The Paradox of Public Intellectuals

The Paradox
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Adam Niklewicz for The Chronicle Review

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Adam Niklewicz for The Chronicle Review

Could a social function for intellectuals—that is to say, could intellectuals—have existed before the invention of writing? Hardly. There has always been a social function for shamans, priests, magi, or other servants and masters of rites, and we may assume also for those whom we would today call artists. But how could intellectuals have existed before the invention of a system of writing and numbers that needed to be manipulated, understood,