five rules for intellectuals

Posted on July 11, 2007


cross-posted from raincoaster

also, don't pee on the couch. That's another good rule for intellectuals

Not that we pay any attention to rules in the first place, but we’ve got to start with some kind of thesis statement before we can argue about it, right?

So here are five pieces of advice for intellectuals from steve fuller‘s book the intellectual, and yes, the lowercase is his, or at least his publisher’s. All true intellectuals respect one another’s case preferences.

  1. First, learn to see things from multiple points of view without losing your ability to evaluate them. Always imagine that at some point you will need to make a decision about what to believe of these different perspectives.
  2. Second, be willing and able to convey any thought in any medium. There would be little point in being an intellectual if you did not believe that ideas, in some sense, always transcend their mode of communication.
  3. Third, never regard a point of view as completely false or beneath contempt. There is plenty of truth and error to go around, and you can never really be sure which is which.
  4. Fourth, always see your opinion as counterbalancing, rather than reinforcing, someone else’s opinion.
  5. Fifth, in public debate fight for the truth tenaciously but concede error graciously.

Now, these seem like pretty sensible guidelines overall (although I hope we won’t see dancing about architecture any time soon) but he loses me and all other absolutists on #3, not that I expect it would bother him. What, you have to wonder, is the point of discussing ideas or attempting to determine truth if one ultimately doesn’t believe it is knowable? While it’s surely a good idea to develop the ability to argue effectively with anyone, no matter how moronic (an ability which, you may have noticed, escapes me utterly) it should never be believed that there is no reason to believe one idea rather than another; the last man who went that far was Beckett, and while he may indeed have been right, I fervently hope not. And, of course, if you are a #3-ist, you cannot disagree with me without rendering your own opposition absurd.

But then, we already know that if you disagree with me you are, by definition, absurd. I await your comments…

add to :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank