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Is intellectualism moral?

Does our collective intellect exist in an insular framework that is incapable of accepting the limits of scientific method? Is this notion heresy? It seems there's currently a level of observation and manipulation that has fostered a euphoric state that has not been experienced since the conception of rapture.

If science replaces religion how do we exist without a moral centre? Or is morality logical? Or is our intellect a form of cognitive dissonance?

  • Jun 9 2013: OK, need to do a bit of research here.

    Intellectualism denotes the use, development, and exercise of the intellect; the practice of being an intellectual; and the Life of the Mind. In the field of philosophy, “intellectualism” occasionally is synonymous with “rationalism”, that is, knowledge mostly derived from reason and ratiocination. Socially, “intellectualism” negatively connotes: single-mindedness of purpose (“too much attention to thinking”) and emotional coldness (“the absence of affection and feeling”) (

    Morality (from the Latin moralitas "manner, character, proper behavior") is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are "good" (or right) and those that are "bad" (or wrong). The philosophy of morality is ethics. A moral code is a system of morality (according to a particular philosophy, religion, culture, etc.) and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code. Morality may also be specifically synonymous with "goodness" or "rightness." Immorality is the active opposition to morality (i.e. opposition to that which is good or right), while amorality is variously defined as an unawareness of, indifference toward, or disbelief in any set of moral standards or principles. An example of a moral code is the Golden Rule which states that, "One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself." (

    cognitive dissonance is the discomfort experienced when simultaneously holding two or more conflicting cognitions: ideas, beliefs, values or emotional reactions. (

    Development and exercise of the intellect is moral. Differentiation of intentions or 'right' and 'wrong' requires constant thinking. Not developing your intellect may be immoral, or at least morally passive. Cognitive dissonance might serve as a motivator to seek answers that you believe to be true.
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      Jun 9 2013: Your research, Robert, raises an interesting phenomenon in popular culture. Specifically many people assume that the use and development of intellect are somehow at odds with emotional life, sympathy, or emotional intelligence. I suspect that there is no correlation between cultivation of intellect/learning and emotional coldness. I would, on the other hand, not be surprised to learn of a correlation between the development of intellect and the position that moral questions are often complex, as the development of intellect fosters a sensitivity to, and awareness of, complexity.
      • Jun 9 2013: Fritzie,


        I like Gardner's idea about multiple intelligences. It would seem that each might require some cultivation and benefit from exercise. People may have natural gifts in one ore more, but I too do not see where developing any one of them precludes the ability to develop others.
      • Jun 11 2013: Fritzie - I feel your comment is a poignant example of the fragmenting nature of deductive reasoning. Scientific method deconstructs the whole into conceptual packets based on empirical evidence and theories extrapolated from those observations.

        The recent division in intelligence is an attempt to comprehend and align vagaries in data attained in past deductions. The careful application of scientific method certainly refines the concept, but can it accurately represent the reality?

        If we're incapable of manifesting a holistic model, is it possible that our intellect is disconnecting us from our nature? And if our intellect is part of our nature, is it a positive or negative adaptation? Are we becoming more or less aware? In a sense, we've constructed scientific methodology in reaction to the awareness of our limitations (not much different than harnessing fire to fight our fear of the night).

        This brings me back to my original conundrum... (slightly more refined with a free radical thrown in)... if morality is rooted in a holistic response to undifferentiated reality will a constructed model ever sufficiently express the truth.

        And just to make myself clear, I did not post this question with a specific agenda in mind...I feel religion is also a construct, albeit one that draws power from the abstruse metaphysical root of enquiry.
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          Jun 11 2013: I believe Gardner's idea of multiple intelligences, which is not new, is only the way he captured in a conceptual model the empirical observation that different people develop themselves differently in a cognitive way. I don't think he meant that these areas are technically or physically separate and distinct.

          More to the point, perhaps, is that modern understanding of neural pathways associated with different cognitive functions shows that people vary in the intensity with which different pathways for different functions are developed, with learning and reenforcement making an actual physical difference (that correlates with functional differences) due to brain plasticity. Additionally, some functions are widely distributed across various parts of the brain and some more localized.

