Social Question

Blackberry's avatar

Are intellectuals a minority?

Asked by Blackberry (31057points) March 25th, 2010

I am aware the definition of an intellectual can be hazy, but let’s just say an intellectual is a person that uses critical and analytical thinking in the their daily lives, professionally and personally.

Now…..(how do I start this idea…?) I’m sure we all know there are a lot of people that just seem to not think this way, and when we are aware of them we are flabbergasted that they think the way they do.

Is there a way to gauge how many of these people there are compared to ‘intellectuals’? Does it just seem that there are idiots everywhere because there are in power or is a significant portion of the country/world like this? I hope I explained this well enough for you to understand. I will be back later to explain more. Thank you : )

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38 Answers

Fausnaught's avatar

Especially if they are also Atheist.

The_Idler's avatar

Such behaviour has been subtly discouraged over the past 100 years in Western democracies, to the point where democracy has actually failed (in my opinion), because, yes, the vast majority of people barely think, and parties do not succeed based upon their merits in governance or their intelligent policies, but upon their adeptness at pandering to the manufactured desires of a dumb public.

majorrich's avatar

Oh Heck yeah! That’s why I love to watch shows like ‘Most extreme wipeouts’ or ‘Americas Dumbest this that and the other thing’. I like to call it Stupid people TV. It makes me feel good and smug and superior. I would never jump off a roof to crush my genitals like I’ve seen so many morons do.

MissAusten's avatar

I’ve been wondering this same thing lately. Every time I’m on Facebook now, I see post after post, full of hysterical rants about the health care bill. Almost all of them are extremely upset about things that aren’t even in the bill and refuse to accept the bill itself as a source of information, preferring to quote videos on youtube as “facts.” I’ve been trying to decide if these people are purposefully remaining ignorant or if they just aren’t capable of doing a small amount of research to find out for themselves what the bill says. Any attempt to point them in the right direction (not change their minds, just show them what is in the bill) is met with a high level of hostility.

The only thing I can think of is that people who do this have not learned to research, question, and compare varying sources of information. Maybe they don’t realize that there isn’t someone running around making sure that every word said on TV, every word printed in a newspaper, or every video posted on youtube is factually correct. Who knows.

Note: I am using the health care bill as an example. I don’t think anyone who reads the bill will love it and not have a problem with it, and I have seen people debate the bill on it’s actual contents. They are just drowned out by more, and louder, people who don’t take the time to check their facts.

@The_Idler I hope that changes in the future. My daughter is only in fifth grade, and as part of her library time at school she’s learning how to verify credible websites and compare information from more than one source. The goal is to teach the kids to effectively research for schoolwork, but the added bonus is that she does not automatically believe everything she sees or reads. I’ve helped her with the online aspect of her homework, and it’s great to see how she will now question information and compare sources before making up her own mind. It really is too bad that more people don’t do the same thing.

Snarp's avatar

I think we can safely assume that intellectuals are the minority. After all, less than half the population has above average intelligence. But the clear proof is the popularity of reality television.

Fyrius's avatar

Not that I disagree, but if you’re going to add another property to the criteria, of course the group becomes smaller. Intellectuals are also especially few and far between if you only count the red-haired ones.

janbb's avatar

Intellectuals have always been in the minority in any society, but we do seem to be living in a time where anti-intellectualism is on the rise and stupidity (think Joe the Plumber) is celebrated.

Blackberry's avatar

So I guess the better question is: Why do we not place more importance on critical thinking and ‘smarts’, intelligence etc.? Why are the ‘smart people’ usually ousted or ostracized in groups when we all know we need these people and that it is always better to improve your mind and education? At least I thought that was a globally accepted idea, have you ever been reprimanded or even dismissed for showing any type of intelligence in your community?

Fausnaught's avatar

Like Hawking says, “It is not clear that intelligence has any long-term survival value.”

janbb's avatar

That is a better question. I really need to be working right now, so I will just say that I do not get dissed for being an intellectual within my own community of family and friends but definitely do feel alienated from the prevailing culture most of the time. Working in a community college, my colleagues and I are often dismayed by the lack of critical thinking and evaluative skills exhibited by the students. It is heartening to read Miss Austen’s post about her daughter being taught such skills.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

What a fine thing it is to have an intellect, and room enough in the seat of your breeches to hold it-Mark Twain

wonderingwhy's avatar

I don’t know about “intellectuals” per se but common sense seems to be much less prevalent than its name would imply.

Snarp's avatar

@Blackberry I was ostracized for being smart in school, but not since then. I do tend not to “show off” my intellect in places where there’s no reason to. At my job intelligence and education are highly valued, and that’s why I make a lot more money for a lot less unpleasant work than all those people who ostracized me in school.

Idknown's avatar

@Blackberry Instead of lamenting a lack of such individuals, could we not just form our own little community and be merry in the fact that we are better than most out there?

You got me, I’m an elitist…

Blackberry's avatar

@Snarp That is great for you, I am working hard also so my brain can make me decent money in the future as well lol.

