What does it actually mean to be intellectual? I see this used quite a bit by people either describing themselves ( noun) or referentially (adjective). I am coming, more and more, to the conclusion that in either usage, it is something meant to be condescending to those that are being spoken to or about. I used to consider myself an intellectual, and in that I believed that what I thought was more important, or better informed, than those uneducated, hoi-poloi. I meant, at that time, that no one, less educated than myself, could possibly understand complicated political or social issues, or even methodology in the sciences. In other words: you are less than me.
I stopped using that term years ago because I discovered, to my great shame at the time, that 1) Education level has nothing to do with how smart and discerning a person may be and 2) Using that word in whatever form (noun, adjective) only tends to shut down the conversation, whatever the subject may be. Who wants to talk to someone that believes themselves to be above the crowd? I know that’s not the intent of the word, but that’s how most people view those that may overuse it in any conversation.
I have expertise in a few areas and in that way, I’m a Subject Matter Expert. Yes, I have years of knowledge and experience but that doesn’t make me an intellectual in those. All it sys is that I’ve worked in those disciplines. In other areas, I may have an opinion, but it doesn’t make me an SME. In fact, the idea of being an intellectual because someone is interested in a subject they have no expertise is is laughable. It makes them curious. I’m curious about a lot of subjects. I read a lot , on many different subjects within a variety of disciplines. Some may refer to that as an intellectual interest. I just, as I said, call it a basic curiosity.
I have found in my life that I may find something interesting in many areas I had never considered when I was younger. Does that make me an intellectual? Sometimes I find myself investigating an area of interest that I quickly discover, I actually have no interest in pursuing
The question begs itself: What constitutes an intellectual? If it’s someone that’s interested in a number of different subjects, that may be defined as an intellectual pursuit. But I think it;s less that than just a common curiosity.I have many interests that are far beyond any expertise I have. Does that alone make me an intellectual? I don;t think so. The problem with the word itself is, as I said, have people believe something that doesn’t exist. So, I’m in favor of discarding the term. Not forever or in every instance, but just as a general term that may give the impression that whoever is speaking, knows better than we do. That their “intellectual pursuit” is more important than whatever anyone else has to say. Let’s level the plating field and consider that everyone is an intellectual in their own way. If that’s true, and I think it is, we don’t need to use this word anymore.