Saturday, October 11, 2008

The role and place of the intellectual - Big Ideas

TV Ontario's lecture program Big Ideas can be viewed in video stream, but also downloaded as a podcast. As noted before: missing out on the visuals is rarely a problem and as a consequence this is a very good lecture podcast that is both thought provoking, relatively light and featuring great speakers addressing very up to date topics. (feed)

The podcast's feed (I wouldn't know about the video stream or the TV program) frequently holds reruns of old lectures. One such was a lecture from 2001 by Mark Kingwell. The philosopher Kingwell esplored in this lecture the fate of intellectualism in current culture. What is currently the role and place of the intellectual in society? Starting with an entertaining and clarifying example from The Simpsons he embarks on a demonstration how complex the relation of our culture with intellectualism is. Not only is the life of the intellectual a tough and thankless one (Homer Simpson would rather have a pencil shoved up his nose than be an intellectual), in contemporary jargon everybody can have a say and be called an intellectual.

There is an anti-intellectualism on the one hand, Kingwell reproduces a couple of slurs he has to endure himself. Any intellectual who seems to get away from being totally marginal seems to be attacked immediately and degraded to some version of impure and insincere and thus untrue figure - not a real intellectual. Secondly, intellectualism has developed a kind of self-defeating style by means of its relativism. Yet Kingwell proposes that the critical disposition that marks intellectualism is very valuable and necessary, especially in times it seems to be muffled and dwindling. Something for all intellectuals and would-be intellectuals to take to heart.

More Big Ideas:
Disaster Capitalism,
The Bad News about Good Work,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button