          As brains are highly networked, I don't think growing understandings of mechanisms underlying perception, emotion, and cognition are at odds with a holistic model. I don't think there is evidence that people are becoming either more or less aware. I understand that there is widespread suspicion in popular culture that the development of intellect reduces people in fundamental other ways. I don't know the psychological reason for the popularity of this mindset.
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    • Jun 11 2013: "If a man lives by themselves outside of society with no one around to care would they have or need morals ?"

      If a person is stranded on a deserted island isn't the first thing they do to remain sane is construct a moral code to define their humanity? (Lord of the Flies is an interesting thought experiment)
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        • Jun 18 2013: Isn't society an expression of morals? Without morals society (humanity) goes away.
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          Jun 21 2013: "Without a society the need for morals goes away"

          Does that mean that morality can only exist within a societal framework?

          What about he morals that surely exist within our place in the natural world? I'm pretty sure Thoreau, as an example, felt a sense of morality towards the environs of Walden lake, that sustained him physically, emotionally and intellectually.
  • Jun 10 2013: I pity anyone who relies on religion for morality.
    • Jun 11 2013: I pity anyone who belittles morality because of the origin.
      • Jun 11 2013: Sorry if i offended you. I should choose my words more carefully.
        • Jun 18 2013: No offense taken Craig. Actually my response is structured to mirror your comment from a slightly different perspective. I'm surprised you felt it was reactive and emotional.
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    Jun 10 2013: If science replaces religion we do not loose moral center.

    Morality does not depend on outside factors like caste , creed or religion.

    Morality lies with in, each one of us is keeper of our own morality.
    • Jun 11 2013: I agree it lies within, but I believe morality can only be discerned collectively (but who knows...perhaps our morality is everyone's morality).
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      Jun 23 2013: .
      Why morality is not our ancestors' successful experiences of symbiosis for survival?
  • Jun 9 2013: Take a step back and take a long, deep breath.

    "Does our collective intellect exist in an insular framework that is incapable of accepting the limits of scientific method?"

    Yes and no. There is no such thing as "collective intellect." There are just people, and some are smarter than others, but very few of them know just how smart they really are. Most people either underestimate or overestimate their own intellect. This can cause a lot of "cognitive dissonance" among intellectuals, but with a little effort you can keep it from entering into your own skull.

    There are a lot of people who do not understand that science has limits, and more people who do not understand what those limits are, and even more people who do not understand the implications and real consequences of those limits. Its a messy world. Some people consider anything that is not based on science as superstition, even though they themselves use nonscientific knowledge every day. Some people have a strong emotional attachment to science. Just because people try their best to be rational does not mean that they act and express themselves rationally.

    Do not worry too much about the moral center of society. If it exists, your influence upon it will largely depend on the example you provide by living according to your own ethics. Concentrate on developing your own ethics and living ethically.

    Morality is not necessarily logical, despite centuries of work by very serious philosophers.

    My intellect is not a form of cognitive dissonance. I have met people who certainly seem to have little but dissonance between their ears. I have read and heard things from people with impressive credentials and considerable authority that just makes no sense to me, and I am conceited enough to think that they are wrong. (I could have said I have enough self confidence, but that would be a conceit.)

    "Is intellectualism moral?"

    All discussions about ism's seem to be about definitions.
    • Jun 11 2013: "All discussions about ism's seem to be about definitions."

      Absolutely. A definition is a statement that explains the meaning of a term... and it's meaning that is being questioned. (I know this statement will sound like doublespeak...but it seems reversal is the only direction when debating posited intangibles)

      I suppose my trepidation arose from the all consuming conflict between religion and science. The diametric arguments seem to strengthen the suppositions of both while obscuring alternatives.

      Somewhat like the Coke versus Pepsi the end they're still both cola. ;-)
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    Jun 22 2013: The notion that scientific method has limits is not heresy. It's reality which some people reject because of their blind faith in scientific method.

    Science cannot replace religion as they serve different purposes in society.

    Moral center lies within us. Morality is illogical because it is based on circular reasoning.
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      Jun 23 2013: .I wonder:

      Why it is illogical?
      Why morality is not our ancestors' successful experiences of symbiosis for survival?
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        Jun 23 2013: Circular reasoning is a flaw in logic where the premises are only true when conclusion is true. E.g. "I will trust you if you trust me." If we follow this, nobody will trust anyone. Somebody must trust first for trust to develop. Most of moral reasoning is of this nature. Morality is about reciprocity. This is why logical reasoning about morals is always flawed.
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    Jun 21 2013: It's false that our morals come from our religions. It's the other way 'round. Our religions were developed partly to cement the moral code that was found useful and necessary in ancient societies, and partly to cement the power of the upper and priestly classes over the people.

    I certainly hope you don't depend on our organized religions for moral guidance. Nothing has been responsible for the slaughter of more humans than our religions, as we see daily in our own time. In the last couple of decades we've also found that priests of a prominent western religion have been sexually abusing their young charges, something that has no doubt been going on for a thousand years, while they've preached moral guidance to us. And still, gullible folks continue to put their faith in them.

    Science is totally apart from all this. It has nothing to do with establishing morals. In the end, our moral standards come from consensus developed throughout our social history.
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      W. Ying

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      Jun 23 2013: .
      Why morality is not our ancestors' successful experiences of symbiosis for survival?
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    Jun 10 2013: I have to agree with everything that LaMar Alexanderand Jimmy Strobl stated. They took the words out of my mouth. So, I'll sit with their position for the time being.
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    Jun 10 2013: I believe that there are objective moral truths. I have never had religion and most consider me to be a very moral person. Religion is not needed for morals, as a matter of fact I think it perverts morals.

    Check this TED Talk on objective moral truth to understand my viewpoint.
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      Jun 22 2013: Sam Harris's position is VERY controversial. He claims, we "know" what's moral. But he does not say how. It's not by a scientific experiment - it's by personal emotional experience. Notice how he mentions that we know that a father killing his raped daughter is immoral. He has no "evidence" or logic to offer except reflecting on this and shedding a tear.

      This notion is very dangerous because if we design a litmus test to tell us what is moral, we give complete moral authority to scientists. And science is not always moral, you know. Some scientists designed gas chambers, some designed chemical weapons. Not all of them work on cure for cancer. Morality does not follow from science.

      Nobody can proclaim his own moral authority unless he is ready to do what Christ did, according to the story. Self-sacrifice is the ultimate proof. Moral ideals are something we would die for, not something we would kill for. Immorality is something to condemn in ourselves, not something to condemn in others. That's the point religion often misses.

      Religion can pervert morals if God is considered to be an authority outside ourselves. "The Kingdom of Heaven is within". If I look at it this way, I see no contradiction between the position of atheists and religion - our consciousness (the ability to self-reflect) is the source of our own morality. It's "I am who I am" within us - our own sense of identity.
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      Jun 23 2013: .I wonder:
      Why morality is not our ancestors' successful experiences of symbiosis for survival?
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    Jun 22 2013: @Allan McDougal re: "Does that mean that morality can only exist within a societal framework?
    What about he morals that surely exist within our place in the natural world? I'm pretty sure Thoreau, as an example, felt a sense of morality towards the environs of Walden lake, that sustained him physically, emotionally and intellectually."

    Good question. Does morality determine only our relationship with other people or with nature and with ourselves? It seems, for most moral rules to make sense, we need someone else not to murder or not to steal. Can we commit these crimes against nature or against ourselves?
  • Jun 10 2013: Look at the environment and the economy and our other great problems. They are encouraged by the opposite of intellectuals.
    • Jun 11 2013: Yes...another external inconsistency that led me to ask the question (are we missing something?)
      • Jun 12 2013: how can we be fully congruent. But some are problems at times.
  • Jun 9 2013: Can you name a particular religion that can abashedly claim to be a moral center, which is MORAL NOT ONLY IN WORDS BUT ALSO IN DEEDS. There probably are lot of individuals in a certain religion could qualify for such claim, but not in a so-called collectivism as what you presumed in the intellectual collectivism.
    There were lot of "witch hunt" that religious people scolded some scientific discovery as heresy, but look what those controversies ended up in! Such as they believed flat earth and predict the Vasco Da Gama or Magellan would fall off the earth at the edge of it, but they didn't.
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    Jun 9 2013: Do you think morality originated only from Religion ?
    • Jun 11 2013: Nope. Do you think morality has an origin? ;-)
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    Jun 9 2013: Are you asking whether those who value scientific sorts of evidence do not recognize that there are limitations to what they can pin down with science?

    Could you clarify this sentence: "It seems there's a current level of observation and manipulation that has fostered a euphoric state that has not been experienced since the conception of rapture?"