Intellectuals Quotes

My favourite definition of an intellectual: 'Someone who has been educated beyond his/her intelligence.
Sources and Acknowledgements
: Chapter 19]

Intellect is not wisdom.

Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.

If a man isn't willing to take some risk for his opinions, either his opinions are no good or he's no good

Beer's intellectual. What a shame so many idiots drink it.
The Watchful Poker Chip of H. Matisse

Academics were not intellectuals; they were not curious, they built their stolid tents of specialized knowledge and stayed securely in them.

There are few genuine conservatives within the U.S. political system, and it is a sign of the intellectual corruption of the age that the honorable term 'conservatism' can be appropriated to disguise the advocacy of a powerful, lawless, aggressive and violent state, a welfare state for the rich dedicated to a lunatic form of Keynesian economic intervention that enhances state and private power while mortgaging the country's future.

We've no use for intellectuals in this outfit. What we need is chimpanzees. Let me give you a word of advice: never say a word to us about being intelligent. We will think for you, my friend. Don't forget it.

Voyage au bout de la nuit

Louis-Ferdinand Céline

Voyage au bout de la nuit

The man of action has the present, but the thinker controls the future.

The man was such an intellectual he was of almost no use.

Nothing appeals to intellectuals more than the feeling that they represent 'the people'. Nothing, as a rule, is further from the truth

Intellectuals are judged not by their morals, but by the quality of their ideas, which are rarely reducible to simple verdicts of truth or falsity, if only because banalities are by definition accurate.

Accuracy    Banality    Falsity    Ideas    Intellectuals    Morals    Truth

There is nothing that an intellectual less likes to change than his mind, or a politician his policy.

Even intellectuals should have learned by now that objective rationality is not the default position of the human mind, much less the bedrock of human affairs.

One minute. You know nothing about him. He probably has his own joys and interests- wife, children, snug little home. That's where we practical fellows'- he smiled-'are more tolerant than you intellectuals. We live and let live, and assume that things are jogging on fairly well elsewhere, and that the ordinary plain man may be trusted to look after his own affairs.

Howards End

E.M. Forster

Howards End

A ruling intelligentsia, whether in Europe, Asia or Africa, treats the masses as raw material to be experimented on, processed, and wasted at will.

Over intellect will make you a genius, over emotions will make you a lunatic.

The cultural situation in America today (and indeed in all Western societies) is determined by the cultural earthquake of the nineteen-sixties, the consequences of which are very much in evidence. What began as a counter-culture only some thirty years ago has achieved dominance in elite culture and, from the bastions of the latter (in the educational system, the media, the higher reaches of the law, and key positions within government bureaucracy), has penetrated both popular culture and the corporate world. It is characterized by an amalgam of both sentiments and beliefs that cannot be easily catalogued, though terms like 'progressive,' 'emancipators or 'liberationist' serve to describe it. Intellectually, this new culture is legitimated by a number of loosely connected ideologies— leftover Marxism, feminism and other sexual identity doctrines, racial and ethnic separatism, various brands of therapeutic gospels and of environmentalism. An underlying theme is antagonism toward Western culture in general and American culture in particular. A prevailing spirit is one of intolerance and a grim orthodoxy, precisely caught in the phrase "political correctness.

Two classes of people make up the world: those who have found God, and those who are looking for Him - thirsting, hungering, seeking! And the great sinners came closer to Him than the proud intellectuals! Pride swells and inflates the ego; gross sinners are depressed, deflated and empty. They, therefore, have room for God. God prefers a loving sinner to a loveless 'saint'. Love can be trained; pride cannot. The man who thinks that he knows will rarely find truth; the man who knows he is a miserable, unhappy sinner, like the woman at the well, is closer to peace, joy and salvation than he knows.

The communist regime in the East could stand and grow due to the enthusiastic support from an enormous number of Western intellectuals who felt a kinship and refused to see communism's crimes. When they no longer could do so, they tried to justify them.

What never fails inside the mind of an intellectual never works outside the confines of his head. The world’s stubborn refusal to vindicate the intellectual’s theories serves as proof of humanity’s irrationality, not his own. Thus, the true believer retrenches rather than rethinks; he launches a war on the world, denying reality because it fails to conform to his theories. If intellectuals are not prepared to reconcile theory and practice, then why do they bother to venture outside the ivory tower or the coffeehouse? Why not stay in the world of abstractions and fantasy?

من هو المثقف؟ بشكل عام هو شخص كرّس نفسه لما يسمى «حياة العقل»، أي التفكير ليس بوصفه أداة أو وسيلة لتحقيق أغراض عملية، وإنما بقصد المعرفة والفهم

A healthy man watched what he ate. An intelligent man watched what he watched.

What is an intellectual? In general, someone seriously devoted to what used to be called the life of the mind: thinking pursued not instrumentally, for the sake of practical goals, but simply for the sake of knowing and understanding.

I was utterly convinced that an intellectual could never be anything but an intellectual, was simply not capable of being anything else, that his intellectuality would, sooner or later, erode his faith or erode whatever he'd masked it with . . . For example, intellectuals like to dress themselves up as peasants . . . but it never works. The intellectual's constitution is impervious to such things - it permits only one object of worship - oneself. Generally speaking, an intellectual in the contemporary version is an exceptionally resourceful and, essentially, pitiful being.

