What is Intellectual Honesty?

My answer is destined for a longer post to come, for now my wheels are turning about it anew! But meanwhile, I’d like to copy a comment I just wrote over at JJL about it for you who read Talking Story:

Do you have any thoughts on this before I write a new essay about it? When you first hear those words, what do you think about? Without any of my context, what would intellectual honesty mean to you?

Answer before you keep reading…

This was my JJL comment:

Greg and Ulla (and everyone) I clearly remember reading the words ‘intellectual honesty’ for the very first time in a list called “Qualities I Admire” that was put together by David Ogilvy, the advertising genius who founded Ogilvy & Mather, and at one point worked with Dr. George Gallup, creator of the Gallup Poll. (Joanna, I understand that David Ogilvy was born and raised in Scotland!)

The phrase was #2 in a list of 10 things, but I will give you both #1 and 2, for my reading them in this order (and having no other context ”“ he never defined it any further, at least not in something I can find) had a lasting impression on me just because I loved the phrase, and then was forced to attach my own mana‘o (beliefs and convictions) to it, and make it my own for MWA.

Here is the direct quote from his list:

“Qualities I Admire by David Ogilvy ~

1. I admire people who work hard, who bite the bullet. I dislike passengers who don’t pull their weight in the boat. It is more fun to be overworked than to be underworked. There is an economic factor built into hard work. The harder you work, the fewer employees we need, and the more profit we make. The more profit we make, the more money becomes available for all of us.

2. I admire people with first-class brains, because you cannot run a great advertising agency without brainy people. But brains are not enough unless they are combined with intellectual honesty.”

And out of all that, intellectual honesty was the only phrase he had in italics.
Just for a chuckle” this was #3: Remember that Mr. Ogilvy was born in 1911:

“3. I have an inviolable rule against employing nepots and spouses, because they breed politics. Whenever two of our people get married, one of them must depart —preferably the female, to look after her baby.”

For ‘intellectual honesty’ to be as sticky as it became with me, I am quite sure that I put the list aside after that first reading, to immediately write some morning pages on my own thoughts about it, without getting to #3 until much later!

~ Rosa

For complete context on this, read the posting it appears within, written by Greg Balanko-Dickson for our JJL Learning Joyful Giving theme this month:

Seven Lessons from The Empty Cup

The post is thought-provoking; about how we can mess up when we are running on empty, no matter how generous we might be feeling with others. I can’t imagine anyone who would not relate to Greg’s story, for resisting selfishness is taken to the extreme almost universally across cultures.

The Empty Cup is a Metaphor;

  1. Lesson 1: Monitor Unrealistic Expectations When Facing Adversity
  2. Lesson 2: Ask for Help Long Before You Think You Need It
  3. Lesson 3: Find Silence
  4. Lesson 4: Consciously Choosing My Principles, Beliefs, Morals, and Values Became a Positive Anchor
  5. Lesson 5: Not Caring for Myself, I Became an Empty Cup
  6. Lesson 6: Filling My Cup from a Context of Abundance
  7. Lesson 7: The Practice of Intellectual Honesty

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  1. says

    For me it would mean:
    1. Thinking for myself
    2. Being able to express myself in the plainest language I can
    3. Asking questions of myself and others
    4. Having the courage to say what I believe
    5. Acknowledging the validity of other people’s beliefs
    If I had to go for just two, it’d be the first two.
    Just one, the second – plain language. It forces you to be true, and to use your words, not someone elses.

  2. Dean Boyer says

    The Chinese character for honesty pictures water branching off to form a tributary. This makes me think of honesty being connected and true to its source. Without the river, a stream would cease to flow; therefore, honesty flows from what is true. As a stream might pick up debris along its journey, the goal is being as pure as its source. An action (tributary) cannot be more pure than the heart, for example. Connection, truth and purity.

  3. says

    Wow. Joanna and Dean, you both offer comments that spun me off into my morning pages this morning to think about them on a very personal level. Thank you.