4 May 2003
Smart people, dumb ideas
"Intellectuals," says Cinderella Bloggerfeller, "are simply human beings who should be judged by the same standards as ordinary people." Certainly they're no less capable of blithering idiocy than the rest of us, a point made in La connaissance inutile (English title: The Flight from Truth) by Jean-François Revel (translation by Mr Bloggerfeller):
[T]he intellectual's intervention in public affairs takes place under the strong influence of considerations, pressures, interests, passions, acts of cowardice, snobberies, bids at social climbing, prejudices and hypocrisies which are identical in every way to those which motivate other men. The three virtues necessary to resist them, namely clearsightedness, courage and honesty, are neither more nor less widespread among intellectuals than among any other socio-professional category. This is why the quota they have supplied to the great aberrations of humanity is, proportionately, equivalent to the quota furnished by the rest of their contemporaries.
Which is why I'm not too perturbed that, for instance, national scold William Bennett plays the slots; it may seem inconsistent with Bennett's incessant grousing about the lack of virtue displayed by some of us, but for most of the human race, achieving a level of perfect consistency usually occurs at the moment of death, at which point it really doesn't matter anymore.