An Academic or an Intellectual?

HT to Profacero who linked from Slaves of Academe

Three Differences between an Academic and an Intellectual: What Happens to the Liberal Arts When They Are Kicked off Campus?

In brief, the three differences:

1. “An academic has and wants an audience disproportionately made up of teachers and students, while an intellectual has and wants teachers and students in his audience only in proportion to their place in the general educated public.”

2. “The second difference between an academic and an intellectual is the familiar difference between a specialist and a generalist, the academic being the specialist and the intellectual the generalist….A generalist must write from the full breadth of a general education that has not ended at graduation or been confined to a discipline.

3. “The third difference between an intellectual and an academic is the relative attachment of each to writing as a fine rather than a merely practical art….I bring up writing as a category in its own right because the attitude taken toward it in academe is so often narrowly instrumental: writing as just a tool to get the job done. Clarity is the only real virtue for an instrumentalist; any other values that might be named are merely ornamental….An academic is concerned with substance and suspicious of style, while an intellectual is suspicious of any substance that purports to transcend or defy style.”

I want The Girl to be an intellectual, not an academic. I want to be one when I grow up, too.

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2 Responses to An Academic or an Intellectual?

  1. La Gollemess says:

    This is a bit of a false dilemma. There are many academics who are not intellectuals. There are many intellectuals who are not academics. Of course, there are many people who are neither. However, there are also many folks who are both. Ironically (if you know their history), both Noam Chomsky and George Lakoff are clear examples of people who are both.

    There are many (often self) so-called intellectuals who are mere posers. They talk big, but do little. There are academics who are similar. Academics have their status to convey their status. Intellectuals are a more nebulous group. Unless a person has been repeatedly been identified as an ‘intellectual’, then such an individual should not claim such a status. Unfortunately, there are many more posers than true intellectuals.

    So, G-bitch I would not worry about The Girl. She will become who she becomes. The labels will follow. Let us hope that she does not become one of the mere posers, though. I am sure that you will make certain that she does not.

    La Gollemess

  2. G Bitch says:

    Actually, Chomsky is more intellectual than academic with more than one field of expertise–he’s a linguist by “trade,” not a political theorist. And folks like Chomsky and Lakoff are the exceptions to the rule, not the rule, and I feel pretty confident saying they are more intellectuals than academics. And just because some people are posers does not invalidate the distinctions. (I do not agree that all categories or distinctions are “labels” in the negative sense. ADHD is more of a label than “intellectual.” Unless you think there’s something unseemly about intellectualism, which is the American Way.)

    As a writer in the academy, the differences outlined above are 95% real and true. Yeah, there are lots of poseurs because there are a lot of people with no clue or true concern about intellectual curiosity and expansion; their real concern is their own self-promotion and projection of whatever label they value, whether others care or not. Does that make some people not intellectuals? No. I couldn’t give 2 flying fucks about posuers. Why bring them into the discussion at all?

Comments welcomed. Really.