Refuse to be Passive

Intellectual?

In Life in General on November 22, 2010 at 10:50 am

After chatting with a friend this weekend, I’ve been pondering this question, “What is an intellectual?” Am I an intellectual? I certainly wouldn’t classify myself as one, but would others? Maybe.  Is an intellectual someone who simply thinks about issues? Or is there a philosophical/political bent to it? If it’s simply someone who thinks intelligently on a variety of topics, then yes, I would classify myself as an intellectual. If it’s someone who collects philosophy books for fun and spouts Heidegger and Foucault, then maybe not so much.

I suppose the reason I don’t seem myself as an intellectual, is that for the past few years I’ve constantly been surrounded by people who think more deeply than I, who have no issues grappling with the abstract. I tend to deal in the physical reality of here and now. Now, to do what every prof. in university hates, I will cite the dictionary. Mirriam Webster defines “intellectual” as “given to study, reflection, and speculation.” As such, I would definitely classify myself as an intellectual, although not a philosopher, or an abstract thinker. Wait, those two might be the same.

Anyway, when I told my friend that sometimes he made my brain hurt, as he was an intellectual and I was not, he was horrified– so much more than I ever would have guessed someone could become over a statement like that. He felt I’d put a wall up between us or had placed him on a pedestal. I think ultimately it came down to the fact that we have different definitions of intellectual. If his definition matches the dictionary, and mine includes abstract philosophy, then that would explain a lot.

So, am I an intellectual? Well, it’s a matter of interpretation.

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