Defining the intellectual in a “field of ideas”

In 1959, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst hosted the 4th annual American Humanities Seminar where President Dr. Frederick Burkhardt was in attendance. This three-day meeting tackled big issues. Check out the “Four Problems” portion of the schedule

I found these materials in the President’s Office files from 1989.  The folder contained a letter from the Director of the Seminar, Maxwell Goldberg to President Burkhardt summarizing the reprinted materials that Burkhardt may “find…most interesting.”

I don’t know how Burkhardt felt–as much as I’d enjoy this super power, I can’t speak to those who are not here, although I do consider archival work a type of retro-conversation–but these articles provided interesting reading for me!

One article from Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists titled “The Intellectual in Action” attempts to define an intellectual.

Self-confidence is built upon an honest appraisal of the reality of things. It is based on the belief in knowledge as a guide to action. The union of thought and action, the creation of the ideal from the materials of the real, the desire to imagine what CAN be in place of what IS–these are the elements of a philosophy which defines the true intellectual in action.

An intellectual, in other words, is a person who is interested in ideas and carries on a serious intellectual life of his own. If he has no private world of ideas, he is merely a practitioner or a technician in the field of ideas.

Sage if not strict advice for all those self-professed intellectuals out there! It’s possible that you’re merely a technician, which according to this pamphlet, is akin to a felony!

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