Thursday, June 18, 2015
Are Intellectuals the Problem?
SUNDAY, JUNE 21, IS FATHER'S DAY. In 1989 my wife gave me one of my best all time Father's Day's gifts, Paul Johnson's Intellectuals.
Don't let the title intimidate you. The book is not for intellectuals. It is a series of short chapters about key intellectuals that, for the last 250 years, have shaped the modern world. It is accessible, readable, and highly entertaining.
The author describes the scope of the book on the first page. "With the decline of clerical power in the eighteenth century, a new kind of mentor emerged to fill the vacuum and capture the ear of society...He proclaimed from the start a special devotion to the interests of humanity and evangelical duty to advance them by his teaching...[However] he felt himself bound by no corpus of religion...For the first time in human history...men arose to assert that they could diagnose the ills of society and cure them with their own unaided intellects...They were not servants and interpreters of the gods but substitutes."
Succeeding chapters paint short biographical sketches of men such as the philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau; the poet, Shelley; the political ideologue, Karl Marx; the playwright, Henrik Ibsen; the authors, Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway, Bertrand Russel and more. These men, and others like them, have enjoyed a massive influence upon modernity. They are the architects of the modern world.
In each case the individual professed great love for the world at large. They designed plans and programs to aid humanity. However, they were unable to love those with whom they were closest. In fact, their treatment of specific family members was barbaric. In each case, was massive hypocrisy was the rule. Despite this the progressives and the academic community think of them as heroes to be modeled.
Intellectuals is a stimulating read, a tremendous aid to discernment, and an indispensable aid for understanding the modern world. It is available in paper, hardback, or kindle versions.