Pragmatism and the American Mind: Essays and Reviews in Philosophy and Intellectual History

By Morton White | Go to book overview

6. Anti-intellectualism in America1

One of the more obvious features of the epithet "anti-intellectualist" is its ambiguity. It may refer either to one who is hostile to intellectuals or to one who is hostile to the philosophical doctrine known as intellectualism. And so it would be just as well to begin with a terminological distinction that reflects these two different uses of the term. I shall call a person who is hostile to intellectuals an "anti-intellectual" and I shall use the term "anti-intellectualist" only when referring to intellectuals who are themselves critical of certain views concerning the intellect.

The anti-intellectual is usually an ordinary man, a non- intellectual, to whom an egghead is an egghead, whether scientist, historian, or philosopher; rationalist or empiricist; hardboiled or scrambled. For the anti-intellectual, the important contrast is that between the pursuits of the professor, artist, scholar, and scientist, on the one hand, and those of the busi-

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1
This essay originated in a lecture I delivered in 1960 at Marietta College on the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of its Phi Beta Kappa chapter. The lecture was printed in considerably revised form as "Reflections on Anti-intellectualism", copyright © 1962 by Morton White, in Daedalus, Volume 91 ( 1962), pp. 457-68. In revising this essay for publication here I have made enough changes to warrant changing its title.

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