To confinement by field, academe too often adds a further, more interpersonal deformation. A typical newly tenured associate professor will have spent six years or more anxiously mind-reading his senior professors and at least another six years doing the same for his senior colleagues, and this is the best, most expeditious case. If a first negative tenure decision is followed by a second, doubly anxious six-year apprenticeship in a second university, a generation may have passed between the start of graduate school and the acquisition of tenure. It would be unrealistic to expect a man or woman to recover in the twentieth year all the daring that he or she has painstakingly suppressed during the preceding nineteen.
Is there anything new to be said about the humiliation that the lumpen-profs suffer at the hands of their so-called colleagues? Can I shock anyone by describing the shabby, desperate lives they lead as they chase their own university dream? Will it do any good to remind readers how the tenured English dons of thirty years ago helped to set the forces of destruction in motion simply because producing more PhDs meant a lighter workload for themselves?
What is called for, paradoxically, is less a store of knowledge than a "store" of ignorance. By forcing oneself to go where one is oneself the blinking beginner rather than the seasoned expert, one learns to turn one's own narrow intellectual sophistication into a broadened version of itself. A generalist is someone with a keener-than-average awareness of how much there is to be ignorant about. In this way, generalization as a style of writing is decidedly different from mere simplification or popularization. If a specialist is someone who knows more and more about less and less, a generalist is unapologetically someone who knows less and less about more and more. Both forms of knowledge are genuine and legitimate. Someone who acquires a great deal of knowledge about one field grows in knowledge, but so does someone who acquires a little knowledge about many fields. Knowing more and more about less and less tends to breed confidence. Knowing less and less about more and more tends to breed humility.
A secretary of culture in need of generalists as well as specialists would need to bear in mind, above all, that academic life proceeds by the channeling of curiosity, which is to say by the benign but systematic suppression of unchanneled, general curiosity. ... Academe requires this of them, and the sacrifice they make in meeting the requirement should be honored. However, what academe requires and what the culture as a whole requires are not always identical. Sometimes, what the culture requires is a mind stocked with the memory of innumerable tangential excursions rather than with the harvest of the long, hard, stay-at-home cultivation of a given field.
An academic is concerned with substance and suspicious of style, while an intellectual is suspicious of any substance that purports to transcend or defy style.
Academies, that are founded at the public expense, are instituted not so much to cultivate men's natural abilities as to restrain them. But in a free commonwealth arts and sciences will be best cultivated to the full, if everyone that asks leave is allowed to teach publicly, and that at his own cost and risk.--Political Treatise
Who in academe has not heard of a generalist effort dismissed at the departmental meeting with an arch witticism or discounted as publicity hunger at merit raise time? In this way, the stalwarts of the discipline make themselves into highly effective disciplinarians indeed! The culture of specialization which they thus inculcate is not easily escaped even by those who would wish to do so, even by those who think they have done so. I pass over as beneath comment the political correctness imposed on occasion by authoritarian university administrations.
Normally, there is nothing of which we are more certain than the feeling of our own self, the ego. This ego appears to us as something autonomous and unitary, marked off distinctly from everything else. That such an appearance is deceptive, and that ont he contrary the ego is continued inwards, without any sharp delimitation, into an unconscious mental entity which we designate as the id and for which it serves as a kind of facade -- this was a discovery first made by psycho-analytic research, which should still have much more to tell us about the relation of the ego to the id. But towards the outside, at any rate, the ego seems to maintain clear and sharp lines of demarcation. There is only one state -- admittedly an unusual state, but not one that can be stigmatized as pathological -- in which it does not do this.
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