January 30, 2013

On "Intellectuals"

1. On "Intellectuals" (written in 1996)
2. With benefit of hindsight
About ME/CFS


Earlier today I wrote about Useful Linux stuff, and said I might produce another Nederlog, on intellectuals.

This is it, and in fact it is part of my Notebooks [1]: I wrote it on January 7, 1996, after reading a booked titled "Intellectuals", by Paul Johnson.

At the time I wrote this, precisely as follows below, except for correction of a few typos, and one brief paragraph, I did not have internet, which I did get in November 1996, and I did not know anything about Paul Johnson, except what was on the flap of book I read.

Today I found out that he is still alive, in his eighties, a catholic conservative, and someone who could be tarred with the same brush as he tarred others, as will be seen below, since I learned that he was involved in an extra-marital relation for 11 years that his wife did not know anything about (though she seems to have forgiven him).

My main reason to mention this is that he does personally attack what he calls "intellectuals", which is a word that he uses in a somewhat peculiar sense, for which reason I put it between quotes, namely to refer to a type of person he seems to detest viz. well known philosophers and writers of the left, including Russell, Rousseau, Marx and Sartre, while his main criticism of all of those he treats is that they did not live as they said people should live.

As I argue below, that is no valid criticism of their ideas or values, while precisely the same can be said about almost all of their opponents, including Paul Johnson, as it turned out.

What follows is first my text as I wrote it 17 years ago, with a few typos corrected, one brief paragraph inserted, and quite a few links added, mostly to Wikipedia or my Philosophical Dictionary,  and next a section written today, with some that I learned since about some of the philosophers and writers Johnson treated in his book.

On "Intellectuals" (written in 1996)

Finished reading "Intellectuals" by Paul Johnson, which I bought yesterday and found rather interesting. Here is the subject of the book:

"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. The secular intellectual might be deist, sceptic or atheist. But he was just as ready as any pontiff or presbyter to tell mankind how to conduct its affairs. He proclaimed, from the start, a special devotion to the interest of humanity and an evangelical duty to advance them by his teaching. He brought to this self-appointed task a far more radical approach than his clerical predecessors. He felt himself bound by no corpus of revealed religion. The collective wisdom of the past, the legacy of tradition, the prescriptive codes of ancestral experience existed to be selectively followed or wholly rejected entirely as his own good sense might decide. For the first time in human history, and with growing confidence and audacity, men arose to assert that they could diagnose the ills of society and cure them with their own unaided intellects: more, that they could devise formulae whereby not merely the structure of society but the fundamental habits of human beings could be transformed for the better. Unlike their sacerdotal predecessors, they were not servants and interpreters of the gods but substitutes. Their hero was Prometheus, who stole the celestial fire and brought it to earth."

"One of the most marked characteristics of the new secular intellectuals was the relish with which they subjected religion and its protagonists to critical scrutiny. How far had they benefited or harmed humanity, these great systems of faith? To what extent had these popes and pastors lived up to their precepts, of purity and truthfulness, of charity and benevolence? The verdicts pronounced on both churches and clergy were harsh. Now, after two centuries during which the influence of religion has continued to decline, and secular intellectuals have played an evergrowing role in shaping our attitudes and institutions, its time to examine THEIR record, both public and personal. In particular, I want to focus on the moral and judgmental credentials of intellectuals to tell mankind how to conduct itself. How did they run their own lives? With what degree of rectitude did they behave to family, friends and associates? Were they just in their sexual and financial dealings? Did they tell, and write, the truth? And how have their systems stood up to the test of time and praxis?" (p. 1-2)

Summary thesis: The people treated chapterwise are Rousseau, Shelly, Marx, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Brecht, Russell, Sartre, Edmund Wilson, Victor Gollancz, and Lillian Hellman, with some asides on Conolly, Tynan, Mailer, and Baldwin in the last chapter.

The answers are by and large:

They ran their own lives very egoistically; they misbehaved to their family, friends and associates; their dealings were very often unjust; they often lied; and their systems were as much make-belief as the systems they attacked as make-belief.

The above is quoted from the beginning of the book, and here is the end:

"It is just about two hundred years since the secular intellectuals began to replace the old clerisy as the guides and mentors of mankind. We have looked at a number of individual cases of those who sought to counsel humanity. We have examined their moral and judgmental qualifications for this task. In particular, we have examined their attitude to truth, the way in which they seek for and evaluate evidence, their response not just to humanity in general but to human beings in particular; the way they treat their friends, colleagues, servants and above all their own families. We have touched on the social and political consequences of their advice. (...)

