A column by Mikita Brottman in the Chronicle contends that
It has often been observed that the more prodigious the intellect, the more it can compromise other aspects of the personality, such as self-awareness and social grace … All vocations attract certain personality types; academe appeals particularly to introspective, narcissistic, obsessive characters who occasionally suffer from mood disorders or other psychological problems.
The piece is pretty bad, and in places is a bit stupid—John Nash is cited as an example of a “forgetful genius,” when in fact he has been mentally ill for much of his life. But it did bring to mind A.J. Liebling’s remark that the University of Chicago constituted “the biggest collection of juvenile neurotics since the children’s crusade.” (With apologies to Dan, Jacob, et al.) I notice also that Brottman contends that “Eccentric characters seem particularly common in those departments known for the more abstract realms of thought, like … most often, philosophy, the field of notorious oddballs.” Moreover, she says people with Asperger’s Syndrome—a condition freely and confidently diagnosed by amateur psychiatrists everywhere, like ADD —are characterized by their “persistent preoccupation with parts of objects.” As it happens, my wife is a
notorious oddball philosopher, and is presently writing an entire book about parts of objects. Hmm.