Being a good intellectual

Can there be given a list of important virtues for any good intellectual? Perhaps I cannot provide a exhaustive one but I can suggest a few.

Virtue 1

“You should be able to present your arguments without being deliberately offensive.” someone wrote in a post over at FRDB, and it struck me as a good suggestion for a virtue.1 Good discussion will not ensue if the participants keep making personal attacks and remarks about each other. There needs to be a non-hostile milieu in a good discussion. Such remarks remove focus from what is at hand: The issue. Instead one ought to focus on having a positive “let’s work together and figure this out” milieu. Unfortunately such a milieu is pretty rare, perhaps even among academics.2

Virtue 2

One ought to know both sides of the issue as John Stuart Mill put it “He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.”.3 I feel like just adding “amen” to that.

I could list a few more virtues, but I would just repeat what I have written elsewhere.4

3On Liberty, p. 34.

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