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Introduction | Metaphysical Intellectualism | Ethical Intellectualism
Introduction Back to Top

Intellectualism is the view that regards the intellect as superior to the will, and that the intellect is the basic factor, both in the universe and in human conduct.

It is usually contrasted with Voluntarism, the view that regards the will as superior to the intellect and to emotion). Intellectualism is also similar in many respects to Rationalism, which views reason as the main source of knowledge or justification.

In non-specific common usage, "intellectualism" is often used to describe an attitude of devotion or high regard for intellectual pursuits (sometimes with the connotation of excessive regard, or of an absence of emotion or emotional coldness).

Metaphysical Intellectualism Back to Top

In Metaphysics, Voluntarism is the theory, mainly developed in Medieval times, that the faculty of the intellect is seen to take precedence, or to have superiority, over the faculty of will, or which gives primacy to God's reason. According to Intellectualism, the will itself is determined by the intellect, and the choices of the will result from those which the intellect recognizes as good. Intellectualists believe that theology should be an essentially speculative science, rather than a practical one, and that heaven is a state of blissful contemplation (similar to Aristotle's view).

Among the more important Medieval intellectualists were Averroes, St. Thomas Aquinas and the German theologian Meister Eckhart (c. 1260 - 1328).

In the modern period, Spinoza advocated Intellectualism insofar as he believed that desire is an indication of imperfection, and the passions are a source of human bondage. When all things are seen purely in intellectual and rational relations, then desire is stilled and the mind is freed from the passions, and we experience the intellectual love of God, which is the ideal happiness.

Ethical Intellectualism Back to Top

Ethical Intellectualism (or Socratic Intellectualism) is the ethical view that people will do what is right or best just as soon as they truly understand what is right or best. This is based on Socrates' view that virtue is a purely intellectual matter, also a key doctrine of the Stoic school of philosophy.

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