“Indeed Sartre, like Russell, failed to achieve any kind of coherence and consistency in his views of public policy. No body of doctrine survived him. In the end, again like Russell, he stood for nothing more than a vague desire to belong to the left and the camp of youth. The intellectual decline of Sartre, who after all at one time did seem to be identified with a striking, if confused, philosophy of life was particularly spectacular. But there is always a large section of the educated public which demands intellectual leaders, however unsatisfactory. Despite his enormities, Rousseau was wildly honored at an after his death. Sartre, another monster sacre, was given a magnificent funeral by intellectual Paris. Over 50,000 people, most of them young, followed the body into Montparnasse Cemetery. To get a better view, some climbed into the trees. One of them came crashing down on the coffin itself. To what cause had they come to do honour? What faith, what lumninous trust about humanity, were they asserting with their mass presence. We may well ask.”

From Intellectuals by Paul Johnson (1988)

This collection of biographies of noted and influential intellectual of the 19th and 20th centuries has a common thread. They were socially dysfunctional, terrible as friends, reckless and irresponsible with money, selfish and self-centered, generally terrible spouses and parents, and ignorant of most of the realities that most people faced.

Why so many would follow the ideas of such people on how the world should run says more about the followers than the intellectuals themselves. We are seduced by simple solutions and saviours, narratives of victimization, and human shortcomings.

The world of ideas tempered by a realistic notion of human nature, moral considerations, and actual experiences is illuminating and useful. Attempting to bend human reality to theories in isolation is the definition of fanaticism.