What’s the difference between a highly intelligent person and an intellectual?

The above question is currently arising on the Internet. Answer:

A highly intelligent person does what it says on the can — carries out ordinary jobs but does so with such ease that she achieves high social status more often than not.

On the other hand, an intellectual, quite often not as intelligent as might be expected — Einstein was a good example — try to tackle jobs which even highly intelligent individuals may balk at, or indeed find of no interest. If she succeeds, however, and enough of the highly intelligent approves, then she may also gain high status. But until then an intellectual may have no social status worth speaking of at all.

Few highly intelligent persons die without making some mark on the world. Many intellectuals die without making any mark at all.

One thought on “What’s the difference between a highly intelligent person and an intellectual?

  1. As I admire Hayek immensely, I wish to add here for the record his ideas on what is an intellectual and the role of intellectuals in society. Please allow me to quote instead of writing it out:

    An intellectual, for Hayek, is a “professional secondhand dealer in ideas.” In this context, the term “secondhand” does not disparage the intelligence, knowledge, or importance of intellectuals. Intellectuals may be intelligent or stupid, wise or foolish, knowledgeable or ignorant, quick-witted or dull, original or hackneyed. By “secondhand” Hayek means second in the order of the transmission of knowledge. Hayek’s intellectual is defined in terms of his social role in the dissemination of specialized knowledge to a wider audience; he is an “intermediary in the spreading of ideas.”

    Hayek distinguishes the intellectual from the expert—the academic, scholar, or original thinker in a specialized field of knowledge. This does not mean that intellectuals cannot be experts, or vice versa; but insofar as the specialist addresses not just fellow specialists but the public at large, he is functioning in the dual roles of expert and intellectual. Though the roles of the expert and the intellectual are often embodied in different persons, this need not be the case.

    This concept of the intellectual encompasses many professionals, including journalists, teachers, novelists, ministers, and even cartoonists and artists who convey ideas through their work. Also included are various professionals and technicians, such as scientists and doctors, who, because of the respect they command in their own areas of expertise, are taken seriously in other fields. Essentially, therefore, intellectuals are those who deal with ideas that are taken from other sources. Concerning the influence of intellectuals in modern society, Hayek writes:

    There is little that the ordinary man of today learns about events or ideas except through the medium of this [intellectual] class; and outside our special fields of work we are in this respect almost all ordinary men, dependent for our information and instruction on those who make it their job to keep abreast of opinion. It is the intellectuals in this sense who decide what views and opinions are to reach us, which facts are important enough to be told to us, and in what form and from what angle they are to be presented. Whether we shall ever learn of the results of the work of the expert and the original thinker depends mainly on their decision.”

    Source: Intellectuals and Libertarianism: F. A. Hayek

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