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Non Thread[edit]

I feel lists of intellectuals are arbitary and should not be included.

The list is of public intellectuals; it is rather easier to judge who belongs on a list such as that, at least for recent times. Of course the current list could easily be improved. Should no examples of intellectuals be mentioned? Charles Matthews 14:11, 24 Oct 2004 (UTC)

On this issue: someone wrote

The following list is extremely biased to the far-left.

Well, it might be biased to the left. Do we need to 'balance' the list? To add a discussion of why self-identified intellectuals have often been on the left? To amplify the discussion as to why 'intellectual' was (in the wake of the Dreyfus affair) a derogatory term applied to the left from the right? To give up on listing intellectuals in this way? To start identifying conservative intellectuals who would agree to the term?

Charles Matthews 09:54, 29 Dec 2004 (UTC)

The list has gone - and the article is better for that. Charles Matthews 21:59, 11 Mar 2005 (UTC)

This explanation of intellectualism committed the common fallacy that the use of the mind is naturally antagonistic to the use of the heart. In fact, intellectualism is not the same as attempting to be a robot-- the term merely refers a lifestyle dedicated to knowledge, learning and critical thinking. Thus, the antonym to intellectual is ignorant.


This explanation of intellectualism committed the common fallacy that the use of the mind is naturally antagonistic to the use of the heart. In fact, intellectualism is not the same as attempting to be a robot-- the term merely refers a lifestyle dedicated to knowledge, learning and critical thinking.


I have problem with the definition. An intellectual is by definition a belligerent person --a point seriously missed here. The intellectual use his education/intelligence to challenge and ultimately combat the dogmas, ideas and descriptions put forward by others (others, who might not be intellectual, but educated and intelligent). This also make the definition of the anti-intellectual slightly more complicated than portrayed here --portrayed as an ignorant. Anti-intellectualism should be understood as a political -ism, an anti-elitist and neo-liberal movement that challenge the intellectual left. Anti-intellectualism is an intelligent/educated reaction against, as the anti-intellectual believes, the delusional ideas constructed by the left. Was Ronald Reagan an Intellectual?

This definition is terrible: "An intellectual is a person who primarily uses intelligence in either a professional or an individual capacity." By that definition, *I* am an intellectual. And I'm just a lawyer who helps my company fire people. But I don't think "belligerent" is a necessary prerequisite. Again, I'm belligerent. Socrates, however, was not, and I'd advance him as perhaps the archetypal intellectual. What made Socrates-- and other intellectuals-- challenging was not that he made a point of combating other's ideas. That's just being a jerk. Rather, an intellectual is habitually, incessantly, and ruthlessly inquisitive. Someone who is always asking questions in a world that prefers settled answers will be perceived as belligerent and challenging. "An intellectual is interested in everything-- and nothing else." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:00, 8 May 2013 (UTC)

Intellectuals do more than study society. They also study the material world. The definition is biased toward humanities and the social science without recognizing the greater intellectualism of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, etc. Eyes down, human. (talk) 17:15, 4 January 2017 (UTC)


Should the word 'belletrist' be included under the section "Men of Letters"? I see that the Cyril Connolly entry in wikipedia links to this page as "man of letters", but in Wikiquote he's a "belletrist", which seems to be a synonym.

I think belles lettres is effectively limited to the writing of literary criticism (biography, history) in an essayistic style. It's not ridiculous for him, but a rather dated concept in general. Charles Matthews 22:36, 30 January 2006 (UTC)

Intellectual is also an adjective, and that's its first meaning in American English - why no mention?[edit]

When you run a search in "Google" for "intellectual," the Wikipedia suggestion pops up first, stating only that it is a noun (a person). But intellectual also refers to and is widely used as an adjective. It may even have been the first meaning of the word in classical English. Outside of upper brow writing and publications, it will mostly be used as an adjective. Calling someone an intellectual, I think, went out of fashion to some degree when Adlai Stevenson lost. I really like Bennett Cerf, mind you ... I just think the article needs to consider modern usage.

