Vote Now! Top Five Thinkers for Our Times

7 05 2008

And hurry, voting ends next week!

Pick your top choices from 100 nominated public intellectuals worldwide, or write in your own favorite. It’s your chance to think about the “Thinkers
Shaping the Tenor of Our Times” — and make your thinking part of those times.

Not that I’d dream of influencing anyone; Thinking Parents think for themselves and help their children learn to do the same. But here are JJ’s power of mind (education) and power of story picks:

Howard Gardner
Steven Pinker
Salman Rushdie
Christopher Hitchens
Richard Dawkins

“CRITERIA: Although the men and women on this list are some of the
world’s most sophisticated thinkers, the criteria to make the list could
not be more simple. Candidates must be living and still active in public
life. They must have shown distinction in their particular field as well
as an ability to influence wider debate, often far beyond the borders of
their own country.”

Otherwise I would’ve written in Carl Sagan, and I forgot Jacques Barzun isn’t dead yet, right, even though he’s in his second century of life:

Good grief! — what are we looking for? A world leader or a bowling buddy?

It has been a very long time since America had a world-class president: Wilson the academic from Princeton, Roosevelt the patrician from the Hudson Valley, Kennedy the sophisticate from New England, and Eisenhower the beloved World War II hero.

Other than that, we’ve had a haberdasher, an actor, a peanut farmer, a few lawyers, and a failed businessman and military drop-out. None of them brought any great degree of intelligence or imagination to the highest office in the land. And still today, we’re just looking for a hand-shaker: someone who we think can chummy up to coal miners, factory workers, farmers, inner-city minorities, pregnant teens, and high school drop-outs.
Who can kiss babies, chug-a-lug beer and shoot pool. . .

This is the dumbing-down of America and the dumbing-down of our candidates. It is what Jacques Barzun, one-time dean of Columbia University, alluded to nearly 50 years ago in “The House of Intellect”: many Americans, clinging to an exaggerated sense of ‘democracy’, actually fear or envy or are suspicious of excellence.

. . . is he still intellectually active in public life, does anyone know? If not, at least his thinking is!

The Top 100 Public Intellectuals
May/June 2008
They are some of the world’s most introspective philosophers and
rabble-rousing clerics. A few write searing works of fiction and uncover
the mysteries of the human mind.
Others are at the forefront of modern finance, politics, and human
rights. In the second Foreign Policy/Prospect list of top public
intellectuals, we reveal the thinkers who are shaping the tenor of our time.

We chose the first 100 (click here for our criteria). Now, it’s your
chance to choose who should receive top honors by voting for the world’s
top five public intellectuals. The list of the Top 20 Public
Intellectuals—based on your votes—will be published in our July/August
issue.

Here’s how to vote:

1. Choose your five top intellectuals in the ballot below by clicking on
an individual’s name. (If you are unfamiliar with any of our picks, just
check out their bios.) To undo a pick, simply click the box again.
2. Write in a candidate. Who should we have included, but did not? Click
the “Write in a candidate” option at the bottom of the ballot, and let
us know who we missed.
3. Submit your votes.

You may only vote once. Voting closes May 15.

Who will YOU choose and why?

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12 responses

7 05 2008
JJ

That’s what I plan to vote for! (not online but IRL)
Give me some “great degree of intelligence-imagination” on the ballot, any ballot, under any name or nationality!

7 05 2008
JJ

From Sir Salman Rushie today:

Mr. Rushdie describes contemporary battles between the Christian West and Islamic East as “a false quarrel,” because it is only a fight between the most extreme elements of each side. Actually, he said, the two cultures have borrowed considerably from each other and have much in common.

“The idea of a pure culture is a fascist myth,” Mr. Rushdie said.

9 05 2008
JJ

Missed a bet — I should I have put Paul Begala’s current-on-cable quote about “eggheads” in the heading. 😉

9 05 2008
Crimson Wife

I’m surprised that Noam Chomsky wasn’t your 5th vote- I would’ve thought he’d be someone right up your alley politically and in his atheism.

It’s hard for me to come up with 5 off the Foreign Policy list I like. Pope Benedict XVI, of course. E.O. Wilson for his contributions to the fields of biology and psychology even if I disagree with his beliefs about religion. Craig Venter for his work in human genetics, though I would also write-in Dr. Francis Collins. Samuel Huntington perhaps because of all he has done to warn people about the dangers of Islamofascism. Also maybe Bjorn Lomberg for publicizing how much radical environmentalists overexaggerate threats.

