Via Wiki­media Commons

At a place like Hillsdale, there is a wealth of things to be learned.
This pros­perity, however, lends itself to the objec­ti­fi­cation of knowledge, which results in two dangers: an exclu­sionary pos­session of the knowledge that one has acquired and, in turn, an intel­lectual envy that leads to despair con­cerning that which one does not know.

For all its emphasis on eternal truths, Hillsdale is not immune to fads.

“A fad,” defined by G. K. Chesterton, “is some­thing which, even if true, is sec­ondary or tem­porary in its nature against those which are essential or eternal, those things which always prove them­selves true in the long run.”

Hillsdale stu­dents form trends around books, authors, and pro­fessors.

Con­sider campus enthu­siasm for “Infinite Jest,” Wendell Berry, or Alasdair Mac­Intyre.

Undoubtedly, stu­dents dis­agree about the sig­nif­i­cance of these aca­demic trends, but the social pressure to read, write about, and take classes with these “modern greats” remains.

Senior Joanna Kroeker describes one such instance of “intel­lectual FOMO.”
“I felt this expe­rience acutely when more than half my house was in Dr. Lehman’s Plato class. All around me, people were having these con­ver­sa­tions that I wanted to be part of, partly out of a desire to learn the material, but partly because I felt like I couldn’t par­tic­ipate in these amazing con­nec­tions hap­pening around me. The Plato class wasn’t even some­thing I was inter­ested in taking before I saw so many people getting some­thing out of it.”

When we allow the light of essential truths to be obscured by the bril­liance of sub­sidiary or tem­porary truths, blindness to the coherence of the whole results.

I do not mean to crit­icize the ten­dency to pop­u­larize or pursue an intel­lectual trend.

It is human nature to desire some­thing solely because we see another ardently pur­suing it — even loving it.

And further, the pursuit of and devotion to truth seems com­patible with, even nec­essary for, true study.

As Ser­tillanges notes in The Intel­lectual Life, “The life of study is austere and imposes grave obligations…We must give our­selves from the heart, if truth is to give itself to us. Truth serves only its slaves.”
However, this ardent pursuit carries with it a number of dangers that prove an imped­iment to true phi­losophy.

When we do not order our loves of truth, allowing a love of trends — tem­porary, yet true things — to surpass our love of that which is fun­da­mental and eternal, we risk intel­lectual hegemony.

That is, cre­ating a culture where those who haven’t kept up with the trends feel as though they are unable to par­tic­ipate in the college’s com­munal intel­lectual life.

This intel­lectual hegemony, in turn, results in the objec­ti­fi­cation of knowledge, the loss of common lan­guage, and a lack of openness to new ways of knowledge.

As result of a dis­or­dered hier­archy, trends — a sort of spe­cial­ization — get in the way of high and holistic knowledge.

Kroeker dis­covered two ways that she could respond to this sit­u­ation:

“I had to realize that the only way to overcome aca­demic jealousy was to focus on intel­lectual humility. First, I had to let my friends teach me what they were learning. Second, I had to learn that I would find more ful­fillment pur­suing things that nat­u­rally inter­ested me as far as I could take them. It could stop being a game of catch-up to who was doing some­thing popular.”

If we approach authors and ideas with humility, we protect our peers from alien­ation.

There is no danger in focusing on a fun­da­mental subject, author, or idea, so long as we do not lose sight of the whole.

So I say that: be humble, learn from those around you, and do not let the fun­da­mental sub­jects get lost in a wash of modern fads.

Morgan Brown­field is a senior studying pol­itics