Intellectual Fundamentalism (Bernardo's latest post)

#1
Bernardo's got an excellent new blog post up on his site titled , in which he diagnoses Intellectual Fundamentalism as if it were a medical disorder. I actually started writing something similar here once, (which I eventually deleted without posting), but Bernardo has done a much better job of it than I could have.

A sufferer of intellectual fundamentalism, on the other hand, looses interest in intended meaning and focuses, instead, on the form of the logical and grammatical constructs used by his interlocutor. The patient will fixate obsessively on what is said, losing sight of what is meant. When a logical flaw is found in what is said, the patient will construe it as sure evidence that his interlocutor is unworthy and completely close himself up to the intended message. This fixation on form above intended meaning is not only detrimental to the patient – who misses out on much of the subtlety and nuance of what others try to convey to him, particularly those who have most to contribute for seeing the world in a different way – but also to his interlocutors: it is frustrating for family, friends and acquaintances to interact with someone who insists in finding flaws in the finger pointing at the moon, instead of looking at the moon.
Depending on the degree of advancement of the condition, the denial of all forms of cognition other than the intellect usually grows to become a fixation. At this point, if still left untreated, the condition can further evolve into a hero syndrome, which drives the patient to try and "save the world" by attempting to eradicate all human activities, views, and general outlooks that do not conform to intellectual value systems.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#2
I'm sure there is sometimes over-focus on the logical and grammatical constructs used by his interlocutor, but sometimes the interlocutor simply can't express what she means clearly enough for reasonable discussion. We need to be careful that the discussion is more than "Oh yeah, man, I agree with what you saying."

Bernardo, as well as the rest of us, should be careful not to suffer from the malady he decries.

"Indeed, sufferers of intellectual fundamentalism derive great satisfaction from finding logical flaws, ..."

Uh, well, yeah. These are mostly philosophical discussions. What else have we got?

"Because patients are severely dissociated from most other segments of their own psyches, they become delusional in believing that all reality is amenable to intellectual modeling and apprehension, despite the complete lack of any rational reason for such belief."

Such as the intellectual modeling of intellectual fundamentalists.

"The cultivation of a rich variety of outlooks is essential for preventing intellectual fundamentalism."

Do they need to be rational outlooks?

~~ Paul
 
#3
I'm sure there is sometimes over-focus on the logical and grammatical constructs used by his interlocutor, but sometimes the interlocutor simply can't express what she means clearly enough for reasonable discussion. We need to be careful that the discussion is more than "Oh yeah, man, I agree with what you saying."

Bernardo, as well as the rest of us, should be careful not to suffer from the malady he decries.
That is actually a good point, and something I think about quite a bit. In a sense, the very discussions we have here are often intellectual abstractions, including as you said "the intellectual modeling of intellectual fundamentalists" and the discussions often get farther and farther away from the actual experience of living reality. I sometimes wonder if by engaging in these discussions, I am pushing myself further into living in unreal mental abstractions, exactly as I have often accused others of doing.

I might be better off spending more time meditating, or spending time in nature, or doing any of the various activities Bernardo mentions in the first paragraph of the "Prevention and Treatment" section of his post.

Anyway, the point I got from the post isn't 'intellect is bad'. It was that 'intellect is not everything'. So then why do Bernardo's posts seem so abstract and intellectual? Well, his audience is people who are probably used to this intellectualism, and they will reject anything that doesn't appeal to their intellect. He has to reach them on the intellectual level first, before they will consider anything beyond that.

Do they need to be rational outlooks?
No. Leave rationality behind for a bit. Do something irrational. Give yourself a break Paul, you've been rational enough for three lifetimes ;)
 
#5
When your thought experiment is convoluted enough to seem counterintuitive to most, relies on clunky metaphors, and has as its foundation an argument from incredulity, it is unlikely to gain mainstream traction.

Should this be the case, depending on the ego involved, one might vent one's frustration by blaming the audience, and postulate a faux medical condition for those who aren't convinced by your brilliance...
 
#6
When your thought experiment is convoluted enough to seem counterintuitive to most, relies on clunky metaphors, and has as its foundation an argument from incredulity, it is unlikely to gain mainstream traction.

Should this be the case, depending on the ego involved, one might vent one's frustration by blaming the audience, and postulate a faux medical condition for those who aren't convinced by your brilliance...
Thank you for submitting your opinion. Other opinions are available. Have a nice day.
[/thread]
 
#7
Thank you for submitting your opinion. Other opinions are available.
Exactly. Other opinions are available. We don't have to label those who disagree with us "sufferers of a condition".

