Wednesday, 27 November 2013

What is that elusive 'real intellectual' quality?

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I am a 'real' intellectual - and have been since I was a small child, when people used to call me Professor.

But I do not think this is a matter of IQ - or at least that is not what makes me an intellectual while most people with the same or higher IQ are not intellectuals.

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In fact, most of the most highly intelligent people are certainly not intellectuals in the sense that I mean.

And some not very intelligent people by adult standards certainly are intellectuals - in other words youngish children who would score less than average (less than 100) on an adult-marked IQ test; yet who very obviously are intellectuals, as I was.

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Furthermore, in modern culture, the overwhelming majority of the most successful people in intellectual domains are not intellectuals - although they may be, usually are, clever enough to disguise themselves as intellectuals in their public productions, such as writings, if they want to - and this disguise may be very difficult to penetrate, even for another intellectual - but if you happen to meet them it is very soon obvious that they are faking it.

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So, being a 'real' intellectual is not primarily about high cognitive ability - although it seems to require high cognitive ability. There is some qualitative difference or distinction which marks an intellectual, and from early childhood - and it is more like a bias than an ability, and it is a masculine quality - yet it is not detected by standard personality testing... 

It seems that some sympathetic and objective non-intellectuals can detect this quality in children, but they tend to get it mixed up with cognitive ability - so anyone who excels at exams or other educational evaluations gets regarded as 'an intellectual'; so the category of intellectual gets swamped by non-intellectual (sometimes extremely non-intellectual) high achievers.

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My impression is that intellectuals can recognize each other, and perhaps only intellectuals can reliably detect this quality - just as only highly gifted 'musical' people can detect natural musicality in others - although modern life seems designed to suppress the natural ability to make this distinction, as well as to prevent anyone acting upon it.

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I get the strong feeling (reading history) that much of intellectual life used to be dominated by real intellectuals such as myself - who were picked-out, identified during childhood by other intellectuals - 'given' a niche in the intellectual world, and trained for it by prolonged apprenticeship (while allowing that mistakes are made and corruption occurs so that non-intellectuals would sometimes be selected by error or for wrong reasons)...

- rather than (as now) real intellectuals competing for niches via competitive evaluations; excellence in which is always quantitatively dominated by non-intellectuals.

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But probably, the non-competitive, 'recognition' system can only work when the intellectual niche is not especially comfortable, when in fact the job of being an intellectual is materially poor and in some ways deprived; so that nobody would want to 'be an intellectual' unless it suited their nature.

Or, on the other hand, when the intellectual world is primarily amateur; then a 'pure' system of selection by-intellectuals-for-intellectuals could (and sometimes does) operate.

Or a mixture of both - as when universities were dominated by a combination of impoverished scholarship boys, paid for by some form of chritable patronage, and self-funded amateurs from a wealthy background.  

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