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Intellectual Elites: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

  • Author(s): Priest, Maura M.
  • Advisor(s): Bernecker, Sven
  • Gilbert, Margaret
  • et al.
Abstract

My dissertation explores ethical and political issues related to “intellectual elites.” At minimum, intellectual elites are persons intellectually better off than non-elites. Elites tend to know more, have higher natural aptitudes for knowledge acquisition, and reside in epistemically favorable environments. Such elites motivate conceptual and ethical questions which my dissertation attempts to answer. Conceptually, I delineate what makes someone an elite and how to distinguish elites from non-elites. Ethical issues I discuss include the moral responsibilities of elites and the relation between morally admirable qualities and the epistemically advantageous. Other broad themes addressed throughout the work include characteristics of intellectual elites; what might constitute praiseworthy interactions between elites and non-elites, and how social institutions can and should influence intellectual norms. In discussing these issues, I draw on literature from ethics, political philosophy, and the sciences

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