by Peter Lawler
So everyone’s talking about the article by the intellectual Russell Jacoby on the alleged fact that there are no conservative intellectuals anymore.
The article isn’t much good, in fact. One problem is that it doesn’t really explain what an intellectual is.
The first outstanding criticism of modern intellectuals came from the lefty philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He explained that in a modern, sophisticated society they’ll be a “new class” of people attempting to distinguish themselves by their devotion to ideas. They would be driven much more by vanity than love of truth or concern for others, and their main impulse would be displaying their superiority in the public square. They would be the source of the fashionable dogmas—kinds of popularized science and other forms of self-helpy expertise—that would tend to displace religion and patriotism. The new dogmas wouldn’t really be more true than the older ones, and they would have the huge practical disadvantage of “deconstructing” moral virtue as most people experience it. [Read more...]