I can imagine the (justifiable) outrage on here if Dennett or Dawkins came out with a piece like this.
 
#8
What I think a lot of people are missing, from all sides I think, is that a balanced society will often benefit from unbalanced people within the society.

Simplifying it somewhat:
  • We benefit from highly creative people who come up with ideas.
  • We benefit from highly analytically people who can really dig deep into figuring out the nitty gritty of an idea.
  • We benefit from highly practical people who can figure out the best way to implement an idea.
Each has something to offer. In an ideal world we might wish that everyone possessed talents in all three areas but whether for material or immaterial reasons that is not always the case.

To get the best bang for our buck, I believe, we need to recognise the pros and the cons of the various types of intelligence. We need to stop seeing one as being better than the other but rather as complementary to each other.

Once we recognise that we may find that we become less offended by those more skilled in the other types and see how combining our skills leads to our best chance of achieving a positive result.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#10
I personally find my irrationality very practical sometimes ;-)
If nothing else there are way more irrationals than rationals...even though there's an infinite amount of each. :eek:

Even though I was never very good at those infinite cardinality proofs I did find Cantor's description poetic:

"The rationals are spotted in the line like stars in a black sky while the dense blackness is the firmament of the irrationals"

Then again, he did go crazy thinking about this stuff so maybe my lack of ability was, in fact, rather fortunate...
 
#11
If nothing else there are way more irrationals than rationals...even though there's an infinite amount of each. :eek:

Even though I was never very good at those infinite cardinality proofs I did find Cantor's description poetic:

"The rationals are spotted in the line like stars in a black sky while the dense blackness is the firmament of the irrationals"

Then again, he did go crazy thinking about this stuff so maybe my lack of ability was, in fact, rather fortunate...
This reminded me of a quote on the first page of my statistical mechanics text.

"Ludwig Boltzmann, who spent much of his life studying statistical mechanics, died in 1906, by his own hand. Paul Ehrenfest, carrying on the work, died similarly in 1933. Now it is our turn to study statistical mechanics". -- David L. Goodman
Doesn't look very promising to become an expert in statistical mechanics, either ;-)
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#12
Assuming that's the same Boltzmann who came up with the brains arising out of entropic chaos...Heh, always loved Futurama's take on those guys:

 
#13
Sounds like a terrible condition.

Is he venting his spleen because Brian Cox didn't seem to take him seriously? Or is this a back-handed jab at a different smart guy?

Linda
 
#14
Sounds like a terrible condition.

Is he venting his spleen because Brian Cox didn't seem to take him seriously? Or is this a back-handed jab at a different smart guy?

Linda
I note from the comments that even our resident Bernardo fan boy isn't impressed with this blog post...

Michael Larkin Monday, August 04, 2014 9:45:00 PM
I'm afraid I'm not amused, Bernardo. I'm rather tired of armchair psychologists pathologising my views in a couple of areas I could mention, and it would be hypocritical of me to applaud that kind of thing in relation to those I happen to disagree with.

I would ask you to check your facts: are there no instances of people interested in the arts, possibly with great facility as poets, painters or musicians, who happen to be intellectual materialists? A brief spell with Google will show that isn't the case. Nor will you find it too hard to find examples of intellectual materialists who are deeply concerned about moral values. I can't readily understand why that's the case and agree it shows cognitive dissonance, but such people aren't psychotic, and some of them can in fact be very empathic.

I don't agree with materialists, but I'm not going to pathologise them, even in jest. Sorry, but that's how I feel about this.
 
#15
I don't even view this as part of the "idealism vs. materialism" debate. Unless I missed it, he doesn't even mention that in the article. I'm not sure what is so controversial about it - maybe you all haven't noticed, but in the environment I inhabit, 'intellect worship' is pretty obvious. I know people who know nothing about science (and aren't interested in learning the scientific method) who are all too eager to lap up whatever falls under the "science" headline as though it were absolute fact. They accept without question whatever the 'celebrity scientist' on TV tells them, no matter how speculative they become. And where are the skeptics to question these assertions??

So I didn't see this post as mean-spirited. Bernardo even calls himself a "recovering intellectual fundamentalist". I understand exactly what he is saying, and I could easily apply the same label to myself. I've been there, and I am not without sympathy. The label doesn't apply to all materialists, and it isn't owned by any specific ontological viewpoint - it applies to those who limit their perceptions to a subset of reality. Only the fundamentalists who say "The intellect is the only way - no other way is valid". If you aren't a fundamentalist, he's not describing you.