This is Merriam-Webster:

Main Entry: 1in·tel·lec·tu·al Pronunciation: "in-t&l-'ek-ch&-w&l, -ch&l, -shw&l Function: adjective 1 a : of or relating to the intellect or its use b : developed or chiefly guided by the intellect rather than by emotion or experience : RATIONAL c : requiring use of the intellect 2 a : given to study, reflection, and speculation b : engaged in activity requiring the creative use of the intellect - in·tel·lec·tu·al·i·ty /-"ek-ch&-'wa-l&-tE/ noun - in·tel·lec·tu·al·ly /-'ek-ch&-w&-lE, -ch&-lE, -shw&-lE/ adverb - in·tel·lec·tu·al·ness /-'ek-ch&-w&l-n&s, -ch&l-, -shw&l-/ noun

Main Entry: 2intellectual Function: noun 1 plural, archaic : intellectual powers 2 : an intellectual person Noirdame 18:30, 8 February 2006 (UTC)

Well, this isn't Wiktionary and we aren't responsible for every part of speech. The default is that article titles are nouns. Charles Matthews 20:19, 8 February 2006 (UTC)


Is criticism of intellectualism as an elitistic thing a point of interest? don't really know much about it, sorry. But I hope you get my point. Ehjort 20:00, 23 April 2006 (UTC)

I'm not sure the argument applies to intellectualism itself, but certainly could be applied to academia and other such social organizations. It would definetly be an interesting addition :) --Resaebiunne 06:22, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
I might add "Intellectual as a derogatory term" to this, eg. "those damn commie intellectuals". The word has come to mean in certain circles "liberal" (in the american political non-libertarianist sense), "progressive" (also as a derogatory term), and "humanist" (also as a derogatory term). You probably detect my cynicism at the mere concept of criticising intellectualism (did I just invent a word there, or does it exist?), but I've heard the term used in a derogatory manner, so maybe we should give "conservatwattipeida" some credit and add a "criticism of intellectuals" section. Free speech, after all. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:28, 10 October 2009 (UTC)

I believe the idea that the label "intellectual" is an elitist term comes from the label itself. It suggests that there are people who do not "[use] intelligence and critical or analytical reasoning", if I may cite the current wording on the wiki page. It's almost like calling all people who have not been blessed with this prestigious label as stupid. All humans use intellectual thought processes, despite how we may view one another's ideologies and points of view, yet this article currently implies otherwise. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:26, 6 April 2011 (UTC)

Under the Heading "Academics and Public Intellectuals"[edit]

Just curious, it states: "In some contexts, especially journalistic speech, intellectual refers to academics, generally in the humanities, especially philosophy, who speak about various issues of social or political import. These are so-called public intellectuals — in effect communicators."

I think clarification needs be made that intellectualism does not imply academic rigour, nor is implicitly linked to academia, but back to my original intent, why the emphasis on humanities and philosophy? I don't think there is much to be gained here by pointing out that "some contexts, especially journalistic speech" are more inclined towards intellectualism, let alone relegated to the humanities or philosophy. Perhaps a better choice of wording is needed to point out these are the classical roots of intellectualism. --Resaebiunne 06:22, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

European intellectuals[edit]

"European intellectuals, such as Johan Norberg, on the other hand tend to criticise bloated welfare systems and demand more libertarian politics." Really? I don't think so... I'm European, and the intellegentsia have a reputation for leftism. In Britain, for example, 90% of academics vote for the Labour or Liberal Democratic parties (and many of the rest for the Greens). The general trend among European academics and indeed the entire professional middle class is very much pro the welfare state. --Phileosophian 11:29, 5 November 2006 (UTC)

I agree with that. The rubber-stamping of all American intellectuals as Leftist and all European intellectuals as Rightist seems to be a rather narrow view of intellectual diversity in both the United States and the European Union. This view is of course, unbecoming of an encyclopedia. Dr. Wikipedian 14:46, 22 November 2006 (UTC)


I really liked the definition at the beginning of the article. "An intellectual is a person who uses his or her intellect to work, study, reflect, speculate on, or ask and answer questions with regard to a variety of different ideas." The definition of an intellectual as a person who deals in ideas is very apt and fits the general use of the term very well. However, I still feel something is missing. Namely the preference for dealing with ideas, that he deals with ideas by choice, by preferrence, because it is a fundamental aspect of his basic psychological makeup.

If we were to force Homer Simpson to use his intellect to work, study, reflect, speculate on, or ask and answer questions with regard to a variety of different ideas and he naturally hated it and tried to shrink from his duty as much as he could, would he be an intellectual? In my opinion: no. He might have intellectual duties and an intellectual job (and would seriously suck at both) but he wouldn't be an intellectual. Nor is a person who has the inclination to be an intellectual but lacks the opportunity or capacity for intellectual activity an intellectual. He would be a potential intellectual, or a wannabe, no more. To me the term intellectual implies both actual intellectual activity and some preferrence for such activities.

