I was sneaking a peek at this blog on communications (check it out. It has some interesting posts on public speaking), and I came across a quote I've heard a couple of times. It's by Eleanor Roosevelt. She said "Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people." And every time I've heard that, I've thought to myself "that's bullshit." Great minds are characterised precisely by an ability to correlate all these levels, and by remaining rooted in people. The smartest people I have ever met, have consistently all been people-persons. I think this line of thinking is embedded in how we think about thinking, though. Especially in academic circles. Which is just a roundabout way of saying the same thing as the cliche about academics being aloof and ivory-towerish.


Blogger Ragnfrid Trohaug said...

Ich stimme zu!

July 27, 2006 7:38 pm  
Blogger Gaute said...

I think you're reading the quote to literally. Like all memorable quotes, it's a gross simplification presented outside of its context, but the gist of this one still holds true.

Consider the media; the traditional high-brow outlets concern themselves with ideas and theories, the middle-brow ones with current events and the low-brow media with celebrity gossip.

Still, being concerned with ideas does not necessarily exclude having an interest in events or people as well, that's just your reading.

July 27, 2006 10:41 pm  
Blogger MGL said...

Well, yes. The reason the quote is remembered is because it accurately portrays the general perception of genius. Genius is big and abstract, impractical. The archetype of the nutty professor who can turn the universe inside-out, but can't find his glasses, kiss a beautiful girl or boil an egg comes from this idea.

I suggest that the idea itself is impractical. The better genius is the renaissance ideal, skilled in both social, abstract and eventful situations.

But I must say I disagree with your reading of media. Morgenbladet is one big gossip rag for the intellectuals of Norway, Klassekampen has a keen interest in people, events and ideas, as does many, many international papers and magasines in the high-brow bracket. There are specialised magazines like Natural Science or The Lancet or whatever, and they are big and abstract, but trade publications aren't really *mass* mass media.

July 28, 2006 1:28 am  
Blogger Mikkel said...

I really don't think of myself as a people person, but thanks anyway.

July 29, 2006 7:13 pm  
Blogger Gaute said...

What exactly does being concerned with people entail? Or being concerned with events? Memorable quotes, by their nature, are just that - tidy little sound bites offering up sweeping generalizations and 'home truths' that might have some general validity, but probably won't stand close scrutiny.

Your argument seems to be that the quote implies that being concerned with either a) ideas, b) events or c) people excludes being concerned with any of the two other. I don't read it that way at all, just as an observation on intellectual vantage points. Are you developing an ivory tower complex?

But enough about sound bites from dead people, already.

August 01, 2006 10:53 am  

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