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Publisher's Summary

Since the time of Voltaire and Rousseau, the secular intellectual has increasingly filled the vacuum left by the decline of the cleric and assumed the functions of moral mentor and critic of mankind. This fascinating portrait of the minds that have shaped the modern world examines the moral credentials of those whose thoughts have influenced humanity. How do intellectuals set about reaching their conclusions? How carefully do they examine the evidence? How great is their respect for truth? And how do they apply their public principles to their private lives? In an intriguing series of case studies and incisive portraits, Rousseau, Shelley, Marx, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Bertrand Russell, Brecht, Sartre, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, Noam Chomsky, and others are revealed as intellectuals both brilliant and contradictory, magnetic and dangerous.
©1988 Paul Johnson (P)1989 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By EJ on 08-25-17

Great book. Well read (audible)

The trail of the intellectuals is filled with radicalism and perversion. It is very interesting to see the men and women behind the theories and ideas that have greatly influenced culture in the past few centuries. Intellectuals may be brilliant in art or have a certain area of expertise, but when an intellectual begins to express influence in an area outside of where he or she has proven his or her mastery of a subject, beware. "A dozen people picked at random on the street are at least as likely to offer sensible views on moral and political matters as a cross-section of the intelligentsia. But I would go further. One of the principal lessons of our tragic century, which has seen so many millions of innocent lives sacrificed in schemes to improve the lot of humanity, is-beware intellectuals. Not merely should they be kept well away from the levers of power, they should also be objects of particular suspicion when they seek to offer collective advice. Beware committees, conferences and leagues of intellectuals. Distrust public statements issued from their serried ranks. Discount their verdicts on political leaders and important events."

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Jay Quintana on 02-23-16

The petty men (mostly) behind the big ideas

I have to say, this was eminently listenable. Some of the intellectuals featured here -- in short biographies -- may surprise you. Ibsen? Hemingway? Whomever they are, they're not spared the critical eye of the author. Especially when it comes to the lives they led. None of them, it seems, could be considered a good guy with some faults. And were it not for their intellects and their art, they wouldn't have contributed anything to humanity. Things at times verge on the catty. We learn more about their personal lives than their ideas. In other words, this is basically intellectual gossip. And yet, well, it was never boring.

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5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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