Friday, February 26, 2010

Intellectual Morons

I just finished reading Intellectual Morons by Daniel J. Flynn and I highly recommend it. The title is unfortunate, suggesting a Coulteresque screed instead of the scholarly but breezy read that it is.
"ideology acts as a mental straitjacket. It blinds adherents to reality, breeds fanaticism, and rationalizes dishonesty. It makes smart people stupid."
Flynn covers much of the same ground Jack Cashill covers in Hoodwinked, but from a slightly different angle, making both books essential reading. What distinguishes this book is the treatment of ideology: Flynn leads off with a thought-provoking chapter on the subject, and it is a thread that runs through the book.

Do You Use Ideology as a Crutch?

Ideology can be a mental framework to make sense of what's going on around you, but Flynn sees it is more as a crutch for those too lazy to think for themselves.  Reading the opening chapter slowly and thoughtfully can provide a good intellectual self-examination.
The main idea behind Intellectual Morons is that ideology acts as a mental straitjacket. It blinds adherents to reality, breeds fanaticism, and rationalizes dishonesty. It makes smart people stupid.

It doesn’t matter how intelligent you are if you don’t use your brain. Intelligent people aren’t necessarily rigorous thinkers. In fact, many of them are mentally lazy. Ideology provides a way for lazy people to respond to issues, ideas, people, and events without thinking.

For the ideologue, ideology is the Rosetta Stone of everything. Why think when the system provides all the answers? Ideology is attractive to smart people because it flatters them by suggesting that a single idea from the mind of an intellectual has the power of explaining all of history or ordering the affairs of whole nations. No person is that smart; no idea that good. (Front Page - Interview)
My conservative friends are nodding their heads, thinking "oh yeah!"

But wait!  He goes after Ayn Rand, Objectivism, and those dreaded neocons as well, attacking not so much the adherents as the intellectual authors. It doesn't offend me because I am a fan of neither ideology, but even so, it is healthy to hear some reasoned criticism of one's sacred cows.

Neocons and Randites can still find much to love in the book.  He saves the vast majority of his firepower for the likes of Planned Parenthood, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, PETA, radical environmentalists and postmodernists.

Intellectual Morons is a storehouse of of ammo for those who enjoy arguing with liberals.  More importantly, it is a useful springboard to an intellectual self-examination.  

Are you an ideologue or an independent thinker?


Fredd said...

I would have to agree that looking at the world through a given ideology is a lazy man's way to keep from having to think too hard, why bother? Ideology has served me well for years, and saved me a lot of time, too!

It's quite convenient when confronting a different opinion: 'Whaddya mean, I'm wrong!!?? Turn to page (xxx), chapter (y) in my ideological playbook, read it and weep, jerk!!'

It's like using Betty Crocker cake mix: just add an egg, some water and vegetable oil, mix and bake. Why get involved with all of that 'scratch' stuff?

Most Rev. Gregori said...

It has been my experience that just because someone is an "INTELLECTUAL" with some alphabet letters after their name, does not necessarily mean that they are smart. If you send a fool to college, after four years you will end up with an educated fool. All you have is a moron with a B.S. (Bull Shit) or an M.S. (More Shit) possibly a Ph.D (Piled High and DEEP).

Silverfiddle said...

;) I hadn't heard that one in a long time, Reverend!

RealityZone said...

The problem is that we listen to others. Instead of listening to our inner self.

Silverfiddle said...

It can be useful to listen to others, but I agree with you that we first must be tuned to our inner self.

If you don't know who you are, you are open to someone else defining you.

RealityZone said...

Well said.

Silverfiddle said...

Thanks man. I added you to my blog roll.

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