Literati as a Style of Bonsai[edit]

Literati also refers to a particular style of Bonsai growing, whereby the tree represents a sole survivor of a copse, or a lone, rugged, aged and weathered tree, with a tall upright or slanting trunk, and the majority of leaf-bearing branches near the crown of the tree. Should this be included in the article? Anon 17:02, 21 August 2007 (UTC)

man of letters[edit]

I could be wrong about this, but isn't that term referring to "the letters" after a scholars name, like the various degrees and professional certifications and things? The article says the term refers to a man who can read or "knows letters." hehe.. huh?SecretaryNotSure —Preceding signed but undated comment was added at 09:42, 7 October 2007 (UTC)

large amounts of Original Research should go?[edit]

There is quite a large amount of original research in this article. The start is rather encyclopedic, but after a few sections it starts to read like someone's Thesis. Could this article perhaps be cleaned up? AllGloryToTheHypnotoad (talk) 19:43, 2 January 2008 (UTC)

Women and Public Intellectual Life needs cleaning up[edit]

there needs to be some serious cleanup in this section. I tried to correct some bias that was present there which suggested obstacles of woman as absolute, objective truth when such a topic to begin with is questionable. There is plenty of confusion still. The section with Goodhart is unclear, it seems his views are elaborated but it immediately becomes confusing - due to the writing style - whether the views are actually faithful to Goodhart's own or whether they are being interpreted by the editor. Injecting "Goodhart claims" or something of the sort may clarify it. More grammatical cleanup is needed in the entire section. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:47, 3 January 2008 (UTC)

This article overlooks one possible group of intellectuals[edit]

... Internet commentators. For example, should Richard Stallman be considered an intellectual for his essays about Free Software? Dave Winer? Doc Searls & his Clue Train Manifesto? And then there is the question whether regular contributors to Wikipedia should be considered intellectuals -- or only those who contribute to policy pages like no original research? (Yes, I am ducking & running. I'll check on this conversation much, much later.) -- llywrch (talk) 22:33, 24 March 2008 (UTC)

Merge proposal[edit]

There seems no need for a separate article at Public intellectual, and was previously a redirect from there to here. PamD (talk) 23:40, 24 February 2009 (UTC)

You are absolutely right. Public intellectual contains exactly two sentences (56 words), and all the content is also here. Also, it hasn't changed much since it was created in 2004, and, yes, it was originally a REDIRECT to here. It's a stub that's not needed, unless it gets expended order's of magnitude. Here is the article's content:

A public intellectual is is, a writer, academic, speaker or mass media personality who is an expert in a particular field and regularly and visibly addresses matters of broad interest in the media. Some examples of prominent American public intellectuals of the 20th century include: John Kenneth Galbraith, Milton Friedman, Noam Chomsky, and Robert Heilbroner.

It's only citation is Encarta so it fails WP:V and WP:RS. Time to change to a REDIRECT. The lede sentence of the Public intellectual life section could be reworked slightly, or the section retitled "Public Intellectual". — Becksguy (talk) 04:17, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
Support merge-as-bare-redirect. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 19:31, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

Given the lack of opposition, I've merged-as-bare-redirect. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 05:54, 19 September 2009 (UTC)

Jewish intellectual movements[edit]

It would be interesting if there could be an entry on Jewish intellectual movements. I'm not saying this in a negative or discriminatory way, but it is an established historical fact that intellectuals have played and continue to play an important role in the overall Jewish culture. There are also other important intellectual movements that are mostly piloted by Gentiles, but that also have had a significant minority of secular Jews within them. ADM (talk) 04:40, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

Relationship with academia[edit]

I'm aware that edits by non-registered Wikipedians are often not taken very seriously, so I feel a need to justify the paragraphs I just removed from the "relationships with academia" section.

The statement "Occasionally, the public intellectual takes controversial matters of the day — evolution, religion, global warming, genetic modification — to the fore of public debate, proposing answers to public questions deemed unanswerable, thus acting upon moral imperatives greater than private, professional (career) considerations." is not very well written, even if it is an accurate summary of "Clarke 2003". It is not made clear who is deeming controversies "unanswerable" (and if it were, it would almost certainly be a matter of opinion, not fit for an encyclopedia). It is also completely unencyclopedic to state that anybody engaging in any kind of debate is "acting on moral imperatives greater than [whatever] considerations." It is not for an encyclopedia to speculate or comment on motives to this extent.

I have a feeling that the people who put this kind of thing in are tempted to simply re-edit the entry to reflect that this is Clarke's position on the matter, and not Wikipedia's. This would certainly solve the problem of neutrality, but I do not think this entry is the best place for the discussion that I removed--- the cataloguing of various points of view from various academics on the issues related to the boundary between "academic" and "intellectual." It is not clear to what extent the information reported in this section, that I removed, represents any kind of systematic survey of the points of view on this subject, or whether it is just a collection of various statements on the subject that somebody had run across at one time or another. The academic discussions on this topic are probably ongoing and endless, and I can see no reason for a Wikipedia entry to retain some fragments of this that people have come across.

