Via Borepatch, whom you should be reading, here’s a link to a fun essay deriding the soi-disant Smart People who view themselves as the world’s natural and universal geniuses and discussing their identity. This is nothing new. There’s a Russian word for it, originally as mocking as Smart People: intelligentsiya. A single member of that class is an intelligent. (You nod the nod of sudden enlightenment.)
Confucius has no use for these people. “But, ŒV,” you say (and we’re impressed with your pronunication), “are you not yourself a great philosopher and thinker and—check your wallet for that university i.d.—literally a card-carrying member of the intelligentsia?”
That’s where you’re wrong. Not as badly as that idiot Adept Lu who kept asking about the right relations between a man, his dog, and the ficus in the yard. You should see the stuff I had to leave out of the Analects.
Confucius is not an intellectual. Confucius is a scholar. Scholars dig through dusty tomes to find things like the recipe for the Liao Drug, and if they have an ounce of self-awareness, realize their expertise in one narrow field means bupkis in terms of understanding others. Intellectuals make wild-ass extrapolations from half-learned things, subscribe fanatically to ideologies, and consider themselves better than others by virtue of their (misused) education and (often dubious) intelligence.
Your Volgi has covered this before, in the context of some Rousseau-huffing bozo who’d written in claiming that Smart People® couldn’t be responsible for atrocities like the French Revolution and that Robespierre wasn’t an intellectual (because intellectuals are a priori Good). It was a little eye-glazing in length, so we’ll just repeat the relevant bits:
… In the guy’s screed, one detects a the tribalist, reflexive defense of “smart people” and “intellectuals.” This, one suspects, is a really big, if undiscussed factor in a lot of the problems the Right has with the young, educated crowd. High schools and universities have generally become so ideologically monolithic that left-wingery is not seen as one set of propositions about human nature and societal organization competing against others, but the settled wisdom of the ages with which all “smart people” agree. Those who don’t (benighted mom and dad, the folks back in Terre Haute, etc.) are ignorant or prejudiced, or evil. (Because why else oppose the Correct? Which is really a way of expressing “the Good” without using traditional religious or moral vocabulary.)
Plus, the kids who come in are often times high on themselves and their SAT scores and have increasingly not been exposed to alternative moral systems, like traditional religion, in which they’d hear, “Yeah, you’re smart, but so what? Are you good?” Or have pointed out to them that not a few brilliant men have gone on to do profound evil. So they think of themselves and their unconsidered philosophy as those entitled to rule in a more just world. They’re smarter than everyone else—the SAT said so!—and intelligence is the sole criterion of worth they’ve been held to. They go to the best schools which are often echo chambers of the intelligence-über-alles ethic and learn What Smart People think and consider themselves Intellectuals (without ever running across the pejorative origins of the term, which contrasted with “scholar”), emerging as unconscious, smug élitists and natural Progressives.
It’s a whole metaphysical orientation. It’s got its religious virtues (fairness! equality!), theology (race! gender! class!), its in- and out-groups (the Good & Smart! the Dumb & Mean!), etc. A lot of these kids will get jobs and wake up. But a lot of them, especially the engagés who gravitate to politics, won’t. And one’s political views rarely change after the age of thirty. As said, this is a serious problem for the Right.…
Rousseau was, as noted smart guys Voltaire and David Hume said, “a monster of vanity and vileness,” and “a monster who saw himself as the only important being in the universe.” He continues to appeal to those equally convinced of their own virtue and centrality to the cosmos.
Click the “elitism” tag for a few more comments from various Gormogons on the topic.
Don’t ask impertinent questions like that jackass Adept Lu.