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. For intellectuals, far from being highly individualistic and non-conformist people, follow certain regular patterns of behaviour. Taken as a group, they are often ultra-conformist within the circles formed by those whose approval they seek and value. That is what makes them, en masse, so dangerous, for it enables them to create climates of opinion and prevailing orthodoxies, which themselves often generate irrational and destructive courses of action. Above all, we must at all times remember what intellectuals habitually forget: that people matter more than concepts and must come first. The worst of all despotisms is the heartless tyranny of ideas." (p. 342)

Problem with the thesis: The problem of the last paragraph is of course that the author himself is an Oxonian graduate (I avoid "intellectual", because he uses that mainly in the sense of "secular non-partisan leader of opinion", with "non-partisan" in the British sense of "not acting as prominent member of a party"), and former Editor of the New Statesman, and seems to wish to counsel his readers himself.

Apart from that, the problem is that the same estimate, or worse, can be made about the alternative counselors of the public, whether religious, political, academic or otherwise, and people are in general ideological apes, conformers, and totalitarian at heart in nearly any case, whatever their own beliefs, self-images and values.

So in this sense the book is weak: the weaknesses it criticizes are human, and not specific to those criticized; the high moral stance taken is not fair in that those criticized did not destroy "the many millions of innocent lives sacrificed in schemes to improve the lot of humanity"; and the moral lesson, if any, is that if these leaders of opinion were weak and false, the more so were their followers, whose only comparative strength was that they were too weak to be original themselves.

Also, another important moral lesson to be drawn is not even noticed: if the qualities of the leaders are not at all what they are supposed and claimed to be, the qualities of the led are worse intellectually and no better morally.

It is not the badness or insanity of individual leaders that moves millions of other men to behave like beasts or idiots, but the human weaknesses of each of these millions of individual men, who are followers from lack of intelligence and conformers from cowardice, egoism and misguided idealism.

However, as a survey of the weaknesses of prominent secular leaders of opinion it is interesting, and I agree more or less with much that's said, so far as I know. [2]

A general conclusion: The general conclusion is: By and large these people were very egoistic and often dishonest, especially as regards their public self-image and the evidence for ideas they felt strongly about; they did certainly not practice what they preached, and when they did, they made an even larger mess than when they didn't; their ideas were mostly false and their ideals impracticable; and it seems their personalities were often theatrical and at least somewhat disturbed.

I am quite willing to agree to this (and these are my words), but I also insist the same or worse holds for their millions of followers, who are at least as hypocritical, biased, immoral, prejudiced, phoney and neurotic, and differ only in being more stupid, less creative, less individualistic, more common, and more willing to compromise and follow others for lack of individual strength.

And again the same holds for their opponents and their leaders: It is not as if conservative or religious thinkers and their followers have been any better, eitheir morally or intellectually.

A quick survey: But here are some points, without checking the book. One of my disagreements with Johnson is that I do not share conventional agreements on the relative size of acknowledged master-thinkers.

Rousseau indeed was a psychopath, and I never liked him, because he was evidently a totalitarian. What I did not know is that he had a malformed penis, but it is obvious to me that his famous style was effective because he was a very good con-man: he pretended an intimacy and directness nobody had at the time, for fear of being found out (Rameau's Nephew, from Diderot's fame, being a counter-example, including the reasons why he doesn't count as counter-example). If you discount the hysterical theatricality and the incredible claims about himself, you are not left with much, apart from a fair gift for aphoristic expression and a good ear for the song of speech.

Shelley was a wild aristocrat but not a good poet. Johnson generally knows his sources, and I do not know much about Shelley, but it is a pity he doesn't provide a little more context for Shelley, for there were quite a few more or less mad wild poets and poetasters in his age, like Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Byron, of whom Byron, to my mind, was by far the best poet and the best brain.

Marx gets a good treatment, and is correctly displayed as a mentally rather sick man. Johnson rightly notes that much that turned out to be very bad in the practice of Marxism in this century, like authoritarianism, totalitarianism and millenarianism can be traced to him, but does not note that therefore there is a good case this is more in the human heart than is particular to Marx's evil genius, since most Marxists of this century neither knew him nor read much of him.