9 05 2008
JJ

Interesting! Thanks for sharing that completely different perspective, and I didn’t even give Chomsky a thought so I’m glad you called my attention to that.

I literally went looking for Howard Gardner, hoping against hope he’d be there, but then on my way saw Steven Pinker first and jumped on that. Goody, I know some of these guys! It was like BAM … BAM …and then I was full, unwilling to let any of those five go. I just heard Rushdie in a radio interview the other day and had been so impressed with him as sounding less radical than I’d imagined and, hmm, less fraught? He seemed so normal and happy in his current life and work.

But if I’d really weighed every choice in the the nominated 100 against all the others, I suppose that would be true of the Pope too. I was very favorably impressed with Pope Benedict XVI when he visited last month, maybe not so much as an intellectual as an effective politician or a “head of state” at least. Notice I didn’t vote for Al Gore either! — not as much a gifted intellectual to me as a good “man of the people.”

10 05 2008
Colleen

“And still today, we’re just looking for a hand-shaker: someone who we think can chummy up to coal miners, factory workers, farmers, inner-city minorities, pregnant teens, and high school drop-outs.
Who can kiss babies, chug-a-lug beer and shoot pool. . .
This is the dumbing-down of America and the dumbing-down of our candidates. ”

Have you seen the movie “Idiocracy?” It’s a hilarious (and horrific!) view into the future, if we continue this obsession with mediocrity.

I’m gonna go vote now!

11 05 2008
JJ

Hi Colleen, welcome back!

I guess movie people get to know all the inside scoop on all the movies? I never even heard of this one

11 05 2008
Colleen

Thanks JJ. 🙂 I just reread the movie description on Wikipedia. Hee hee. I think I’ll have to watch it again.

13 05 2008
JJ

Speaking of Begala’s “eggheads and African-Americans” description of Obama’s intellectual appeal, I remembered this today:

[A]rt is often ahead of the political news curve, and heading in a contrary direction.

. . . a young artist named Rashid Johnson created a fictional secret society of African-American intellectuals, a cross between Mensa and the Masons. . . Here was art beyond old hot-button statements, steering clear of easy condemnations and endorsements. . .

25 06 2008
JJ

DRUM ROLL PLEASE — here’s the final list, your top 20 intellectuals!
[one of my Top Five is on it, and I would’ve backed Zakaria and Kasparov too, maybe Umberto Eco, if I’d known they would win!]

Such an outpouring reveals something unique about the power of the men and women we chose to rank. They were included on our initial list of 100 in large part because of the influence of their ideas. But part of being a “public intellectual” is also having a talent for communicating with a wide and diverse public. This skill is certainly an asset for some who find themselves in the list’s top ranks.

For example, a number of intellectuals. . .mounted voting drives by promoting the list on their Web sites.
[sounds like homeschooling blog awards!]

Others issued press releases or gave interviews to local newspapers. Press coverage profiling these intellectuals appeared around the world, with stories running in Canada, India, Indonesia, Qatar, Spain, and elsewhere.

No one spread the word as effectively as the man who tops the list. . .

And this was a fun addition, the top write-in:

STEPHEN COLBERT
Television host, satirist • United States

Host of the popular late-night fake news show The Colbert Report, Colbert so deftly and hilariously skewers the politically powerful that he has become one of young America’s go-to sources for genuine news and analysis. With deadpan delivery and a disregard for the line between parody and politics, Colbert is the ironic man’s talking head. For added intellectual cachet, he recently penned a bestselling book, I Am America (And So Can You!).

25 06 2008
JJ

And I’m very glad to learn about this intellectual who made the final list at Number Ten (and feeling pretty parochial for not knowing about her before) —

SHIRIN EBADI

Lawyer, human rights activist • Iran

Iran’s first female judge under the shah, Ebadi founded a pioneering law practice after she was thrown off the bench by Iran’s clerical rulers. Having initially supported the Islamic Revolution, she cut her teeth defending political dissidents and campaigning for the rights of women and children. A fierce nationalist who sees no incompatibility between Islam and democracy, Ebadi became the first Iranian to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.

28 12 2008
“Wonderful Tradition of Philosophy and Science” « Cocking A Snook!

[…] as intelligent and reasonable as humans now may be, people the world over including our own American media when the cartoonish becomes scary enough, […]

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