A person of the mind, who uses thought, reason and intelligence, or critical and analytical reasoning, is what is known as the intellectual. The intellectual practices his or her intelligence either privately or professionally. This entails expression and articulation of ideas, the products of the mind, which in turn necessitate tools of discourse. Thus an intellectual is usually a literary person, a writer, a teacher, an essayist, a journalist, a scientist, or the modern term, a social critic. The European intellectuals, from Zola to Sartre to Marx, espoused changes in thinking, attitudes, life–in a word, revolution. The American founding fathers propounded the creation of the nation, no less. And so did Rizal, del Pilar, and the Propaganda Movement, and even Bonifacio, Jacinto, and Mabini, who had to use the tools of the intellectuals to engage the public in the notion of liberation.
The operative word is engage. When an intellectual, who usually practices his reasoning and analysis via the very private act of research and writing, engages with the public, or uses public discourse in books, newspapers, forums, and now the internet to propound ideas, espouse causes, or criticize society and government, propose solutions, change public policy, he becomes a public intellectual. Thus in the modern sense there is no distinction between the “man of thought” and the “man of action” because writing, engaging in public discourse, articulating ideas, is action itself. This the modern public intellectual is the person of ideas practicing his thought. To practice does not mean to “act” (create projects or revolutions), but only to engage in the process of reasoning (think critically and analytically) and put the process forward in public discourse. To engage means to involve the public in the process of critical thought.
Public intellectuals are therefore never distinct from the public or the masses because in fact they represent the public, to paraphrase Marx and Gramsci. Or as Edward Said observed, the true intellectual is ironically an exile or outsider but who must ultimately join the public. By virtue of their ideas,(public) intellectuals have an organizing function on the thinking of the public. Movements are therefore started, stimulated, or mediated by intellectuals. Whether politicians and government career people like it or not, nations, economies, cultures, histories are built upon and by ideas–the products of the mind, the outcome of the intellectual process. But public organization and policy (government) is slow to act. So it must be goaded on by political, social, economic, scientific, artistic, cultural discourse.
The late Adrian E. Cristobal, litterateur, fictionist, playwright, essayist, satirist, newspaper columnist, lived a public intellectual life. His historical and satirical plays and essays, and later his newspaper columns, used the tools of the mind to breakdown history, manners, public policy. With both substance and style, his writing aspired towards what Sartre called that of the “moral conscience of their age.” By nature and purpose his writing sought to restore the value of intelligence for the modern but ordinary Filipino reader who, by what he or she consumes in most media, has been thoroughly deprived of it. It is in his honor and memory, and in homage to the Public Intellectual, that the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas and the Cristobal family jointly initiate the Adrian E. Cristobal Lecture Series.