Thomas Sowell

Intellect is not wisdom. There can be “unwise intellect.” Sheer brainpower—intellect, the capacity to grasp and manipulate complex concepts and ideas—can be put at the service of concepts and ideas that lead to mistaken conclusions and unwise actions, in light of all the factors involved, including factors left out of some of the ingenious constructions of the intellect.
Brilliance—even genius—is no guarantee that consequential factors have not been left out or misconceived.
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The capacity to grasp and manipulate complex ideas is enough to define intellect but not enough to encompass intelligence, which involves combining with judgment and care in selecting relevant explanatory factors and in establishing empirical tests of any theory that emerges.
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 is the fulfillment of the ancient admonition, “With all of your getting, get 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.

3 thoughts on “Thomas Sowell

  1. shinichi Post author

    Intellectuals and Society

    by Thomas Sowell

    (2010)

    Chapter 1

    Intellect and Intellectuals

    Intelligence is quickness to apprehend as distinct from ability, which is capacity to act wisely on the thing apprehended.
    ~Alfred North Whitehead

    Intellect is not wisdom. There can be “unwise intellect,” as Thomas Carlyle characterized the thinking of Harriet Taylor, the friend and later wife of John Stuart Mill. Sheer brainpower—intellect, the capacity to grasp and manipulate complex concepts and ideas—can be put at the service of concepts and ideas that lead to mistaken conclusions and unwise actions, in light of all the factors involved, including factors left out of some of the ingenious constructions of the intellect.

    Brilliance—even genius—is no guarantee that consequential factors have not been left out or misconceived. Karl Marx’s Capital was a classic example of an intellectually masterful elaboration of a fundamental misconception – in this case, the notion that “labour,” the physical handling of the materials and instruments of production, is the real source of wealth. Obviously, if this were true, countries with much labour and little technology or entrepreneurship would be more prosperous than countries than with the reverse, when it is blatantly obvious that the direct opposite is the case.

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    Intelligence versus Intellect

    The capacity to grasp and manipulate complex ideas is enough to define intellect but not enough to encompass intelligence, which involves combining with judgment and care in selecting relevant explanatory factors and in establishing empirical tests of any theory that emerges.

    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 is the fulfillment of the ancient admonition, “With all of your getting, get 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.

    George Orwell said that some ideas are so foolish that only an intellectual could believe them, for no ordinary man could be such a fool.

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  2. shinichi Post author

    Intellectuals and Society

    Wikipedia

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectuals_and_Society

    Those whose careers are built on the creation and dissemination of ideas — the intellectuals — have played a role in many societies out of all proportion to their numbers. Whether that role has, on balance, made those around them better off or worse off is one of the key questions of our times.

    The quick answer is that intellectuals have done both. But certainly, during the 20th century, it is hard to escape the conclusion that intellectuals have on balance made the world a worse and more dangerous place. Scarcely a mass-murdering dictator of the 20th century was without his supporters, admirers, or apologists among the leading intellectuals — not only within his own country, but in foreign democracies, where intellectuals were free to say whatever they wanted.

    …intellectuals are people whose end products are intangible ideas, and they are usually judged by whether those ideas sound good to other intellectuals or resonate with the public. Whether their ideas turn out to work — whether they make life better or worse for others — is another question entirely.

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  3. shinichi Post author

    Thomas Sowell

    Wikipedia

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Sowell

    Thomas Sowell (1930 – ) is an American economist, social theorist, political philosopher, and author.

    He is currently Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Sowell was born in North Carolina, but grew up in Harlem, New York. He dropped out of high school and served in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War. He received a Bachelor’s degree, graduating magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1958 and a Master’s degree from Columbia University in 1959. In 1968, he earned his Doctorate in Economics from the University of Chicago.

    Sowell has served on the faculties of several universities, including Cornell University and University of California, Los Angeles. He has also worked for think tanks such as the Urban Institute. Since 1980, he has worked at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He writes from a conservative and classical liberal perspective, advocating free market economics, and has written more than thirty books. He is a National Humanities Medal recipient.

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