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Monday, July 19, 2010

The Interaction Rituals of Intellectuals

    The distinctive Interaction Rituals of intellectuals are those occasions on which intellectuals come together for the sake of their serious talk: not to socialize, nor to be practical.  Intellectuals set themselves apart from other networks of social life in the act of turning toward one another.  The discussion, the lecture, the argument, sometimes the demonstration or the examination of evidence: these are the concrete activities from which the sacred object “truth” arises….
    The basic form of intellectual communities has remained much the same for over two thousand years.  Key intellectuals cluster in groups in the 1900s much as in the 400b.c.e.  The personal contacts between eminent teaches and later to be eminent students make up the same kinds of chains across the generations.  And this is so even though communications technology has become increasingly available, and the numbers of intellectuals have increased enormously from on the order of hundreds in Confucius’ China, to the million scientists and scholars publishing today….
       Intellectual discourse focuses implicitly on its autonomy from external concerns and its reflexive awareness…
    .This, then, is the intellectual ritual.  Intellectuals gather, focus their attention for a time on one of their members, who delivers a sustained discourse. That discourse itself builds on elements from the past, affirming and continuing or negating.  Old sacred objects, previously charged up, are recharged with attention, or degraded from their sacredness and expelled from the life of the community; new candidate sacred objects are offered for sanctification.  By reference to texts past and texts future, the intellectual community keeps up the consciousness of its projects, transcending all particular occasions on which they were enacted.  Hence the peculiar guiding sacred object- truth, wisdom, sometimes the activity of seeking or research—as both eternal and embodied in the flow of time.


    Collins, Randall 1998.  Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change Cambridge: Belkap/Harvard University Press

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