An intellectual is a person who engages in critical study, thought, and reflection about the reality of society, and proposes solutions for the normative problems of that society, and, by such discourse in the public sphere, he or she gains authority within the public opinion.<ref>Jennings, Jeremy and Kemp-Welch, Tony. "The Century of the Intellectual: From Dreyfus to Salman Rushdie", Intellectuals in Politics, Routledge: New York (1997) p.1.</ref><ref>Top 100 Global Thinkers, Foreign Policy magazine.</ref> Coming from the world of culture, either as a creator or as a mediator, the intellectual participates in politics, either to defend a concrete proposition or to denounce an injustice, usually by producing or by extending an ideology, and by defending a system of values.<ref>Pascal Ory and Jean-François Sirinelli, Les Intellectuels en France. De l’affaire Dreyfus à nos jours (The Intellectuals in France: From the Dreyfus Affair to Our Days), Paris: Armand Colin, 2002, p. 10.</ref><ref>Santos Juliá, Elogio de Historia en tiempo de Memoria (The Praise of History in the Time of Memory), Marcial Pons: Madrid, 2001 (Reviewed in "Babelia" supplement, El País newspaper, 21 July 2012, by Miguel Ángel Bastenier): "The public writer [must act] as an engaged observer, without substituting for the reader, who shall draw his own conclusions, without occupying the place of power, neither that of opposition, but neither an illusory, intermediate place, by that appropriate to the intellectual in a democracy... it is the role of the critical observer, just as observed by Raymond Aron".</ref>
Socially, intellectuals constitute the intelligentsia, a status class organised either by ideology (conservative, fascist, socialist, liberal, reactionary, revolutionary, democratic, communist intellectuals, et al.) or nationality (American intellectuals, French intellectuals, Ibero–American intellectuals, et al.). The contemporary intellectual class originated from the intelligentsiya of Tsarist Russia (ca. 1860s–70s), the social stratum of those possessing intellectual formation (schooling, education, Enlightenment), and who were Russian society's counterpart to the German Bildungsbürgertum and to the French bourgeoisie éclairée, the enlightened middle classes of those realms.<ref>In The Twilight of Atheism (2004, p. 53), the theologian Alister McGrath said that "the emergence of a socially alienated, theologically literate, anti-establishment lay intelligentsia is one of the more significant phenomena of the social history of Germany in the 1830s . . . three or four theological graduates in ten might hope to find employment in a Church post". In the essay, "The High Enlightenment and the Low-Life of Literature", the cultural historian Robert Darnton said that the politically radical thinkers who had participated in the French Revolution (1789–99), were not social outsiders, rather they were respectable, domesticated, and assimilated men. (pp. 1–40.) The Literary Underground of the Old Régime, 1982.</ref>
During the late 19th century, amidst the Dreyfus Affair (1894–1906), an identity crisis of Anti-semitic nationalism for the French Third Republic (1870–1940), the reactionary anti–Dreyfusards (Maurice Barrès, Ferdinand Brunetière, et al.) used the terms intellectual and the intellectuals to deride the liberal Dreyfusards (Émile Zola, Octave Mirbeau, Anatole France, et al.) as political dilettantes from the realms of French culture, art, and science, who had become involved in politics, by publicly advocating for the exoneration and liberation of Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish captain of artillery falsely condemned of betraying France to Germany.<ref>Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism, Second Edition. (1958) pp. 89–95.</ref>
In the 20th century, the term Intellectual acquired positive connotations of social prestige, derived from possessing intellect and intelligence, especially when the intellectual's activities exerted positive consequences in the public sphere, in order to increase the intellectual understanding of the public, by means of moral responsibility, altruism, and solidarity, without resorting to the manipulations of populism, paternalism, and condescension.<ref>In the newspaper column, "Pilot Fish Among Sharks" (El País, 14 June 2014), the Spanish philosopher of ethics Fernando Fernández-Savater Martín explained the social function of the public intellectual with an anecdote about the Transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, at whose public conferences, in different cities, there always was present the same uneducated woman, who answered his query about her presence, by saying: "It’s just that I like to listen to you, because you speak to us as if we were all intelligent."