Ibsen was a strong-willed temperamental egotist, mostly anarchistic yet much interested in adoration and public acclaim. I skipped through this chapter, for I didn't find it or Ibsen very interesting, and I was never impressed by his plays, which I found boring and not credible in proposed values (rather like Shaw, I realize, who owed a lot to Ibsen, and might have made a better example in the book).

Tolstoy seems a sad case of megalomania, insanity and some insight. But I was mostly bored by "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina" (though I read both when I was between 9 and 12) and I also do not know much about Russia in the 19th C, of which less enters in the treatment of Tolstoy.

Hemingway I never liked, neither in his pretensions nor in his literary style, and the chapter on him gives some background. It turns out he was mostly a drunk bully, which I was aware of, and that he lied very much about his background and adventures, which I didn't know, but which didn't surprise me.

Brecht I also never liked, though there are a few good pieces here and there, like in Galileo or Mother Courage, basically because I didn't like his theatricality and socialist realism. It turns out, on the evidence given, he was a rather creepy schemer, of rather evident sado-masochistic tendencies.

Russell is not liked by Johnson, and he gives fairly good reasons why, which deal mainly with Russell's doings and sayings from the middle 50-ies onwards, and so leave most of his life untreated, while Johnson also mixes up "The Principles of Mathematics" and "Principia Mathematica".

Three difficulties: To me, nowadays, Russell was no Leibniz or Socrates intellectually, and no great moral hero either, and indeed he fits the type Johnson tries to sketch, but then this also shows some fundamental difficulties with Johnson's whole approach, which I shall reduce to three points:

(1) Johnson's own position: it is unclear where Johnson - "educated at Stonyhurst and Magdalen College, Oxford" who "has contributed to many of the world's most famous newspapers and magazines and has visited all five continents to report events, interview presidents and prime ministers for the press and TV, and to lecture to academic and business audiences" - himself stands intellectually and morally, and he certainly makes no effort to clarify it.

It seems to me he is either an ex-socialist English academic, who turned conservative or Christian in middle age, and speaks from a combination of shame and newborn or reborn faith, or else he is in the tradition of the journalistic levellers: those who find fame and incomes by interviewing "presidents and prime ministers for the press and TV", and then prop up their own self-images by telling the world that the crap of prominent people isn't perfumed either, and get away with it because levelling is always popular.

In any case, it is not correct to mount a large-scale attack of the mores and intellectual pretensions of some of the leading secular ideologists of the last 200 years without indicating on what the attack is based, and I certainly distrust any appeal to the common sense of the public, such as he mounts in his last pages: if that were true and fair the whole book would not have needed to be written - the problem is that the common sense of the public is a phoney fiction.

This also raises the second problem:

(2) Mistaken ideal standards: I agree Russell was not who he pretended to be publicly, nor who he believed himself to be, and that it is rather disheartening to find that those who argue in the name of reason and justice are neither reasonable nor fair themselves.

But this holds for anyone I know, and one difference between Russell and others is that Russell argued in favour of positions and methods that could be rationally criticized, and others mounted their arguments on appeals to authority, tradition, or some divinity.

My problem is that I am willing to believe that in terms of personal practice, honesty, and probity, there is little to be said for any secular ideologist, but I am certainly not willing to believe that non-secular ideologists are any better on those counts, whereas they are, to my mind and way of thinking, less to be trusted intellectually and far less interesting: one of the main differences between the secular ideologists Johnson discusses and ideologists from more traditional religious or political groups is that the latter are conforming to accepted earlier secular ideologists.

This raises the third problem:

(3) Mistaken general standards: I agree that the human excellencies of those discussed are not at all what their followers and they themselves believed them to be, and in particular that many are fairly described as monsters of egotism.

The problem is that I do not see how a human being can consistently deviate from the ideas and values of the great majority of those surrounding them without being or becoming personally odd, often in none too admirable ways. However, the same holds for more conformist leaders of men, who tend to be far greater scoundrels in my opinion and to my knowledge, and who are not corrupted by their own need for a deviant self-image, but simply by power.

Something similar holds for the millions of supposedly decent supposedly commonsensical ordinary people in the name of which Johnson seeks to argue: if the leaders are rotten, the followers are worse; if the leaders are weak, vain, mistaken and corruptible, their followers are weaker, vainer, more mistaken and more corrupt, for precisely the same human reasons.

Sartre doesn't emerge as a likable character at all, and I suppose Johnson is right. I certainly don't like his philosophy, and it is an interesting observation that many of those treated in the book were mainly journalistic: they got usually famous by some book or play, but remained in the lime-light by a regular journalistic output and a theatrical personality, that was expressly adopted and played out for public purposes

Another interesting observation is how many had problems with drink or drugs, especially Hemingway and Sartre. It seems Sartre wrote his philosophy mainly on speed, coffee and booze, and Hemingway was drunk most of his life.

And yet another interesting observation combines Adler with some statistics: it seems very much public posturing is due to compensation (very obvious in Sartre's case, who was 5 foot 2, ugly, wall-eyed, and partially blind), and most prominent people are either the only child or the oldest child.

Edmund Wilson is presented as an in between case, part bad intellectual, part good man of letters, the latter because he learned to see his mistakes in later life. I liked "To the Finland Station", but did not think it extra-ordinary, and I don't care for literary criticism. But one has to grant Wilson that he did something few did: he learned Russian and Hebrew in later life, and read a lot - though I find it odd how few of these supposedly highly intelligent people cared for science or mathematics: if they read extensively it is in their own fields or literature.

Sartre and Wilson are supposed to have read 300 books a year in their younger years, which I suppose is somewhat of an overstatement and can't be all high quality tomes of 400 pages each, but I certainly have read hundreds of books of all kinds each year for many years, so it is possible if you have the leisure. However, it is easy to get erudition in an easy way: McTaggart is said to have needed 30 detectives a week to remain satisfied, which explains also why he didn't do any philosophy after the twenties.

Victor Gollancz, like Kenneth Tynan, is one of the people Johnson must have known fairly well (like he knew Russell in a superficial way), and he seems a sort of English Van Oorschot: big mouth, big heart, at least publicly, and somewhat of a dictator and manipulator, and someone capable of doing virtually anything for The Cause. I know only about him as a publisher of the 30-ish Leftist Variety, and it seems somewhat misleading to present him as an intellectual. [3]

Lillian Hellman I don't know much about, and the same applies as to Gollancz. Johnson probably included both because he knew more about them as leading leftist luminaries in the Anglo-Saxon world. As she is presented, she seems an intriguing bitch, and completely dishonest.

My point against Johnson is that thus careers are made by millions and millions of supposedly decent but truly phoney conformers, and so it is not quite fair to specifically blame non-conformers that their careers are based on editing the truth for their own ends and images.

Again, Hellman may be a good example of a manipulative leftist and lying careerist (rather like Rubinstein in Holland, I suppose), but she is not an intellectual in the sense of articulating and publishing ideas and values that move millions or hundreds of thousands.

In that sense the selection of the book is rather odd: Rousseau, Marx, Russell and Sartre were philosophers, and are rightly included for reasons of their wide influence and appeal and their pretensions, and I suppose it makes sense and is fair to include Ibsen and Tolstoy, and perhaps Hemingway, but otherwise the selection seems to be of mainly more or less contemporary intellectual second- and third-raters or someone, like Shelley, Johnson is informed about. At any rate, many others could have been included, and no criterion of selection has been offered.

The last chapter discusses Conolly, Tynan, Mailer, and Baldwin, but to me all of these are at best second-raters, though I am pleased my own inferences concerning Conolly, Mailer and Baldwin are supported, viz. Conolly was a weak person and not especially gifted; Mailer is a drunk and aggressive loud-mouth without any true intellectual status, though he himself believes the opposite; and Baldwin disturbed through being black and homosexual. In all these cases I merely see someone with a fair but not exceptional gift for words and no gift for ideas.

Of all those considered by Johnson, it seems to me only Russell and possibly Rousseau had a first-rate intellect, and also only Russell and Rousseau had a truly good personal style.

All the others were not first-rate intellects, and one explanation for their success is that fact: having a first-rate mind doesn't make one popular or interesting to one's fellow humans, and also such people tend to get famous or infamous but not to get many followers in their own lives. Examples are Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, Buddha, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Newton, Leibniz, Gauss, Peirce.

