Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?

From Noel Malcolm’s review of Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone? by Frank Furedi:

In the old days, according to Furedi, people pursued knowledge for knowledge’s sake and art for art’s sake, because they believed in the Enlightenment ideals of truth and beauty. Recently, however, sinister anti-Enlightenment forces have succeeded in persuading us that knowledge and art should be means or instruments towards other ends – whether economic growth (as in the Thatcherite approach to the universities) or social “inclusiveness” (as in the Blairite one).

In the old days people died in childbirth. Those who in the old days believed in knowledge for knowledge’s sake were a surpassingly small minority, and just happened to be the surpassingly small minority who wrote all the books and dominated the culture. I will hazard to say that in absolute terms there are now many many more people who believe in the intrinsic worthiness of truth and beauty. There are very likely many many more works of science and art produced by these people. They, however, do not dominate the culture like they once did, which has become broader and more popular. Furedi is wistful for a time when the philistines were ill-educated and excluded from the manufacture of “culture” and opinion. Given broader access to education, leagues of people who never came into much contact with Truth and Beauty (although very experienced with truth and beauty) at least see that it’s good for something. That’s improvement! And it’s dumb to ask where all the intellectuals have gone. They evidence that they continue to flourish is overwhelming.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center