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I resent and disagree with the distinction that is being drawn up here.

The notion of disruption is not inherently anti-intellectual. The notion that whatever society or structure under discussion has reached a local maximum, and must be torn down somewhat to be built back up is not to say that a society is worthless, or wrong at it's fundament, but rather that sometimes, change is not possible from within.

It is the opposite of conservatism (with the little "c").

Additionally in the world of the internet, where a thousand flowers bloom, and theories and movements are spawned and die every day, i put relatively little stock in each of the common wisdoms that spring up for their 15 minutes of fame, and then fade into the abyss. Fads like the notion of experts being unnecessary are ridiculous, and largely have no legs. And even to the extent that they do reflect some deep seated feeling, i would more likely attribute them to an antipathy to credentialism, rather than the notion that expertise is worthless.

And if you want to put a political spin on this, posts like these are exactly the sort of false equivalences which make moral argumentation impossible. Sure geekdom has its share of charlatans and know-nothings pretending to be masters of insight, but this is different from demands of faith and fanaticism, and that if you disagree with orthodoxy, not only are you wrong but that you are forever damned, and in some cases, shunned by your friends and family.

I've listened to David Barton (The "Historian", and yes, the scare quotes should indicate to you that he's not an actual historian.) make the claim that the Bible lays out specific prescriptions on tax policy, and that if you vote for a party that raises taxes, you are not on the right side with God.

These are not the same caliber of argument, and i am extremely frustrated to hear them equated.




>The notion of disruption is not inherently anti-intellectual. The notion that whatever society or structure under discussion has reached a local maximum, and must be torn down somewhat to be built back up is not to say that a society is worthless, or wrong at it's fundament, but rather that sometimes, change is not possible from within.

I'm not really sure what you mean here. Tearing down what--books? Schools of thought?


I could be wrong, and I certainly don't want to speak for anyone else really, but I think he's talking more in general principle. That you can't assume that more improvement isn't possible, that sometimes it takes a radical change of direction which can't be seen from a position of orthodoxy. I don't think he was suggesting the death of books or similar, more a reflex towards an open mind.

For what it's worth, the conflation of some extreme "post-modern" views such as "Experts do not deserve any special role in declaring what is known. Knowledge is now democratically determined, as it should be.", with some quite distinct and by no means dependent views questioning the value of forms of rote memorization was to me quite insulting. There is a world of possible nuances between views like these.

I am aware that the intention of that particular section was to (in my opinion clumsily) provoke. However to avoid engaging with the issues with intellectual honesty seems to me to be as anti-enlightenment as anything he ascribes to the anti-intellectual movement he apparently sees.


Sure, i mean all of these things are about the process which produces stuff. So i mean the institution of the book. For example, that the majority of academic publishing be measured in books (some fields definitely do this). Or that the "great" works of literature are inaccessible to the vast majority of the public and that there are more worthwhile things that could be done with one's time than reading "War and Peace".

That is not to say that reading "War and Peace" is wrong, or that it has no value, but that we should reassess whether reading "War and Peace" is somehow a metric of serious thought. This is the same sort of bullshit that people doing pop culture research have had to deal with for years. Whether it's research into comic art (and yes there are research libraries for cartoons – i spent 3 years working in one), contemporary art, or journalists using twitter, their existence is not (inherently) a zero-sum game with the old order. It is a threat to orthodoxy, but it is not a threat to academic inquiry or knowledge.

It'd be like claiming that Martin Luther was a great threat to religion and faith, because he sparked the reformation.


I don't think reading "War and Peace" is in itself a metric of serious thought so much as it is a test of literacy and of attention span.


Or sheer bloody mindedness. If you read "War and Peace" to improve your mind, more power to you. If you read it because you think it will make you better that someone else, you're just engaging in more social signaling.


I don't think people ever do that. Not with War and Peace, anyhows.




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