Intellectual standards and competence

26 May 2022 23:04

Attention conservation notice: Essentially unchanged in text since the first round of these notebooks, which I somewhat arbitrarily date to 3 October 1994, when I was 20. I'm still interested in the questions, and have added references and linkage, but would at the least write very differently today. (For one thing, I have much lower expectations of undergraduates.)
How well have people thought in different places and times? What are the standards by which thought has been judged?

For instance: Pico della Mirandola's Oration on the Dignity of Man is obviously the product of a very bright and well-read man; but if I got it from one of my students, I'd say he had the critical sense of a magpie, and an appalling habit of twisting other people's words to fit his outlandish notions. (I was rather like that myself as a freshman, being under the influence of Joseph Campbell.) Yet this work was extremely well-received at the time, and seems --- based on my admittedly limited exposure to Renaissance humanism --- at least par for the course. Did nobody notice? Did nobody care? Is there something I'm missing?

See also: Intellectuals; Thought and Society