Public or Private

Cynthia Ozick in “Quarrel & Quandry” establishes a difference between public and private intellectual.  And so far as I can tell it’s a thin line — in her opinion — between private and public.  I suppose up until now I have been more private; though, even now I might still better fit Ozick’s definition of private as opposed to public.  Time will tell ultimately.   

Despite her distinctions, Ozick does ask what you may be asking:  “if we could clearly define the difference, is it important, would it matter?”  I don’t think it fully matters. 

What is that distinction though?  Why does Ozick indicate Socrates is public and Aristotle is not? 

“Public intellectuals know that history is where we swim, that we are in it, that we can’t see over or around it, that it is our ineluctable task to grapple with it.”  In other words, sometimes the public intellectual gets “it” wrong.  Ozick says, “Thinkers, after all, do not simply respond to existing conditions. . . they strive to sort out — to formulate — the cognitive and historic patterns that give rise to public issues.” 

“People who are privileged to be thinkers are obliged to respect exigency and to admit to crisis.  They are obliged to expose and war against those rampant Orwellian coinages that mean their opposite and lead to purposeful deception.”  I am privilged to think and be a thinker.  I am in a position that requires me to find the truth in a world that Dunlop describes as increasingly relative in its truthfulness. 

I am traditionally careful with my words, but only in seeking to be truthful.  I am willing to risk “being judged mistaken” just in case I am right. 


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