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Customer Review

12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars All that great research gone to waste, 7 Nov. 1996
By A Customer
This review is from: Intellectuals (Paperback)
Paul Johnson has attempted to analyze the lives of the
most influential thinkers in modern history. His analysis
centers on whether these individuals in their private lives
lived up to the standards they argued for publicly. It has
been a couple of years since I read this book, but I still
recall the revulsion I felt when reading this uneven
account. His research on the individuals, I must admit,
is impeccable. His logical skills, however, are truly
bordering on non-existent. In several sections, although
his facts about the individual are accurate, he interprets
them in a way that can only be politely called 'creative'.
The real theme of this book, and the argument that Paul
Johnson continually presents is the 'tyranny of ideas'.
He honestly believes that ideas themselves are inherently
damaging. As I recall, he refers to Rousseau as the
intellectual father of modern day communism, and actually
goes so far as to blame him for the atrocities committed
by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. He conveniently forgets
that Rousseau's biggest influence on political thought is
most likely found in the creation of the government of
the United States. No mention of this is made. In fact,
no attempt at an even account of any of these individuals
is made. If a fact sheds a positive light on the person,
it is discounted. If it seems to support one of his pre-
conceived notions, it is focused on has having much higher
import. It is a tabloid style approach to biography, and
should be treated as such. If you are only interested in
the seamy side of the lives of famous thinkers, this is the
book for you. If you really want to know about the lives of
these people, pick up an objective biography of each of
them, and take the time to judge for yourself. This book
is just well-researched anti-intellectual propaganda.
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