“To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humor of a scholar. They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need proyning, by study; and studies themselves, do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience.” -Francis Bacon, Of Studies

My argument is that intellectualism must be in support of higher aims. The quote above from Francis Bacon, I would argue, best sums up the point of ‘studies’ (intellectualism, we could say). All three problems (sloth, ornament, and affectation) are very much present in those who spend hours studying, and trumpeting, postmodernism in one form or another.


To respond directly to you opening remarks, here are some other quotes regarding problems with intellectuals, particularly those in academia:

“Intellectualism is the belief that one can separate an action from the results of such action, that one can separate theory from practice, and that one can always fix a complex system by hierarchical approaches, that is, in a (ceremonial) top-down manner.” -Nassim Nicholas Taleb Skin in the Game

“Most things that we believe were “invented” by universities were actually discovered by tinkering and later legitimized by some type of formalization.” — Nassim Nicholas Taleb Skin in the Game

The above quote is part of a series of critiques Taleb has about universities and the back-formations career academics and professions form with regards to innovation.

“In Academia there is no difference between academia and the real world; in the real world, there is.” -Nassim Nicholas Taleb Skin in the Game

“Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good. In area after area — crime, education, housing, race relations — the situation has gotten worse after the bright new theories were put into operation. The amazing thing is that this history of failure and disaster has neither discouraged the social engineers nor discredited them.” -Thomas Sowell, Is Reality Optional?

“People who pride themselves on their “complexity” and deride others for being “simplistic” should realize that the truth is often not very complicated. What gets complex is evading the truth.” -Thomas Sowell

“Intellectuals may like to think of themselves as people who “speak truth to power” but too often they are people who speak lies to gain power.” -Thomas Sowell

“Too often what are called “educated” people are simply people who have been sheltered from reality for years in ivy-covered buildings. Those whose whole careers have been spent in ivy-covered buildings, insulated by tenure, can remain adolescents on into their golden retirement years.” -Thomas Sowell

“What socialism, fascism and other ideologies of the left have in common is an assumption that some very wise people — like themselves — need to take decisions out of the hands of lesser people, like the rest of us, and impose those decisions by government fiat.” -Thomas Sowell

“Educated men will look at what I do and say that it is useless work. But the words they breathe from their mouths, are as wise as the wind they pass from their asses. Fools.” -Leonardo da Vinci


Moving away from what is practical, intellectuals are in danger of becoming either irrelevant or are susceptible to placing their capacity for reason above all else. All the forms of the “that wasn’t real Marxism” argument just reveal an inability to abandon an ideology proven wrong time and time again. All too often, for the academic theorist, the theoretical element must be right and something else has to be wrong. The importance of those associated with the Intellectual Dark Web, whether or not they are part of a university, is that they have a platform and an audience they are answerable to. Moreover, they are spreading ideas rather than keeping them sequestered in outdated institutions. The IDW contains a greater degree of intellectual diversity. This turns out to be fundamental for innovation.

On your second point: I would have to look at the details, but I would be wholly against taxpayers footing the bill. This is why I think universities should not receive any funding from the federal government.

Basic science has been under assault: from evolution deniers on the right and gender ‘theorists,’ hormone deniers, and IQ skeptics on the left.

I would argue that a higher resolution view of various areas in science would be illuminated if we allow think tanks and various other institutions and people to conduct their own research. Better to assume personal and institutional bias by doing a meta-analysis. If you look at how Isaac Newton sought to verify the accuracy of those who were collecting data for his Principia, he had multiple people in each area record then he plotted the data. If a data point deviated significantly from the rest, it could be assumed that it might not be the most accurate. That was in the seventeenth century. Granted, there have been massive improvements in technology, a heavy emphasis on repeatability, and specifics for laboratory conditions. Overall, however, universities have become more or less a cover for shunting money to bureaucracies which have little or nothing to do with academics. Moreover, what many of the intellectuals are peddling (with particular emphasis on the social ‘sciences’) have little to do with reality and virtually nothing to do with supply and demand.

Intellectuals must be grounded in reality, to some extent to be effective. Francis Bacon understood the utility of knowing the basics but argued that a developed intellect is necessary for personal development but balanced this with his emphasis on being ‘bounded by experience.’ Intellect and experience balance each other quite nicely and both can be in the service of higher goals (i.e. wisdom (seasoned judgment), aesthetics, truth).

Finally, this is not Jordan Peterson promotionalism. I judge Peterson and the other major figures associated with the IDW on their arguments and willingness to engage with those they do not agree. Peterson’s positions are more than that of a mere guru. I’ve yet to see anyone successfully challenge the major ideas put forward in either Maps of Meaning or 12 Rules For Life.

I also dislike philosophical fundamentalism and blind groupthink. I see far more of it, however, among leftist academics and graduate students. Tenure was, in theory, supposed to act as a guard against people losing their jobs because of political opinions. Now, universities have become more polarized (see the work of Jonathan Haidt).

“Formal thinkers and theorizing theorizers tend to write books; seat-of-the-pants people tend to be practitioners who are often content to get the excitement, make or lose the money, and discourse at the pub. Their experiences are often formalized by academics; indeed, history has been written by those who want you to believe that reasoning has a monopoly or near monopoly on the production of knowledge.” -Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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