For The New Intellectual

2007-11-29

While writing my last post I was moved to look up Ayn Rand's description of what she called "the new intellectual". Here are some excerpts:

Who are to be the New Intellectuals? Any man or woman who is willing to think. All those who know that man's life must be guided by reason, those who value their own life and are not willing to surrender it to the cult of despair in the modern jungle of cynical impotence, just as they are not willing to surrender the world to the Dark Ages and the rule of the brutes....

The New Intellectual will be the man who lives up to the exact meaning of his title: a man who is guided by his intellect -- not a zombie guided by feelings, instincts, urges, wishes, whims or revelations. Ending the rule of Attila and the Witch Doctor, he will discard the basic premise that made them possible: the soul-body dichotomy. He will discard its irrational conflicts and contradictions, such as: mind versus heart, thought versus action, reality versus desire, the practical versus the moral. He will be an integrated man, that is: a thinker who is a man of action. He will know that ideas divorced from consequent action are fraudulent, and that action divorced from ideas is suicidal. He will know that the conceptual level of psycho-epistemology -- the volitional level of reason and thought -- is the basic necessity of man's survival and his greatest moral virtue. He will know that men need philosophy for the purpose of living on earth.

The New Intellectual will be a reunion of the twins that should never have been separated: the intellectual and the businessman. He can come from among the best -- that is: the most rational -- men who may still exist in both camps. In place of an involuntary Witch Doctor and a reluctant Attila, the reunion will produce new types: the practical thinker and the philosophical businessman....

Let them both discover the nature, the theory and the actual history of capitalism; both groups are equally ignorant of it. No other subject is hidden by so many distortions, misconceptions, and falsifications. Let them study the historical facts...

Yes, that is what I have been doing for the last five or more years: studying the historical facts regarding the emergence of the modern world, doing as Thoreau once counselled:

Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe...till we come to the hard bottom of rocks in place, which we can call reality.

It's been a long tough slog for me to do this historical research while working more than full time as a technologist, and there is still so much for me to learn, yet I'm not complaining because there is no substitute for the clear, hard light of the facts of reality.

(However, for the benefit of all those impractical philosophers out there who have not worked hard to understand the historical reality of modern society, I can state unequivocally that, no, despite what Rand says, it was not caused by the rediscovery of Aristotle's writings by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. Further clues can be found in my essay Ayn Rand and the Ascent of Man.)


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal