I wonder at times whether Norman Podhoretz writes his articles for the mere sake of being controversial. He has done it before, and now he has done it again {"Should Writers Rule the World?" op-ed, Dec. 31}.

Mr. Podhoretz objected to a sentence in Joseph Brodsky's acceptance speech, in which the Nobel Prize winner said that -- to cite him in succinct form -- this earth would endure less grief if it were led by people with more reading experience. Mr. Podhoretz rebutted that statement by citing Marx, Hitler and others as examples of leaders whose literary talents did not save the world from their aberrations.

While Mr. Podhoretz has pointed his finger at the right individuals to prove his case, I do not agree with the arguments used to criticize Mr. Brodsky's point of view. I don't expect literature, music or any of the visual arts to transform an evil nature into a saintly one, or a spineless politician into a forceful leader, but to generalize by saying that literary people have in fact been found to be more prone to perversity and cruelty and treachery than other segments of society is to be insensitive, narrow-minded and irresponsible.

To a literate Hitler or Mao, I would contrast Charlemagne, the great king of the Franks who kept wax tablets at his bedside to practice reading, or Cosimo de' Medici, whose support of the arts and literature as well as banking and commercial skills gave start to one of the most famous families of the Renaissance, or our own Thomas Jefferson, who, Mr. Podhoretz must admit, all along has had pretty good character qualifications.

I would also remind Mr. Podhoretz that if, as he stated, many of the best 20th century writers supported fascism or communism, so did, in a way, Plato, whom he also cited. Plato's ideal state, aiming at moral perfection, is composed of a government in which the best intellectually trained individuals pursue that aim. And in such a government the two upper classes share not only property, wives and children but mainly the privilege of being detached from the materialistic and the sense world in the service of culture and the pursuit of philosophic truth. So there!

Of course, to claim that a mere interest in "aesthetics" is tantamount to a higher morality is senseless, but to deny the enhancement in human nature derived by reading -- ergo learning -- is also senseless.

Wars and conflicts might acquire territories for the victorious army, but what gives a true identity to a people and keeps it alive in spite of destruction and chaos are its poets, its artists, its culture. To express cynicism and lack of confidence in the power of humanism is to give in to extreme materialism, and of this we already have enough. Mr. Brodsky sees it clearly.