The Foolishness of Intellectuals

I guess great minds think alike. I was just in the middle of writing my own recommendation of Tom’s essay, when Laura and George wrote theirs. Still I’ll triple down on the recommendation. Tom Merrill (American University) has a piece in the Bulwark today that is truly outstanding. Framed as a review of Glenn Ellmers’s, The Soul of Politics: Harry V. Jaffa and the Fight for America, Merrill undertakes a profound analysis not only of Harry Jaffa and the Claremont Institute, but of intellectuals more generally. I liked it especially for this line: “There is some foolishness that only intellectuals can talk themselves into.” On these grounds, Merrill took the argument much further than a critique of the Claremont Institute. Instead, it became a critique of the way intellectuals think about politics. Instead of rooting themselves in the particularities of normal politics, intellectuals think in terms of principles and, as such, tend to turn ordinary political struggle into Manichean contests between good and evil. The election of Trump is either, for his intellectual supporters, a victory over evil by the forces of good America, or, for his detractors, the end of American democracy itself.

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