Anyway, I didn't write the original post, so I've spent enough time defending it. If you want to argue with it, why not take it up with Bernardo - I'm sure he would be happy to debate it with you.

PS. Who cares what Brian Cox or other so-called 'smart guys' think? For that matter, who cares what any individual human thinks, or even what all of the world thinks?

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

My foothold is tenon'd and mortis'd in granite,
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time.


-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
 
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#16
he will typically point at historical instances in which these other faculties have been unreliable, while ignoring all other historical instances in which they have been vital.
Interesting switch. Is Bernardo suggesting that the other methods are indeed unreliable, but at times have produced desirable results? I don't necessarily disagree with that. There are plenty of times when we act based on unreliable information.

Which method is desirable depends on what one is trying to accomplish.

If we're trying to reliably figure out whether something is true - then that is likely best accomplished using reliable methods. Using unreliable methods can get you to the truth, but at a cost of being less justifiably confident in the results.

We know we have methods using the intellect that can increase the reliability of results.

If our goal is reliable results, then in considering methods not-using the intellect, we must evaluate the reliability of such methods.

It may be that those other methods aren't as effective when it comes to reliability. On the other hand, that doesn't mean they don't play a useful role in generating ideas that can the be examined by more more reliable means.
 
#17
I don't even view this as part of the "idealism vs. materialism" debate. Unless I missed it, he doesn't even mention that in the article. I'm not sure what is so controversial about it - maybe you all haven't noticed, but in the environment I inhabit, 'intellect worship' is pretty obvious. I know people who know nothing about science (and aren't interested in learning the scientific method) who are all too eager to lap up whatever falls under the "science" headline as though it were absolute fact. They accept without question whatever the 'celebrity scientist' on TV tells them, no matter how speculative they become. And where are the skeptics to question these assertions??

So I didn't see this post as mean-spirited. Bernardo even calls himself a "recovering intellectual fundamentalist". I understand exactly what he is saying, and I could easily apply the same label to myself. I've been there, and I am not without sympathy. The label doesn't apply to all materialists, and it isn't owned by any specific ontological viewpoint - it applies to those who limit their perceptions to a subset of reality. Only the fundamentalists who say "The intellect is the only way - no other way is valid". If you aren't a fundamentalist, he's not describing you.

Anyway, I didn't write the original post, so I've spent enough time defending it. If you want to argue with it, why not take it up with Bernardo - I'm sure he would be happy to debate it with you.

PS. Who cares what Brian Cox or other so-called 'smart guys' think? For that matter, who cares what any individual human thinks, or even what all of the world thinks?

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

My foothold is tenon'd and mortis'd in granite,
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time.


-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
I suppose when you've recently published a book titled "Why Materialism is Baloney" it poisons your own well ;)

ETA: From the comment section:
Bernardo Kastrup Monday, August 04, 2014 5:00:00 PM
Great stuff! :) Yes, materialism meets the criteria for a psychosis...
 
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S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#18

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

My foothold is tenon'd and mortis'd in granite,
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time.


-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Nice!

"Everyone is so afraid of death, but the real sufis just laugh: nothing tyrannizes their hearts. What strikes the oyster shell does not damage the pearl."
-Rumi
 
#19
I just wondered why Bernardo would write such a misguided caricature unless he was trying to get back at someone or a group of someones. I can't think of anyone who doesn't recognize the contributions of empathy, perceptions, artistic sensibilities, creativity etc. to human pursuits. I agree that individuals tend to focus on some aspects more than others - we all have our strengths and weaknesses and interests. But there doesn't seem to be any reason to write the article or to praise it, as though he offers any sort of insight, unless there is an example of its application.

There is a fair bit of research on fundamentalism, and it is fairly clear that the problems arise with dogmatism, rather than whatever modifier the word is attached to (whether it be "religious" or "intellectual" or whatever). However, research on the subject shows that dogmatism is most highly associated with right wing authoritarianism and religion, and has little association with agnosticism and atheism (Atheists: A Groundbreaking Study of America's Nonbelievers, by Altemeyer and Hunsberger). I've looked a bit and haven't found research where the DOG (dogmatism) scale has been applied to scientists, but I strongly suspect the results would look like the atheist and agnostic results.

Linda
 
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