When hatred of culture becomes itself a part of culture, the life of the mind loses all meaning. Who knows if in centuries to come there will not be universities for re-establishing our former ignorance? For today, in the United States anyway, only the title of the book, not its argument, enjoys much currency. Academics and journalists, pundits, moralists, and pontificators of all varieties are in this sense clercs.
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Re-entering that magical sphere, I recalled this piece by Julien Benda. Written two decades before The Glass Bead Game, Treason of The Intellectuals covers similar ground and makes the same point as Hesse: something has gone seriously awry with education and the uses of intellectual power. One can only observe that, if anything, the situation has become worse since Hesse and Benda wrote. So it seems sensible to revisit Treason to at least become more aware of the problem.
They all pretend to provide factual arguments for some point of view. The pedlars have a constituency, from this they enjoy celebrity, and from celebrity they derive wealth with which to peddle more intellectual junk. Not that the political Right, or even politics generally, have a monopoly on intellectual hypocrisy. The business guru is arguably top of the heap when it comes to academic rubbish. At one point early in my career I was a member of an academic institute at the University of Pennsylvania.
This made sense to me at the time. Only as I matured did I realise that what we were doing was letting someone else - particularly if they had deep pockets - define what constituted a significant social problem.
Commercialisation of our talents in research and analysis did not make us any more relevant, just richer. His self-image and rationalisation is one of advancing knowledge and making the world an economically more efficient place. I know this because I had this self-image and made this rationalisation for a large part of my adult life and was considered normal by my colleagues.
The problem is not one of practice and professional error but one of ideals. Human beings have always been self-centred, careerist and often nasty. But they knew when they acted badly because of the professional standards of public intellectuals. Ambition is the essential mark of character for the university graduate.
Winning is the only measure of success no matter how banal, or destructive, or painful to others the competition might be. The real damage done by a man like Trump is that he incites all around him to forget entirely that there are such things as ideals. It appears that we have reached the level of ultimate intellectual treason.
Could there possibly be anywhere deeper to go?
The Treason of the Intellectuals
Life[ edit ] Born into a Jewish family in Paris, Benda had a secular upbringing. His articles on the Dreyfus affair were collected and published as Dialogues. It was translated into English in by Richard Aldington ; the U. It was republished in as The Treason of the Intellectuals with a new introduction by Roger Kimball. This polemical essay argued that European intellectuals in the 19th and 20th century had often lost the ability to reason dispassionately about political and military matters, instead becoming apologists for crass nationalism, warmongering and racism. Benda defended the measured and dispassionate outlook of classical civilization , and the internationalism of traditional Christianity.
The treason of the intellectuals & “The Undoing of Thought”
I believe there are better critiques of the trends described in this book. Julien Benda Pavelescu Sabin-Stefan rated it really liked it Dec 30, Hammam Azar rated it really liked it Dec 20, In Europe in the s, intellectuals oc abandoning their attachment to traditional philosophical and scholarly ideals, and instead glorified particularisms and ontellectuals relativism. This is the undoing of thought. Emehinola Taiwo rated it liked it Dec 17, The business guru is arguably top of the heap when it comes to academic rubbish. Transaction PublishersDec 31, — Philosophy — pages. Winning is the only measure of success no matter how banal, or destructive, or painful to others the competition might be.