It is possible that the distinction between moral relativism and moral absolutism has sometimes been blurred because an excessively consistent practice of either leads to the same practical result — ruthlessness in political life.

— Richard Hofstadter

The most reckoning Richard Hofstadter quotes to get the best of your day

A university's essential character is that of being a center of free inquiry and criticism - a thing not to be sacrificed for anything else.

47

If for every error and every act of incompetence one can substitute an act of treason, many points of fascinating interpretation are open to the paranoid imagination.

23

Intellectualism, though by no means confined to doubters, is often the sole piety of the skeptic.

20

It is ironic that the United States should have been founded by intellectuals, for throughout most of our political history, the intellectual has been for the most part either an outsider, a servant or a scapegoat.

20

There has always been in our national experience a type of mind which elevates hatred to a kind of creed; for this mind, group hatreds take a place in politics similar to the class struggle in some other modern societies.

15

We are all sufferers from history, but the paranoid is a double sufferer, since he is afflicted not only by the real world, with the rest of us, but by his fantasies as well.

15

The idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with profoundly disturbed minds. It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant.

14

To the reactionary ear every whispered criticism of the elite classes has always sounded like the opening shot of an uprising.

13

The intellectual is engage-he is pledged, committed, enlisted.

What everyone else is willing to admit, namely that ideas and abstractions are of signal importance in human life, he imperatively feels.

13

One of the primary tests of the mood of a society at any given time is whether its comfortable people tend to identify, psychologically, with the power and achievements of the very successful or with the needs and sufferings of the underprivileged.

12

Intellect is resented as a form of power or privilege.

10

As with the pursuit of happiness, the pursuit of truth is itself gratifying whereas the consummation often turns out to be elusive.

10

About Richard Hofstadter

Quotes 37 sayings
Nationality American
Profession Historian
Birthday October 16

The nation seems to slouch onward into its uncertain future like some huge inarticulate beast, too much attainted by wounds and ailments to be robust, but too strong and resourceful to succumb.

8

In using the terms play and playfulness, I do not intend to suggest any lack of seriousness; quite the contrary. Anyone who has watched children, or adults, at play will recognize that there is no contradiction between play and seriousness, and that some forms of play induce a measure of grave concentration not so readily called forth by work.

7

The role of third parties is to sting like a bee, then die.

6

The tradition of the new. Yesterday's avant-gard-experiment is today's chic and tomorrow's cliche.

5

To be sick and helpless is a humiliating experience.

Prolonged illness also carries the hazard of narcissistic self-absorption.

4

Whatever the intellectual is too certain of, if he is healthily playful, he begins to find unsatisfactory. The meaning of his intellectual life lies not in the possession of truth but in the quest for new uncertainties.

4

Intellect needs to be understood not as some kind of claim against the other human excellences for which a fatally high price has to be paid, but rather as a complement to them without which they cannot be fully consummated.

3

The delicate thing about the university is that it has a mixed character, that it is suspended between its position in the eternal world, with all its corruption and evils and cruelties, and the splendid world of our imagination.

3

The intellectual ... may live for ideas, as I have said, but something must prevent him from living for one idea, from becoming obsessive or grotesque. Although there have been zealots whom we may still regard as intellectuals, zealotry is a defect of the breed and not of the essence.

3

Anti-intellectualism ... has been present in some form and degree in most societies; in one it takes the form of the administering of hemlock, in another of town-and-gown riots, in another of censorship and regimentation, in still another of Congressional investigations.

3

To the zealot overcome by his piety and to the journeyman of ideas concerned only with his marketable mental skills, the beginning and end of ideas lies in their efficacy with respect to some goal external to intellectual processes.

2

To be confronted with a simple and unqualified evil is no doubt a kind of luxury.

0

Intellect is neither practical nor impractical; it is extra-practical.

0

We have learned so well how to absorb novelty that receptivity itself has turned into a kind of tradition- "the tradition of the new." Yesterdays avant-garde experiment is today's chic and tomorrows cliche.

0

Anti-Catholicism has always been the pornography of the Puritan.

0

It has been our fate as a nation not to have ideologies but to be one.

0

It is the historic glory of the intellectual class of the West in modern times that, of all the classes which could be called in any sense privileged, it has shown the largest and most consistent concern for the well-being of the classes which lie below it in the social scale.

0

A university is not a service station.

Neither is it a political society, nor a meeting place for political societies. With all its limitations and failures, and they are invariably many, it is the best and most benign side of our society insofar as that society aims to cherish the human mind.

0

The intellectual's ... playfulness, in its various manifestations, is likely to seem to most men a perverse luxury; in the United States the play of the mind is perhaps the only form of play that is not looked upon with the most tender indulgence. His piety is likely to seem nettlesome, if not actually dangerous. And neither quality is considered to contribute very much to the practical business of life.

0

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., in a mordant protest written soon after the [1952] election, found the intellectual "in a situation he has not known for a generation." After twenty years of Democratic rule, during which the intellectual had been in the main understood and respected, business had come back into power, bringing with it "the vulgarization which has been the almost invariable consequence of business supremacy.

0

It is a poor head that cannot find plausible reason for doing what the heart wants to do.

0

If there is anything more dangerous to the life of the mind than having no independent commitment to ideas, it is having an excess of commitment to some special and constricting idea.

0

The utopia of the Populists was in the past, not in the future.

According to the agrarian myth, the health of the state was proportionate to the degree to which it was dominated by the agricultural class, and this assumption pointed to the superiority of an earlier age.

0

It is a part of the intellectual's tragedy that the things he most values about himself and his work are quite unlike those society values in him.

0
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