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Laying down the Challenge: Public Intellectuals and our Time

In a recent invited lecture at UCD, the distinguished German political philosopher Jurgen Habermas was asked how he would define the role of public intellectuals. The difference between an expert – academic, scientist, policy adviser and so on – and an intellectual, he replied, was that an expert gave counsel only when asked , while an intellectual will speak out wherever there is a need, and not only when invited to do so. The bearer of uncomfortable truths, the intellectual often looks beyond the narrow confines of his or her discipline, making connections, drawing observations and providing insights into some of the wider issues that affect contemporary life; governance, society, memory, community. Continue reading

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