Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life

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Manage episode 272185037 series 2691616
By Policy Punchline and Princeton University. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
What does it mean to pursue an intellectual life? What are the preconditions for intellectual pursuit, and is it available to everyone? In this long interview, Zena and Tiger go through some of the most contentious debates in academia and beyond – from whether solitude and suffering are required to live out an intellectual life, to whether liberal arts educations are worthy or effective in educating young people. Zena writes in her book that “if intellectual life is not left to rest in its splendid uselessness, it will never bear its practical fruit.” How should we define the "uselessness" of an intellectual activity? Zena explains that there are intrinsic values to intellectual pursuit itself, regardless of one indeed becomes a successful academic or uses the knowledge for any practical application or not. A deeper implication of such belief, Zena argues, is that humanists ought to be more confident with the value of their subjects and their teaching. Instead of trying to persuade humanities majors in college that their humanities knowledge will serve them well in consulting interviews, the humanists should abandon such patronizing attitude and believe in the value of the subject and in the students' ability to genuinely seek out intellectual challenges that aren't for any vocational purposes. Tiger brings up his contrarian viewpoint that humanities subjects often do not push students as hard as STEM subjects, and Zena talks about how humanities disciplines have failed to raise the evaluation standards and continue challenging students. Especially in today's digital age when one can easily Google excerpts and analysis for readings, fewer students are diving deep into original texts to come up with deep reflections, and the humanities subjects seem to be more threatened than ever. This is one of the longest and most interesting interviews that Tiger has conducted, and it represents our increasing devotion to deep and long-form dialogues here at Policy Punchline. We hope this kind of slight deviation from "policy" debates could allow our podcast to offer you a more diverse range of dialogues, and we sincerely wish that you may join Zena in seeking out the hidden pleasures of an intellectual life.

98 episodes