Incidentally, as a plea to registered Wikiholics everywhere, many of the entries on Wikipedia related to academia or intellectuals have sections consisting mainly of citation-riddled accounts of varying perspectives on something with no evident plan or focus. The result reads to outsiders like notes on a lecture that we didn't attend. People could "be brave" and remove or repurpose this sort of thing wherever possible. (talk) 23:46, 8 December 2009 (UTC)

Intellectual#Terminology and endeavours[edit]

The paragraph Intellectual#Terminology and endeavours says that "‘Intellectual’ can denote four types of persons:" Below that it mentions the "four types of persons". I see no source for the assertion that "intellectual" can denote "four types of persons". If this is unsourced perhaps it should be deleted? Bus stop (talk) 12:57, 24 May 2011 (UTC)


Literati isn't always a journalistic 'term of abuse'. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:51, 5 June 2011 (UTC)

I have removed the sentence, as it was unsourced and no English dictionary seems to support its claim. --Saddhiyama (talk) 08:13, 5 June 2011 (UTC)

Lede Rewrite[edit]

Per request, recomposed the lede and the other flagged §. The principal assertion which may have just gotten some pushback, is that the intellectual is a specific variety of the intelligent. Opening this thread for refutation of that which SFAICT is an essential premise of the article's current content. (talk) 19:20, 24 December 2011 (UTC)

Is this serious?[edit]

"Whereas intellectuals, particularly in politics and the social sciences, and social liberals and democratic socialists ordinarily support and engage in democratic principles such as, freedom, equality, justice, human rights, social welfare, the environment and political and social improvement, both domestically and internationally, most conservatives, including Margaret Thatcher, are interested in upholding security and elitism." Is whatever cubicle dwelling super-genius that wrote this third rate work of auto-fellatio fucking with everyone? How the hell did this article end up being the stupidest one on here?


Many of the citations in the notes do not have a full reference in the bibliography. I just noted Sorkin and Bourdieu, but there are probably more. Can the people who cited them put the full reference? Otherwise, the references and the ideas should probably be deleted. I could not find any work by Sorkin 2007 in Google Scholar, nor any work by Sorkin with the word Chile that seemed to be the work cited. Bourdieu has many works form 1989. Thus, these citations are useless. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:47, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

I'd second this. incomplete references are so brief that they may as well just be replaced by citation needed. quite a few references for example cite Jeremy Jennings and Anthony Kemp-Welch who are EDITORS of collections, not the author of the works being cited. as such the publication dates and attributed author are completely wrong. for example, reference 27 at this time does exactly this. the quoted passages give hits towards the primary source on the first page of the introduction to the book edited by Jennings and Kemp-Welsch. namely, alluding to Edward Said: Representation of the Intellectual: 1993, The Reith Lectures, the book even gives these references which could have been investigated to find and validate the true primary source and actual quote given. I will endeavour to correct some of these poor references in the wiki article.

NOTES 1 E.Said, ‘Opponents, audiences, constituencies and community’, in W.J.T. Mitchell (ed.), The Politics of Interpretation, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1983, p. 9. 2 E.Said, Culture and Imperialism, London, Chatto and Windus, 1993. 3 The text of Said’s lectures can be found in the Independent, 24 June, 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 July 1993. They were reprinted, with an added Introduction, as Representations of the Intellectual, London, Vintage, 1994. In his Introduction, Said comments upon the hostility directed against himself as the presenter of the lectures and against the ‘un-English’ topic. 4 ‘Mud in your intellectual eye’, Observer, 27 June 1993. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:12, 30 May 2016 (UTC)

Under heading of "Man of letters"[edit]

The paragraph starts well, but ends in confusion. The evolution of the salon in France is worthy of discussion, but is not meaningfully treated here, and the contrast with the Old West saloon is bizarre. I can't see why it is included, save for the cognate name: one was established for the development of the artistic and intellectual life; the other was an inn, and is not relevant to the article. Why the author saw fit to divert onto the respective genders of the hosts is anybody's guess.

