I’m an Amateur Intellectual”?

I enjoy Eleanor Konik’s newsletter and in a more recent one she references this article: #27. In Praise of Amateurism by Peter Gray. I found this article insightful as well. I have considered pursuing a Master’s, then a Ph.D. in some field (Theology, Philosophy, etc.) but never have. Gray’s discussion of the differences between the amateur and the professional was helpful for me to come to terms with why I have failed to commit to something that I know I would enjoy (beyond financial and personal concerns).

What is the difference between an amateur and a professional?” Gray asks. He lists several differences, arguing that the level of expertise is not the tell-tale sign between the amateur and the professional. Here are some differences Gray outlines:

  1. Professionals do it for a living; amateurs live to do it.”
  2. Professionals work within boundaries; amateurs wander freely.”
  3. Amateurs, in contrast, are not certified as knowing. They may or may not know, and their knowledge” may or may not be trustworthy, but they are always seeking.”

These lie right at the crux of the issue: amateurism’s benefits far outweigh any financial gain or respect I might obtain by professionalizing my thinking.1

What do I want more than to have a string of letters behind my name and the ability to teach graduate students?

I want the freedom to follow what interests me, wherever that might go. I don’t want to box myself into a certain field of study or way of thinking. I want to follow what I’m passionate about. I want to pick up whatever book I want. Pursue whatever questions I have. I don’t want to be told by others how my time thinking and reading should be spent!

I’ve considered this the tagline for the blog: Wonderings from an intellectual hobbyist about the nature of spirituality in a technological world.”2 But I couldn’t even bring myself to place intellectual and hobbyist together to describe myself.

I do have passion though—to live the good life, to ask deep questions, to learn and grow. To be a professional is to be objective, impassionate. To be an amateur, almost by definition, is to be passionate.” Reading Gray’s article made it crystal clear—I’m an amateur and proud of it.

  1. I have experience with taking something that I enjoy and turning it into a side hustle. I no longer do it. So there you go… maybe I should pick that up again.↩︎

  2. Of course making that the tagline would be boxing me into writing about certain things…

June 9, 2024