Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Danger of Intellectual Leisure

The danger lies in the fact that it may create time for thought, but only of a sort.  Plato, if I recall correctly, and others seemed to feel that freedom from the needs and cares of normal life was necessary to achieve knowledge and wisdom.  Thus, all those unlike Plato and those Plato felt admirable were very busy creatures in his horrid Republic, while the Platos had nothing more to do than think and debate great thoughts beyond the minds of normal humans.  Plato's ideal state had its share of helots.

But, it's arguable that those who have nothing to do but think great thoughts will become so detached from daily cares and concerns that they come to view them as unimportant.  "Great thoughts" therefore may become detached as well, uninformed by and even irrelevant to the lives of all but a few.

Intelligence is most useful when it has a purpose in view, and, unless one is interested purely in amusement or intellectual exercise (which certainly have their place in life), the most significant purpose, one would think, would be the resolution of problems we enounter in life, as individuals and communities.  Thought for the sake of thought is an extremely selfish pursuit.

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