Minding Our Minds   /   Summer 2014   /    Notes And Comments

The New Anti-Intellectualism

Andrew Piper

flickr: Journey Through Bookland illustration, 1922

Never before has it been so fashionable to be against numerical thinking.

Charges of anti-intellectualism in American life are as old as the republic. It’s the inevitable consequence of being a bottom-up state and the high degree of pragmatism that comes with it. As Jules Verne wrote of the mid-nineteenth-century United States, “The Yankees are engineers the way Italians are musicians and Germans are metaphysicians: by birth.”

What makes our current moment unique is the fact that this time the fear of ideas isn’t coming from the prairies, the backwaters, or the hilltops. It’s coming from within the elite bastions themselves, those citadels of the urbane and the cosmopolitan. At stake in this revolt is nothing less than the place of quantification within everyday life. Never before has it been so fashionable to be against numerical thinking

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