Friday, January 30, 2009

Intellectuals Seek the Plot of Life

What I like best about Steve Fuller's The Intellectual is that he thinks intellectuals are those best seeking the meaning of life. Mere academics are content to speak accurately within the limits of their methods. Philosophers of all kinds have become content to make distinctions that might help us speak accurately. The intellectual, though, is after not just the truth, but the whole truth. When we reach the limits of where method can take us, the intellectual is not afraid to use imagination. Intellectuals are as critical as any other thinker -- maybe more -- but they are willing to risk a judgment about what is true.

Fuller offers no account of why intellectuals believe life is meaningful. And surely there are thoughtful materialists and nihilists who would appear to be both intellectuals and believers that life is meaningless. Indeed, though Fuller describes himself as a secular leftist and accepts Darwinian materialism as science, he rejects it as the whole truth: “The true intellectual fights hard against this dissipation of meaning in life.”

I strive to be an intellectual who uses all sorts of knowledge to understand the plot and meaning of existence. For that reason I gravitate to most of Fuller's account of the intellectual. But on intellectual grounds, I don't think he fully makes the case that my quest, and his, define the intellectual's task.


Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter what one thinks but only what one does. Behavior trumps thoughts or ideas do't they?

Gruntled said...

How is that a sequitur?

In any case, no, I don't agree. Ideas have consequences; ultimately, ideas drive civilization.