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Do not become an intellectual!

Do not become an intellectual!

The world does not need many intellectuals. Most people have neither the talent nor the taste for intellectual work, and much remains admirable and good in human life (love, self-sacrifice, justice, passion, martyrdom, hope), which has little or nothing to do with what they do as intellectuals. Intellectual abilities, even intellectual greatness, are just as likely to be accompanied by vice as a moral virtue. And the world (at least the American world), has no interest and few rewards for intellectuals. The life of an intellectual is lonely, difficult, and usually poor; do not get into it if you are hoping for something more than that. Do not take it if you think that intellectual vocation is the most important thing that exists: it is not! Do not do it if you have the slightest stain of contempt or pity for those without intellectual talent: you should not have them. Do not take it if you think it will make you a better person: it does not! Undertake, alone and only, if nothing else seems possible to you.  

* Paul J. Griffiths is a Professor of Catholic Theology at Duke Divinity School.

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