It took me a while to articulate that Rand regards intellectuality as implicitly all pervasive, in a fully explicit way to myself.
On the other hand, it did not take me too long to figure out that most people in our culture really don’t like to think that is, think critically about things in their ‘spare time.’ Conversely even to this, however, it has taken me half my life to come to terms with this fact.
When I spout the phrase ‘most people,’ what I usually what I get is a nod. This is the nod commonly recognized: ‘we know the world is messed up and we know people are generally pretty stupid, we also know that people generally like to watch television and eat cheeseburgers, play golf, watch football, etc.’
But this is not what has bothered me most. I didn’t really mind the culture as much as I did when I saw and had to deal with, and even live with, anti-intellectual behavior on the part of ‘intellectuals.’
So when I say ‘most people,’ I am not merely talking about the cheerleader bimbo or football star jock who grow up to be lowly secretaries, whose life pursuit is to go shopping or pencil pushers who end up married with children, cheating on their wives occasionally and doing little more in life than going home to fill their brains with nothing but TV.
It is the former closest friends of mine, and those within ‘intellectual’ circles whom I see are the guiltiest in many respects. If you’re wondering about the rest of my opinion, the societal echelons down from there don’t get any better, but worse and worse progressively.
Not just close friends, but almost everyone I have ever known, has, in the end, done the same thing as a pervasive behavioral activity, and by choice, much of it IN their spare time, mind you: go to work (or school), come home, veg out, zone out, maybe read a book, go out every weekend…etc.
I notice that actions and physical activities in general, are especially monopolistic over people’s behavior: going out, going camping, taking a drive, going shopping, reading a book, working on a computer, having sex, watching a movie, chit-chatting, having tea, having coffee etc. All these things are what comprise people’s everyday activities.
What else is there you say? Thinking. What about thinking?
The answer also lies in what characterizes those activities: repetitive cycles, physical actions, and consumption.
If someone reads a book, it’s mere consumption, (a taking in of something) until one talks about it and forms additional concepts from it. Those concepts are useless unless they are innovative, and impotent without application.
We are merely consumers until we are engaged in the act of production, any production, of producing an innovation that wasn’t already there. Intellectual behavior is the production of new ideas from old ones, not merely the taking in of information, or of acquiring knowledge; it is the act of innovatively synthesizing and applying it.
Anything less and you’re talking about some degree or variant of posturing.
The reason this is not merely an extreme attitude, but necessitated by the facts of reality, is simple and has already been stated: ideas are useless without their application, and application is useless without ideas, and everything is useless without innovative purpose.
Application, itself, as our culture understands it, has a caricature-like, distorted reputation. So does the concept of innovation. We see the words ‘innovation’ and ‘application’ as well as ‘intellectual’ on nothing less than epic terms and this is the real tragedy that prevents us from changing our own lives first, from the mirco to the macro scale.
People come up with innovative ideas everyday, most of the time they just fail to apply them or take them seriously. Application is not just physical, but mental. The application of an idea about how to raise a child, is an innovative idea with cogent application. So is evaluating the psychology of your spouse and coming up with ways of getting along better, or organizing affairs, or of sharing ideas and learning how to have more fun, and adding quality, spice, and intrigue to life.
In any case, no matter how minute, thinking is a process of elimination by trial and error with the goal of reaching a solution to a given problem. It is also the generating of multiple possibilities, and lastly, the integration of data with other data, all to produce an effect: concepts.
Where people become anti-intellectual is where they decide to cut this off. Most of the time this consists of limiting knowledge to concrete application, rather than forming ideas on a broad general scale such as talking about and learning about, psychology itself, which has application in virtually everything we see touch and breathe, or in sociology, philosophy, or any of the abstract sciences which are pretty much left out.
At a certain point, people don’t want to know anymore or learn anymore. I have observed it with the consistency and near reliability of a plane’s velocity giving lift through its mass, the Earth’s gravity, and air.
‘The certain limit’ as Ayn Rand called it, in her essay: The Missing Link from her book “Philosophy Who Needs It” is– ‘the point where people decide they know enough and don’t care to know more.’
Such an idea has always been near inconceivable to me to whom critical thinking about ideas across the board is candy, fun, and what I do nearly all the time.
That is what Rand means by ‘intellectual’ and to this, I can only nod my head.