Why be erudite?

Why be erudite? Why be learnéd? I don't claim to be either of these things, though I aspire to them.

Most people can't see the point of learning for learning's sake, and many never make an effort to out of pure, unadulterated anti-intellectualism. I come up against this question, whether other people ask me to my face or whether I ask myself: what's the point of learning for fun?

I've got two answers, the first fanciful (and rather weak) and the second hopefully more robust.

The first answer is, well...more of a question. What's the point of whatever hobby you're into? Why do you do it?

Enjoyment - simple enjoyment, that's all. Follow it up with a little bit of relativism about how other people's interests are generally not subject to such questioning, and BAM! Instant pretentious argument!

I don't like this way of thinking. Relativism is a little bit dodgy to rely on, and the argument itself is shallow, stating "I enjoy it" but no more. I prefer the second argument, which is slightly deeper and more concrete.

The point of being learnéd isn't simply to amass as much knowledge as possible - facts on their own can be rather dry things. Rather, the point of learning is to fit knowledge into a model of the universe. The more detailed the model (the more knowledge/facts/whatever), the more accurate it is (hopefully) and the better a depiction of the actual universe it is. Said knowledge and the model also enable one to base one's opinions on what's actually going on in the world, rather than being swayed by the idiot on talk radio.

But why would you want an accurate model of the universe? some would ask. Why do you need to know things in the first place?

Err...this I don't really have an answer to, but I'll try and muddle through as best I can.

Intelligence is a little bit like insight - the more you have, the more you can "see into" things other people might miss. I'm no genius, but I'm a huge nerd and nerds are generally slightly smarter than average...so I can "see into" things, sometimes far too much for my own liking - but that's another story.

Anyway, someone with that insight, like me, isn't content with "Because" for an answer. They aren't content to be kept in the dark about the nature of the universe. Why? Well, imagine having no idea about the world around you, no idea about your place in it, and worst of all, no idea of how to start finding these things out. It's an absolutely horrible experience - as if you're caught between not existing and not deserving to exist - and it drives me to understand things and build up my universe model, if only so that I don't have to deal with it again.

That's why I try to be erudite, that's why I learn for pleasure: to understand my world better and to see more deeply into it. The anti-intellectuals can still question me, they can still laugh in my face, but I can answer them honestly and well...and, at the risk of sounding like a snob, I'll have something they never will - insight.