Thursday 31 March 2011

Intellectuals are (intrinsically) eunuchs


Ernest Gellner made the point that - as a class - intellectuals are eunuchs (using a broad definition).

Ancient societies were (mostly) divided into warriors (rulers), priests (advisers, administrators/ clerks, lawyers), and peasants - and the priests were (in a sense) eunuchs. 

In other words the intellectual elite are (over time) excluded from reproduction and leadership.


This was achieved in some societies by making actual castration a pre-requisite of obtaining the privileges of the intellectual class.

For example, in the Byzantine Empire (the most successful Christian Empire by far) the civil service was staffed by eunuchs - they formed a buffer zone between the Emperor and the rest of the world.

In Roman times most intellectuals were slaves.

In medieval Europe, the intellectuals were celibate (legally celibate, that it; they could not have legitimate heirs).

Another main class of intellectuals in medieval Europe were Jews, who were an encapsulated and subordinate population, legally excluded from rulership.

Most teachers have been of servant status: like 'nannies', private tutors or governesses.

In modern times, the intellectual elite (which includes a high-ish proportion of women) are of course de facto eunuchs: in the sense that they have opted for voluntary sterility with fertility delayed into the thirties and a fertility rates way below replacement levels; and in the sense that they are servants (who adjust to society) not leaders (who shape society).

(Indeed, there are no leaders at present; which is why things are set to revert.)


To be a eunuch, then, is to opt for a life of relative intellectual freedom and relative physical comfort; at the cost of near-zero fertility and subordinate (slave, serf, servant, outcast) status.


(I should emphasize that eunuchs may indeed, did indeed, have sex - as did celibate priests, slaves, servants etc; but they do not reproduce; or only at an insignificant level. Either they do not have offspring, or they are allowed to die, or are given/ taken away, or cannot inherit, or are confined in a ghetto, or something of the sort.)


The trend may be bucked for a generation or two - but equilibrium is soon restored: as we can see all around us. We are returning to the default of warriors, priests and peasants.

Of course, the present vast class of (pseudo) eunuchs - I mean intellectuals - cannot possibly be supported, and almost all of us will be returned to peasant status.  


[There was, of course, another class: the middle class, the skilled trades and crafts and arts - the guilds or 'mysteries'. And these are not eunuchs but patriarchs. They provide the population to fill vacancies in the ruling classes, and leaders of the peasant classes. But the middle class have gone altogether. They will need to be rebuilt from the ground-up.]



hester said...

You're sort of thing, Bruce - apparently something like 50% of top flight published experimental science might possibly be correct.

Bruce Charlton said...

@hester - if half of the 'top' papers are indeed irreproducible - 49 percent of the rest are either untrue, actively misleading or utterly pointless!

Actually; if I said that 1 percent of published papers were true, honest and useful, I would be exaggerating grossly ...

The Crow said...

Interesting perspective!
As a man ages, does he change classes to adapt his changing physical attributes?
I regard myself as having started out somewhere between peasant and warrior. Then moving into intellectual areas, abandoning that, and becoming mystical.
I chose, long ago, to not become a father, probably as a result of the brainwashing prevalent in the UK at the time, that over-population was all my fault.
Probably I am just a misfit, and will always be.
I am beginning to feel that the masses should not be educated to the levels they are. Look at the results.

The Monk said...

I simply disagree with this idea of the intellectual class of a society being naturally eunuchs. Classical India is a magnificent counter-example. (Of course, it was taken as given that rule is something not to be exercised by intellectuals, but that was because it was considered below them and beneath their ideals, not because they were eunuchs or incapable of it.)

Brandon said...

Matthew 19:11-12

Bruce Charlton said...

11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given . 12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

Can you explain this?

Brandon said...

"...from their mothers womb..." Destined by God from birth to be. "made eunuchs by men..." Physically castrated in order to serve those who did the castrating. "...made themselves so for the kingdom...Didn't start out so, but became so later in life after going through the transformation. Some even having been married and had children like myself. See "Elegy for days ago" at my blog.