Skip vs. Larry vs. Camille vs. Freeman ...

2 magazines sponsor election for the title of top public intellectual.
September 28, 2005

Two magazines -- the British Prospect and the American Foreign Policy -- are co-sponsoring an attempt to identify the top public intellectuals in the world.

From all fields and parts of the world, 100 candidates have been identified and people are invited to vote online.

Humanities stars in contention include Henry Louis Gates Jr., Jürgen Habermas, Martha Nussbaum, Camille Paglia, Elaine Scarry and Peter Singer.

Social scientists include Jagdish Bhagwati, Clifford Geertz, Francis Fukuyama and Amartya Sen.

Physical and biological scientists include Richard Dawkins, Freeman Dyson, Steven Pinker and Craig Venter.

Two academic administrators make the list: Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard University, and Harold Varmus, president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute.

If you're not on the list, it doesn't mean you aren't a great thinker.

"The irony of this 'thinkers' list is that it does not bear thinking about too closely," the editors of the two magazines write.

"Candidates must have been alive, and still active in public life (though many on this list are past their prime). Such criteria ruled out the likes of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Milton Friedman, who would have been automatic inclusions 20 or so years ago. This list is about public influence, not intrinsic achievement," the editors continue.

They add that they "tried to avoid the 'box ticking' problem of having x Chinese, y economists and z under-50s. But we have also tried to give due weight to the important thinkers in all the main intellectual disciplines and centers of population. We also tried to ensure that all names on the list are influential in at least a few countries in their region, if not the entire globe."


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