five rules for intellectuals

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…

22 thoughts on “five rules for intellectuals

  1. Yeah, numbers 3,4, and 5 have to be ignored sometimes, particularly in the electronosphere. What am I to make of literal Bible interpretation if I try to keep #3 in my heart?

    I also notice that you are completely unable to follow #5. Concede error graciously? Or “ever”? Displaying grace in losing arguments was never one of your stronger qualities. And it’s not as though I haven’t offered you ample opportunity.

  2. #3 should only be practiced in the context of being able to understand why someone with a particular belief would do so. and thus give one the understanding needed to counter that belief effectively. Consider it intellectual profiling. I try to understand why George W. would hold the beliefs that he does, and I come out of those little immersion sessions feeling like William Hurt did after being locked in the sensory deprivation tank in “Altered States.”

    Except I don’t get to see a bare-breasted Blair Brown, sphinx-like in the desert. Damn.

  3. Seems to me that number 3 just boils down to respecting the opinions of others, which is what I think former frontier editor was getting at, even if their opinion sounds like utter rubbish.

    end of two cents

  4. Don’t invoice me: I ain’t got it.

    #3 sounds okay until you get to the second sentence, which seems to me to state that the truth can never be determined. If the truth can never be determined, what is the point of discussing what is true? Perhaps the author didn’t mean it that way, but this goes well beyond Relativism or simple courtesy into the Absurd.

  5. I actually don’t think that was quite what FFE said, nor is respect necessary. I am not required to respect the opinions of fools nor of fascists. I am, however, required to try and stand in their shoes for a moment–to consider how the hell they came up with such damnable shite opinions.

    Blair Brown would be far better compensation for such efforts than the “Oh! That’s how!” moment I am sometimes regrettably awarded.

    The idea that understanding breeds affinity is directly opposed to the old maxim that familiarity breeds contempt.

  6. Rousseau caugh the subtlety of #3 with his famous statement about disagreeing yet defending one’s right to say it.

    And from my perspective, having the right to express an opinion is attached firmly to the responsibility of defending that opinion’s logic, rationality and basic premise.

    Right and responsibility – if that ain’t what a democracy and a republic are all about, then I must have missed the boat.

    BTW Rain – I broke down and got a WordPress blog site tonight. Guess I got a new side project now.

  7. WordPress.org or WordPress.com? You should be able to handle the .org easily enough. What’s the URL? You’ll find WordPress.com has some serious googlejuice, if that’s something that interests you.

    And again I say that I see what you mean with regard to the first part of #3: that is not the part that bothers me. It’s the second part that seems to negate everything that goes both before and after. I can’t accept the two together, and I can’t convince myself he didn’t mean both equally.

  8. Go to the FAQ and find the importer for Blogger; it can move everything over, including the comments. I think you’ll have to re-post images and YouTubes, though.

    Why did you make the switch?

  9. The Most Honourable the Marchioness of Witchhampton under Buzzard

    My Lady Marchioness

    Harrumph … Hurramph …. Hurrumph

    I warm to Monsieur Metro’s determination that these Rules should not apply to him. I flatter myself that generally we are of one mind, except of course when we are not

    If I understood Immanuel Kant (which is not admitted) I rather suspect that :

    1. I would not agree with Kant (apparently differing on the autonomy or otherwise of human thought)

    2. Kant would graciously say (a) these Rules do not apply to him either; and (b) he does not care whether I agree with him

    However, What do any of these “Rules” have to do with being an Intellectual and Why do any of us want to be intellectuals

    In Micah chapter 6, we are told what the Lord requires of us :

    * to do justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly before your God”

    Isn’t this more attractive intellectually than being or aspiring to be an intellectual !!!

    Ah !!! Silly me – there I am taking the Bible literally !!!!

    Your Grace’s obedient servant etc

    G E

  10. But Kant would indeed say that the same rules apply to everyone. He would just throw out a few of these ones. And no, being Biblical is not an intellectual occupation in any way, shape or form. I am reminded of a fellow who said, if you want to know what God thinks of Money, just look at the people he gives it too. Same with excessive Biblicination.

    One cannot understand the world entirely through faith: one needs thought, and rigorous thought at that, and since one is here one has a duty to learn why one is here, and to discover and carry out one’s mission and fulfil one’s responsibilities, if any. Kant would agree with that. You can totally ask him.

  11. The Most Honourable the Marchioness of Witchhampton under Buzzard

    My Lady Marchioness

    I just love that Dog

    Rank has its Privileges and being wrong is one of them … and ignoring the less defensible Refinements of British etiquette, but you (& your divers Visitors) may (or perhaps may not) be interested to learn that a Marchioness is entitled to subscribe herself as “Witchhampton”

    Your Grace’s obedient servant etc

    G E

  12. Pingback: five rules for intellectuals « running through rain

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