A Practical Definition of ‘Intellectual’

The commonly regarded definition of an intellectual runs along the lines of not much beyond a vague notion of someone who thinks deeply about ideas and/or concentrates a certain amount of effort to learning an area of intellectual expertise.

“An intellectual is someone who uses their intellect to speculate, reflect, and ask or answer questions about a wide variety of different ideas.” –Wikipedia

I, and many others, however, would beg to differ since I believe this definition is unsuited to the facts of reality akin to the nature of this topic, which vastly underestimates its history. Though I do not believe in completely, nor totally provide a historical definition since my idea of an intellectual person is nature and necessity based, I do think its history is reflective of its nature to a great degree. Where this degree ends and my definition begins is as yet, unknown to me.

However, I have come down the following, practically oriented definition to what an intellectual is, and must be as necessitated by the objective facts of reality.

This is done mostly for myself and for the record of anyone I interact with who has this question, so that I can now answer in a more definitive way, as well as for the purpose of setting standards for myself in my own life:

Thinking: That one thinks critically and in-depth about a good broad variety of problems and issues in order to come up with solutions.

Knowledge: That one seeks to build knowledge over a life-scale extended period of time and seeks to verify that knowledge as such, as true or objective.

Memory: That one seeks to retain knowledge in a permanent fashion, in order for knowledge to build.

Application: That one applies what he or she learns in their lives, to their lives, and solutions to respective problems.

Craft: That one must have a particular area of speciality in order to have something one can relate other knowledge to.

Pervasiveness: That knowledge is not compartmentalized, and that though one may specialize in one field or another, at least the general principles of all other fields are sought, and that the activities of an intellectual person are pervasive to all departments of their lives.

The above is my view of what characterizes a truly intellectual person. An intellectual is distinct from any type of specialist in that he specializes in ideas, knowledge and thinking itself in addition to a primary area of focus.

Both the history of past intellectuals as well as the fact that there is no other role that executes this general function, backs up the above six characteristics.

A few key points of disagreement with this definition could be:

Why can’t an intellectual be anybody who specializes in a particular field, why does the intellectual have to be broad in his or her understanding?

Aren’t people who think about problems valuable in and of the thinking in itself?

Why does a whole term have to be strictly defined for ‘the intellectual’ rather than the broad term of something like: ‘people who think about ideas?’



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