Sowell points out that intellect is not wisdom; there can be “unwise intellect:”
Brilliance–even genius–is no guarantee that consequential factors have not been left out or misconceived. Intelligence minus judgment equals intellect. Wisdom is the rarest quality of all–the ability to combine intellect, knowledge, experience, and judgment in a way to produce a coherent understanding…Wisdom requires self-discipline and an understanding of the realities of the world, including the limitations of one’s own experience and of reason itself. The opposite of high intellect is dullness or slowness, but the opposite of wisdom is foolishness, which is far more dangerous.
One of the interesting things that Sowell discusses is the tendency for intellectuals to think that because they are brilliant in one area, that they are brilliant in all areas. They make asinine predictions–think global warming etc.–and are ultimately unaccountable to the external world should their ideas be found to be wrong.
If an engineer or surgeon made a similar mistake, there would be hell to pay. For today’s intellectuals, there is a shrug of the shoulders and they continue without repercussions in their ivory towers while being awarded grants and honors. Without consequences, it’s no wonder they rarely think about what they say, or the effect it has on the public.
However, the public has started to discount what they say and with the internet and other technology, has started to understand that without judgment and wisdom, the intellectuals are often not so smart after all.
Juxtapose those words with Rick Santorum’s… the words Santorum is being villified for from especially the left but also the right:
Our foundation was very strong, in fact is very strong. But over time that great, acidic quality of time corrodes away even the strongest foundations. And Satan has done so by attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity and sensuality as the route to attack all of these strong plants that have so deeply rooted in American tradition. He was successful. He attacks all of us and he attacks all of our institutions.
The place where he was, in my mind, the most successful and first — first successful was in academia. He understood pride of smart people. He attacked them at their weakest. They were in fact smarter than everybody else and could come up with something new and different — pursue new truths, deny the existence of truth, play with it because they’re smart. And so academia a long time ago fell.
You say, well, what could be the impact of academia falling? Well, I would make the argument that the other structures that I’m going to talk about here had the root of their destruction because of academia. Because what academia does is educate the elites in our society, educates the leaders of our society, particularly at the college level. And they were the first to fall. And so what we saw, this domino effect, once the colleges fell and those who were being educated in our institutions.
Santorum was speaking to a Catholic University and doing nothing more than attributing to Satan what Sowell apparently sources as merely the lack of wisdom.
Yet Santorum is painted as a fanatic or a kook… largely frankly by those Sowell might argue lack wisdom.
The juxtaposition I find striking.