@Idknown You are correct lol, but it’s hard to not wonder/feel bad/want more for other people.

Idknown's avatar

@Blackberry I totally agree. But someone has to make the money, feed the masses!

If everyone was as great as me, I’d be out of a job, making the same as everyone else.


zophu's avatar

If most people questioned the things in their daily life in any active way, the world would be nothing like it is.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I remember in 5th grade, we had a civics unit in class. In that class we got a thick red paperback book about how to spot propaganda and descriptions of all the different types of propaganda, such the Slippery Slope, the Assertion, (which is popular with the Glenn Beck types, right?), the Bandwagon, etc. The already-cynical among us (OK, me) would ask the teacher, “Hey! How do we know that this isn’t propaganda?” But I digress.

I don’t think there’s a conspiracy as such to not teach children how to think for themselves, but there seems to be something lacking in the teaching of the Trivium. It wasn’t called that in the 70s-80s, but that’s the sort of teaching I got. And I am lucky, because my home life was filled with people who wouldn’t know logic or rhetoric if it snapped them on the arse with a wet towel, and we got into a lot of conflict over this difference in ability and knowledge.

There is no respect for being intelligent. None. People do like the benefits that intelligence brings, like TV and mp3 players and high fructose corn syrup, but going past the practical aspects, going into the realm of intellectualism, holds no attraction with most people. It’s hard to change thinking patterns – and scary.

MissAusten's avatar

@aprilsimnel Do you remember the name of that red paperback book? I’d love to have it.

mattbrowne's avatar

Sadly, yes. My estimate would be about 15 – 45% of a given population. It depends on the country. If you look at the this pyramid you will realize that in many countries people have to deal with physiological survival issues every day as well as safety and devote a lot of time meeting these needs. A very negative example would be Zimbabwe or Haiti.

This means although a far larger group has the potential to become intellectuals their environment does not currently allow them to grow. A good example would be Americans without health insurance who are really sick. They struggle with their conditions while not getting the right treatment. They’ve got no time or energy to become intellectuals. Well, hopefully this is about to change.

Just_Justine's avatar

Intellectuals are a dime a dozen, true intellect is rare.

Trillian's avatar

At the risk of sounding like a snob, yes.

Bluefreedom's avatar

No, they’re not a minority. They’re just better at being inconspicuous than others are.

aprilsimnel's avatar

@MissAusten – Sorry, luv. It was produced and published by the Milwaukee Public Schools ca. 1980.

Trillian's avatar

What did Cheryl Crow sing? “He was high on intellectualism. I’ve never been there but the brochure looks nice.” I think that many people are intimidated and resentful of people with a conspicuous intellect. The reaction is generally negative; “Oh, you think you’re so smart. Where did you learn that word?”

faye's avatar

Some people are a bit antagonizing using words they know the average guy won’t know. It’s never necessary.

The_Idler's avatar

^ Generally not intellectuals, though.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I agree with @janbb – intellectualism, historically, has always been discouraged – there were centuries when scientists were though of as the devil because they asked questions – I do want to point out (as I’ve done before, on some other question very similar to this) that I have lived in many countries on many continents and America is special for taking pride in mediocrity and in turning the nose at education – elsewhere (okay, in Europe) it is encouraged to learn more and more and to become intelligent – here it’s all about how can we get the most for cheapest without doing much moving or thinking?

janbb's avatar

I agree @simonedebeauvoir. I think in France and in England, intellectualism is more respected, although that may have changed in England since I lived there.

majorrich's avatar

Wow! Do I feel superior this morning! I recorded the 10 most stupid Daredevils last night and I am recharged for the day! And my genitals and head are intact!

Idknown's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir As an American… ouch…

But hey – I am also from the city area, so I take special offense to that generalization. But I will not take offense on behalf of the bigger general population…

I’m sad now…

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Idknown Listen, all you can do is be the most rational person you can be – there are plenty of intelligent people around if you know where to look – thankfully I live in NYC and it’s all good, for the most part.

Idknown's avatar

That’s what I mean – I don’t trust anyone outside of our fair city.

Then you have the Jersey Shore people…

janbb's avatar

Hey, I’m from the Jersey Shore! You gonna knock it?

Idknown's avatar

@janbb Nah – I love your show :P.

One of my best friends is from JS, and he loves the show. Must be true :).

Coloma's avatar

I am not comfortable calling myself an intellectual, although I do enjoy a wide range of interests and am quite analytical and thrive on metaphor and analogy.

I agree that there is a ‘sour grapes’ attitude when it comes to bright people sharing their brightness and curiosity. I don’t even bother trying to get ‘too deep’ with many of my friends these days….I accept them as they are but don’t hold my breath for any really satisfying connections on a cerebral plane.

Most people are content to just eat their sandwiches and go shopping, woe are those that want to really explore the breadth, depth and heighth of things. lol

mattbrowne's avatar

An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself.—Albert Camus

Coloma's avatar


Hmmmm…sounds synonamous with enlightenment to me. :-)

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