Ché (talk) 16:10, 26 May 2013 (UTC)

The Intellectual Rule Book[edit]

There is a Tamil book entitled 'the intellectual rule book". It would be useful to everyone if someone translates it into english — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:02, 9 June 2013 (UTC)


I am intrigued that the term Literatus redirects here. I was looking for the medieval term referring to someone being "able to read and write in Latin" / fully literate in Latin, and was perplexed that the redirect is to here although the article seems to begin in the modern period. Is this an omission that needs to be added, or should the Literatus concept be split out from here? I'm happy to add it, but I am not at all clear whether this article is designed to refer to the Enlightenment/post-Enlightenment intellectual only. EmyP (talk) 21:18, 6 November 2014 (UTC)

Lede Tagging[edit]

Agree, should be reverted back to my original opening that was there at the time of my redact when I placed the image of Barzun. Lycurgus (talk) 05:55, 11 December 2014 (UTC)

Original research[edit]

I plan to remove the following original research from the lede:

Hence, for the educated man and woman, participating in the public-sphere is a social function that dates from the Græco–Latin Classical era:

"I am a man; I reckon nothing human to be foreign to me. (Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto.)"

It's not enough to cite the quote; to include it, we would have to cite the specific idea that the quote is talking about intellectuals and bears on the nature of intellectual life in republican Rome.—Neil P. Quinn (talk) 22:11, 10 January 2015 (UTC)

A reply

The source citation is supported by the text. Read the play. Disagreement does not equal what you claim. (talk) 17:51, 24 February 2015 (UTC)

Whole premise of the article is wrong![edit]

The initial definition, and hence the premise of the whole article, seems seriously wrong - an 'intellectual' is not specific to politics/sociology. An intellectual is a person of high intellect in any field - including the sciences, the humanities & the arts. See for example this dictionary definition:

For example, Wittgenstein was undoubtedly an intellectual, but had nothing to do with politics. The sources cited (refs 1 & 2) are a book called 'Intellectuals in politics' - the clue is in the title that this is not about intellectuals in general - and Foreign Policy magazine, which similarly is about politics.

I'm not sure what best to do about an error that pervades an entire article, but for now I've added the 'dubious' tag to the intro.

I also have doubts about the multiple references to books written in other languages - as e.g. the French term 'intellectuel' may or may not exactly correspond to the English word 'intellectual'. Certainly they can't be cited as evidence of the meaning of the English word 'intellectual', any more than the French word 'tramway' (meaning 'tram') can be cited as evidence that a tramway has wheels not rails.

Incidentally the use of multiple grandiose block quotations in the intro is rather pretentious; some of them are barely relevant. Ben Finn (talk) 13:25, 26 July 2015 (UTC)

Thanks to Rjensen for his (characteristically) useful edits to the section on "Intellectuals in the (so-called) East.
Thanks also for removing the "Essay-like" tag. It does not hit the nail on the head. But the presence of sources does not change the essay-like conception of the article and the meandering execution, of which "Intellectuals in the East" is a good example.
Is there some better tag that will warn the unwary reader of this issue?ch (talk) 17:05, 30 May 2016 (UTC)

Bertrand Russell on World War I[edit]

"As such, the philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) advised the British government against national rearmament in the years before the First World War (1914–1918), while Imperial Germany prepared for war. Yet, the post-war intellectual reputation of Bertrand Russell remained almost immaculate, and his opinions respected by the general public.[53]" I am far from an expert, but wasn't WWI started because a lot of people (especially Imperial Germany) were excessively paranoid and arming for an inevitable war that their overarming and overallying basically brought about? If not, fair enough (I am again not well read on this), but if so, it seems a bit unfair to paint Russell as out of touch when he was suggesting defusing the very sort of thing that eventually led to the start of the war. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:34, 26 October 2015 (UTC)

A reply

I agree, but the quotation is from the right wing, and the big-picture facts are avoided to score points for anti-intellectualism. (talk) 19:25, 31 October 2015 (UTC)

Singular They[edit]

I suppose the use of "singular they" is becoming an edit of particular contention because it falls within the article "intellectual" and thus has more staying power with an audience as to its appropriate use in the English language. I can only point to this page (, assert that my position is that using "he or she" in the introductory sentence exposes a deficiency in the English language right off the bat, and hopefully request that the person or persons in disagreement come forth on this talk page to explain his or her or their rationale for his or her or their adherence to the avoidance of singular they in a wikipedia article. --Bod (talk) 16:28, 2 October 2016 (UTC)

Neoliberalism gone wild[edit]

Who made everyone that criticized intellectuals "neoliberals?" Austrians (which oppose the concept of neoliberalism and find it an inchoate epithet) and the libertarian-leaning such as Milton Friedman cannot be subsumed under such a general and vague classification. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:48, 7 May 2017 (UTC)

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Citations and Missing Information[edit]

It looks like several of these citations, particularly 36 and 37 have a footnote, but no preceding citation or bibliography entry to actually provide full data for looking up a reference. — Preceding unsigned comment added by ChittyinHistory (talkcontribs) 17:24, 23 March 2018 (UTC)