American Catholic Dilemma: An Inquiry into the Intellectual Life

By Thomas F. O'Dea | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
The General Problem of the Intellectual

The problem of developing an intellectual life among American Catholics should be seen as in part unique, since it is concerned with the American Catholic experience, and in part as a variant of the general problem of the intellectual life among the societies of which history and contemporary studies make us aware. In the first chapter we noted that those involved in intellectual activities are, and have long been, aware that the creation, conservation, and transmission of culture are processes which require constant observation and study. Of their very nature they are characterized by certain instabilities. It will be the purpose of this chapter to examine those instabilities in their most general aspects, while in Chapter III we shall look at the special form which they assume in Catholic history.


Part 1: The Status and Role of the Intellectual: An Analysis of Ambiguities

Our first task is to decide upon a definition of the term intellectual which will serve our present needs. What is an intellectual? Obviously he is not simply one who thinks, for everybody must do some thinking. Nor is he necessarily one who thinks clearly, for the intellectual--as we have been repeatedly reminded--can be confused and be

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