"In this paper, I take the position that a large portion of contemporary academic work is an appalling waste of human intelligence that cannot be justified under any mainstream normative ethics."
Our intelligentsia is like a huge drag on reality: think how rapidly we would progress without their dead weight.
True, the author's thesis is self-evident, but as Justice Holmes said, "It seems to me that at this time we need education in the obvious more than exploration of the obscure." That was then. In our time the situation is only worse. Think of it: intellectuals were already losing their grip on reality when he made that comment over a hundred years ago.
And when I say "intellectuals," I don't mean physicians, engineers, mathematicians, businessmen, etc., who all deal with a reality outside their own heads.
In contrast, intellectuals deal with ideas, and ever since Descartes came up with the idea that ideas about existence precede existence, intellectuals have been under the temptation to invert the cosmos and live in the comfort and safety of their own delusions. It is why they can have such difficulty learning, since they refuse to submit to, and be corrected by, that annoying other, the Real.
Obama is our first president totally devoted to this assbackwards metaphysic. It explains everything that has gone hideously sideways over the past 6.5 years, e.g., the economy, crime, foreign relations, the federal debt, healthcare, race relations, etc.
This is one of the things that divides left and right: the great majority of intellectuals are on the left, if only because of their dominance of (soft) academia. (Remember, "intellectual" is a neutral term, not a term of endearment; whether it is good or bad depends on the quality of the ideas. After all, even Paul Krugman and Noam Chomsky are intellectuals.)
While looking up that quote I found another relevant one: "The great act of faith is when man decides that he is not God."
Not that Holmes had all his intellectual ducks in a row. Far from it; he seems to be a good example of a brilliant man without the true center of God. And without that nonlocal attractor, thought can deviate all over the place. He was definitely suspicious of the Absolute, apparently failing to see that it is the necessary condition for any talk whatsoever of truth. Any truth is always an echo of God.
Thus, for example, he said that certitude is "generally an illusion" and (certainly?) "not the test of certainty." True, but that doesn't mean there is no valid certainty.
But then he comes close to the Truth when he says that through an understanding of "general aspects of the law" you may "connect your subject with the universe and catch an echo of the infinite, a glimpse of its unfathomable process, a hint of universal law." In other words, a deep insight into terrestrial law can provide a glimpse of the Celestial Law of which it is a penumbra. Oddly, he was not a believer in natural law, and yet, he covertly acknowledges it.
The Celestial Law? That is impossible to unambiguously express in human terms, but it is the perfect complementarity of divine Justice and Mercy.
It looks to me like Holmes was blundermind by his own brilliance. We've talked about this idea before -- that given a certain level of intelligence, there is no proposition you can't disprove to your own (dis)satisfaction, beginning with the existence of God. Thus, the good news: "the chief end of man is to frame general propositions." The bad news: "no general proposition is worth a damn." In the end, "we aim at the infinite and when our arrow falls to earth it is in flames."
That's the conclusion of a lifetime of reflection. This is a brilliant man, mind you. But it shows you what human brilliance can purchase with its own powers: it isn't worth a damn.
And that is a fact: without God, man isn't even worth a damn. How could he be? Unless we are related to the Absolute Value, then we are absolutely worthless. Holmes said so himself, that... can't find the exact quote, but something to the effect that it scarcely matters if the whole shithouse goes up in flames.
The real problem is that Holmes failed to follow through on his first heroic insight. Toward the end of his long life he wrote in a letter, "Young man, the secret of my success is that at an early age I discovered I was not God."
BingO! That is is a rock-bottom certitude, but you need to follow it all the way up. You don't petulantly conclude that "I am not God, therefore he doesn't exist," because this literally equates to "There is no God and I am He." In other words, you are stealing some of God's thundermind -- certitude -- in order to deny his enlightning -- truth.
There is a difference between thinking and truth. The purpose of thinking -- I know, who would have guessed? -- is to arrive at truth. Once you have seen the truth, then you can stop; or at least your thinking establishes a different vector: instead of going "forward" it drills down (or up).
Don Colacho has a number of relevant aphorisms, for example, The only pretension I have is that of not having written a linear book, but a concentric book.
In other words, he's always communicating from the top down or inside out. He is definitely not "searching" for truth; it is like the person who has found his beloved. Loving that person is not the same as searching for him or her, although one obviously doesn't possess the person. There is still a deepening of the relation.
In a related aphorism, he writes that Nothing is more superficial than intelligences that comprehend everything. This applies to the vulgar atheist, but to the left more generally, due to their blind respect for "intellectuals." But Man believes he is lost among facts, when he is only caught in a web of his own definitions. And boy, are liberals caught. Like this clown.
The atheist devotes himself less to proving that God does not exist than forbidding him to exist. The atheist -- and Holmes was an atheist -- is certain that God doesn't exist, but he promptly forgets about the source of certainty.
But as the Don says, man has two poles, and we needn't respect that muddled in between zone of "an animal with opinions" -- Darwinism, for example, which is the sine qua non of an animal with opinions. Granted, it is one step above gross materialism, which is a loudmouthed rock. But enough about Joe Biden.
One more aphorism: We believe in many things in which we do not believe we believe. Divine certitude, for example.
In Part I(B), I assess various theories of "the role of the intellectual," concluding that the only role for the intellectual is for the intellectual to cease to exist. In Part I(C), I assess the contemporary state of the academy, showing that, contrary to the theory advanced in Part I(B), many intellectuals insist on continuing to exist. In Part I(D), I propose a new path forward, whereby present-day intellectuals take on a useful social function by spreading truths that help to alleviate the crisis of suffering outlined in Part I(A).
I don't know what he concludes in Part I(D), but a good start would be for these useless intellectuals to learn from reality instead of projecting their visions onto it.