The Inadequacy of Intellect

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Sir John Glubb discusses the inadequacy of intellect:

Perhaps the most dangerous by-product of the Age of Intellect is the unconscious growth of the idea that the human brain can solve the problems of the world. Even on the low level of practical affairs this is patently untrue. Any small human activity, the local bowls club or the ladies’ luncheon club, requires for its survival a measure of self-sacri?ce and service on the part of the members. In a wider national sphere, the survival of the nation depends basically on the loyalty and self-sacri?ce of the citizens. The impression that the situation can be saved by mental cleverness, without unsel?shness or human self-dedication, can only lead to collapse.

Thus we see that the cultivation of the human intellect seems to be a magni?cent ideal, but only on condition that it does not weaken unsel?shness and human dedication to service. Yet this, judging by historical precedent, seems to be exactly what it does do. Perhaps it is not the intellectualism which destroys the spirit of self-sacri?ce—the least we can say is that the two, intellectualism and the loss of a sense of duty, appear simultaneously in the life-story of the nation.

Indeed it often appears in individuals, that the head and the heart are natural rivals. The brilliant but cynical intellectual appears at the opposite end of the spectrum from the emotional self-sacri?ce of the hero or the martyr. Yet there are times when the perhaps unsophisticated self-dedication of the hero is more essential than the sarcasms of the clever.


  1. Andreas says:

    Doesn’t Sophocles’ sacrificing his life to the state rebut this argument?

    Further, regard our closest evolutionary relatives. Chimpanzees sometimes go to war with other groups of chimpanzees. When they do the males of the weaker group flee. They show no propensity for self-sacrifice or taking risk for a fellow of their group.

    Self-sacrifice outside of perhaps a parent defending its young does not appear in other species.

    As no particular genetic adaptation appears for self-sacrifice, I suggest that it follows that the human brain and its intellect — operating at either a conscious or unconsciously level — has come to understand self-sacrifice as a preservation of a group’s or tribe’s or family’s gene pool. Self-sacrifice solves a problem.

    Intellect, at all stages of cultural development, gets employed to solve problems. Nothing else ever has.

  2. FNN says:

    Well, here’s a story about a Golden Retriever that saved an 11-year-old boy from a mountain lion.

  3. Rollory says:

    “Sir John Gluff”?

  4. Isegoria says:

    I suppose that typo points to the inadequacy of my intellect. (I’ve fixed it.)

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