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Intellectuals Audiobook

Intellectuals

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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.

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (136 )
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  •  
    Jay Quintana 02-23-16 Member Since 2017
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    "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.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 01-11-17
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 01-11-17 Member Since 2016

    l'enfer c'est les autres

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    "Boring set of attacks on person not their work"

    This is not a book about what why each of the profiled intellectuals profiled are worthy of being remembered, but it's mostly how they are flawed human beings. The author would pick an intellectual, barely explain why they are important today, and then dwell on the persons foibles to a churlish degree making the listener lose sight of why the person is of interest today.

    Does the author really know that Marx had "anger is heart" but didn't really act on it? Sometimes it can help to understand the artist (philosopher, writer, poet,...) as an individual and how they are different from their art but not at the expense of understanding why we should know about them today. Give me the complete package of the intellectuals but don't think you've denigrated their body of work by denigrating the person. Hemingway was a dick, but boy, could he write! We know him for his writing not for his life. Yes, we can better understand his writing by understanding the man, but his dickish behavior doesn't negate his writing.

    I really despised this approach to story telling. It was not about what the intellectuals thought or why they are special. It is about why they are flawed humans. (Besides is it really flawed not to believe in supernatural transcendental beings based on no real evidence? The author seemed to think most of his subjects were flawed because they saw the world in human terms. Whatever).

    Using the author's modus operandi, I could explain how he would describe the great intellectual thinker Jesus. He would first say something about the sermon on the mount and the golden rule and how that revolutionized thought, and then he would say that Jesus said he came to separate families, went to a temple and kicked out money lenders and violently whipped them, and suggested people not wash their hands before eating even though germs can cause disease. Then the author would end the story by casting more doubt on Jesus' intellectual works because of his personnel behavior since when his mother and brothers ask him for help he shouted "who is my mother, who are my brothers" (Matthew 12:48). (The author really seemed to like taking things out of context and I had a feeling that he was more interested in telling his point of view if it supported his dislike for the person with the implication that the art itself is just as bad).

    I did not finish the book. I finish almost all of my books, but enough was enough. I thought he would change his formula. But he did not. If I weren't so lazy I would have gotten my credit back on this anti-intellectual, anti-humanist bore of a book.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Security 02-23-15
    Security 02-23-15
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    "Great book"

    Narrator had a heavy British accent, making it difficult to understand at times.
    All in all he was ok.

    Other wise 5 stars

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 12-15-10 Member Since 2007

    templebattle

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    "Bias much?"

    When I began listening to this audiobook, I found it compelling and interesting. The people that Johnson discusses are brilliant and flawed, and the movers and shakers of the 19th and 20th centuries, spanning all walks of life and spheres of influence. But after a while, I began to notice the drumbeat Johnson's real message. These intellectuals are not to be trusted; they are predominantly atheists; they are liars and dysfunctional with their families; they are promiscuous and the source of their own miseries. Moreover, once Marx was introduced, almost every single one of them was painted as a Communist Party lackey. The message was clear, and made explicit eventually: public intellectuals should keep their opinions to themselves; they are compulsive liars, even to themselves, poor thinkers, and never, ever to be believed. Once I finished, I looked up the author, and discovered his political leanings really ARE as obvious as you might think: conservative, religious and anti-science. While it was interesting to see what someone from the far right thinks of these giants of their day, I certainly must take everything he says with a large grain of salt. It is a shame really. He made a few good points, but these points are lost in a sea of prejudice. He doesn't even condemn the activities of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee from the 50s. If a reader wishes to make moral judgments of any of the intellectuals here portrayed, their Wikipedia articles do them better justice, and with less obvious preconceptions.

    28 of 67 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Bronx, NY, United States 09-26-13
    Amazon Customer Bronx, NY, United States 09-26-13
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    "Who are these famous sophists?"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, to disabuse him of the fulsome celebrity that these characters have won.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The author, for he outgrew his adolescent sentiments and knew a number of these characters who held on to their opinionated adolescence.


    What about Frederick Davidson’s performance did you like?

    Davidson is one of my favorite narrators. He did Paradise Lost for Blackstone.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The description of Rousseau was memorable. Also Shelley.


    Any additional comments?

    A number of chapters I should like to hear again.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Frank H. 09-19-16
    Frank H. 09-19-16 Member Since 2011
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    "An examination of the roots of so many Bad Ideas."

    I learned a great deal about where creatures, such as Hillary Clinton, get their ideas and notions. Rousseau's madness lives on in the ever expanding Government school (indoctrination) system; from 12 years to 16 with the addition of: mandatory "Preschool" and Kindergarten for 4 and 5 years old to 2 years of High School "Post graduate study" at Community Colleges.

    2 of 7 people found this review helpful

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