If only you were smart enough to understand that you're stupid
Posted by aogFriday, 13 February 2004 at 10:31 TrackBack Ping URL

Over at Critical Mass is a discussion about the quote from the Duke philosophy chair about intelligence and conservatism:

“We try to hire the best, smartest people available,” Brandon said of his philosophy hires. “If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire.”

“Mill’s analysis may go some way towards explaining the power of the Republican party in our society and the relative scarcity of Republicans in academia. Players in the NBA tend to be taller than average. There is a good reason for this. Members of academia tend to be a bit smarter than average. There is a good reason for this too.”

Others have commented on the fact that Mill himself noted that “stupid people tend to be conservative” is not the same as “conservative people tend to be stupid”, or that “conservative” meant something quite different to Mill.

But what I haven’t seen noted is that Brandon is also effectively claimimg that the general public is stupid as well. Brandon notes that Mills’ (misinterpreted) statement “may go some way towards explaining the power of the Republican party in our society”. Now why would that be? The most plausible reason I can think of would be the presumption that most people are stupid, therefore the public at large tends to be conservative and therefore in general agreement with the Republican party.

Alternatively, though, Brandon could have meant that intellectuals are incapable of dealing with the world outside of academia. But how likely do you think it is that he’d admit that fact?