In the following sentence from a programming book, what does the "launch one final assault on the ivory tower" mean (bolded by me)?

I'll take a fairly opinionated view of what the role of an architect is, and hopefully launch one final assault on the ivory tower.

This is the close of the first paragraph of a chapter in the book, to start explanation from the next paragraph.

I believe "ivory tower" is a religious word describing "purity". This could also mean that "ideal but not practical". And I think "assault" means the attack to it.

So my current interpretation of the sentence is:

"I'll describe my opinion on that, and it's practical contrast to other words from others which are ideal but not practical"

And I think, by putting "one final", he'll trying to express his description could destroy the purity at all.

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    Welcome to ELU. Could you please edit your question to include what you found in the dictionary and why it didn't help? – Brian Hooper Jan 15 '16 at 8:56
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    You should include more research and context in your question. But 'Ivory Tower' is used in English to refer to intellectual concerns that don't take into account physical concerns and realities: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivory_tower – Jascol Jan 15 '16 at 8:56
  • Sure. I'm thinking if I should simplify the question (so that others can get to the point fast), or better to put my finding so far. – fbessho Jan 15 '16 at 8:58
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    You need to provide more context. In a literal sense, it would most likely refer to undertaking a military attack on a white tower, or even a tower made out of elephant tusks, although that seems unlikely. In a figurative sense, it most likely refers to denigrating someone with either a self-righteous or a puritanical nature. However, it could mean neither of these. What it actually means in context requires said context to be understood. – Benjamin Harman Jan 15 '16 at 9:02
  • @BenjaminHarman your latter one sounds the meaning of the sentence in this context. – fbessho Jan 15 '16 at 10:05

In standard modern usage, ivory tower is no longer a religious reference, it has become desanctified into a stock idiom meaning a group of intellectuals and/or aesthetes isolated from the mundane world. The image is of a pristine building towering over a city --and entirely disconnected from it. It most typically, but not exclusively, refers to the academic world --colleges and universities, particularly ones that are more prestigious. An assault on the ivory tower is an attempt to break through the supposed "groupthink" of such a group, and to force the realities of every day life into their perceptions.

In this case, the most likely meaning is that (he feels) there is an unrealistic conception of the term "architect" promoted by an influential group isolated from the realities of actual practice, and his next chapter will be an attempt to counter this.

(Incidentally, the metaphor of assaulting the ivory tower was reified in Michael Ende's The Neverending Story, in a scene where the residents of the nation of Fantasia attempt to force contact with their remote and godlike ruler through destroying her isolated residence, a literal ivory tower that is also called "The Ivory Tower.")


This phrase has been used a few times recently.

The "ivory tower" seen in these and several other articles refers to the higher education system. An assault on this system is usually debunking some sort of myth associated with this system that is supposed to be engaged in pure learning away from other distractions.

How is it being used?

  • The professors are no longer being selected from the same pool that they were. Famous people are now competing for these positions, which is bad news for academics in the field who are already in high competition for them.
  • The college degree awarded by higher education isn't all it's cracked up to be. A bachelor's degree doesn't give you an edge anymore, nor does it necessarily mean you'll be able to make enough to retire.
  • The higher education system is being bogged down by financial concerns. They have to start acting like businesses and culling dead weight in order to continue operation.
  • The higher education system is no longer a safe refuge. It is rife with crime, even sexual assault.

As it applies to your own example, the role of an architect in reality isn't the same as the role of an architect perceived by one pursuing a degree.

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