For any American who has been around for five to ten years in the German sphere of 'influence'....you come to this moment where you recognize the term 'intellectual' and have some definition of the category of person you are dealing with.
I think my first ID of the term 'intellectual' revolved around the idea of someone who was a learned person or a academic.....meaning someone who who had decent collection of a thought process....a Socrates-like person who asked questions and sought understanding.
Over the last two decades, after missed a great deal of history on Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato in my youth (the three likely got mentioned once or twice in grade school, and maybe four or five times in my university period).....I went to observe their character and what made them intellectuals. Oddly, I came to realize that the three had one similar characteristic....that they were open to different views and sought to grasp the topic at hand...in whatever complex or in-depth nature that existed.
No one really sits down and notes the first German intellectual. It would be curious to know.....but I'm guessing that a guy asking a lot of stupid questions and seeking to hear a totally open and balanced debate....probably met with some quick end.
In the olden days....1500s to 1800s.....you generally got on the intellectually-recognized list of Germans because you wrote some books (few existed in those days) so anyone who dared to publish and got their works out in the open.....opened up the door for more folks to ask questions and seek more understanding.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Christian Thomasius both end up as the early pioneers of German intellectualism (from the 1600s period). Both wrote widely and became noted in their time, and are very widely discussed today in Germany.
As you get into the 1700s....Moses Mendelssohnn, Immanuel Kant, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller and Johann Gottlieb Fichte end up at the very top of the intellectual list....for their writings.
Marx and Nietzsche get tacked onto the list by the end of 1800s.
The curious thing that you come to note is that none of these gentlemen were ever much into politics, news reporting, or any glamour type behavior. They might have sipped some fine wine, eaten some tasty French food on occasion, and seen an opera or two....but none were public figures.
So you take this image of intellectuals in the period before WW II, and then you start to look at what intellectualism has become today....heavily gripped (handcuffed perhaps is a better word) to social behavior, political charm or persuasion, and often attached to news networks or literary publications (sadly, I have to include newspapers).
On a typical night in Germany.....you've five to ten intellectuals attached to some TV news segment or chat forum, and trying to use their gentle art of persuasion and intellectualism in an odd way. Unlike their original cast of Plato, Socrates or Aristotle.....who beckoned for an open mind and discussed all possible angles.....these newer class of intellectual are mostly attached to one single thought process....one single solution.....one political argument.....one single persuasion. It's a debate but you just keep waiting for real information to flow so you can understand the entire discussion, and you come to realize.....well....it's mostly a one-sided show.
The German state-TV folks will go and line up five or six of these folks.....who all seem to have some certification or award from some group of fine folks....letting you know that they've been to Humbolt, or spent three years in Washington, DC, or travel widely to Moscow often.
You look at history and these 500-pound 'guerrillas' (Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle) that were fairly open to general debate and asked a lot of questions....but in this German demonstration of intellectualism....there aren't any questions....just statements and solutions of a one-sided nature.
Does the average German get captivated by this? It's hard to say. If you had a choice of some Star Wars movie or some intellectual live chat forum.....most folks would say they'd probably like to watch Darth for 6th time instead of an hour-long intellectual chat with limited understanding.
How many intellectuals exist in Germany today? That would be a great question to ask state-run ARD or ZDF, but they'd probably prefer that it's a limited number. My guess is that out of 82-million Germans.....probably forty million will confess they are either intellectually capable, which the German poll guy will have to figure out five or six test questions to disqualify a bunch of folks and get the number down to 350 intellectuals.
Are there more intellectuals in Germany versus Austria, or the UK? Well.....it's best not to ask that question because it might shock folks just how many intellectuals exist in Austria today, or in Cambridge for example.
To be blunt, I'm not really against or frustrated by the TV acts of the intellectual crowd. Face it....state-run TV has to put on something to keep learned German individuals thinking that they are getting their value out of the 17.50 Euro a month on the TV tax. This intellectual argument hour.....is a relatively low-cost production....way more cheaper than some krimi-murder two-hour movie, or some game-show involving b-grade actors or German promis.
I guess my only negative here is that you'd just like for once for some moderator to shock the four intellectual guys on the show....by bringing out some Socrates-minded guy who starts asking more questions and focusing folks on the vast landscape of the subject.
So, I'll let the topic here just lie there....hopefully not to be wasted for some intellectual argument of a limited nature.