Friday, March 15, 2013

World's Dumbest Public Intellectual?

Ya know, I'm a fairly prolific blogger, and, at the risk of sounding boastful, a fairly well-educated individual. At least once a month, I write a post which involves some research to supplement my beer-sodden perception of a scientific lecture. That being said, I never made a claim to be a "public intellectual". I basically consider myself an "educated yahoo".

Now, Thomas Sowell actually won a prize for intellectual achievement... let's see, via Monsieur McGravitas (I'll be damned if I'm linking to "Townhall") what a conservative "intellectual" serves up to his audience, let's check out his big brain, so to speak:


Roman conquests had historic repercussions for centuries after the Roman Empire had fallen. Among the legacies of Roman civilization were Roman letters, which produced written versions of Western European languages, centuries before Eastern European languages became literate. This was one of many reasons why Western Europe became more advanced than Eastern Europe, economically, educationally and technologically.


Of course, Sowell purposely ignores the fact that, at its greatest extent, the Roman Empire extended well into Eastern Europe and, even more egregiously, that Roman culture persisted in Eastern Europe long after Odoacer marched into Roman and proclaimed himself king of Italy. Sure, by the seventh century, the Eastern Roman Empire used the Greek language for most purposes, but "Roman letters" were not unknown to Eastern Europe. Additionally, Greek letters were perfectly suited for speakers of Slavic languages when Cyril and Methodius adapted them for such use in the 9th century. Sowell also ignores the fact that a Romance language speaking population persists in Eastern Europe to this day (note to self: self, you gotta put up a review of Masters of Atlantis one of these days).

More importantly, literacy rates in Europe in the Middle Ages were pretty piss-poor, and an educated person in Eastern or Western Europe would probably be literate in both Latin and Greek, to the extent that such a person could make a translation of a blasphemous, esoteric text from Greek to Latin three centuries before he was even born.

Sowell also ignores the fact that Eastern Europe was dealt a harsh blow in the 13th Century which left it reeling while Western Europe was beginning to get its shit together, as public intellectual Smut Clyde rightfully points out.

It's tragic how, in order to write for "Townhall", Sowell has to completely forget or ignore history (perhaps his hippocampus was damaged). I hope that each paycheck leaves just a little bad taste in his mouth, just a tiny frisson of shame at how shoddy his reasoning and writing are. At the very least, Sowell's disparaging of Greek culture should lead to some interesting conservative infighting, as at least one fanboy is probably sharpening his makhaira even as I write.

14 comments:

Smut Clyde said...

Gonna steal a comment from the Mothership:
[Sowell's] idea of “Eastern Europe” evidently excludes Greece, Romania, the Caucasus. His idea of primitive parts of Europe — deprived of the advantage of Roman colonisation — is confined to Germany, the Balts, the Slavic countries. The evidence of their cultural and technological backwardness is essentially that they lagged behind in carving out colonial empires of their own, and that they don’t feature much in English-language histories.

Here's the Wackyweedia on literacy in the 12th-century Novgorod Republic.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Sowell is a jackass.

(the shorter)
~

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Of course, at Townhall, an intellectual is a pretty easy bar to clear.

You forget, of course, that like most conservative writing, it is based on supporting epistemic closure and to reinforce their ideology, not to be accurate.

Pshaw! Accuracy is for elitists!

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Of course.

paleotectonics said...

When Tommy can calculate, say, the neutral leg of a circuit, or do flow calcs, in Roman numerals, I'll read Mr. Intellectual.

Who won Ms. Congeniality, Laura Bush?

dpjbro said...

"Eastern European Languages For Dummies" has been out of print for decades.

And doing actual research? So déclassé. That's prole work for the monkeys.

mikey said...

He doesn't seem to know about the Komenoi Emperors and John II Komnenos in particular. Did he even notice that there aren't any Pechenegs left in Eastern Europe?

Idjit...

Smut Clyde said...

Roman letters, which produced written versions of Western European languages

More accurate, perhaps, to say that the Romans wiped out Western European languages, leaving the legacy of Roman letters and written versions of multiple Roman dialects.

Dr.KennethNoisewater said...

I'm a private intellectual. If you go read blog and my comments, you think "Wow, this chick's an idiot." AND THAT'S JUST WHAT I WANT YOU TO THINK.

Private!

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

[Sowell's] idea of “Eastern Europe” evidently excludes Greece, Romania, the Caucasus. His idea of primitive parts of Europe — deprived of the advantage of Roman colonisation — is confined to Germany, the Balts, the Slavic countries

Also, this being St Paddy's Day season, he excludes Hibernia from Western Europe, and those monks preserved a lot of Latin texts throughout the really bad years.

Sowell is a jackass.

A public jackass.

You forget, of course, that like most conservative writing, it is based on supporting epistemic closure and to reinforce their ideology, not to be accurate.

Yeah, can't let anything pierce that bubble, the rubes might wise up.

When Tommy can calculate, say, the neutral leg of a circuit, or do flow calcs, in Roman numerals, I'll read Mr. Intellectual.

Elitist!

And doing actual research? So déclassé. That's prole work for the monkeys.

Yeah, reference work's for suckers. I think the Latin term for Sowell's type of writing is "Derivitato ex ano".

He doesn't seem to know about the Komenoi Emperors and John II Komnenos in particular. Did he even notice that there aren't any Pechenegs left in Eastern Europe?

He doesn't seem to know about much, which is why he thrives in the right-wing milieu, which is a Romance language term.

More accurate, perhaps, to say that the Romans wiped out Western European languages, leaving the legacy of Roman letters and written versions of multiple Roman dialects.

Yeah, you don't see a lot of ogham around these days.

I'm a private intellectual. If you go read blog and my comments, you think "Wow, this chick's an idiot." AND THAT'S JUST WHAT I WANT YOU TO THINK.

If you were an idiot, how'd you get that doctorate?

Porlock Junior said...

One small flaw here: In the depth of the Middle Ages (speaking of the 9th century, and just before it) pretty much no literate person in Northern Europe could read Greek. At the Abbey of Saint Denis, they had a Greek manscript of the Pseudo-Dionysius, work thought to be by the patron saint of that establishment, sent as a gift from the Byzantine Emperor. No one in Charlemagne's court or church could read it.

Wait. I said pretty much -- leaving out a handful of Hibernians. So when these monks and scholars were visited by Johannes Scotus Erigena (Irish John from Ireland), this learned man interpreted it for them.

(This account entirely cribbed from Bertrand Russell, to whom I give all the blame for any errors. Oh, and of course all the credit.)

Substance McGravitas said...

Personally I enjoy "languages became literate".

Dr.KennethNoisewater said...

I'm not that kind of doctor, B^4. I'm an internet podiatrist.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Could you look at this fungus?