Skip to main content

What is an intellectual? Where does the word come from?


Though its root can be traced back to late Middle English, the word intellectual only became widespread at the time of Dreyfus Affair (1894 - 1906). Defenders of Dreyfus - most famously, the French novelist Emile Zola - were described as intellectuals. It was not intended as a compliment but shorthand for  “the diseased, the introspective, the disloyal and the unsound.”


Unloved intellectuals

Intellectuals were also despised by the authoritarian Left. Lenin, for example,  reserved particular contempt for what he liked to call 'bourgeois intellectuals', evidently not counting himself in a group that would be heading en masse to the gulags.

Today, the French accord due respect to writer, poets, philosophers and other assorted eggheads. Unfortunately some of the most celebrated examples have rather tarnished the brand. Althusser murdered his wife while Monsieur Intellectual himself, Jean Paul Sartre, was a serial champion of despots including Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.

Intellectual but idiot?

In the anglosphere a more skeptical view of intellectuals tends to be be associated with political conservatism. William F Buckley famously said that he would rather be governed by fifty individuals picked randomly from the phone book than the collective teaching staff at Harvard.  More recently Naseem Taleb had railed against what he calls the way that what he calls the IYI (intellectual yetidiot) dominates public discourse.


About the English Language Teaching Pack  only £2.99 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Top 10 most quoted lines of poetry in English?

Mark Forsyth (The Inky Fool) has analysed Google Search query result data for lines of verse requested online. Here is the Top Ten:

Why is English not the official language of England?

58 countries list English as an official language - but not the UK. The world's lingua franca or second language is not, technically, the 'official' language of its birthplace. The de factoofficiallanguage of the United Kingdom is English,[3][4] which is spoken by approximately 59.8 million residents, or 98% of the population, over the age of three.[1][2][10][11][12] An estimated 700,000 people speak Welsh in the UK,[13] an official language in Wales

What is the origin of the word alphabet?