Portraits: A Gallery of Intellectuals

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9780226753362: Portraits: A Gallery of Intellectuals
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In these vivid portraits of prominent twentieth-century intellectuals, Edward Shils couples the sensitivity of a biographer with the profound knowledge of a highly respected scholar. Ranging as widely across various disciplines as Shils himself did, the essays gathered here share a distaste for faddists who "run with the intellectual mob" and a deep respect for intellectuals who maintain their integrity under great pressure.

Highlights include an affectionate treatment of Leo Szilard, the physicist whose involvement with the development of the atomic bomb led him to work ceaselessly to address its social consequences; a discussion of the educational philosophy of Robert Maynard Hutchins, the University of Chicago's fifth and most controversial president; an appreciative account of the Polish emigré Leopold Labedz's well-informed and outspoken resistance to Communism; and an essay about the extraordinary Indian writer Nirad Chaudhuri.

Many of these essays have appeared in The American Scholar, edited by Joseph Epstein, who introduces this volume with his own portrait of Edward Shils.

"Though professionally a sociologist, Edward Shils was a man of wide cosmopolitan culture and experience, greatly concerned with the public problems of his time: in particular with those created by the rise of new and dangerous ideologies, the frightening possibilities of science, and the apparent abrogation of public responsibility by many Western intellectuals."—Hugh Trevor-Roper

The late Edward Shils was a member of the University of Chicago's Committee on Social Thought for forty-five years and a fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge University. His many books include The Calling of Sociology and The Intellectuals and the Powers, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

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This book is a gallery of intellectuals.

From Kirkus Reviews:

With gravity and wit, the late University of Chicago sociologist honors ten prominent 20th-century intellectuals and evokes for posterity their continental scholarly world. Introducing the collection is Epstein's lively essay on his friend Shils, in which the latter emerges as a classic Chicago intellectual--formidable, possessed of a wide-ranging intellect, acerbic, without self-congratulation, and always able to make ``intellectual effort seem worthwhile.'' The subjects of Shils's profiles shared the same devotion to ideas and were possessed, as Shils characterizes Polish intellectual Leopold Labedz, by ``an insatiable drive to absorb the content of any printed surface.'' Some men, like Robert Maynard Hutchins and Harold Laski, were known as public intellectuals; others, like John Nef, made lasting marks through teaching and scholarship. Shils presents each in detail (e.g., Labedz ate no vegetables and drank Diet Coke) with vivid historical background (Sidney Hook's 1920s New York was ``never a city for clergymen's daughters'') and trenchant observations and analyses. He is particularly good at pinpointing character assets and deficits. In Hutchins, for example, who led the University of Chicago with distinction but into some decline, he saw two flaws: a failure of intellect that told him basic human truths were ``capable of general and exact formulation'' and a flawed judgment that gave him ``unquestioning loyalty to those undeserving of it.'' Italian scholar Arnoldo Momigliano was, simply, ``one of the greatest scholars of his age, perhaps of any age.'' Throughout the collection also run common threads: the theme of exile occasioned by ideology or persecution, and the contested place of the intellectual in society. Free of academic jargon and glamour, these essays delight with their lucidity and sharp judgment of character, and they stir one with their quiet urgency, the conviction that these figures should be remembered. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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