Effectively so, that is precisely the specific function of the intellectual: To treat everyone else as if they, too, were intellectuals. That is to say, to not attempt to hypnotise them, to intimidate them, or to seduce them, but to awaken in them the mechanism of intelligence that weighs, evaluates, and comprehends. One must start from the Socratic premise that everyone in the world reveals himself, herself intelligent when treated as if intelligent. Is that social function compatible with the offices of politicians? Because, more often than not, they tend to govern themselves by the cynical principle that: “One must not treat the public as if they were imbeciles, nor forget that they are imbeciles", which was established by the novelist Frédéric Beigbeder (who, not in vain, began his career as an advertising man); it is plainly obvious that those are opposite approaches. What is bad, is that the first approach demands effort from the interlocutors — attention, reflection, and dubious sizings-up, while the second approach flatters the primitive emotions of enthusiasm or revenge, and converts critical thinking to satire or to swearing curses, and social problems into notorious scandal. . . .
Of course, the advocates of atavistic formulas periodically return to the charge, because those emotional formulas are easily assumed out of ignorance (populism, as you already know, is democracy for the mentally lazy), and, as such, are more necessary than ever; thus, if there be no intellectuals in politics, at the least, there should be intellectual ethos in public and in social discourse. Nonetheless, the lesson of personal experience often is negative, and the honest intellectuals whom I know always have returned crestfallen [from politics], like the pioneer Plato returned from Syracuse. . . .” (Peces piloto entre tiburones, el País, 15 June 2014).</ref> Hence, for the educated person of a society, participating in the public sphere — the political affairs of the city-state — is a civic responsibility dating from the Græco–Latin Classical era:
I am a man; I reckon nothing human to be foreign to me. (Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto.)
The determining factor for a thinker (historian, philosopher, scientist, writer, artist, et al.) to be considered a public intellectual is the degree to which he or she is implicated and engaged with the vital reality of the contemporary world; that is to say, participation in the public affairs of society. Consequently, being designated as a public intellectual is determined by the degree of influence of the designator’s motivations, opinions, and options of action (social, political, ideological), and by affinity with the given thinker; therefore: <ref>In the essay "Existentialism is a Humanism" (1946), Jean-Paul Sartre explains the philosophical concepts of implication and engagement. In Notas para una lectura (Notes for a Lecture), the Catalonian philosopher Ramón Alcoberro i Pericay explains Sartre’s opinion of not being engaged with one’s times, and the consequent implications: . . . once one comprehends his [Sartre’s] idea of "Man as Situation", it is easier to understand the concepts of "responsibility" and "engagement". To become engaged in a concrete situation—"to become embarked", said Pascal—is the consequence of presuming that one cannot live in pure, conceptual abstraction; everyone always is in a given "situation", and it corresponds to us to be responsible (to respond) to that situation; simply put, neutrality is not possible. In an editorial opinion in Les Temps modernes, in 1945, Sartre wrote, "I consider Flaubert and the Brothers Goncourt responsible for the repression that followed the Commune, because they never wrote, even a line, to impede it." See: What is Literature? (1947)</ref>
The Intellectual is someone who meddles in what does not concern him. (L'intellectuel est quelqu'un qui se mêle de ce qui ne le regarde pas.)— Jean-Paul Sartre.<ref>Annie Cohen-Solal, Sartre, Gallimard, 1989, pp. 588–89.</ref>
Analogously, the application and the conceptual value of the terms Intellectual and the Intellectuals are socially negative when the practice of intellectuality is exclusively in service to The Establishment who wield power in a society, as such:
. . . someone able to speak the truth, a . . . courageous and angry individual for whom no worldly power is too big and imposing to be criticised and pointedly taken to task. The real or true intellectual is therefore always an outsider, living in self-imposed exile, and on the margins of society. He or she speaks to, as well as for, a public, necessarily in public, and is properly on the side of the dispossessed, the un-represented and the forgotten.— Edward Saïd.<ref>Jennings, Jeremy and Kemp–Welch, Anthony. (Eds.) Intellectuals in Politics: From the Dreyfus Affair to Salman Rushdie, 1997. pps. 1–2.</ref>
Intro Terms and endeavours Historical background Intelligentsia Public intellectual Criticism See also Notes References Further reading External links
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