Also, these people were not people that are easily followed, which also holds for Russell, as Johnson does indicate:

"Russell never believed that the populace could or should be encouraged to penetrate the frontiers of knowledge. His professional work in mathematics was carried out in a highly technical manner, making not the smallest concession to the non-specialist. Philosophical speculation, he argued, should be constructed in a special language and he fought not only to retain but strengthen the hieratic code. He was a high priest of the intellect, forbidding outsiders to penetrate the arcana." (p. 199)

This is somewhat misleading as regards the "forbidding": Russell strongly believed, as I do, that there is no sense in inviting people to share in what they don't have the talent to appreciate or understand properly. Anyone who is sufficiently intelligent can follow his professional work with a little application, the only problem being that very few are. [4]

Also, I believe Russell had a moral duty to take the sort of stance he did take, even though he did exaggerate, was mistaken, and was not the sort of person he believed and pretended to be, since I also believe, and as Johnson apparently does not believe, that the only chances for mankind to survive are to use the human capacities for rational reasoning and reasonable action in a better way than has been done hitherto.

This is also why I thoroughly disagree with Johnson's implied populism, both on intellectual and moral grounds. The intellectual grounds are that what ordinary people, including ordinary academics, believe is statistically invariably some ordinary superstition, that's pieced together from the sayings of earlier philosophers, writers, artists and religious people, and that can only be supported for traditional and conservative reasons, that all come down to "people are by and large so weak and foolish that it is very unwise to have them change their current and accepted brand of superstition for what's bound to be another brand of superstition, since all such changes tend to be accompanied by great human suffering, cruelty and abuse of power, privilege, position and abuse of words, ideas and values".

There are no intellectual grounds to side with ordinary people or ordinary superstitions, and the grounds which do move one in that direction are those of personal convenience (it's safer to be with than against yahoos, if the yahoos are physically close: if in Rome do as the Romans do) or insight in human weaknesses and inadequacies. They are not grounds of reason, but grounds of prudence - and that may be wisdom, but a wisdom that bases its counsels on human weakness and inadequacy is not one that is agreeable or will be popular.

Morally I disagree even more, because being a populist -

"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." p. 342

- is not a moral position but one that enables one to have a journalistic or religious career. There is no wisdom, no knowledge, and no insight in ordinary men, and their good will, decency or friendliness tends to be limited to those of their own group or family. Besides, ordinary people don't believe populism themselves, except in populist rallies, for they all seek some idols and some ideals.

All populism seems to me to be hypocrisy or stupidity, and often a willful combination of both, with the strands so entangled that one cannot be certain where intentional ignorance shades into intentional phoniness, nor where unavoidable personal bias ends and avoidable selfish careerism begins.

The fundamental and sad fact is that all men are ideological apes, who need to orient themselves by general ideas, ideals and idols, and very few are capable of arriving by their own strength, application and opportunities at ideas or values that are both original and sensible.

Probably my own main orientation in terms of values, apart from some form of reason and justice, is that every human being should try to be an individual person. Very few do and very few succeed, and of those who succeed little tends to be heard unless they also happen to be hugely talented, whereas the reason ideologists tend to be so dangerous is that the very great majority seeks to give up most of their individuality in trade for comfort, pleasure, and status, and follow leaders, and execute their insane ideas or unjust desires for some share of the spoils.

My own problem is that I also believe that nearly all men are without any of the special human talents a small minority do have; that the talents of the small minority are always one or at best two from several hundreds, and always personally biased; and that hardly anyone is fit to lead others, as hardly anyone is fit to lead himself.

In short, I keep liking the people I always liked, for the same reasons: individuality, style, wit, courage, talent, just as I keep thinking every human being is imperfect, without being able to derive any consolation from that fact, and seeing, as Johnson apparently does not wish to see, that there are and have been always a small minority of human beings who did preserve their individuality and their moral and intellectual integrity, difficult and dangerous though this is.

-- Jan 7, 1996

2. With benefit of hindsight

As I said, all of the previous section was written in 1996, in a few hours, except for a few typos and all the links, that I inserted today, and that I mostly read, though mostly not today.

With the benefit of hindsight and the internet, I can see what was less clear to me in 1996:

Mr Johnson was writing as a good catholic conservative, but was also, in view of what since emerged about his private life, quite a lot closer to those he criticized than he would have liked to be publicly known. I quote from the last link, an interview from 2010:
There were testing times for them both [Mr and Mrs Johnson - MM] in 1998 when a former mistress, Gloria Stewart, told the papers of her 11-year affair with Johnson. Not good for a man who had written about the anchor of marriage in the public prints. It seems a shame, and possibly dangerous, to bring this up in the middle of a pleasant morning, but he does not maul or pounce. After a moment of diplomatic amnesia, he growls: “If you acquire any kind of fame, that’s the kind of thing that’s liable to happen. You just put it out of your mind. It’s what Shakespeare called “the dark backward and abysm” of the past."
Being a catholic, he also always has the excuse that man has a sinful nature, though I cannot recall that he raised that point, e.g. in mitigation, when criticizing Russell and others in his "Intellectuals" for being dishonest and for not living according to the principles they preached.

