There is no shadow of doubt that the social science subjects undeniably played a vital and pivotal part in harnessing the full potentials of our young. It is precisely through these courses that they broaden their horizons and widen the sphere of their mental grasps.
It is also incontestable that the most suitable place for our young minds to be developed and cultivated is undeniably at the university.
A university is an intellectual community. It is the highest sacred ground in a society wherein the primordial purpose is to seek the truth, the just, and the beautiful. It is an avenue wherein all the actors are equal in pursuit of excellence, harmony and wisdom.
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The university is exactly the very place where the learned society hammered and produced its intellectuals. Indeed, one does not produce intellectuals in isolation.
In the words of Professor Clive Kessler:
Truly outstanding minds are cultivated within, and emerge from, a conducive environment.
They take shape and grow most, and best, in countries where the intellectual capacities and potential of all its citizens are supported, encouraged and cultivated.
In places where, among those offered the chance to pursue a scholarly path, â€œthe life of the mindâ€ in its broad, most humanly inclusive senses is respected and promoted.
In other words, the production of a few geniuses and of a larger number of internationally-ranking â€œnear-geniusesâ€ depends upon the creation of a sound, progressive and internationally competitive primary and secondary education system.
What is an intellectual?
According to Wikipedia, an intellectual is: a person who uses thought and reason, intelligence and critical or analytical reasoning, in either a professional or a personal capacity and is
- a person involved in, and with, abstract,Â eruditeÂ ideas and theories;
- a person whose profession (e.g. philosophy, literary criticism, sociology, law, political analysis, theoretical science, etc.) solely involves the production and dissemination of ideas;
- a person of notable cultural andÂ artisticÂ expertise whose knowledge grants him or her intellectualÂ authorityÂ in public discourse.
Based these definition, an intellectual is a person or an individual who is involved or is engaged in creating erudite ideas (whether abstract or not) and making some theories.
The primordial duty of the intellectual is to disseminate ideas. He or she is of notable culture and held some artistic expertise which standing gives him/her a sense of intellectual authority in public discourse.
Who are the intellectuals?
There is no iota of doubt that the intellectuals are the philosophers, the teachers, the writers, the poets, the artists and the like.
The French existentialist philosopher and Marxist revolutionary, Jean Paul Sartre pronounced that the intellectuals are the moral conscience of their age. He passionately believed as he himself lived his life the way he wrote and taught that: the task of the intellectuals is not limited by merely observing the political and social situation of the moment, but undeniably to be involved and engaged actively in all of societyâ€™s issues and concerns. Finally, he also maintained that part and parcel of the duty of an intellectual is to serve as a voice of the marginalized, the oppressed, the idiots, the exploited, the lowest members of the society and indeed to speak outâ€”freelyâ€”in accordance with their consciences.
Professor Noam Chomsky, like Sartre also subscribes to the belief that a true intellectual must not be silenced nor cowed. They must always stand for the truth and condemn all the injustices and inequalities in the world.
Hence, on this ground, an intellectual is not only a member of his/her community, but a citizen of the world. This is in conformity with Professor Foucaultâ€™s concept of the universal intellectual!
Are they necessary for one society?
Yes, indeed! The intellectuals are truly necessary and indeed important in one society or political community. Their ultimate function is to serve as the critic of their societyâ€™s malaise.
It is not an exaggeration to state that the intellectuals are precisely the eyes and soul of the community.
Our duty is to let the university as free as possible to discharge its social function of creating intellectuals who are critical thinkers that will lead to their being civic-minded and responsible citizens.
Again, to quote Professor Kessler
It is very hard, if not impossible, to produce that kind of high-quality national intellectual armoury in a country whose public universities, between them, cannot show just one internationally credible, or reputable, school or department of modern world philosophy and logic, not one plausible academic â€œunitâ€ devoted to the study and teaching modern global intellectual and cultural history, not one adequate (or even inadequate!) department of modern political studies, theory and philosophy.
Why are these things important? Why do they matter?
I will argue in the affirmative. Yes, all these things are undoubtedly important. It is only through a free university wherein we could produce the technicians, the technocrats, the next leaders of our country, the social critics, the next teachers, lecturers, professors and the intellectuals which serve as a vital element in the continuous development of our body politic.
However, we must not only invest materially on intellectual capital; we must also bolster the ethical and moral cultivation of our young. Intellectual power must be tampered and harmonized by ethical foundation and moral sense.
Hence, we must engage in a two-pronged program; which is the development of the mind and the cultivation of the inner spirits. These two elements must concur in order for us to mold and create students and citizens which have substance and good moral character.
[Photo courtesy DeviantArt.]
The writer has a Master’s degree in Philosophy, a law degree and a degree in AB Political Science. He was previously teaching Philosophy, Ethics and Anthropology at an institution of higher education in the Nilai University College at Nilai, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia. He is currently a lecturer at the College of Arts, Department of Philosophy at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.
As of the moment, he is preparing to publish his first book entitled “Dissidente”. It is a collection of his articles, commentaries and op-ed published by various newspapers in Southeast Asia.