Intellectuals – what should they do?
Imagine a man who has his car broken. What should he do then? One may say that he should change all devastated pieces into the new ones. But many others may do not agree with it – they may postulate to buy a new car. So what is the best way to solve this problem? Let this example be a background for further considerations. That man’s dilemma may be appropriate to the topic which will emerge in this essay. But let me start from the beginning.
The first part of this paper, we define the term “intellectual”. Who is it? How can we describe such a person? What features are characteristic for an intellectual? What scratch should man come up to ...view middle of the document...
Another interesting conception is Antonio Gramsci’s (1976) definition, which being an intellectual treats as a function. In this point of view everyone has a potential to become an intellectual, but only few people are able to achieve it. Only some of us may function as intellectuals, while others are forced – by social hierarchy, economic system, etc. – to work in different way. In order to accept one wide and general definition we may assume that an intellectual is a not – manual worker; he creates, or contributes to create and develop some cultural goods or products of no – material aspect, e.g. ideas, thoughts, opinions, conceptions, etc. Intellectuals do not take world around them as it is, but they are asking questions, they doubt, they want to understand, and – if it is necessary – to change it. They never just take a thing, they always add some reflection. They are the critics of reality. They see world and events in much broader context than usual people. Intellectuals may get to other people and they are aware of this influence. They are developing themselves as well.
However, there is another aspect of defining which is very – if not more – important when taking into account political situation in individual countries, especially those from former Soviet bloc. Being an intellectual in totalitarian or post – totalitarian regime was vividly connected with political aspect. Timothy Garton Ash claims that an intellectual “is a person playing a particular role. It is the role of the thinker or writer who engages in public discussion of issues of public policy, in politics in the broadest sense, while deliberately not engaging in the pursuit of political power” (Ash 1995: 36). In the meantime, Vaclav Havel postulates an intellectual as a person who lives “within the truth” (Havel 1985). Such way of life suggests, that intellectuals in a post – totalitarian regime have a moral duty to criticize the system which produces lies. Intellectuals have a special capacity to see everything in broader context. This capacity, in turn, makes the responsibility towards the world. That is why most of us use term “dissidents” or “oppositionists” as almost synonyms of “intellectual”. Havel described dissidents as people who decided to live within the truth and who “express their non – conformist positions and critical opinions publicly and systematically” (Havel 1985: 57).
Now it becomes clear that intellectuals are a special group, with specific features, which are characteristic only for them. It means that this special position in social hierarchy causes unusual consequences. While considering these results, we mean the role of intellectuals.
What should the role of intellectual be in the society? There are many different roles. Firstly, as a consequence of their definition, they should create and develop some cultural goods or ‘mind – products’ – i.e. ideas, thoughts – or, at least, encourage and contribute others to do it....