“”Vulgar” is the word intellectuals use when they mean “vile,” by which they actually mean in disagreement with their own views.”From Commentary by Joseph Epstein (2010)
Vulgar: lacking sophistication or good taste; unrefined
Vile: morally despicable or abhorrent
I had to look those words up. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. I may read a lot, but I’m definitely not a scholar but I’ve been trying to do a better job of actually understanding the meaning of a word, sentence, or paragraph, instead of just going with the feeling I get from reading into it. In the past, I would have thought “vulgar” and “vile” meant basically the same thing, but maybe had a different intensity of feeling. Obviously, from the definition of the words, that isn’t true.
Something can be vulgar but not vile. Blowing your nose at the table may be considered bad taste or ill mannered, but not morally wrong.
I snickered at this line in the essay because I saw in my mind’s eye, a snooty English professor type from an old melodrama, looking down his nose at a young backwoods auto-didactic attempting to discuss his political views. “A man like THAT can’t possibly have anything intelligent to add to OUR learned conversation!”
The thing about views, though, is that everyone’s view is slightly different. Even people on the same mountain top have a slightly different view because they all have different backgrounds that they brought up with them, different baggage from their childhood’s, different intellects and personalities. Not one of those “views” is morally superior to another, none can be “vile” or “vulgar.”
My conclusion: behavior can be described as vile or vulgar, not points of view.