum mechanics by scientists in different countries-may begin to come into effective existence in many parts of the world at once. If so, we would be living in a totally new universe, different from any in history."

-Carl Rogers


"The most fanatical part of the fanatic is his intellect."

-J.R. Nyquist


"The position of the intellectual has always been tenuous because he is commercially underprivileged. Unless born into money he faces bleak prospects for livelihood, for he is competing in an arena where few can succeed. Thus his place in society is questionable and his stake in the status quo is small. All these factors tempt him to become a rabble-rouser. Even so, he resents having to prostitute himself before a vulgar crowd. he resents having to lower his standards. Perhaps this explain his tendency to become a demagogue. Perhaps this also explains his elitist tendencies, which come out in the all-too-common preference for socialism."

-J.R. Nyquist



Book: "The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent: Selected Essays" by Lionel Trilling & Leon Wieseltier ed

Book: "Lives of the Mind" by Roger Kimball

Book: "Taking It Big: C. Wright Mills and the Making of Political Intellectuals" by Stanley aronowitz

Book; "Intelligence and How To Get It" by Richard E. Nisbett

Book: "The American Intellectual Tradition: 1630-1865" by David A. Hollinger and Charles Capper, Eds

Book: "Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky" by Paul Johnson

Book: "The Book Of The Mind: Key Writings on the Mind from Plato and the Buddha Through Shakespeare, Descartes, and Freud to the Latest Discoveries of Neuroscience" Ed. by Stephen Wilson

Book: "The Betrayal of the Intellectuals" by Julien Benda

Book: "The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th Century" by Peter Watson

Book: "The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia" by John Carey

Book: "The Intelligence Men: Makes of the IQ Controversy" by Raymond E. Fanchow

Book: "Lenin's Private War: The Voyage of the Philosophy Steamer and the Exile of the Intelligentsia" by Lesley Chamberlain




© 2001



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