As I have indicated, I was aware of some that Johnson wrote before reading him, and have since learned considerably more:

About Russell, there since has appeared two volumes of biography by Ray Monk that did Russell's public standing no good whatsoever; about Sartre at least one biography has appeared that did Sartre's and De Beauvoir's reputation a lot of (deserved) damage; Rousseau has a biography by the son of the well-known Dutch historian Huizinga that made him appear like a madman; and there is probably rather a lot more published about many of the persons dealt with in Johnson's book- e.g. about Norman Mailer - that supports his case that they were egotists who lied about many things.

Then again, as I already argued in 1996, very few people - of any political or religious conviction - are as they pretend to be, and that is especially so with those who seek public fame. 

And the religious or conservative thinkers and writers - such as Mr Johnson in the second half of his life - tend to be at least as hypocritical as those they oppose, while often lacking their personal courage, since they side with some sort of  political or religious establishment anyway, although I am willing to believe they may do so for what appear to them to be good intellectual reasons, rather than selfinterest.

Besides, the sorts of sins or shortcomings Johnson attributes to the intellectuals he wrote about in his book are of the same kind as many of their far more ordinary fellow men share, and are not of the kind political leaders and their willing executioners often have - such as Hitler, Himmler, Stalin, Beria and their henchmen and torturers - who murder and destroy millions, and it also appears to me that, little as I like Sartre or Brecht, at least they did not pose as priests, nor did they satisfy their lusts with choir boys.

I am not much disheartened by the fact that very few are as they say they are, since that is evident anyway, as men and women are and always have been, and what counts most for me are the qualies of mind and of work, rather than how well they succeeded in practicing what they preached. For most are weak, and all pretend, and the more so they seek public fame, whatever their beliefs, plans or values - and the one thing that pleads for the secular intellectuals whom Mr Johnson criticized, that holds against the non-secular or conservative intellectuals that Mr Johnson sided with in the second half of his life, is that the former were nearly always in a minority, and the latter served the establishment, often for pay or preferment. [5]
[1] There currently are some 29 MB of Notebooks in elementary html on my hard disk, and there probably is at least 10 MB more on disks that I either can't read or are zipped with passwords I don't remember, but there are not many book reviews in them, so far as I recall. Except for a few tiny bits in Nederlog (always identified as such), nothing of this was ever published.

[2] "Sofar as I know": By 1996 I had read some of most writers Johnson considered in his book, and at least one book of all those he mentions, with the exceptions of Shelley, Gollancz, Tynan and Hellman. (I have since read some more of Shelley.)

Apart from Russell, I had not taken much of a personal interest in any of them, and indeed of all those mentioned I knew and know most about Russell. My negative judgment of Rousseau was mostly based on having read his Confessions, while my judgment of Brecht was based on biographical details I read in the 1970ies in weeklies, and his support for the GDR. My judgment of Marx is in part based on several biographies, and on having read some of his correspondence with Engels. Sartre I wrote about in December.

As far as the others are concerned: I am and always was much less interested in fiction and literature than in philosophy, mathematics and science, which very probably influences my judgments. And indeed I believe that, with some exceptions - Sophocles, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Dr. Johnson, Hazlitt - the great philosophers, mathematicians and scientists tend to have better minds than the great writers. (But I am aware here lies a deep problem or two: What is human intelligence, and how can it be fairly assessed?)

[3] A mistake on my part, these days easily avoided with internet.

[4] A point I do not raise here is that there is a considerable difference between the early Russell, up to
Principia Mathematica, who was mainly a mathematical logician and an analytic philosopher who wrote for very few, and the later Russell, who was mainly - though not only - a social philosopher, who wrote for the educated masses.

[5] I can't say what motivated Mr Johnson's conservative choices, for I don't know much about him, but I am struck by the irony of his criticizing intellectuals he disagreed with for lacking the qualities he himself lacked.

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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