The Intellectual Drifter and the Intellectual Swindler

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In today's political debates I see two general approaches people use in political discourse: the intellectual drifter and the intellectual swindler. If truth is to be found, intellectual honesty is a must. Neither of these two approaches achieves this end.

Abstractions and Concepts

What is a concept? A concept is the product of man's intellect. Without concepts we could not communicate, or govern ourselves within any moral world-space. A word is a simple concept, in that it is representative of a host of concretes that exist in reality that we would not be able to hold in our minds unless integrated into a concept. Man's mind is only capable of dealing with three to five concretes at a single time. This is the reason that phone numbers are hyphenated, for we could not remember them otherwise.

For example, the word "man" symbolizes every man that ever was or will be. We could not hold every man that ever was or ever will be in our minds, so we form a concept to neatly condense a huge number of concretes that exist in reality into one simple package: "man." In fact, the ability to form concepts is the distinguishing feature of man's mind that separates him from other animals. Concept formation occurs at the highest levels of the soul, our human intellect. This is also where true free will takes place.

Free will is far more than choosing which movie to rent, which car to take to church, whom to have sex with and when, or what to cook for dinner. These types of choices take place barely above the level of concrete-operational awareness, while concept formation occurs at the highest level of formal-operational awareness.

Concrete-operational awareness happens automatically for everyone. There is no effort required. Full use of formal-operational awareness, on the other hand, is optional. It requires a free choice and act of the will. We either choose to live primarily on auto-pilot, automatically reacting to the immediate external stimuli and accepting the ethics we were handed without question; or, if we live consciously, to be aware of our own consciousness, to form our own concepts through the labor of our own mind, and to eat from the fruit of our own intellectual gardens. That is the real choice that free will offers.

Engaging in formal-operational awareness requires continued conscious effort, and the spiritual fortitude to deal honestly with objective reality as given. While our current society has benefited greatly from all the creations produced by formal-operational mind, actual engagement in formal-operational awareness is virtually non-existent among the general population, or at our institutions of higher education.The two most popular and common forms of intellectual activity in our current society are those of the intellectual drifter and the intellectual swindler.

Each is an attempt to escape reality as given and create second-realities. While both of these tendencies are part of human nature in general, they are not employed by all equally. For example, intellectual drifters are found most often in the liberal camp, while swindlers are most often found within the religious right.

The Intellectual Drifter

The intellectual drifter is a soul-type that opts for the decisional non-decision when it comes to ethical or moral questions. Most intellectual drifters believe that they are taking the moral high ground in not taking the moral high ground, which is why it's really a dumb idea - it employs that which it denies! Most universities today produce souls equipped with this moral code. Regardless of the field of study, one moral precept is taught in the undercurrents throughout- "do not judge."

Relativism and multiculturalism are two examples of such thinking that we often see conservatives rightly attack as being not in contact with reality, and therefore destructive to individual liberty. I myself have written and spoken often concerning the fallacies in these concepts. When confronted and challenged, the intellectual drifter will retreat into the foggy haze of relativism as his number one tactic to avoid detection. Most often you will find yourself chasing them around in pointless circles during political or philosophical discourse. One of the leading attractions this type of non-thinking offers, is just that; the relief from having to exert any cognitive muscle, and thus escape reality.

The Intellectual Swindler

The intellectual swindler on the other hand, does indeed focus and exert effort, but not toward properly integrating abstractions to form accurate concepts. The intellectual swindler has no intention of dealing honestly with reality as given. The swindler intentionally evades any and all relevant concretes in reality that get in the way of any prior commitments.

This is not an effort to find truth, as often claimed, but rather a deliberate effort to maintain a currently held belief concerning reality, regardless of truth. Some call this faith, and we find this approach employed more by those who share group membership in the religious right than by the collectivist left, though liberals also utilize the intellectual swindle when useful.

Quoting Thomas Jefferson and Adolf Hitler

One of the most common examples of an intellectual swindle that occurs in our current political climate has to do with quotations, both real and fraudulent, that are used to "prove" that Thomas Jefferson was a Christian. The following is one of the many quotes that are offered up as conclusive proof of Jefferson's Christianity:

"I am a real Christian - that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ."

I'm using this Jefferson quote as only one of many possible examples, but seeing that it is the most frequent attempt at a swindle that I have witnessed recently, it will serve well. A swindle, I will add, that is easily exposed.

What's of interest here is the methodology that is used in any intellectual swindle. All intellectual swindles involve taking floating abstractions and misintegrating them into ill formed concepts. In this case a single quote is taken from a larger writing, without any historical, social, or psychological backdrop. Then a concept is formed from these selective, isolated abstractions. In this example it is the idea that, "Thomas Jefferson was a Christian."

The first problem arises in the fact that proper concept formation requires multiple abstractions, properly integrated with other necessary information. In this case we need to consider Jefferson's entire letter that the quote was abstracted from, the totality of Jefferson's other writings, the backdrop of the historical times and their psychology; and, most importantly, a clear understanding of the meaning of, "Christian." When all of this is properly integrated, it is obvious to any and all rational minds that Jefferson was not a Christian. I'm not going to belabor the point by listing all the details, as I have done so on previous occasions.

One way that I have often quickly put an end to this particular attempt at an intellectual swindle, is to grab one of the many Hitler quotes that are often used to put forth the idea that Hitler was a Christian. The following quote is often used to claim that Hitler was a Christian. In light of all the evidence it becomes obvious that statements such as these are more-so rhetoric than any actual true embrace of Christian teaching.

"My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! Was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before in the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.... And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.... When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom to-day this poor people is plundered and exploited." -Adolf Hitler, in his speech in Munich on 12 April 1922

This example additionally shows how those on the left will also employ a swindle, for the point behind attempting to show Hitler to be a Christian, is the larger concept that Christianity is a bad thing. The Hitler quotes are being disingenuously used to support a much larger claim, just as the Jefferson quotes are being used to prop up the false idea that our political system was founded upon Christian principles. The claims made in each example are both false, and are attempts to pull off an intellectual swindle to support a non-reality.


To the intellectual drifter nothing is true, and the mind is always "open" to anything that passes through. To the swindler, only what they say is true and the mind is held closed to any conflicting influences. One soul-type escapes reality without a fight by immersing his psyche in the murky haze of intellectual drift, the other fights off reality by poisoning his own soul with an inner war conducted against his own mind. Each ends up in one of three locations: the pew of the witch doctor, the couch of the head doctor, or, the local tavern.

Chuck Jines is an internationally published independent documentary photographer and photojournalist.

Chuck's passions center around the controversial questions concerning the nature of reality, the human mind, society, and current events. He covers news events, social events, and loves to share his social documentary photography of people, places, and things.

Chuck is also an Amazon author and the publisher of the magazine, Gravis.
Chuck’s work has been published by prominent news publications such as the BBC, The Daily Mail, The Guardian (2), New York Mag, and the fine-art magazine, Corridor Elephant.

Chuck's video work has been used by ABC News/Rock'n Robin Productions special on Hurricane Katrina. Chuck has also provided fixing services for CNN's "This Is Life" with Lisa Ling (Season 3 Episode 3, The Black and White of Heroin), and has been invited to display his work at the Chicago History Museum.

As well, Chuck has given presentations of his work at Chicago State University, and at DePaul University College of Communication. Chuck's work on heroin has also been exhibited at the Gallery 7 in Joliet Il..

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