Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse
A collection of entertaining and never boring essays on very different kinds of philosophers and literary figures. One thing they all have in common: their mighty intellects. However, as the subtitle indicates, they have either used or abused those intellects. The obvious case for the latter being Hegel; in lesser degrees most of the others; and finally, the former being a few who have made good use of their God-given talent, like Wodehouse of Trollope, never mind that not everybody has been appreciative of the fact.
Mr. Kimball makes use of recently published books on those authors to recall those culturally relevant figures, in their worldly aspects as well as their social and academic repercussions. We get quite good analyses of personages like Hegel, Bertrand Russell, Kierkegaard, P.G. Wodehouse, David Stove, Schopenhauer, Tocqueville, Walter Bagehot... I liked some essays better than others; I didn't dislike any. But a few really were worth reads since I didn't know a thing about them and I became quite intrigued now, for instance, the case of David Stove or Bagehot or Trollope. If their lives do not appeal too much to the modern reader, at least Mr. Kimball does excellently well by getting us hooked on the nature of their work, quite worthy of the minds they had.
As for the negative side of the authors studied here, their abuse of intelligence, would suffice to quote the words of Bertrand Russell:
“I think he [Wittgenstein] has genius. In discussion with him I put out all my force and only just equaled his. With all my other pupils I should squash them flat if I did so.”
A game, it was. I game of intellects; a competition of show-offs. Buffoons who made mockery of their clever minds by putting them to use only to win acclaim, reputation, a name. Proverbs 1:7 speaks to them when it calls them fools who despise wisdom and instruction. Why? because they have no fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom.