Public Intellectual

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in an 1837 essay entitled “The American Scholar,” noted that scholarly writing should not limit intellectuals to the confines of the academy. According to Emerson, a professor’s most important work is that of action and provocation. He called those who are not pushed to action cowards and doubted if it is possible to bring one’s whole self to scholarly work without engaging in some type of action for the greater good. Emerson’s is one of many perspectives on this topic, as the role of the public intellectual has been debated for centuries and that debate is likely to continue. Criticism and rigorous intellectual exchange are vital principles in the academy, and that criticism can focus on the very idea of being an ...

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