The intellectual as an ordinary person
Published on September 16 2017
Allow me to share with you some writing by Rosen (2015) which struck me as interesting in its description of the ordinary person as an intellectual
“Ordinary people have intellectual lives. They may never have written a book; they may never even have read one. But their lives are rich in ideas, constantly fashioned and revised, elaborated and rearranged. Just as no one speaks exactly the same sentences as anyone else, and rarely the same sentence twice, so, too, the act of daily living comprises an ongoing recreation of the means by which we capture experience and make it our own, a capacity that is of the very essence of our species.
To be an intellectual in this sense is not to be equally knowledgeable or wise in all domains of life. Who among us has not met a person justly recognized for his or her accomplishments in one fi eld but who, when the conversation turns to other matters, appears, in these unfamiliar places, to confi rm Carl Sandburg’s quip that “an expert is just a damn fool a long way from home”? But when we are at home we are all masters of certain ideas, whether in their unrefl ective application, their rearrangement to fi t our current needs, or the newly revealed possibilities through which we make our situations conform to our images of them. Thought, it has been said, is extrinsic, not intrinsic— something fashioned not in the “secret grotto of the mind” but worked over in the enactment of our shared conceptualizations. Like every human endeavor, thought may be performed with brilliant aplomb or mind- numbing regularity, but it is always pursued with and through the concepts we share with others, and thus rejoins, at one extreme, our most private of attributions and, at the other, our most embedded of associations”
Rosen Lawrence (2015) Two Arabs, a Berber, and a Jew: Entangled Lives in Morocco.’ Chicago: The University of Chicago press