I am preparing for an exam in which one of the criteria to judge candidates is:

Candidates are expected to have taken an intelligent interest not only in their special subjects of academic study but also in the events which are happening around them both within and outside their own State or Country as well as in modern currents of thought.

I get most parts of the paragraph but am not able to decipher modern currents of thought. What would it mean?

I hope the question is on-topic here. Thank you!

  • Think of it metaphorically: intellectual discourse has currents, or directions they flow. Feb 25, 2019 at 19:21
  • Could you please elaborate a bit more...would love to accept an informative answer. The phrase is specific about a quality of the 'currents of thought', and I am already confused with 'currents of thought'.
    – naive
    Feb 25, 2019 at 19:26
  • I will in the next hour. :) Feb 25, 2019 at 19:28
  • It's a little weird, given that "currents of thought" is borderline archaic.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 25, 2019 at 23:45

1 Answer 1


In this sense, currents of thought would refer to the ideas currently popular in intellectual communities.

At first I wanted to think of this metaphorically. A current is a flow or rhythm; a current of thought is a tendency for thought to move a certain way in literate discourse. Fortunately Collins Dictionary has a definition of current that uses current of thought as an example.

  1. A particular current is a particular feeling, idea, or quality that exists within a group of people.

"Each party represents a distinct current of thought."

Currents of thought are similar to the state of the art, the current paradigm, or the prevailing theories of the day. These currents are often external to one's own subject area. Two examples from academic texts:

Some psychologists, reflecting more modern currents of thought, disagreed with Wundt's version of psychology and proposed their own. (One set of ideas influenced psychologists to reconsider their assumptions.)

Keen to respond to modern currents of thought, (reconstructionism) also implemented gender equality far more quickly than other movements. (A religious reform movement responds to contemporary discourse on gender equality by implementing it.)

Basically, if I were to open up a periodical that has some kind of intellectual bent, like The Atlantic, what sort of ideas would be under discussion? If I met another generally educated person at a party, what ideas could I presume that person to be at least a little familiar with? The idea of multiple learning styles (visual, aural, kinaesthic) aiding learning, the idea of work-life balance being important to the modern worker, the idea that the Bechdel test is a useful measure of female characters' participation in films - those ideas could be part of the prevailing currents of thought.

  • 1
    (+1) for the examples and an insightful answer I will wait for others to contribute before accepting it. Thank you!
    – naive
    Feb 25, 2019 at 20:07

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