Top Intellectuals

TOP INTELLECTUALS….Foreign Policy has teamed up with the British magazine Prospect to produce a list of contenders for the title of world’s top public intellectual, which is defined (approximately) as someone who has both considerable achievement in their field and considerable influence outside it. The initial list contains 100 names and you get to vote for five. The full list of 100 is here along with voting instructions.

As FP points out, the list “does not bear thinking about too closely.” And indeed it doesn’t, especially if, like me, you only recognize about half the names on the list in the first place, let alone have any real idea of their relative influence. Thus, in my best Malcolm Gladwell Blink style, here are my five votes:

  • E.O. Wilson

  • Amartya Sen

  • V?clav Havel

  • Daniel Kahnemann

  • Jared Diamond

I pretty much discounted people who are influential due primarily to their position (Benedict XVI, Ali al-Sistani) or to short term accomplishments like starting wars (Paul Wolfowitz). Plus, like other voters, I mostly avoided people I don’t like, regardless of how smart or influential they are. Anybody I have personally mocked on this blog was also blackballed (Hitchens, Friedman).

I’m also supposed to come up with somebody who didn’t make the list of 100 but should have. Hmmm. I think my choice is Cecil Adams.

A partial list of of other blogs weighing in is here.