The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent

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The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent
Author John Erskine
Country United States (New York, Duffield)
Language English
Subject philosophy
Published 1915
Text The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent at Wikisource

The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent is an influential essay, part of the essay collection The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent, and Other Essays published in 1915 by John Erskine, English professor at Columbia University.[1][2]

The essay was first read before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Amherst College, where Erskine taught before joining Columbia. [3] Later, it was published in quarterly magazine The Hibbert Journal in 1914. [4][3] During his tenure at Columbia from 1909 and 1937, Erskine formulated General Honors Course. In the early 1920s he started teaching a great books course at Columbia, which later founded the influential Great Books movement.[5]


In 1963, the essay was published in the Gateway to the Great Books - Volume 10: Philosophical Essays, a 10-volume book series published by Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. in 1963.[6]

Subsequently it was also included in the book of selected essays also titled The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent: Selected Essays (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux) published posthumously in 2000), edited by Lionel Trilling, another Columbia faculty and literary critic, and had an introduction by critic Leon Wieseltier.[7] Trilling was one of Erskine's students and later taught the "Great Books" course himself; he chose the essay as the lead and the title as it characterized the essence his selection. [8][5]



  1. ^ Graff 1989, p. 278.
  2. ^ Rubin 1992, p. 161.
  3. ^ a b Erskine 1992, p. vii.
  4. ^ Trilling 2008, p. x.
  5. ^ a b Richard Gilman (September 24, 2000). "The Foremost Authority". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-05-15. 
  6. ^ "Gateway to the Great Books". Centre for Study of Great Ideas. Retrieved 2014-05-15. 
  7. ^ Andrew Delbanco (January 11, 2001). "Night Vision by Andrew Delbanco". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 2014-05-15. 
  8. ^ Kimmage 2009, p. 322.


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