The War against the Intellect

The War against the Intellect

Episodes in the Decline of Discourse

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201 pp

"Mr. Shaw's collection of essays presents in a convincing manner a thesis of great importance…Its qualities are many and rare in modern scholarship: lucid writing, at once strong and urbane in assertion; broad documentation and clear reasoning from it; concentration on original points that do not owe their novelty to a mere turning upside down of accepted ideas; full and fair exposition of opposing points of view and due acknowledgment of the limits within which the thesis offered is applicable."—Jacques Barzun

Since the 1960s, according to Peter Shaw, the accepted rules of proof, reason, and logic have come increasingly under attack, beginning with a sixties-style elevation of the heart over the head and culminating in the formation of pseudodisciplines and willed suspension of the critical faculty in many academic disciplines. Shaw asserts this little-acknowledged movement to be a "war against the intellect" that has corrupted our traditional rules of discourse and led to a recrimination against western history, culture, government, and institutions.

The War against the Intellect, a measured and fearless challenge to this decline in standards, bears comparison with Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind. However, The War against the Intellect is the first study to range over many fields—including literature, literary theory, history, scholarly editing, and feminist criticism—and to treat each of them in detail. More systematically than any other work, it calls attention to how widely and under what guises the decline of discourse has spread, and it points out the role played by ideology in the process. Finally, it challenges scholars and other intellectuals to reaffirm the standards of discourse and to rise to their defense no matter under what aegis they are put in peril.