The article by John Wright was suggested by reader Nate Winchester.
The tenured intellectual is the only known creature that denies its own existence. They are, therefore, dangerous animals.
Rather, it is not themselves who are of immediate danger, but it is those who come into contact with them and are infected by their philosophical pathogens who are a menace. The tenured intellectual is only a carrier; their disease only debilitates others.
Not all who are exposed are infected. Only those with sufficiently weakened reasoning centers—caused by excessive exposure to the New York Times, “organic” foods, Seth MacFarlane creations, and the like—are at risk.
Some symptoms of the infection are: an urge to attend G8 meetings and throw rocks indiscriminately, a tendency to find meaning in performance “art”, excessive use of the word “racist”, a professed enjoyment of abusively loud music, and a profound disgust or distrust in convention, custom, and culture.
If left untreated, the disease is fatal to self. When you hear phrases such as:
- “There is no truth,”
- “People should not judge,”
- “There is nothing to believe in,”
the end is no longer nigh, it has arrived.
Be sure to distinguish the difference between agreement to and the professing of these statements. Each infected person will agree to these phrases, but only terminal cases will espouse them.
The cure is obvious: if the infected person can be brought to realize that each of these (and other similar) statements are self-contradictory, supremely idiotic, and childish then there is hope. If not, then all the only option remaining is quarantine in a hospice or university.
Terminal cases should placed into a padded room in which a television streams Comedy Central or MSNBC continuously. The self-reinforcement provided to the infected by this mechanism has been found to be soothing. Contact with the outside world should be limited.
End stages of the disease are manifested by utterances of pseudo profundity. Most will make the outrageous claim that because they are “meat machines”, they have no free will, thus no real existence. Their minds, they say, are slaves to “memes” and random chemical manifestations.
They will evince a phantom-limb syndrome of their brains’ workings, and actually claim not to have consciousness. Asked how this can be so since they can obviously communicate will result in either a sullen silence, or outright hostility, depending on the patient. A minority of patients will take up pen to write about their non-existence. These odds scribblings always win awards from others who are infected.
Interested readers should consult John C. Wright, a recovering lawyer and now science fiction novelist, who has given the name “Sophomoronology” to the study of the diseases of the tenured intellectual.
To start, Wright provides a much-needed classification of symptoms. For example, in “Ontology, the Intellectual does not actually believe in the real world, or that objects exist. He often doubts whether he himself exists. The Intellectual is prone to Gnosticism.” And in metaphysics,
[T]he Intellectual mouths self-contradictory statements, paradox, gibberish, and nonsense. An Intellectual indeed can be defined as someone pretending to be a philosopher, but who cannot understand or follow a metaphysical argument.
He also classifies the Intellectual’s vagaries in epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, semantics, theology, politics, among others. Wright, a former atheist, is particularly interesting on his discussion of the Intellectual’s dismissal and despisal of the Christian religion.
Wright’s nosology contains examples from both the political right and left. He quotes from an article by so-called conservative John Derbyshire, in which Derbyshire asks himself, “Can we live without comforting falsehoods, though? Or rather: How many of us can? There is a line of thought…which argues that life is insupportable without self-deception.”
Pictures of diseases are never pleasant to look at, but the act of doing so is a necessity for those who would seek cures. Thus, we must examine Derbyshire’s “comforting falsehood”, which he defines as belief in his own consciousness. That he never asks how “he” can believe in a falsehood (supposing it were one) which says there is no “he” to believe is what makes this disease so horrific to witness.
If we had to pick one phrase with which to categorize the symptomatology of this disease, it would be inability to recognize self-contradiction. Wright delves into this in some detail.
He also explores the related sense of oppositeness found strongly in Intellectuals. This includes the need for the Intellectual to claim that the non-infected suffer from the maladies clearly infecting himself (hence the overuse of the word “racist”).
Wright’s attempt must be read by any serious student of philosophical disease.
Update I originally wrote “Wright, an atheist…” but should have written “Wright, a former atheist…”