Hume thought that people could be divided into the learned, the conversable and the mere animals. The practical, witty conversables just nattered on about sex scandals and other topics unsuitable “for the entertainment of rational creatures,” while the learned shut themselves up in colleges and monastic cells and talked to each other in Latin. Hume credited his own generation with recombining intelligence and wit. Well, it seems that the generation previous to ours—thanks to ever-lengthening work hours, the paparazzi, professional sports, media-oriented politics, mind-boggling academic specialization, and a world-wide Gini coefficient getting closer and closer to 1—has separated them again. The learned have a raft of incomprehensible, useless ideas; the conversables couldn’t care less. And the mere animals are again oiling up the gears and levers of power.


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