Even in the most favourable periods for cultural development , Intellectuals tend to have uneasy relationship with the status quo.

Intellectuals are a pretty unique species all by themselves, given to advocating things out of sheer brazenness that they could not themselves stomach if they were ushered in to witness the scene.

Intellectuals are not defined according to the jobs they do, but [by] the manner in which they act, the way they see themselves, and the values that they uphold.

My intellect was my greatest vanity.

During the Bosnian war in the late 1990s, I spent several days traveling around the country with Susan Sontag and her son, my dear friend David Rieff. On one occasion, we made a special detour to the town of Zenica, where there was reported to be a serious infiltration of outside Muslim extremists: a charge that was often used to slander the Bosnian government of the time. We found very little evidence of that, but the community itself was much riven as between Muslim, Croat, and Serb. No faction was strong enough to predominate, each was strong enough to veto the other's candidate for the chairmanship of the city council. Eventually, and in a way that was characteristically Bosnian, all three parties called on one of the town's few Jews and asked him to assume the job. We called on him, and found that he was also the resident intellectual, with a natural gift for synthesizing matters. After we left him, Susan began to chortle in the car. 'What do you think?' she asked. 'Do you think that the only dentist and the only shrink in Zenica are Jewish also?' It would be dense to have pretended not to see her joke.

Trotsky was so much an intellectual that in the final analysis, Marxism was not quite enough for him.

Respectable opinion would never consider an assessment of the Reagan Doctrine or earlier exercises in terms of their actual human costs, and could not comprehend that such an assessment—which would yield a monstrous toll if accurately conducted on a global scale—might perhaps be a proper task in the United States. At the same level of integrity, disciplined Soviet intellectuals are horrified over real or alleged American crimes, but perceive their own only as benevolent intent gone awry, or errors of an earlier day, now overcome; the comparison is inexact and unfair, since Soviet intellectuals can plead fear as an excuse for their services to state violence.

Atheism or similar charges was not unusual among intellectuals, nor condemned by the masses. The prize-winning plays of
were not merely atheist, but made fun of the gods and their prophets and oracles.

Intellectual controversies tend to be like dog fights without the teeth, in which the barking not the biting does the damage.

Those intellectuals are our natural enemies; the only kind who are worth anything are the musicians and the dancers: they don’t insult anybody with their performances, and they neither sing nor dance politics. So I like them; but don’t let me hear a word about the rest


Alfred de Vigny

El político puede pagarle al intelectual. Pero no puede confiar en él. El intelectual acabará por disentir y para el político esta será siempre una traición. Malicioso o ingenuo, maquiavélico o utópico, el poderoso siempre creerá que tiene la razón y el que se opone a él es un traidor o, por lo menos, alguien dispensable.

He was born to be alone, a damned cold intellectual, an egoist.

I cleaned the shit off my pink high-tops and drove home, stopping for an espresso at the coffeehouse across from the college. Men and women were hunched over copies of Jean Paul Sartre and writing in their journals. Most wore the thin-rimmed tortoiseshell glasses favored by intellectuals. Their clothes were faded to a precisely fashionable degree; you can buy them that way from catalogs now, new clothes processed to look old. The intellectuals looked at me in my overalls the way such people inevitably look at farmers.
I dumped a lot of sugar in my espresso and sipped it delicately at a corner table near the door. I looked at them the way farmers look at intellectuals.

I grew up in an atmosphere tinged with militarism, and afterwards I spent five boring years within the sound of bugles. To this day it gives me a faint feeling of sacrilege not to stand to attention during ‘God save the King’. That is childish, of course, but I would sooner have had that kind of upbringing than be like the left-wing intellectuals who are so ‘enlightened’ that they cannot understand the most ordinary emotions.

The Way of the Sufis cannot be understood by means of the intellect or by ordinary book learning.

Nor were the intellectuals of the 1920s a vanguard of a new outlook, as they themselves supposed, but the exhausted rearguard of Victorian romanticism. They sought refuge from an industrialised and ugly world. Some, like Virginia Woolf, found it in polishing up an exquisite sensibility. Others, like her husband Leonard Woolf and of course Gilbert Murray, found escape in designing an ideal society...It was a sheltered world, this of the intelligentsia of the 1920s, its inhabitants mostly shielded by private means from crude personal reminders of the outside struggle for survival. They circulated at leisure from country house to country cottage...back again to Bloomsbury or one of the ancient universities; convinced that they carried in their luggage the soul of civilisation. The memoirs of the epoch are fragrant with cultured weekends - witty chat on the lawn and brilliant profundity at the dining table. It was a circle of flimsy and precious people, of whom Lady Ottoline Morrell was perhaps the manliest. And so, while not all intellectuals were active pacifists or internationalists, they were generally more concerned with classical French and Greek culture - 'the good life' - than with 'Philistine' matters like industrial and strategic power.

The realization that you can't predict the future -- and mold it -- could only come as a shock to an academic.

Traditional American intellectuals are, in a sense, increasingly reactionary, and quite often proudly (and perversely) ignorant of many of the truly significant intellectual accomplishments of our time.

We have stolen many ideas from many intellectuals we have ever read.



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